Sunday, April 15, 2018

Mighty Hero, God Is With You!

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.   (Isaiah 41:10)

The Israelites did evil in the God’s sight. So the God handed them over to the Midianites for seven years.  The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves, and strongholds.  Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel, camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza. They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys.  These enemy hordes, coming with their livestock and tents, were as thick as locusts; they arrived on droves of camels too numerous to count. And they stayed until the land was stripped bare.  So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites.   This was what God did.  Why?  Did God not loved the Israelites anymore?  No. God dearly loved them.   God wanted to them to come back to God although they sinned against God.

The Israelites had no place to go for help, but God.   They knew their sins that they committed before God, and they also knew all the hardships caused by themselves, because they did evil in the God’s sight.   Like a kid, they cried out to the Lord, their God, for help.

When they cried out to God, He heard their cry.  Rather than focusing on their sins committed, God, who dearly loved their children like parents, came to them.  Like parents, God had not forget their children under any circumstances.   God always watched over the Israelites with His love and care.   Sure.  They cried, and God heard it.   God sent an angel for them.  

The angel came down and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer.  Gideon, son of Joash, was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites.  Gideon was really afraid of the Midianites.   He knew they would take away what he had.   He was in great fear.  

The angel of the LORD said to Gideon, “Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!” (Judges 6:12)   Gideon could not believe what he heard.  He was hiding in a winepress and threshing wheat, but the angel called him “Mighty hero, God is with you!”   He could not believe what he was hearing.   Gideon knew he was not a brave man, let alone be a mighty hero.  Although the angel said “God is with you.”  He could not feel God’s presence anywhere.  What he was able to see was the fearful Midianites.   Thus he turned his head, and saw the person who was telling.   He was not an ordinary person.   Gideon looked carefully, and soon realized that the person who talked to him was an angel of God.   

Gideon had lots of questions about God like the rest of the Israelites.  He was also fearful before the angel.   Gideon was silent for a moment in fear, but he could not hold up the silence any longer.  He courageously opened his mouth and put out his heart, “Sir, if God is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The God brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the God has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.” (Judges 6:13)   Gideon like the other Israelites felt that God abandoned the people of Israel, the God’s people.   There was no sign of God’s hand, and the oppression of the Midianites was getting severer every day.  For Gideon, it was the unavoidable reality that he experienced every moment in his life.

Then God turned to him through the angel, and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” (Judges 6:14b)  

“But God,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”   Gideon knew himself very well.   Even at the very moment, he was hiding and threshing wheat.    Additionally, his clan was the weakest, and he is the least in his entire family.  

God knew Gideon’s doubt and fear in his mind.   God said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”  (Judges 6:16)

God picked Gideon to rescue the Israelites from the Midianites not because Gideon was brave and mighty enough to rescue the Israelites from the dominating Midianites.   God foresaw what Gideon could do for Him when he was filled with God’s spirit.   God also exactly knew that Gideon was not ready for taking the God’s mighty task -- rescuing the entire Israelites.  God had to transform the coward Gideon by carving out the truly faithful and mighty one who could lead the people of Israel in the name of God without any fears and doubts.   Yes, it was the God’s plan for Gideon and the people of Israel.

The first agenda of God was to make Gideon to truly believe God’s calling and obedient to Him.   God had to remove his doubts and fears from Gideon’s heart so that God could build up an unparalleled faith in Gideon.    

Gideon said, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really God speaking to me. Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you.”

The angel answered, “I will stay here until you return.”   (Yes, God is always patient to His people because He dearly loves His people.   Gideon’s faith was so immature like a baby who could barely walk.   God exactly knew, and God let him do what he wanted to do as long as it could help him to grow in faith.)  

Gideon hurried home. He cooked a young goat, and with a basket of flour he baked some bread without yeast. Then, carrying the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, he brought them out and presented them to the angel, who was under the great tree.

