Gideon’s do-nothings

“They also serve… ”

The soldiers were gathered, 32,000 of them! Why did they come?

Gideon was a nobody. Why follow him? Why come when he called?

Read Judges 6-8. Fascinating story. Israel was surrounded and hounded, ridiculed and harassed by her enemies. Things had gotten bad, really bad. Midian, a pagan country to the far southeast of Israel, had overrun everything and everyone. Stealing herds and crops, they were reducing the population to a life of abject poverty and constant fear.

Why? Well, Israel had been warned about idol worship but they had ignored the warnings. They were reaping what they had sowed.

And then God sent an angel to a nobody, the youngest of his family and least of his tribe. Hiding in a winepress, Gideon was trying to thresh enough grain to keep his family from starving, when the angel showed up.

A series of strange events followed, first to convince Gideon that he was indeed God’s choice to rescue his people, and then to convince those people that Gideon wasn’t crazy, that he had indeed heard from God.

Well, he did a good enough job to round up 32,000 fighters! And then God sent 22,700 of those fighters back home. How weird is that?

But the point of my thoughts today is this: those who went home were following God’s will, too. Those 10,000 who were afraid. Those 700 who didn’t do things exactly right. They were willing to fight, but they didn’t have to. Others fought and some of those died, but the battle was won. It was a huge victory! God got the glory.

And those back at home… what did they do?

They probably prayed, we’re not told. They didn’t get any thanks, any awards for valor, any recognition for a job well done. But they obeyed Gideon and God, and their return home was just as necessary as Gideon’s 300-man army.

They were obeying God’s will, too.

Remember that, when it seems like God hasn’t called you to do anything spectacular. “They also serve who only stand and wait.” *

* John Milton, 1655. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_I_Consider_How_My_Light_is_Spent

Here are a few more posts about Gideon:

https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/gideon-man-of-valor/
https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/gideon-and-the-angel/
https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/gideons-army/

 

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“The devil’s in the details”

The other night I flipped open the Bible I keep by my bed and rather than just taking up where I had left off in the Gospel of Mark, I asked, “Lord, what would you like us to read tonight?”

I opened the pages, saw I was in I Chronicles 28, and so began reading. When I read verses 11-19, I slowed down, went back and re-read those verses…

Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement. He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the Lord and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things.

He gave him instructions for the divisions of the priests and Levites, and for all the work of serving in the temple of the Lord, as well as for all the articles to be used in its service.

He designated the weight of gold for all the gold articles to be used in various kinds of service, and the weight of silver for all the silver articles to be used in various kinds of service: the weight of gold for the gold lampstands and their lamps, with the weight for each lampstand and its lamps; and the weight of silver for each silver lampstand and its lamps, according to the use of each lampstand;

the weight of gold for each table for consecrated bread; the weight of silver for the silver tables; the weight of pure gold for the forks, sprinkling bowls and pitchers; the weight of gold for each gold dish; the weight of silver for each silver dish; and the weight of the refined gold for the altar of incense.

He also gave him the plan for the chariot, that is, the cherubim of gold that spread their wings and overshadow the ark of the covenant of the Lord.

“All this,” David said, “I have in writing as a result of the Lord’s hand on me, and he enabled me to understand all the details of the plan.”  (Emphasis added.)

“The devil is in the details,” I was thinking. The Holy Spirit said to me, “So is God.” Wow. “God is in the details.” And what details!

He reminded me that the patterns for the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant were given to Moses in great detail, and every bit of material they needed to build them was on hand, provided by way of the Egyptians. (See Exodus 12:35-36, Exodus 25 ff.)

Here in I Chronicles, David is recounting that God had given him detailed directions for the Temple that would be built by Solomon. And he had enabled David and the people to gather all the materials they would need. Read through those lists of materials sometime. It is impressive!

Details matter to the Lord, I remind myself. Sometimes we don’t see the forest for the trees, but the reverse is also true. We don’t always take time to see the individual “trees,” the little moments, the little happenings, those small building blocks that go into the big picture.

While the big picture certainly matters, the little picture also matters. That means, whatever I do during the day, wherever I go, whatever I read, or meditate on, or write – even down to the day and time I do it, matters to the Lord.

