Sunday, November 11, 2018

God Is Our Refuge And Strength, An Ever-Present Help In Trouble.

Good morning!

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

The LORD told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.”  (Judges 7:7)

Like other the people of Israel, Gideon was in fear of the Midianites, who oppressed the Israelites for seven years.   God let the Israelites suffer because they did evil before God by worshipping the idols: Baal and Asherah, instead of the true and living God.   Finally, the people cried out to God, and God sent His angel to Gideon, not because Gideon was brave and more powerful than the rest of the Israelites.   He was the least of his family, and his family was the weakest among the Israelites.    God chose Gideon according to His good will to save the Israelites.   God opened Gideon’s eyes, and Gideon realized that he met the angel of God, and He was called by God to rescue the Israelites.

On the same night, God gave the first command to destroy the Baal’s alter and cut down the Asherah pole beside the alter.   Gideon destroyed them as God commanded.   However, Gideon did it during the night because he feared the people in the town and his family members.   Even so, God pleased with Gideon.   He did baby step in his faith although he was in fear.  Yes, he was still in God’s work-in-progress.

Soon afterward the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east formed an alliance against Israel and crossed the Jordan, camping in the valley of Jezreel.  Then the Spirit of the LORD took possession of Gideon. He blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and all of the men of the Israelites responded.   Total 33,000 warriors came to Gideon to fight against the armies of Midian and their allies from the east side of the Jordan river.  

Gideons saw the power of God with his own eyes.   His clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and he was the least in his entire family, but the entire Israel responded to his ram’s horn.   The next step for Gideon was to lead them to fight against the armies of Median and the allies.  But his heart was not ready.   Thus, he came back to God, and authentically opened his heart to God.  He asked His help to increase his faith.  God, who was merciful, graciously answered his prayers by wetting a wool fleece while the surrounding area was dry, and drying a wool fleece while the surrounding area was wet.    Gideon was truly encouraged by God.   He immediately took the 33,000 warriors, and marched out to the spring of Harod.    Yes, our God is always gracious and full of mercy.   He has never rejected our prayer of His help to increase our faith.   God answers.   This our faith as He answered Gideon’s prayers before going out to fight against the armies of the Midianites and the allies, which were much bigger and stronger than his small army.

The armies of Midian were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh.  They filled the entire valley, and were as numerous as the sand on the seashore.    Gideon and His worries were camped very close to where the armies of Midian to prepare their attack against the armies of Midian.   It was a truly brave act to make up mind to fight against the enormous armies of Median and their allies.

Suddenly, God said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you.”   Initially, what he was told by God did not make sense at all.   The 32,000 warriors of Israelites were absolutely not enough to fight against the armies of Midian and their allies, as numerous as the sand on the seashore.   Gideon had been worrying about how to fight against the huge enemy with his only 32,000 warriors.   He was completely baffled. 

Then God explained the reason, “If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength.”   God’s real concern was not Gideon’s victory that God had already decided to give, but the Gideon’s prideful heart after he defeated the Midianites.   A temptation to give a full credit to oneself is the most subtle and strongest.    We love to give all credits to ourselves, not to God, although we know God has made us successful.  God knew what Gideon and his warriors would be tempted.  Thus, God cared for Gideon, and eliminated the temptation.  God must have had really loved Gideon.

God gave a step-by-step instruction, “Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.’”   Gideon faithfully obeyed God, and told what was given to Gideon by God.   Upon hearing Gideon’s recommendation, to Gideon’s surprise 22,000 of them stood up and went home, leaving only 10,000 who continued willing to fight.    He lost more than 2/3 of his warriors.   His army was reduced down to 10,000 from 32,000.    Gideon could not believe what had happened.   He thought that most of them were brave and would be with him no matter what happened.    He was truly disappointed with those who went home.  His heart was in panic, but Gideon remembered the signs that God gave to him using a wool fleece.   In faith, Gideon struggled to overcome by making every effort to continue believing God and His goodness.   After all, he did not lose his faith after losing 22,000 warriors.   Let’s question to ourselves, if we lose 2/3 of what we have, what’s would be our response?   Calm like Gideon or panic like a scared rabbit?

Gideon was able to be calm with the 10,000 warriors.   In faith, he was about to go out and fight with the 10,000 warriors against the myriads of the armies of Midian.   Gideon still had 10,000, and God was with him.  He believed that he would win the battle in God’s power.    He started making a new attack plan for the reminded 10,000 warriors because the original attack plan would no longer work.    It was designed for the 32,000 warriors.  It was painful to make a new plan with only 10,000 warriors.  It was almost impossible to win the battle.   Even so, he was obediently working on the new plan to attack the armies of Midian with the 10,000 warriors.

