October 6, 2021
Judges 6:11-12 (NIV)
11 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. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
Today we come to a beautiful example of biblical encouragement.
Let’s set the stage. We are in the period of the Judges. The people of God are in the promised land and yet they are under oppression. One step forward ten steps back is always par for the course when following God. The unholy trifecta of darkness always comes against the movement of God: the world, the flesh and the devil. Sometimes it is spiritual warfare. Sometimes it comes as a result of God’s people phoning it in. In this case it is the latter. Judges 6 opens with this word:
The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites.
It was really bad. How bad was it? Thanks for asking. We thought Covid-19 was bad. Get a load of this:
Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 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. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it.
There is only one upside of this kind of suffering and hardship—desperation. Here’s the pivot:
Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.
Rescue always begins with remembering the story as revealed by the Word of God. To remember is to re-attach to. Get it re-member.
When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, 8 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. 9 I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 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.”
No-one alive ever lived in Egypt as a slave or was present at the Red Sea. Yet this was not history for them. It was their right here right now story. Biblical encouragement requires a kind of remembering beyond mere historical memory. Look at how the Prophet-Encourager works here:
I brought YOU up out of Egypt
I rescued YOU from the hand of the Egyptians
I delivered YOU from the hand of all your oppressors
I drove them out before YOU and gave YOU their land.
I said to YOU, “I am the Lord your God. . .
And then this last bit:
But YOU have not listened to me.
There is only one response to this prophetic encouragement: repentance.
Might we begin to understand the YOU as US? All of these words are true for US, not metaphorically or by way of analogy to Jesus and the Cross (though it certainly be true) but historically? We need this bigger story. Can we bring this history into our right here, right now reality? Could we allow this text to address US today. And might we allow this call to repentance to pierce our hearts? It’s interesting how God first wants to address US before addressing ME. I have this growing conviction that God must first speak to US personally before he can speak to ME individually. Grapple with the nuance of that pondering today. The story of the Bible is not the story of a loose federation of individuals doing great things for God over history but the story of a banded people caught up in the bonded Triune God doing incredible things through them for his glory and their growth and others good.
All of that is the setup for Gideon. We will meet him tomorrow.
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
God our Father, I understand that it is not about me and yet I still want it to be “to” me and “for” me. I am getting the picture that you are more interested in “WE” than in just “me.” I sense there is this way you want to locate me and work with me within a bigger context of others. I sense you will need to break my fierce and rugged individualism in order to bring me home into a people. That scares me. I like control. I am comfortable with me, myself and I with you—of course. Lead me to the place that is both corporate and personal. Lead me to the WE where something tells me I will become a different kind of me. I pray in Jesus name, who with you and the Holy Spirit reign as one God forever and ever. Amen.
Would you go back to that series of YOU statements and read them aloud so your ears can hear them actually spoken in direct address– not individually, but personally, with the understanding that the YOU is a corporate you.
For the Awakening,