Like the time of day I went to the grocery store yesterday. The new-to-me cashier was grumpy and unfriendly, but I smiled, said a few friendly sentences to her, and most importantly – I prayed for her. Perhaps she was my only reason for being there on that day, at that time. Because she matters to the Lord. Her life matters. The details of her life matter to the Lord.

 

What’s in a face?

I was reading 2 Chronicles 7:14 one day, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

A phrase in the middle sort of “lit up” from the rest and stopped my reading. I thought I knew that verse by heart – after all, I often referred to it when asking the Lord to forgive our nation and send revival.

But that little phrase in the middle, how had I missed that? What did it mean exactly, “Seek my face?” I soon found several other verses containing that phrase:

  • “Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.”  (1 Chron. 16:11)
  • “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” (Psalm 27:8)
  • “Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.”  (Psalm 105:4)

Other passages came to mind. Face to face is how God spoke to Moses, although cloaked in the pillar of cloud. The face of God is always on his people and his ears are always open to their prayers. The eyes of God run to and fro through the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are right towards him.

The meanings of the root words are pretty basic and easy to understand. Seek is from the Hebrew word darash, meaning “to resort to, seek, seek with care, inquire, require.” Face is from paniym, “face, presence, sight, countenance; i.e. the front of something, or in front of something. The surface.”

Since that day I’ve given that phrase a lot of thought. What is a face? What’s in a face? Here’s what I have thought, so far.

A way to communicate, one type of body language
Expressive; shows or hides emotions and physical feelings
Thoughts show on your face
Attentiveness, inattentiveness
Interest, boredom, curiosity
Attraction, repugnance, horror
Startle, surprise, fear, fright, terror
Concentration, determination, frustration, irritation, distraction
Meditation, thoughtfulness
Shyness, boldness
Embarrassment, shame
Anger, rage, wrath, anxiety, worry
Slyness

The mouth, ears, eyes, jaw, cheeks and nose; all the face is involved in expression, including the skin
Skin color changes, blushes, blanches
Eyebrows askew
Eyes wide open or squinting
Eyelids blinking; winking
Looking past, up, down, or direct; indicates attention level
Stare, ogle, glare
Wrinkled brow, raised brow
Wrinkled, raised nose
Pursed lips
Open mouth, closed mouth
Clinched teeth, clinched jaw
Smile, grin, or no smile
Frown, grimace
Twitching, tics

Indicates or hides direction of attention or focus
Eyes show focus of view, near or far; into the distance while meditating
Facade, fake face hiding real one
Intelligence personnel are trained to keep a stony face; comedians can tell jokes with a “straight” face

Slang terms / idioms in common usage
Face the facts
Face up to your responsibilities
Face up to it
Face it like a man
Face your fears
Face value
Face the consequences
On the face of it
Just a pretty face

So, “Seek my face.” What do you mean by that? I asked the Lord another night, after meditating on it a while. Here’s what he said:

My presence, my opinion, my feelings, my directions, my conversation, my fellowship, my purpose, my interests, my purposes, aims and goals.

My affection, my forgiveness, my mercy, my teaching, my training, my correction, my advice, my attention, my ear, my assistance, my mentoring, my example.

My face is not like your face. Vision, for instance, like X-ray vision. MRI. Ultrasound. Sonar. Infrared. Not bound by space or time or physics. Multidimensional, physical and/or spiritual, either or both at once.

He stopped speaking at that point and I started thinking about it again then, and often since then. Some of those thoughts, in no particular order, include

  • God has senses… well, of course he does.
  • Humans were created in his image; so were their senses, their computing and feeling abilities.
  • Any senses we have, God had first.
  • Sometimes there is a sweet smell like perfume, the aroma of his presence when you’ve been worshiping and praising him.
  • God has physical and spiritual hearing. Even the deepest thoughts of men are discerned by him.
  • The face of our thoughts is the surface of our soul.
  • But thoughts are not all on the surface. Thoughts are many levels deep, God’s and mine; they are similar in that way.
  • But God’s thoughts are countless levels deep and wide, not bound by time or distance.

There’s much more to learn, I know. More to search for, more to find. The Holy Spirit wants us all involved in that kind of search, I know. I don’t think we’ll ever finish finding out more about his face, his presence, his person.