While Gideon was working on the new battle plan, again God came to Gideon, and told, “There are still too many!”   What?   10,000 warrior vs the armies of Midian and their allies, who covered the entire valley.   Upon hearing, Gideon immediately stopped working on the new battle plan.   By that time, Gideon was a truly obedient man.    He waited for God’s next command.   God continued, “Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.”   For this time, God did not give any specifics.   God just told Gideon: “Do what I say.”    This was another opportunity to make Gideon’s faith stronger in God. 

Gideon obediently took the 10,000 warriors down to the water.  (Gideon’s obedience in faith pleased God.)   God again told Gideon, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.”    Per God’s instruction, Gideon asked the 10,000 warriors to drink from the stream.   Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.

God told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.”  It was almost unreal.    Gideon was ended up to get only 300 warriors out of 32,000 warriors.   This was less than 1% of the warriors originally responded to Gideon’s ram horn (exactly, 0.9375%).    Gideon, although he was strong in faith, became nervous.   How could he fight against the armies of Midian and their allies?   It was so obvious that it was absolutely impossible to fight and defeat the countlessly many armies of Midian and their allies.  Even so, in faith, Gideon obediently sent the 9,700 warriors home.  He did it in faith in God.

Gideon’s faith grew tremendously.   He was hiding from the Midianites and threshing in the winepress.   Then he did follow God’s command to destroy the Baal’s alter.  However, he could not do in daytime, but did it during the night because of his fear of the people and his family.   Even so, God pleased with his baby stepping faith.   Then God sent God’s Spirit to took possession of Gideon.  Gideon blew a ram’s horn, and 32,000 warriors responded.  Gideon, then, bravely took the 32,000 warriors to fight against the huge armies of Midian and their allies covered the entire valley.   Gideon and his warriors were encamped near the enemies.   Unexpectedly, God asked to send away 22,000 warriors.  Gideon did.  Only 10,000 warriors were with Gideon.  Then God asked again to send away 9,700 warriors.   Gideon also did.  Gideon was ended up with only 300 warriors.  Then it was literally impossible to fight and defeat the countlessly numerous armies of Midian and the allies.   Even so, Gideon was ready to fight against the countlessly many armies of Midian and the allies.  It was the Gideon’s faith.   

God transformed Gideon to one of the most faithful in Bible.   He experienced and believed God.   Once Gideon met God, he continuously grew into faith in God.   When he authentically prayed to God for God’s help, God answered.   God helped Gideon when he was weak in his faith.   Here is the pattern what Gideon did.   Listen to God, pray to God, and do God’s will.   Yes, we might not be perfect before God because we are still in fear of the world, but God pleases with us not because we are perfect, but because we did what God commanded despite of our fear and doubt. Therefore, whenever we need His help, just put out our heart, whether it is our fear, pain, sickness, uncertainty of future, a severe financial problem.   God hears us.  God is always faithful to us, and God wants for us to have a deeper relationship with Him.  This is how to grow in faith in God.    Baby stepping in our faith is a just first step, then keep listening, praying and doing what God wants.  This pleases God, and we grow in faith in Him.  Please remember God always loves us only because we are His beloved children and He is our ever-loving Father.

 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
                and the mountains quake with their surging.  (Psalm 46:1-3)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

God Is Always With Us Patiently. Don't Be Afraid. Ask!

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

The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9)

Gideon was an ordinary person.  God came to him.   The angel of God found Gideon hiding in fear of the Midianites who oppresses the Israelites for seven years.  God, who was merciful, waited and waited.   The Israelites did not stop evil before God by serving their idols, which were nothing but things made by human hands out of wood, silver, or gold.   The idols could not give anything to them, but they worshipped.   They had mouths, eyes, ears, noses, hands, and feet, but they could not speak, see, hear, smell, feel or walk.   They just stayed where they were placed.   Even so, the people of Israel put their false hope:  the idols would give them what they wanted.    God allowed them to suffer.   Their hardness of heart did not change quickly.   After the seven years’ suffering under the Midianites, finally they started to cried out to God.  

To deliver the Israelites, God chose Gideon.   Gideon met the angel of God, when he had never expected to meet an angel of God.   He was a good man.  Without knowing the angel from God, Gideon welcomed the angel, and he heard the angel.    He also served the angel with his finest food.   Then the angel of God revealed the power of God.  Gideon realized that he met the angel of God.   A terrible fear fell on him, but God comforted him.  God gave him a mission to rescue the Israelites from the hands of the Midianites.   Gideon looked himself.   He was not strong enough to take the unimaginable mission.   His clan was the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and he was the least in his entire family.   He humbled before God, but God raised him up.  Gideon built an alter to God, and gave thanks.

That night, God came and said to Gideon, “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.”  

Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD had commanded. But he did it at night.  Although he was afraid of the other members of his father’s household and the people of the town, he did it.   The following morning, the people of the town found that Gideon did it.  They came to kill Gideon, and Gideon was hiding.   The merciful God sent Gideon’s father instead, and protected Gideon.    God saved Gideon who did the courageous acts of taking away the very source of the evil of the people – their idols: Baal and Asherah.   God loved Gideon’s courageous act in faith.   Although he did it in fear of the people around him, Gideon passed the first test, and proved himself before God.   Gideon, in turn, experienced God, who was a strong hold for Gideon.   Gideon made the first, gigantic step in faith of God.   He was ready for the next step in faith of God, which was even bigger. 

Soon the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east formed an alliance against Israel and crossed the Jordan, camping in the valley of Jezreel.  A really fearful event was unfolding to the people of Israel.  Although it was dreadful to the eyes of the people of Israel, it was a part of God’s plan for His children.  Before the threat, the people of Israel complained, “we have enough pain for a long time.  Why are we getting another one, which is even bigger than anything that we got?”    They felt that the sky was falling without any hope.   However, like a night is darker before dawning, the dreadful event was a sign for a new dawning set by God. 

God sent the Spirit of the God to Gideon, which took possession of Gideon.   For this time, Gideon was different.   He, who used to hide himself, was emboldened in God’s spirit.  Gideon stood up as the solider of God in order to free the Israelites from the Midianite, the alliance of the armies of Midian, Amalek and the people of the east.   Gideon blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and the men of the clan of Abiezer came to him.  He also sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, summoning their warriors, and all of them responded.   All were done by God’s spirit, in fact.   

Gideon saw the power of the God again.  He was the least in his entire family, and his clan was the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh.   Even so, when he blew a ram’s horn, and the entire people of Israel responded.   He again saw the power of God.    Again, he looked at himself.   Nothing has been changed.   Yesterday’s Gideon was still with him.  Only was different the God, who was continuously transforming Gideon.    Although Gideon clearly knew he was called by the Mighty God, before the daunting task, he felt that he still needed additional God’s help to increase his faith.   He approached to God, and authentically asked for his help.

Gideon prayed to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.”   God answered, and that is just what happened.   Gideon Got up early the next morning.  He went out and gathered wool fleece on the threshing floor where he met the angel of God.   Then he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water.   God heard Gideon, and answered his prayer.  What a merciful God He was!

However, Gideon was still cautious about what he experienced.   He was still haunted by his past.   He could see the old self in him, who was threshing wheat to hide the grain from the Midianites.   Gideon believed God, but he was still in fear.   Although he did the mighty act of destroying the Baal and the Asherah beside it, and he saw the people responded his ram’s horn blow against the armies of Midianites and allies, and the wet fleece, he was not fully ready for the daunting task.  Thus, he asked God.    If we were God, how would we respond?   Getting tired?   No.  God was not.  God was patient with Gideon and loved him.

With courage, Gideon prayed to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.”  So that night God did as Gideon asked. The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew.    God answered Gideon’s prayer.   Not like us, God is patient.    It was not the only one example of God’s patience.   God was truly patient with Abraham when he asked for God’s mercy for Sodom, the wicked city.   

Abraham asked God to save Sodom if there were fifty righteous people living in the city.   God responded, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.”    Then Abraham gave a thought.  He felt that it would be hard to find fifty righteous people.   He asked, “suppose there are only forty-five righteous people rather than fifty?   Wil you destroy the whole city for lack of five?”   God answered, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the forty-five.”   Abraham, then, asked again for forty because he was not comfortable with the number forty-five.    God said yes, He would save if there were forty righteous people in the city.    Abraham returned to God again, while asking thirty.    God said yes.   He asked again with a lower number, twenty.   God patiently said yes.   Abraham finally made a decision to ask once more, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me if I speak one more time. Suppose only ten are found there?”    And the LORD replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.”  The God had finished His conversation with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his tent.     Abraham felt that it would be easy to find ten righteous people out of the big city like Sodom.    Although Abraham was confident, it was not the case.  The city did not have ten righteous people, which is less than one percent of the population.   (It is estimated that the population of the Sodom at that time was around 1000.   Then 10 people means only 1 percent.)   Please note that God patiently answered six times until Abraham became comfortable. 

Yes, God is always patient to us.   What we need is to authentically approach to God with anything including our deepest question especially about our faith in Him.  He loves to answer our question.   He always assures us with His love.  He will not reject nor ignore our heartful prayer.   Instead, He answers us with the best that is beyond our imagination.    What God really wants is for us to authentically approach him without hiding anything in our heart and to tell Him everything and our heart, pain and desire as Gideon and Abraham did.    If a child never talks to his/her parents authentically, then how do the child’s parents feel?    They will be truly in pain.  God is our ever-loving Father, who truly loves to hear from His children about all things that His children have in the hearts including joys, pains, concerns, fears, disappointments, and hopes.   Just put out everything in our heart to Our Father, He surely hears our prayers one by one patiently and lovingly.   This is our assurance in God.

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.    (Hebrews 4:16)