BREAD MAN?

When you think of heroic men of valor, what comes to mind? For me, it’s images of Mel Gibson defending Scotland, Russel Crowe fighting for Rome, and Tom Hanks storming the beach at Normandy. It’s the image of a gun, a sword, an axe, or a horse.

When I hear the word hero, I definitely don’t imagine a loaf of bread. Facebook timeline

Yet this is what Gideon was envisioned as by his enemies in Judges 6-7. And in my humble opinion, it’s super fitting. Gideon was a man who was not courageous, not confident, and not strong, in his own power at least. I grew up being told his story, hearing of his character being worthy of emulation and imitation. Now, he was surely used by God in a great way, but God poured out grace and strength in his life.

Gideon’s story starts in a bleak and dark season of Israelite history. The book of Judges is set in a period of time when God’s people did what was right in their own eyes, there was little to no submission to God’s leadership of the people. Idolatry was rampant, and the people of God were not worshipping the Lord. In steps the Midianites, who oppress and overpower God’s people. They steal crops, women, and the general livelihood of the Israelites, who then flee to the mountains and caves.

The people of Israel cry out to God for deliverance (Judges 6:7) and God responds by sending a prophet, ultimately raising up Gideon to save them.

When we first see Gideon, he was hiding (Judges 6:11). Now this was likely a smart move since the Midianites were stealing crops. However, it is still a sign that he wasn’t the most bold dude around. Look at how crazy his calling is though.

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” – Judges 6:12

The Lord looks at a man who is hiding from the enemy forces and refers to him as a mighty man of valor. What a great reminder that God sees us for who we can be in His strength and grace. I LOATHE the cliche nature of what I’m about to say, but I think it is fairly true: “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.” God obviously knew what Gideon would be able to do in His divine strength, and so he calls him what he knows he can be.

Now right off the bat, we see Gideon in doubt and fear. If you follow along with your Bible open, you will see that Gideon questions God’s presence with Israel and questions God’s call of him specifically. God tells Gideon that He will be with him in verse sixteen. You would think this would suffice, but Gideon still doubts. The rest of the chapter is three different tests that Gideon wants God to come through in before Gideon will believe in Him.

Here’s why I don’t see Gideon as a superhero of the faith. When God tells Gideon to destroy the altar of an idol in this chapter, Gideon did so in the middle of the night.

So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night. – Judges 6:27

What in the world. You’ve been approached by God. He has told you that He will be with you as you do what He commands. And yet you’re still afraid.

Look at chapter seven. Gideon is not done being afraid.

God takes Gideon’s army of 32,000 and whittles it down to 300, in order to be able to show that it is His power working through Gideon’s troops. Even after all of God’s promises and proclamations, God knows that Gideon is still afraid.

But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp – Judges 7:10-11a

Here’s the best part of the story:

When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp. – Judges 7:13-14

This makes me laugh so much. Gideon is envisioned in this enemy soldier’s dream as….. a loaf of bread.

Fitting.

Gideon hears this and worships, and ends up leading the people of God to victory over the Midianites.

Gideon isn’t a superhero of the faith however. Yes, he’s listed in Hebrews 11 in the ‘faith hall of fame’. But the story of Gideon is not the story of his amazing faith in God.

No, the story of Gideon is the story of the God who is patient in our doubt and present in our fear. STORY OF GIDEON

It may appear like I was taking shots at Gideon, but in all honesty I know that I am much the same as him, if not worse. God can speak to me through His word, reminding me of his promises, and I respond with doubt and fear. God can prove His presence in my life time and time again, and I’ll still feel like I’ll need proof that He’ll come through again.

Be. Encouraged.

God is patient in our doubt and present in our fear. He will walk you through any battle, any trial that you may be facing. Doubt and fear are normal emotions. We aren’t called to dwell in them but we can be encouraged that He will walk us through them.

He is patient in our doubt and present in our fear.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Focus On A Family

The story of the Israelites’ partial obedience to God is interrupted here in the first chapter with a short five verse vignette about the generosity, bravery, and boldness of one specific family.

Caleb said, “Whoever attacks and captures Kiriath-sepher, I will give my daughter Achsah to him as a wife.” So Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s youngest brother, captured it, and Caleb gave his daughter Achsah to him as his wife. When she arrived, she persuaded Othniel to ask her father for a field. As she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What do you want?” She answered him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me springs also.” So Caleb gave her both the upper and lower springs. The descendants of the Kenite, Moses’s father-in-law, had gone up with the men of Judah from the City of Palms to the Wilderness of Judah, which was in the Negev of Arad. They went to live among the people. – Judges 1:12-16

This is a seemingly random story about Caleb’s family. Yet when we focus in on each of the three main characters in this story, we see qualities worth emulating.

