Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

(Etching of Gideon and the angel, by Ferdinand Bol, circa 1640, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

(Originally written for Speaking to the Soul, August 5, 2012) 

Judges 6:1-24 (NRSV:)

The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. The hand of Midian prevailed over Israel; and because of Midian the Israelites provided for themselves hiding places in the mountains, caves and strongholds. For whenever the Israelites put in seed, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. They would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the land, as far as the neighborhood of Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel, and no sheep or ox or donkey. For they and their livestock would come up, and they would even bring their tents, as thick as locusts; neither they nor their camels could be counted; so they wasted the land as they came in. Thus Israel was greatly impoverished because of Midian; and the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help.

When the Israelites cried to the Lord on account of the Midianites, the Lord sent a prophet to the Israelites; and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt, and brought you out of the house of slavery; and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians, and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you, and gave you their land; and I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not pay reverence to the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not given heed to my voice.”

Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior.” Gideon answered him, “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian.” Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you.” He responded, “But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them.” Then he said to him, “If now I have found favor with you, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. Do not depart from here until I come to you, and bring out my present, and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay until you return.” So Gideon went into his house and prepared a kid, and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour; the meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the oak and presented them. The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes; and the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. Then Gideon perceived that it was the angel of the Lord; and Gideon said, “Help me, Lord God! For I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die.” Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it, The Lord is peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.

The story of Gideon's call reminds us today of the standard, stock answer we humans tend to give when we first hear and recognize it..."You've got the wrong person.  I'm too (fill in the blank.)  I'm just a (fill in the blank.)"  I'm the lowest member of the least, no-account clan in town.  The Bible is full of these "I'm too" and "I'm just a" moments.  I'm too young, I'm too old, I'm too slow of tongue.  I'm just a boy, I'm just a shepherd, I'm just an outsider.

We're also reminded of those time when our efforts are destroyed by others, seemingly just for the sake of doing it, and how it teaches us hoarding instincts.  The Israelites are planting seed, and as soon as anyone notices it sprouting, here come the Midianites and the Amalekites to lay it waste.  Anyone who was ever a younger sibling can recall those times sitting happily, stacking blocks or Legos, only to have an older brother or sister lurking around the corner, watching intently, and then, just at the right moment, roar through the room smashing those carefully-planned construction projects.  We are taught from an early age to do those things we really care about in secret.

When the angel accepts Gideon's offering, a fire springs up, and we all know the converse of the old saw "Where there's smoke, there's fire"--where there's fire, there's also smoke--smoke that everyone can see.  The Midianites and the Amalekites can surely see smoke off in the distance, and it's clear someone has something to offer.

The terms of the offering are interesting, too.  Gideon is told to pour out the broth in the pot--to throw out the stock.  Any of us who've ever cooked a roast or a chicken would never think of such a thing.  Pour out the stock, how crazy is that?  We can make noodles out of that.  We can make stew.  Why, there are all kinds of goodies we can make of that, and one never knows when we might need it.  But no--Gideon is told to pour off what we'd normally hold back and save.

As we grow in faith, one of the discoveries we often make is that God constantly calls to us to offer up more of what we have, even in times when we feel there are vandals at the gate, lurking in the shadows to tear our works apart.  We're told to sow time and time again, even if we are afraid.  God's antidote to fear is "keep doing ministry."  I remember a very fearful time in the life of my parish when a wise friend's best advice was "just keep doing your ministries, keep doing what you sense that you are called to do."  Turns out she was right about that.

Another thing we discover is God just sort of chuckles at "I'm too..." and "I'm just a..." and says, "You know, I've heard that one before."  I suspect God has heard them all.  Like the angel in our reading today, God simply sits patiently under the oak tree waiting for us to come around to God's way of thinking, and says, "You silly thing, I've been sitting here all along."

What, do you suppose, is in the works for your life, where God has been quietly, patiently sitting under the oak tree at your house, waiting for you to come around to God's way of thinking about your part in it? 



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I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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