Men get stupid around beautiful women.
Either we turn into bragging peacocks thinking that we need to give the best show, or we just turn into blithering idiots who struggle to string a coherent sentence together.
And in some cases, we just fall completely under the spell and allow ourselves to become completely vulnerable.
Now that last one, of course, in the presence of the right woman is not necessarily a bad thing. However, in the presence of the wrong one, well it can have disastrous effects.
Many people know that one TV show I enjoy watching is The Big Bang Theory – and there’s a tale in the backstory where Leonard was once dating this nice girl who was so interested in his work on a secret government project, and of course, he wanted to show it to her. Turned out she was a North Korean spy.
Men get stupid around beautiful women.
Samson, though, perhaps has to take the cake on stupidity. Here’s this guy, who’s been destroying the Philistines for years. Now clearly the guy had a weakness for Philistine women. First he married one, even against his parents’ best wishes and advice for him. Then at the beginning of this chapter he goes to Gaza and sees a Prostitute – presumably also a Philistine woman.
Then he meets Delilah.
Samson falls in love with this woman – and it sounds like it’s a pretty quick fall, too.
So he’s shacked up with Delilah, and after a while she asks him what the secret to his great strength is. Samson tells her a fib about how if he’s tied up with seven fresh thongs (that’s leather straps, people…) he’ll be no stronger than any other man.
That night, Delilah wakes him up saying the Philistines are here. He’s bound, conveniently, by seven fresh thongs – and snaps them without a problem. Samson escapes.
Now, you’d think there’d be a few bells going off in your head at this point – nothing, though, compared to when your girlfriend starts pouting about how you made a fool of her by lying to her. She asks him again.
Alarm bells, anyone?
Not for Samson. He goes ahead and tells her some other story – and again, it’s wrong. Again, Delilah complains that he lied to her and made a fool of her, and he tells her a third story only to have the same result.
Now at this point, it would be fair to assume that maybe Samson’s smarter than we’re giving him credit for. Perhaps he’s just playing with Delilah’s mind because he’s clicked on to what she’s up to, right?
Men get stupid around beautiful women.
A fourth time, Delilah asks Samson what the secret to his strength is.
Seriously, why couldn’t he just say a paleo diet and Crossfit six days a week?
No. Samson actually goes and tells this chick that the secret to his strength is his separation as a Nazirite. His hair has never been cut, and that’s why.
Men get stupid around beautiful women.
Now here, though, is my question. Why did God leave Samson? Why, when his hair was cut, did his strength fail him? Was it because his strength was actually in his hair?
Here’s what I think happened. Samson let go of God. He trusted Delilah with a part of himself that God was supposed to have.
Being a single guy, I will admit that sometimes it’s a real struggle to actually balance a relationship with God and the desire to have a girlfriend, get married, have a family. Of course they’re not mutually exclusive, but the thing is that you end up feeling like that hole in your heart where God should be could be filled by a partner instead. Then, you wonder if any partner will do.
I remember talking to a friend of mine about this stuff around a year or two ago, and about options and things like that. His wife, from the other room, suddenly yelled out, “She’s not an option if she doesn’t love Jesus!”
Of course, not all non-Christian girls are Philistines, or akin to Delilah, that’s not what I’m saying. However what I am saying is that a partner cannot, and should never, take the place of God in our lives. That was where, I believe, Samson fell. Not because his hair was cut, but because he replaced God with something less.
Samson really had an odd life, when you think about it.
After the weird sequence of events that led to his getting married, only to then be betrayed by his wife and take it out on the Philistines, he goes home and her father gave Samson’s wife to someone else to marry instead.
Some time later, Samson cooled off a bit and decided that it was time to go back. So he returns back to Timnah again, only for his father in law to inform him that because he was sure Samson hated her, he gave her to someone else instead – as a consolation, he has another daughter that Samson can have instead. She’s younger, more attractive, take her instead! So Samson snaps again, goes out, catches 300 foxes, ties them together in pairs along with a torch each and sets them off in the Philistine’s fields to burn up their grain.
To borrow a phrase from Ron Burgundy: “Wow. That escalated quickly.”
In turn, after they realize that he did this as vengeance for being betrayed by his father in law, the Philistines kill Samson’s wife and her father. Which – as you can imagine – just aggravates Samson further. He kills a few more of them and then goes off to a cave – probably to cool down again.
The Philistines come up against Israel, Israel – well, Judah – say that they don’t want any part of it, but they’ll go get Samson, which they do. He lets them tie him up and take him to the Philistines, only to then break the ropes when he gets there. Spotting a donkey’s jawbone, Samson once again goes a little berserk and kills a thousand men.
Then Samson said, “With a donkey’s jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey’s jawbone I have killed a thousand men.” ~ Judges 15:16
Afterwards, Samson’s thirsty and calls out to God wondering why he’s been able to be victorious, only to die of thirst so that he can be captured after all. No offence to Samson intended, but that does sound very like the Israelites in the desert, when you think about it.
Not that I can talk – or probably not that most of us can talk, I’d imagine. I know for me, no matter how much I’ve witnessed God do, I still struggle to have faith that he’s going to come through next time, or that he’s going to provide for me.
