Monthly Archives: January 2010

HELLO, HERO

An interesting account of an encounter with an angel is reported in Judges, 6:1-13:

           “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.When the Israelites cried to the LORD because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land. I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”

               The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of theLORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”“But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now theLORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”

           During the time I have not been writing, I’ve been studying and thinking a lot about Gideon.  Of course, it should go without saying that you should also be praying when you study Scripture.  If God is really the Author of this ancient document (as I believe He is), it seems prayer would be a logical avenue to His mind.  Gideon has surely earned a place in the Hebrew Heroes Hall of Fame, and in my opinion he qualifies for our “God’s Comeback Kid” designation.  In this present venture, I feel as if I talk with my self a lot, and would prefer instead to be sitting with you face to face in a small group somewhere with our Bibles open.  Just thinking, and praying, and “pooling” our ideas.

            It seems to me that failure to do that kind of thing has cast  Biblical personalities as some type of angelic automatons, instead of real men, made of blood and flesh and muscles and bone.  Pre-programmed to always do just the right thing, in the right way, for the right reason, and with perfect success every time.  When you pause and try to imagine what they really felt, how they struggled and fell, you can then see how your own life plays out in some similar fashion.

            When Gideon first appears on the stage of Biblical history,  he doesn’t seem to be a likely candidate for the recognition we’re about to afford him.  His circumstances are dire.  From just about every point of view he’s unimpressive.  He’s a beaten man.  His country is under brutal, repressive foreign occupation, and he’s in hiding.  He’s apparently a victim of unfortunate circumstances and playing the role quite well. We aren’t introduced to him as a tough, young, strong, bright and cunning super patriot plotting to lead an insurgency to drive out the hated foreigners.  He is scared.  Circumstances have him overpowered and cowed down.  He’s trying to squeeze a bare existence for his family from land his family apparently owns, or owned at some point.  But he’s very tentative, very edgy, probably startled at every unexpected noise.

            Against this backdrop an angel of the Lord appears. (God sometimes does things quite suddenly and unexpecedly. Uninvited as well.  Sometimes He isn’t immediately recognized.) The angel simply sat down under an oak tree and casually began a conversation.  It went something like this: “Hello.  You mighty man of valor. . .”

            As I pondered the story, several things struck me as being very interesting.  One of them is that in the midst of carrying out daily duties under great stress, Gideon is confronted by powerful spiritual reality.  He isn’t at church when this conversation occurs.  He’s not high on some drug.  He isn’t praying, or even remotely thinking about God.  That, in fact, may have been the thing farthest from his mind.  He’s just trying to survive.  Probably simulaneously silently cursing his fate and his preseent predicament and the hated Midianites who’ve overun his country, raping and pillaging at random will.

            Then an “Angel of the Lord” appears.   “Hello, you mighty man of valor,” the angel drawls.

              Come again?  Say what?  I just got through describing the circumstances: A lone Jew, hiding, sneaking to avoid the enemies who seemed to be swarming like ants or termites.  Disgusted  or ashamed would have better described him.   But, “Hello, Hero.”  You gotta be kidding!  Surely, you jest!

            Even Gideon caught it and picked up on what the angel had just said:  “If that’s true,   …Just look at me.  Look at the situation.  Are you out of your mind?  You obviously don’t understand my situation, or how bad things are, or how weak and insignificant I am.”

            To further reinforce my point of view, I considered the fact that Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress.  That is not an insignificant fact.

            Usually, wheat was threshed on a threshing floor. Probably outside, and usually done most effectively on windy days which which quickly carried the chaff (and the noise) off in any direction the wind chose.   You’ve seen pictures of this type of thing.  It gets messy, and noisy.  It creates a lot of waste that has to be disposed of.  It isn’t something that’s usually done quietly and unobtrusively.  It tends to call attention to itself.  It’s hard to describe or conceal the noise and mess made by the pounding, grinding, tossing and the wind blowing chaff ever which way.           

            A winepress, on the other hand, seems to tend toward secrecy of sorts.  Wine does best when shielded from direct sunlight.  I grew up in the South and know what a liquor still is.  I’ve stumbled upon them accidentally, and almost always in deliberately hidden, difficult to find places.

            In the annals of Hebrew history, the incident the book of Judges reports above shows very clearly this is not at the moment the land of the free, and certainly NOT the home of the brave.  

            Now consider this: Gideon is threshing wheat in the relative secrecy of a winepress. He was not planning a guerilla movement.  He was not printing revolutionary literature for distribution or making plans to overthrow anyone.  He was hiding!  He was scared!  He was apparently paralyzed by the mess in which his country found itself and how helpless and hopeless and hapless he felt as a result.

            So, does “Hello, Hero” sound a bit absurd.

            But that realization caused me to consider this conclusion:  God does not select anyone on the basis of his/her accomplishments,or contribution.  Nor does He select someone for an assignment based on their opinions of themselves.  Or of others’ view of their ability.