The angel of God said to him, “Place the meat and the unleavened bread on this rock, and pour the broth over it.” And Gideon did as he was told.  Then the angel of God touched the meat and bread with the tip of the staff in his hand, and fire flamed up from the rock and consumed all he had brought. And the angel of God disappeared.
When Gideon finally realized that he was truly the angel of the LORD, he cried out, “Oh, Sovereign LORD, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!”   

“It is all right,” God replied. “Do not be afraid. You will not die.”  Upon hearing God’s voice, Gideon built an altar to God there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the LORD is peace”).    God comforted Gideon with His peace in the mist of the oppression of the Midianites.   (Surely, as God did to Gideon, God comes to His people according God’s infinitely good plan.  Then God provides to us God’s peace in the mist of turmoil and hardship in life.)  

It was a just beginning: Gideon saw the angel of God, and heard unbelievable message – “Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!”    God started good work, and continued His plan in Gideon. 

That night the LORD said to Gideon, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old. Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it.  Then build an altar to the LORD your God here on this hilltop sanctuary, laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.”

Now God’s training had been just started.   First, God asked to destroy his father’s alter for Baal, a false god.   God wanted to directly against Baal by destroying the alter for Baal, which was owned by his father.  It was a real tester of Gideon’s faith – against his own father and the idol that his father was keeping.   Second, he cut down the Asherah pole standing beside the alter of Baal.  Third, build an alter for the Lord at the hilltop, not in a hidden vally.   Remember that he was so coward that he was hiding and working at the bottom of winepress.   Fourth, give a sacrifice to God by burning the Asherah pole.    What was the Gideon’s response?

Yes, Gideon did all.   Gideon took ten of his servants and did as God had commanded.   However, he did it at night because he was afraid of the other members of his father’s household and the people of the town.   Gideon had just started his journey of faith in God, but he had not have a perfect faith yet.   He was still afraid of his father’s household and the people in the town.   He barely passed the test of faith in God.   It was true that he was still looking around to the people, rather than completely fixing his eyes on God.  

Next day, people found the alter of Baal was completely destroyed.  Instead there was a new alter build.  On it were the remainders of the bull that had been scarified.   In rage, the people of the town carefully searched, and learned that it was Gideon, the son of Joash.    They came to Joash, and demanded to hand over Gideon.   To the surprise, Joash, who was the keeper of the alter of Baal, took the side of Gideon, and confronted, “Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar!” (Judges 6:31b)

God valued Gideon’s small faith.   Indeed, Gideon was not perfected in faith yet.   God saw what Gideon did.   God raised His hand and protected Gideon.  Before God, nothing was impossible.  Gideon should have been afraid of his father most.  His father was the person who took care of the alter of Baal.   Gideon knew what would come after if he destroyed the alter of Baal, but in faith Gideon destroyed the alter following God’s command.   Upon Gideon’s faithful act, God did not let Gideon alone.   God touched his father heart to change his father.  God defended against the rest of the people in the town by using the mouth of Gideon’s father.   This was what God did upon Gideon’s faithful act.

God 
pleases with our small faith – following God’s command.   Our faith might not be perfect as Gideon did – still afraid of the things on earth.   For God’s sight, it is not so important.   The important one is whether we followed God’s command or not.  When we follow through God’s command, it is the moment that brings a true joy  to God.   God saw the baby steps of Gideon in faith.   Gideon was almost falling, but God stretched out His mighty hand.   With His great power, God first changed his father, who was most feared.  Then God used his father to defend Gideon by making the entire town silent.   God truly rejoices over our baby steps in faith.   Surely, we feel still fearful about many things in our heart or in the world.   God does not let us alone.    He stretches His mighty hand, and protect us in His love, not because we did everything perfect in faith, but because He rejoiced over our baby steps in faith.   This is our faith.   God is always with us, and protects us.   What He wants is that we grow in faith in Him.   Give thanks to God, who always loves us.   Let us to continue experiencing Him every moment and grow in faith in God!
                                                                                                                                          
For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs."  (Zephaniah 3:17)
   

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