OT: Judges 6:1-40
On Sunday, my preacher's message was all about "mak[ing] the most of every opportunity" (Col. 4:5). As a way to emphasize the importance of jumping on opportunities, he mentioned the Israelites' one-time shot at taking Canaan before their 40 year punishment, as well as Apollos' deferral of Paul's suggestion he travel to Corinth (1 Cor. 16:2). He noted that we never read of Apollos making that trip. Both of those were appropriate examples of the dangers of not jumping on the opportunities God gives us. They were definitely sobering.
And yet, I take hope in Gideon's story, which is rife with the worry and lack of confidence that I often experience when pondering God's will. Gideon is so weak and hesitant that his story is meandering and messy, so let me try to nail down the major plot points in Judges 6:
11-12: The angel appears to a man hiding in a big hole and makes fun of him.
13: Gideon responds petulantly.
14: The angel gives him a task (interestingly worded as, "go in the strength you have and save Israel..." Hmm...well, I'm guessing the strength Gideon has is...not much.)
15: Gideon responds that the strength he has is...not much.
16: Task repeated, along with assurances that God will be with him.
17-22: Gideon asks for a sign. Sign granted. Gideon freaks out.
23-24: God calms Gideon down. Gideon builds a true renegade altar, but God doesn't seem to mind. God gives him peace.
25: God starts Gideon off in baby steps with the smaller job of tearing down the local idols.
27: Gideon does so...at night and in secret.
28-32: Gideon would not make a great criminal, as everyone finds out that it was he who tore down the idols. He does not defend himself or speak up for God. Instead, his daddy bails him out by making some good points about Baal and Asherah.
33-5: "The Spirit of the Lord comes upon Gideon" in the face of an eminent attack. He calls people to arms, and, shockingly, they answer.
36-38: Gideon asks for another sign.
39-40: And another.
See? Gideon whines and wavers. He hesitates and haltingly goes forward. He asks for (and receives) constant assurance throughout the whole process. Yeah, I like the way God dealt with Gideon. And I like the way that God dealt with Moses, the ultimate excuse-maker, and Barak, the cowardly lion. And for that matter, how he dealt with Jacob, the liar, and David, the adulterer, and Peter, the bumbler, and Paul, the...well, I'm not going to write what Paul could sometimes be, b/c it is probably not fit for a Bible blog. I'm glad that God works through sinful, reckless, weak, stumbling people and still accomplishes his purposes. Don't get me wrong; their humanity messes them up. Moses ended up having to use Aaron as a mouthpiece; Barak missed out on the glory when a woman killed Sisera; Jacob had a rough row to hoe with Laban as kind of a payback for all his deceit (my interpretation); and David lost his son.
I sincerely hope that that is how God deals with me. I hope that He is patient with my weakness, with my need for assurances from Him. I hope that He forgives any wavering as a lack of confidence in my own ability to discern His will, rather than a lack of confidence in Him.
NT: Luke 22:54-23:12
What struck me today was how Herod and Pilate became friends during Jesus' trial. The way Luke words it, it almost seems like they became friends in part by Herod's little joke on Jesus. According to 23:11-12, "Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends--before this they had been enemies." Well, geez, with friends like these, who needs enemies? I really think that Pilate was amused over Jesus coming back in one of Herod's elegant robes, and that the mockery was a bonding experience for them. Clearly, they both thought the whole case was ridiculous, and I'm sure the idea that this lowly Jew considered himself a king was pretty hilarious to them. And so, even though they lacked the murderous vigor of the Sanhedrin, they still thought nothing of beating and mocking this hapless man (in their eyes). Wow. As always, I am struck by the utter darkness of this story.
It's funny to me how 95: 1-5 and 6-7 have been made into two different songs with very different tones. The first song we sing is upbeat and joyful; the second is much slower and more reflective. I think the stark difference in our two versions highlights how tonally unique the psalms are. In a single psalm, you can have joy and jubilation, sorrow and mourning, and reflection and reverence. I wonder what the tunes they used back then sounded like.
It's funny: verse 5 is obvious, bordering on redundant ("a truthful witness does not deceive"), and in contrast, verse 6 is almost obscure ("the mocker looks for wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning"). It's odd that someone would search for wisdom and not find it, but I guess if he is a mocker, then he is prideful, and thus blind to the wisdom. As for knowledge coming easily to the discerning, well, that makes me think of the verses that say, "Whoever has will be given more...whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him" (Matt. 13:12, 25:9, cf Mark 4:25, Luke 8:18).