Caleb

This is not the first mention of Caleb in the Bible. In Numbers 13, he was among the men who went up to spy upon the land that God had promised His people. The spies encountered giant men of renown and then returned to the people. Every spy except for Caleb and Joshua were afraid and told the people that the task was impossible. Only Joshua and Caleb stood up with courageous and radical faith, proclaiming the promises of God and insisting that with His strength they would be victorious. rod

What is all the more intriguing is the fact that Caleb was not a descendant of any tribe in Judah. He and his family came from the Kenizzites. Yet because they were such devout followers of the Lord, they were grafted into and assimilated into the tribe of Judah.

All this being said, we know that he was a man of courageous and radical faith in the Lord. He was a man who wanted his daughter to marry a man of courageous and radical faith as well. This culture had customs we may seem strange. Arranged marriages made perfect sense to this culture, and so Caleb was not devaluing his daughter when he offered her up to a willing and courageous husband.

What is worth focusing on is the fact that Caleb was kind and generous. When his daughter came to him asking for springs of water because of how barren the land was, he graciously and generously gave her more than she needed. This is evidenced by the sweeping gift of the upper and lower springs.

Othniel

Othniel was clearly a man of bravery and courage. He went up to capture Kiraith-sepher, and with the Lord’s help he did just that. It is important to note that this city and the surrounding land was land God had promised to Caleb through the lips of Joshua (Joshua 14:6-15) and not just the land-grabbing of a greedy man.

We will see in just a couple chapters that Othniel was the first judge raised up for Israel. He would lead his people into forty years of peace (spoiler alert: it doesn’t last). His bravery and courage will be on display in that passage as well.

Achsah

Achsah is seen in this story as a bold woman, a woman who was analytical and astute. She surveyed the land and realized that without springs, her family would not be able to survive for long in the desert landscape. Her character reminds me of Proverbs 31:15-16.

She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and portions for her female servants. She evaluates a field and buys it; she plants a vineyard with her earnings. – Proverbs 31:15-16

She had a desire right off the bat to provide for her family and her estate. She asked Othniel to ask his father in law for the springs and for some reason not explicitly stated in Scripture, he didn’t. With respect balanced with boldness, Achsah takes matters into her own hands and asks Caleb for the springs herself.

Courage. Kindness. Generosity. Boldness. Faith.

In this family we see what the entire people of God should have been characterized by.

Caleb’s family is, in miniature, what all Israel should be like. – Timothy Keller

I would close by reminding you that whenever we look at characters in the Old Testament, we shouldn’t be using them as moral figures to follow. Yes, the heroes of faith in the Old Testament have some great qualities, but more often than not they have some incredible flaws as well. That will be on vibrant display in the book of Judges.

So when we see Caleb, Othniel, and Achsah in this vignette as worthy models of character, let us look beyond them, ahead of them, to the life of Christ.

 

The kindness, boldness, and generosity of Jesus can be seen, remembered, and meditated on via the lens of the kindness, boldness, and generosity of this family.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Faithful But Flawed

The opening chapter of the book of Judges outlines the conquest of Canaan by the people of God. The first verse draws our attention to the book that immediately precedes this one, the book of Joshua. In that book we see God’s commands to Joshua and to His people as a whole, that they are to rely on Him for strength and courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Read about this at https://nathanpatrickroachblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/israels-total-failure/

However, at the onset of the book of Judges we see the people of God begin to stray from relying on Him and Him alone for victory and strength. Instead, compromise and half-hearted obedience saturate almost every story and circumstance. Let’s take a look at Judges 1-1-2-5Judges 1:1-11.

After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?” The Lord answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.” The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them. – Judges 1:1-3

The Israelites are off to a pretty rocky start. We see in these opening verses their half-way obedience. We see quickly that the Israelites were both faithful and flawed. The tribes of Israel inquire of the Lord, asking who is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites. Good start. They know that God is ultimately the One who brings victory so they ask for His guidance. However, after He answers that it should be the tribe of Judah, they don’t fully submit to the Lord. Instead the tribe of Judah immediately asks the tribe of Simeon to help. Instead of relying on God for victory, they rely on military might. The people of God choose to follow conventional wisdom instead of relying on God by faith.

Faith in God’s promises means not always following the expected, rational path. – Timothy Keller

When Judah attacked, the Lord gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. Then Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem,and he died there. – Judges 1:4-7

Despite their half-way obedience, we see that God is graciously with them (His judgment will come when their faithlessness is present in everything they do). The tribes of Judah and Simeon obtain victory. They chase Adoni-Bezek (the Lord of Bezek), catching him and mutilating him. It was a violent cultural practice in that day to cut off the toes and thumbs of prisoners so that they couldn’t fight or wield a sword ever again.