The Prince of Peace painting is by Akiane Kramarik. It can be downloaded free of charge from https://art-soulworks.com/collections/prince-of-peace. 

The train of his robe

TrainOfHisRobeIsPeopleJesus-teachingIf you’re a regular reader, you probably wonder if I’ve given up writing posts. No, but in recent weeks I’ve found myself spending more and more time interceding for people, reading and studying about prayer and intercession, as well as keeping in touch with folks here at home and around the world.

Here’s a new post about something that happened the other night…

As I was praying and thinking about various things last night (June 7, 2016), the scripture song “I saw the Lord, he was high and lifted up and his train filled the temple” kept running around in my mind. (Isaiah 6:1)

I thought about articles that I’d read (or written) about his train, i.e. the long trailing hem of his kingly robes, and the idea that it completely filled up the temple. Then the Lord quietly interrupted my thoughts as he is apt to do and said…

“Do you know what I consider my train?”

“What, I asked? Something other than your robe?” So he showed me.

I saw him dressed in ordinary clothes such as Jesus wore on the earth. He just looked sort of like a grandfather surrounded by happy, laughing grandchildren. Small kids were playing around his legs, running around him in circles and tugging on his clothes as he walked, taking careful steps. They were obviously headed somewhere. Outside to a garden, maybe?

Spread out on either side and behind him as far as the eye could see were people of all ages, all races. Young children were the nearest ones to him, but just outside their ranks were teens and pre-teens, young adults and mature adults, smiling, gesturing and chatting with each other as they all kept pace with him.

Strolling along he would reach out and touch first one and then another, pat someone’s head, hug a child close for a moment, shake a hand, always smiling, walking along in a casual but steady gait. Where were they all going? I couldn’t tell and he didn’t say. What he did say was,

“This is my train, really – my children.”

And I realized as I looked closer, there were generations going all the way back to Adam and Eve! While all were his spiritual children, many were the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren – descendants of others in this tremendous throng.

It was amazing.

After a few moments I asked, “So you don’t actually wear robes with a long train, like a king on earth wears for ceremonial events? Like what Isaiah saw?”

“For formal occasions,” he answered with a chuckle, “but not for every day – it’s hard to get down on the ground to play with the kids, wearing all that…”

And with a wave as if saying “Later,” they continued on their stroll, the happy crowd keeping up with his steps.

As I drifted off to sleep, my mind drifted back many years. I recalled summer days playing outdoors with my own father, grandfather or uncles, several of us cousins laughing and grabbing them around the ankles by their pants legs, trying to pull them down to our level. And they always let us. They always let us.

Justice? I just don’t get it…

The Equalizer

“Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer!”

Leverage

“The rich and powerful take what they want. We steal it back for you.”

The Shadow

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

Superman

“The never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.”

Underdog

“Never fear, Underdog is here!”

Even Underdog! Then there’s the Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Green Hornet, Red Rider, Zorro… not to mention my all-time favorite, the A-Team.

What do all these have in common? The demand for justice. Fairness. “What’s fair is fair.” Because people know what is right, what is fair, what is equitable.

From the very beginning, they knew that some things were wrong. Like killing, stealing, lying, destroying.

How did they know? They were created to know, and they were given to know. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)

Along the way (beginning in the Garden), God’s definitions of right and wrong were questioned, then perverted by some. And people still cry out for justice, as they have from the beginning. God himself said that Abel’s blood cried out from the ground (Genesis 4:10). The perversion of justice demanded a penalty – death. (Genesis 2:17, Romans 6:23)

The oldest of civilizations devised codes of laws and systems of justice, attempting to get back to the beginning, to the Garden, perhaps.

Back in the 1980’s when Tim and I first got involved in politics, an irate woman shouted at us in a meeting, “You can’t legislate morality!” She was angry at our stances on various issues. Especially our pro-life stances. (We were actively, vocally opposed to removing the pro-life plank from the state and national Republican Party platforms.)

“Sure you can,” I answered, when I could get a word in. “That’s what legislation does.The question is, whose morality are you going to legislate?” I may not have persuaded her that day, but I hope she thought more about my question. Whose morality? Whose justice?