            God chose Gideon based solely upon God’s ability to make him the man and the leader he be later became.   God does not base His gift of grace or His call to service on our track records.   More than anyone, I have reason to thank Him for that merciful consideration!  What we think of ourselves and what others may think of us is irrelevant, in fact.  Eternally irrelevant!  God’s call to Gideon to come out of hiding and perform unselfish, courageous, successful service was not based on Gideon’s accomplishments or his view of his own potential.  The mighty Creator of the Universe, who compressed unlimited, powerful potential in the tiny atom, is quite capable of doing the same thing and even more with His human creatioons. That is how Gideon was able to “come back.”  God saw something in Gideon that everyone missed. Including Gideon!

            Now, let’s just think a bit on a personal level.  I haven’t any idea of how you may have suffered or how you may be suffering now.  Or how crushed you may feel by real or imagined circumstances.  I don’t know how you wrestle with self doubt, or fear, or angry disappointment, or failure or great grief . . Or what the devastating effects of that might be for you.  But, let’s just think on this a bit.  Imagine what it might be like if God, or one of His messengers (“angel” comes from a Greek word which means “messenger.”)…We’re just supposing now.  Just thinking.  But can you imagine your response if one were to appear with this greeting:

“HELLO, HERO?”

I bid you adieu, Hero, until our next visit.

God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student   donkimrey

             

YOU DA MAN!

          Let’s set the stage:  One of the greatest leaders and most revered kings in Jewish history has behaved scandalously. It has resulted in an unplanned, potentially very embarrassing pregnancy. When David’s efforts fail to conceal his misconduct, he further compounds his iniquity by deliberately using the woman’s husband as cannon fodder.  In what amounts to murder by king’s decree, David orders that Uriah be placed at the very tip of the spear of an assault on the enemy and then have all his support withdrawn. That not only cost a loyal soldier his life.  Others were with him on this mission.  It is shameless and inexcusable, however much it may be resemble the conduct of some of our present day elected officials.

 

          With several bungled attempts behind, David has probably tried to settle into an uneasy acceptance of what he’s done.  He is, after all, the King.  But an even higher authority has formed and stated an opinion about his misconduct:  “The Lord was not pleased with what David had done.” II Samuel 11

          Samuel picks up where we left off just before Christmas: 

          The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”    David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”  

          Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ “This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.                                                                           II Samuel 12:1-13. (NIV)

            Now comes Nathan. Who was he?  What gives him the right to say anything to a monarch? 

            In this confrontation, try to imagine the options.  An unknown prophet has the courage and takes the initiative to speak truth to power.  How’d Nathan find out?  How do you suppose he reacted when the duty to confront the indulgent king fell upon him?  How do you suppose David reacted when it dawned upon him what the Prophet had brought to light? The cat was out of the bag! The jig was up.

            David could have told Nathan to mind his own business.  He could have faked indignation and “how dared Nathan to be so judgmental?”  

          Possessing inside information on the scandal, Nathan tactfully but very courageously confronts the King.  It could have easily cost Nathan his life.  Who is this guy?  How does he have such easy access to the King?  In our time, such a thing would seem highly unlikely.  Secret Service guys would have been on him like white on rice!  If he’d managed to squeak by security, someone would be called on the carpet.  Senate hearings would be scheduled.  The press would have a field day.

          Nathan tells David a story.  A very simple story about a very poor man who had only one lamb, possibly a pet.  A neighbor, rich and with a flock of sheep, throws a party and invites a lot of people.  Instead of taking one from his own flock, the rich guy steals the only one his poor neighbor has, slaughters it, and serves up lamb stew for his buddies.

          David is furious.  Enraged, in fact.  “Who is this sorry rascal?  You give me his name and address and I’ll see to it that he gets what he deserves!” The King’s fury is straining to be unleashed.

          “Thou art the man,” Nathan says in proper King James English.  “You da man!” The silence was probably deafening.  Nathan did not shout or stutter or waver.  There was no mistaking whom he was addressing.  There was no reason for David to ask: “You talking to me, sir?”

          To his credit, David got the point.  Someone has said: “A guilty conscience needs no accuser.”  David knew instinctively and immediately what the point the prophet was making. No doubt his sins against God had weighed heavily upon him. 

          That’s one thing about someone who belongs to Christ or longs to be a child of god:  You can not sin comfortably.  It just is not possible.  There’s no doubt in my mind that David felt guilt and shame over what he’d done, and it obviously lay very near the surface of his consciousness.

          He acknowledged his guilt.  He made no excuses.  He blamed no one for his moral collapse, not even a beautiful temptress who caught his attention in an unguarded moment.  He called no press conferences where with crocodile tears before a television camera he could stage a scripted, controlled, possibly rehearsed, public performance.  He did not wag a finger at Nathan and deftly and defiantly deny: “I did not have sex with that woman!”  He did not claim childhood abuse had driven him to this excess.  He accepted responsibility fully for what he, himself had done.

          And he repented. 

          Can you see that as a defining moment in David’s comeback?  He was on the wrong track, heading in the wrong direction, with the pace perhaps accelerating and ruin hurtling in his direction.  Wisely, though, he repented.  Simply stated, when someone had courage and compassion enough to take a risk and step across his path and block his headlong rush to self destruction, David took it like a man. And he asked God’s forgiveness.

          At that very moment, David became one of God’s Comeback Kids.

          God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student, donkimrey