There are two camps in regards to what happens here. Some theologians believe that the Israelites acted rightly in their treatment of this king. They believe that God vindicated their actions. The other camp believes that the Israelites were in the wrong, as they acted in accord with the pagan practice of the day. This second camp also uses the fact that Adoni-Bezek didn’t use the name of Yawheh, but rather just ‘god’ when talking in verse seven as affirmation of their beliefs.Judges 1-1-2-5 (3)

I fall into this second camp. I believe the mutilation of this king was another example of the Israelites acting like the other nations around them, instead of being set apart. However, this is just an opinion.

This is not to say that God never repays the wicked for what they have done. Look for instance at Psalm 64.

Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear. . . But God shoots his arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly. They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them; all who see them will wag their heads. – Psalm 64:2-4, 7-8

So yes, there is tension between God’s judgment and His people’s part to play in that judgment. However, mutilation does not in my opinion fall in with God’s judgment in this situation.

God has always intended for His people to be unlike the other nations. God has always intended for His people to be an example of what God is like.

You may immediately be questioning why then that God led them into war, as that seems to be how the nations outside of the worship of God behave. We will see later in this chapter that this war is not war for war’s sake. It is an issue of idolatry and worship.

The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.  After that, Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). – Judges 1:8-11

These final verses that we’re looking at today show that God continued to provide for His people, allowing them to for the time being achieve victory over their enemies.

God gives more grace, even when His people are undeserving.

God gives more grace to you and me, even when we too live according to what’s rational and live with a half-hearted obedience to Him.

Yet may we learn from the mistakes of God’s people in Judges and choose to rely on God in full obedience and faith.

He is worthy of our all.

He is gracious even when we’re both faithful and flawed.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Israel’s Total Failure

The book of Judges is a dark one. It’s full of gory and vile atrocities, faithless people, and at times it even seems like God isn’t present. However, when we look deeper at the narratives found in this book, we see that God not only is sovereign over all nations, but that He is faithful even in the total failures of His people. From the beginning depictions of Israel’s half-hearted obedience, to the final narratives of Israel’s total loss of morality and godliness, we see the cross of Christ shining bright in the darkness.Judges 1-1-2-5

Judges is not just about Deborah, Gideon, and Sampson. Judges is way more than that. The book of Judges is about Israel’s total failure and God’s total faithfulness. Let’s dive in together.

The opening of the book of Judges prompts us to look backwards at what has transpired.

After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” – Judges 1:1

Joshua was appointed by God to lead the Israelites into the promised land after the death of Moses. Joshua had remained faithful to the Lord, trusting that God would provide for His people and bring them into the promised land despite what was seen as impossible odds. It was only Joshua and Caleb who exhibited such faith, and so God proclaimed that they alone out of their generation would be permitted to enter the promised land.

not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. – Numbers 14:30

Joshua was a faithful leader of God’s people, and the book of Joshua depicts how God keeps his promises and brings them into the land. It is a book that details the victories of Israel under the leadership of Joshua, and it shows how God begins to give His people blessings previously promised as well as peace and rest. It is a book that reminds us that because God always keeps His promises, we can obey him wholeheartedly with courage and bravery.

In the book of Joshua we see the details of the allotments of land that God has promised each of the tribes of Israel. We also see that God commands Joshua and His people to live out brave spirituality as they walk with God.

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left,that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:5-9

In this passage we see that God promises to be with Joshua all the days of his life, never leaving or forsaking him. With this promise of faithfulness comes the command to be courageous and strong. This command to be courageous and strong is able to be fulfilled by Joshua and the people so long as they obey God’s decrees. As long as they stay cemented in God’s laws and commands, then they will be successful in everything that they do. As long as they meditate on His Word and carefully do everything written in it, they will have prosperity and success. It is through this dedication to speaking and meditating on the words of God that the courage and bravery needed to take the promised land is found. Judges 1-1-2-5 (1)

The people of God will not achieve victory and rest for themselves.

They are not to expect success if they do not accompany all their work with obedience to God as they meditate on his word and trust in his promises. – Timothy Keller

Victory over their enemies will not come via their own strength. It will come via the supernatural strength of the faithful God they serve and worship. If they faithfully follow God, He will pave the way to victory and rest. The book of Joshua shows how this process begins, as the people enter into the land promised to them by God. But as the book comes to a close, it is clear that much still has to be done before the promised land yields complete and total rest to the people of God.

It is through the lens of the book of Joshua that the book of Judges must be seen and read. This is the continuing story of God’s faithfulness. Unfortunately however, whereas the book of Joshua depicts Israel’s obedience (for the most part), the book of Judges documents just how far the people of God fall. Yet again, despite the grievous failures of His people, we will see God’s faithfulness shine bright.

In the darkness of sin and death, we will see the light of the cross.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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