In the scriptures, the words justice and righteousness come from the same root word. Justice is a principle and a system of right and wrong as defined by the Creator. Righteousness is a state of being right in God’s eyes, in his opinion.

God gets to define “right,” and he gets to decide who is right. (When the word is translated justice, another word – judgment – is often found in that verse, meaning the decision and legal declaration of justice.)

Is justice always doing the right thing, never doing the wrong thing? But I couldn’t live up to that standard, no matter how hard I tried. So then, what is justice, to God? What is righteousness?

“Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3) Hebrews 11 lists the “Heroes of Faith,” men and women who believed what God said to them and thus were considered righteous by God.

Now, I believe, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (II Cor. 5:21). Jesus took the penalty of sin, instead of me.

Consider:

  • Having their conscience seared as with a hot iron – I Timothy 4:2
  • Having their senses exercised to discern good and evil – Hebrews 5:14
  • Let justice roll – Amos 5:24
  • There is none good but God – Matthew 19:17
  • There is none righteous – Romans 3:10
  • Vengeance is mine, I will repay, said the Lord – Romans 12:19.

And he did. Jesus got the penalty in my place, satisfied God’s requirements of justice, and I get his grace instead.

Let justice roll on like a river! Is that your prayer? Really?

AmosMinor Prophets – not minor.

Some time ago I started reading the minor prophets. (Minor in this case indicates short, not of lesser importance.)

I was reading Mark’s gospel one morning when the Lord interrupted my reading.

“Have you considered Amos lately?”

Of course, he already knew that I hadn’t. So, I turned to that Old Testament book and started reading. It didn’t take long to finish, but it was serious reading.

When I had finished that book, he spoke again. “Habakkuk?” And so I read that next one.

Over the next few weeks came Joel, Jonah, Obadiah, Hosea, Nahum, Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah.

It was a sobering process. There is such a disturbing similarity between the behavior patterns that led to the downfall of Israel and the behavior patterns – cultural, social and political – in the United States today.

Prophet after prophet warned the people to turn back to God; to repent, to get rid of false idols, to return to worshiping the only true God.

If they didn’t? Well, God’s patience was running out and disaster was going to happen when it did.

Foreign powers would invade, conquer and carry off the people of God into far-away lands. They would be enslaved. He would punish those invaders as well, but first he would use them to turn back the hearts of the people to God.

But the people didn’t listen. And so Israel was invaded, was conquered, and the people of God were carried off into far-away lands. Enslaved.

Here’s a passage from Amos Chapter 5 about The Day of the Lord:

  • Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light.
  • It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.
  • Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light— pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?
  • I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.
  • Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them.
  • Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.
  • But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

(Amos 5:18-24)

Which truth do you believe?

Grapes of the Promised Land, Nicholas Poussin, Louvre.God told Moses to send 12 men, leaders of their tribes, to spy out the land of Canaan. They traveled from the Wilderness of Zin south of the Negev desert and southwest of the Dead Sea, north to Rehob, northeast of the  Sea of Galilee. (Numbers 13)

Their instructions were simple:

And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwell therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds; And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the first-ripe grapes. (13:18-20 KJV)

It took them 40 days. They collected a great branch of grapes that was so heavy it took two men to carry it, also pomegranates and figs. They returned to Moses with two separate reports:

  • And they (ten of them) told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. (13:27-29)
  • And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. (13:30)

But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eats up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. (13:31-33)

And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which flows with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not. (14:6-9)

Remember the story? All twelve saw the same things. All twelve reported what they saw. All twelve told the truth. But they contradicted each other – natural truth contradicted supernatural truth.

(1) We can’t do it. The enemy is stronger than us.
(2) We can do it. God is stronger than the enemy.

Which truth did the rest of the people believe? Well, they demanded that Caleb and Joshua be stoned, so there’s your answer.

What happened next? The doubters all died, the ten doubting spies immediately, the rest of them during their ensuing 40 year trek in the wilderness. Turns out they got what they believed. They couldn’t do it.

But the believing spies, Joshua and Caleb, also got what they believed. After 40 years they crossed the Jordan River into the promised land, overcame and possessed it.

I’d much rather believe God in the beginning and not have to spend 40 years wandering around in a desert. Wouldn’t you?