I was reading in Judges. The Bible is such a great book for seeing things new every time you go through it.
Many of the stories in this book I have never seen correctly before. Think about this, in every case, Israel sins and God allows a nation to come and oppress them. We hear about their vast armies and how the Israelites cried out to God to set them free. It is automatically assumed that these are powerful nations that Israel was just not strong enough to handle.
And nothing could be further from the truth.
Consider Gideon and the army that he faced. They were a force of 135,000 men. Certainly a formidable problem unless you consider that when Israel came into the promised land they had over 600,000 fighting men. But that is what sin does, it makes us incapable of handling the things that we should be able to handle, even humanly speaking. When we sin, we don’t look to help others or stand together because we’re too busy hiding our shame, pursuing our addiction, pushing God out of our lives.
How did the people of God come to the place where they have temples in their cities to other gods? Asherah poles set up in the center of their towns? I think we see an answer in how God picked the three-hundred that He used to defeat Gideon’s enemies.
Are you afraid? Tricky question because anyone who faces off with satan and his legions better not be cocky or deluded. I think the question is better asked as, “do you have courage?” God asks Gideon to do something, later on, if he is afraid, which he immediately goes to do. Fear is not the sum of the problem. “Ask them if they are trembling with fear,” God says. They could go home if their fears affected them physically. Fear elicits two types of responses. Either it weakens your resolve or solidifies it. It either brings confusion or focuses your mind and energy. It either makes you a coward or courageous. Don’t mistake courage for lack of fear. Courage is the resolve to act in spite of our fears.
Are you prepared? Ten thousand were courageous enough to face the enemy but when asked to take a drink only three hundred remained. Foolish courage makes us take foolish chances, like drinking in such a way that we aren’t prepared for an attack. We’re told that satan is a “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” But we don’t spend time in God’s word. We know he is a deceiver, an accuser, but we don’t live in prayer, walk in prayer. No wonder they, and we, get our rear-ends kicked so often.
Are you unified? What we also don’t see so clearly is that the oppression that Israel faced wasn’t nation wide. It was a pocket here and then another pocket over there. Gideon’s fight happens to be in the center of Israel, but in this, other tribes are not even called on till later in the story. Judah, Benjamin, Simeon and Ephraim were all close to where this is happening but are not involved in the fight.
We do this too. We say, sometimes inwardly, sometimes outwardly, “glad I’m not the one being attacked. I feel bad for what that family is going through but sure am relieved it isn’t me.” And we lose the unity of the body. We are strong in unity, in community. We are weak and ruined when we fight on our own. To be sure, there is the message of God’s victory not being dependent on our strength. We don’t accomplish God’s victory for Him. But He put us together to function together. I should not have to wait for you to call me when you are under attack. I should be fighting beside you every day. That is why we are called the body of Christ. We are supposed to act like the Church.
Israel in history, and the church of today is often defeated because we allow fear to rule, we do not stay ready and we don’t fight together. But we have no other hope of victory. We can not succeed in God’s call for our lives if we will not put on courage, prepare for the fight and stand together.