Friday, November 13, 2015

Crazier Things Have Happened!

Crazier Things Have Happened.

Why are God’s people hiding in a hole? Why are God’s people trying so hard not to stand out? Our churches today tend to try to blend in with the community around them so that they aren’t noticed. Blending in is okay to an extent, but not whenever it comes to either watering down the truth or disregarding it altogether.

Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” - Judges 6:11 & 12

God found Gideon hiding in a hole to thresh his wheat. He wasn’t exactly hero material and yet, God knows our hearts when He calls us. To be fair, we have to understand that God’s judgment had come upon Israel and He had allowed the Midianites to prevail over Israel as a means of punishment.

Consider this conversation between Gideon and God in Judges 6:14-18:

Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”

 So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”

 And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.”

 Then he said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me. Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You and bring out my offering and set it before You.”

 And He said, “I will wait until you come back.”

When Gideon came back with the meal that he had prepared, he was directed to set it out on a rock and the Angel of the Lord reached out His staff and touched it and it was consumed by fire. The angel then directed him to tear down the altar of Baal and build an altar to God in its place. That, of course, didn’t set well with the leaders of the community and when they found out that Gideon had torn down the altar of Baal, they came to the house of Joash and demanded that Gideon be brought out and be put to death. Look at how Joash responds:

But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Would you plead for Baal? Would you save him? Let the one who would plead for him be put to death by morning! If he is a god, let him plead for himself, because his altar has been torn down!” – Judges 6:31

If you’ve read the story of Gideon, you know that he went on to test whether what God was asking him to do was real or not by putting out fleeces each night and they were either dry or wet in contrast to the ground around them. Gideon then put together an army, reducing it over and over again until it was down to only 300 men. God directed him to divide the men into three companies and he gave each of them a trumpet, a torch and a clay pot. Gideon’s army surrounded the camp while they were sleeping. At the command, they blew their trumpets, called out “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” and then broke the clay pots so that the torches lit up the night. In the confusion of sleep, the Midianites slew each other.

God’s power can bring victory in some of the craziest ways, simply because God isn’t limited by the same things that limit us. At this point I want to turn back to the questions with which I opened this post.

Why are God’s people hiding in a hole? Why are God’s people trying so hard not to stand out?

A few weeks ago, I was struck by how shallow those carrying the label of Christian have become when I observed a discussion concerning whether or not it was okay for Christians to take part in Halloween celebrations. The discussion mostly focused around two issues, those opposed to it and those who were justifying their participation through freedom in Christ. What does that have to do with Gideon? A great deal actually, if you consider how Gideon destroying the altar of Baal upset the community around him. After all, that altar wasn’t hurting anybody. Those who were true Israelites still knew the law of God and they didn’t participate in the spiritual worship of Baal, they just went and hung out for the fun and community fellowship. What did it hurt anyway?

In most instances, one could argue that Halloween is harmless fun. I think that the real reason that some Christians try to justify participating in such celebrations is because they want to blend in and not be ridiculed by others in the community. However, I think that we are directed to something more important than entertaining ourselves or those in our community.

We must understand two things and do two things.

We are called to tear down the altars of Baal and we are called to drive the Midianites out of our land. To do that, I believe that we need to understand two things and then do two things. First we must understand that “we are mighty men and women of valor” who have the Lord with us. Second, we must understand that the things of this world have little value to us and have no power over us; “let them plead for themselves.” Once we understand these two things, what must we do in response to them?

First, like Gideon, we need to test things against the word of God. I’m not proposing laying out fleeces, literally, but I am proposing that we take God’s word and use it as a guide for discerning what things are good and edifying and what things are destructive to our growth and the growth of those around us.

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. – 1 Corinthians 10:23

Pastor John MacArthur who leads a Christian ministry called Grace To You, created a blog series around 1 Corinthians 10:23 that is extremely helpful for giving us a set of 7 E’s that will help us to discern which activities we ought to participate in and which ones might not be beneficial to us. In brief, we ought to ask ourselves these questions:

Edification: Will this activity produce spiritual benefit?

Enslavement: Will this activity lead to spiritual bondage?

Exposure: Will this activity expose my mind or body to defilement?

Esteem: Will this activity benefit others, or cause them to stumble?

Evangelism: Will this activity further the cause of the gospel?

Ethics: Will this activity violate my conscience?

Exaltation: Will this activity bring glory to God?

– (John MacArthur, Glorify God In the Gray Areas)

Secondly, we need to trust that the glory and power that indwells us in Christ Jesus is more powerful than any other force in history. Just like in the case of Gideon’s army defeating the Midianites in what is, likely, the most peculiar battle in human history, we must not look to what WE think is the way to go about defeating our enemies, but let God do His work through us, because “the gates of hell shall not stand against us.” (Matthew 16:18)

Live today and everyday as mighty men and women of valor, trusting in the strength and power of our Lord, even when it goes against whatever those around you seem to think is right and even if what you’re directed to do seems crazy.

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