I’m a bit late with the blog this week. We’ve packed a great deal into the week.
The Hyde family, Tim, Eleanor and Jonny led worship on Sunday. Tim brought us the Word and looked at Judges 6 and 7. He reflected on the fact that he was blessed to have been tutored by someone who was part of the committee who translated the NIV Bible.
Judges sits in the history of Israel. People had settled in the land, God continually raised up leaders for the people. In chapter 6 Gideon is visited by the angel of the Lord. He’s threshing wheat in secret,
The angel confuses Gideon by saying “The lord is with you mighty warrior.”
Tim asked us to think about how would you thresh wheat in a wine press? How do you get the height and the wind to separate the wheat from the chaff?
Go and save Israel is the message and chapter 7 is all about Gideon taking back Israel from the Midianites .
The story is full of irony. Gideon is introduced as the mighty man of valour, Gideon was full of fear and doubt. In the time of Judges they’re in the cycle of people forgetting God and being punished. Peoplke lived in constant fear hiding in caves in the mountains. Gideon is trying to thresh wheat. Anyone tried it? The separation of the chaff is vital yet Gideon is doing this inside without the benefit of the wind. Gideon surveys the destruction wreaked by the Midianites.
Doubt and fear makes him doubt. But his doubts are out of ignorance. Gideon is a caricature of the whole of Israel. He is a clear marker of someone who has sunk to a low point full of fear and doubt.
A man who is crippled with fear and doubt yet is called to lead the people into battle. Gideon when being addressed as a mighty man of valour probably looked over his shoulder looking for someone else!
Gideon questions the wisdom of being face to face with god. In the midst of fear and doubt God says I am with you. It’s encouraging that God calls people like you and me. Gideon asks for more proof. He’s heard it before. He goes to get lunch for God and God spontaneously combusts the lunch. Gideon perceived the truth.
Gideon is clothed by the spirit of the Lord. It speaks of protection, comfort security and empowerment for the task ahead. Think of what Jesus said . Gideon overcomes his fears and sounds the call to battle. Gideon is the contender for the Lord not for Baal. He still doesn’t get it. If you were wrapped in God.s presence you’d marh straight into battle. Gideon wants another test, he puts the fleece on the ground . But he squeezes out the water and still doesn’t believe. He asks for more proof.
Gideon has become desensitised to God, Are we like him?. No one else in the Bible gets more encounters with God but still doesn’t get it. God is patient and that is good news for us all. Ironic that God chose a smaller weaker battle force. God wanted them to be left in no doubt as to who wins the battle. God gets directly involved for the first time in picking the team. Those afraid didn’t need asking twice before leaving the battle, but there were still too many. How people drank then decided the team. Only 300!are left. No cup no glass, how would you drink?
God was picking the weaker army. God is underlining he is the victor here. He’s picking an army using as criteria skills and abilities that have no use in battle. Tim posed this as a question for us all. For the church to teach another generation do we need more or less people, bigger or smaller buildings, or no buildings at all. No coincidence that this follows Deborah . She attributes without prompting the thanks to God.
Gideon’s success goes to his head, he thinks about taking taxes from the people, Gideon is the only one who doesn’t get the title of judge. Ironic that no other judge dies as much harm to the spiritual health of Israel.
We are just like Gideon. He’s not an example to be followed, he’s like you and me. The story is about a patient god who meets us in our fears and doubts to accomplish his purposes and it doesn’t matter how many of us there are. Is the fact that churches are closing good or bad? God’s church will survive even if ours or yours do not. God is seeking out people who are following him. There are times when his ways don’t fit with ours and it all feels risky. Gideon teaches us to trust in God. But if you want to know about how to celebrate victory look to the song of Deborah rather than the actions of Gideon.
Later on Sunday we caught the last few minutes of the England football match as we joined our friends at Sheraton Court for a short service. It was nice to see the welcome we got and the efforts the staff had made for the residents to celebrate England’s victory. Not quite the song of Deborah but we did join the residents in a small chorus of “We’ll meet Again” as we were leaving.
On Tuesday we hosted a new series of workshops for those interested in leading worship or preaching. We had friends from Oxford Road and the Headland join us. Pray for those taking part in this new venture as they explore new ideas.