Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #139

#139 "Come Out of Hiding"
March 18, 2008
""But Lord," Gideon asked, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." The Lord answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together."" (Judges 6: 15-16)
Suggested Reading: Judges 6: 1-16
Two explorers were on a jungle safari when suddenly a ferocious lion jumped in front of them. "Keep calm" the first explorer whispered. "Remember what we read in that book on wild animals? If you stand perfectly still and look the lion in the eye, he will turn and run." "Sure," replied his companion. "You've read the book, and I've read the book. But has the lion read the book?"
The Bible tells us that the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. (v. 2) What would make these people, the chosen ones of God Himself, the ones who had just conquered every enemy and taken possession of the Promised Land, hide? These were the same people whose ancestors, under Moses, were led with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They had heard the stories of how manna and quail fell from heaven. Water flowed from rocks to quench thirst. Red Seas and Jordan Rivers had parted. Walls around cities fell down when they marched and shouted. And they were in hiding from yet another strong group of enemies. They were the children of the Promise. They were God's Chosen Ones. They were supposed to be conquerors and now they were hiding in caves and mountain clefts and strongholds. Why?
On this side of the Cross of Christ, we are called "more than conquerors through Him who loved us." (Romans 8: 37) We are told that Christ "always leads us in triumphal procession". (2 Corinthians 2: 14) We are His chosen ones, bought with the price of His shed blood which was not cheap. Saved and sanctified and filled with the Holy Spirit. Yet, so many of us are hiding in the clefts and caves and strongholds that we have built for ourselves. Full of fear, we never enter into the true promise of what is ours in Christ.
Year after year the Midianite cousins of the Israelites (through Abraham's wife Keturah Genesis 25: 1-2) would let them plant and then plow in the winter, but arrive at each harvest time and steal all of their crops and animals. They were an impressive lot, with men and camels, likened to swarms of locusts. They would ruin the land and leave it parched and empty. The Midianites lived up to the meaning of the name "Midian" which means "strife or contention".  Year after year, for seven years, it was the same old story.
What army of invaders seems to be attacking you year after year, leaving your life impoverished and stealing any of your hope that things will get better? Does it seem like your money is going into purses with holes in them? For years you've been trying but just can't seem to get ahead. Midian (strife and contention) attacks your family so that there are only brief times of peace. Maybe you're in a dead end job that is taking you on the fast track to nowhere. Maybe it's depression or discouragement. Somewhere in your life there are "-ites" attacking you year after year after year. And now you're hiding...
The first thing the Israelites did was to cry out to the Lord for help (v. 6). Mind you, this was their pattern. There was a recurring sequence of events in the period of the Judges. It began with sin or rebellion through idolatry or apostasy. This would always be followed by servitude of Israel to foreign peoples due to God's retribution. Each time, the Israelites would then cry out to the Lord, repent, and God would bring salvation through military deliverance and restoration to His favor through a Spirit-empowered judge. Then the land would rest from war. Before long, however, the pattern was repeated. And so it was in Gideon's day. 
With their cry for the Lord's help, came a prophet to tell them what was up. He told them that they had disobeyed the Lord once again, in spite of all He had done for them in the past. The word of the Lord was, "But you have not listened to me" (v. 10). Have you cried out to the Lord in your distress? When the enemy keeps coming in like a flood, day after day, year after year, do you cry out to Him? I'm sure the people didn't like the prophets' answer very much...and maybe you won't either. Ask yourself: Have you listened to the Lord? If not, maybe today is the day to decide to skip some steps in the old sequence. Skip the sin, thereby skipping the enemy oppression. Keep crying to the Lord, repent and enter His restoration and peace. Listen to the word of the Lord that may convict you of your sin and turn from it.
Then...come out of hiding. Gideon was scared to death. Instead of threshing the little bit of wheat that he had on an open threshing floor, he was hiding in a wine-press, below ground, living in dread that the enemy would find him and take what little he had. He wasn't in there pressing wine or stomping on grapes. He was threshing wheat! The Lord appeared to Gideon...fearful, frightened Gideon and said, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior." Well, that sure did sound like a joke! Mighty warrior? Hiding in a wine-press, trying to be quiet so the enemy wouldn't know where he was or what he was doing. Gideon saw himself as totally not able to be called a mighty warrior. He told the angel that he was from the weakest clan and was the least of his family. "Who Me?"
"God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind". (2 Timothy 1: 7) Come out of hiding. Replace your fear with faith and find out who you really are in Christ. Stop letting the enemy get the best of you and what belongs to you. Remember the lion story? Look your enemy, who Peter called "like a roaring lion" (1 Peter 5: 8), right square in the eye. He may not have read the book. But you've read THE BOOK! You may feel like so much less than a mighty warrior in the face of your enemy but as one commentator put it, "God calls Gideon valiant then makes him so." The Jewish historian Josephus said that God would supply what was defective in Gideon. This enemy wasn't more powerful than Israel. With God in the midst of them and fighting for them, they could've conquered any enemy. God answered Gideon's doubt by saying, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together." That meant with ease. "Together" would be like dominoes falling all in a row.   
If you're hiding from your enemy today, God will find you there just like He did Gideon. You can't hide from God. Receive His word to you about what your part in your battle is. Receive it and repent. God will call you valiant and victorious and then make you so. He will supply what is defective in you. Remember this? "...my power is made perfect in your weakness." (2 Corinthians 12: 9) Your enemy is no match for your God! With Him in your midst and fighting for you, your enemies will fall like dominoes ahead of you.
I invite you to read the rest of Gideon's story for yourself. He would go on to muster up an army and defeat the Midianites. And he is listed among the great, in the book of Hebrews Hall of Fame, as a mighty man of faith. (Hebrews 11: 32) You are a child of the living God. You are an heir to all of His promises. You have been bought with a price, saved by the precious blood of Jesus Christ and are now righteous in Him and more than a conqueror. It's time for God's people to come out of hiding and fight! We are mighty warriors following our Commander in Chief! And there hasn't been a battle yet that He hasn't won!
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