But here, God opens up the landscape and Samson’s able to grab a drink.
To continue looking at the story, though. Obviously Samson’s wife wasn’t that good for him in the long run. When your first week of marriage pretty much ends up with a massacre of thirty people, that’s probably not a good start to the life together. Regardless, though, Samson goes back to his wife.
Most of the time it doesn’t necessarily matter if something’s good for us or not – we end up walking back to it. Whether it’s a relationship, something health related, an addiction, who knows. The point is that it’s very hard to just stay away from something that you liked, enjoyed or even loved. Samson liked this girl, even if she wasn’t that great for him – and he went back. The thing is, though, that it ended badly – worse than it did the first time around.
And that’s what I”ve found, too – going back to something tends to end up worse the more times you keep returning.
Just to finish, though, I want to come back to the end of the chapter.
Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the LORD, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. ~ Judges 15:18-19
There’s actually a lot in these verses, but just briefly, three things:
- Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the LORD. We all get thirsty, we all get drained, especially spiritually. It’s at these times we need to cry out to God.
- Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When we’re thirsty, God will provide us with what we need.
- His strength returned and he revived. Drinking of God’s spirit will restore strength and revive us.
“People from opposite sides often have good relationships. You know, Romeo and Juliet, Tony and Maria from West Side Story, what’s-his-name and the big blue chick in Avatar.”
…To quote Big Bang Theory again…
Let me ask you something, what is it about these types of stories that make them so famous? Is the whole forbidden love thing that enticing to people? Or perhaps – and more likely – it’s the concept of love conquering all bounds that manages to keep it all together.
Whatever it is, here’s another one: Samson and his wife.
Here’s this guy – Samson – before his birth, his parents have been told that he’s to be set apart from birth, a Nazirite, so that he can begin freeing Israel from the hands of the Philistines. Once he’s grown up, he goes fro a wander down to this town called Timnah, spots a Philistine girl and decides he wants to marry her. So he goes and tells his parents. Their reaction, of course, is to ask why he can’t just find a nice Israelite girl to marry? Samson’s stubborn. Nope, she’s the girl I want.
The heart wants what the heart wants, doesn’t it?
His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.) ~ Judges 14:4
Now, I’m intrigued by the whole concept of this being “from the LORD,” in this verse. It only says that Samson’s parents didn’t know what was going on, so I’m curious as to whether God actually makes Samson fall in love with this woman, or he actually tells her that this is the woman he should marry.
Anyway, Samson and his parents go off to Timnah together, somewhere along the way Samson kills a lion – which isn’t seen by his parents and he doesn’t tell them what happened. Then he finally actually talks to this girl and decides that he likes her, so after a little while longer again he goes back to marry her. On the way, he stops by the lion carcass and there’s now a heap of bees hovering around it making honey – and Samson stops for a taste.
There’s a lot of back-and-forthing in this chapter actually, as Samson goes between Timnah and his parents’ house and back again. The short of it is, though, there’s a feast and he’s got thirty Philistines around him. Samson challenges them with a riddle wanting clothing from each of them if he wins, and if they win, he’ll give each of them an outfit.
Given that I just watched The Hobbit the other night, this week seems to have a theme of riddle games…
He replied, “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.”
For three days they could not give the answer. ~ Judges 14:14
Which is, of course, the lion and the honey. Now the companions can’t guess it, so they tell Samson’s wife to go and find out the answer for him. She manages to manipulate the answer from him and momentarily the companions come back and tell him the answer.
Sometimes I think that God may have given Samson a heap of strength, but he didn’t necessarily match that with brains…
So Samson has to owe these guys an outfit of clothing each – thirty in all.
Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. H?e went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of their belongings and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Burning with anger, he went up to his father’s house. ~ Judges 14:19
Now here’s what I take from this chapter. A couple of things actually. See, God had a plan here all along. Going back to verse 4, God was seeking an opportunity to confront the Philistines. The story doesn’t exactly pan out in a wonderful tale of romance and love between two people from opposing sides transcending their problems and bringing happiness ever after. In fact, she’s manipulated by her side and in turn manipulates Samson to give her the answer to the riddle. Samson’s hurt, and takes it out on the Philistines – which is pretty much what was planned in the first place.
Now, going back to the whole thing of destiny, I’m going to leave it open here as to whether the plan was always for Samson to end up killing thirty philistines, or whether it was more generic and just forcing a confrontation. However, there’s one last thing I’d like to bring out of this.
Sometimes we feel like we screw up. Sometimes we go out and do something stupid – maybe not necessarily marry a Philistine woman like Samson did, but we do something that in all honesty, probably isn’t the best idea for us. Sometimes, like here, it even seems like everything has just gotten the best of us. Sometimes, though, it’s all under control. I’m certainly not saying that we should go out and kill thirty Philistines, but what I am saying is that if you think you’ve backed yourself into a corner and you’re not sure how to get out – try fighting.
Chances are, the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power too, and you’ll find yourself free.
And what did Samson do after that? He went back home. Don’t forget your roots, because if you feel like you’ve lost your way, chances are that’s where you’ll find your footing again.
Samson’s really a guy who needs very little introduction. I think most of us have heard at least some tale of his life, but that’s coming over the next few chapters in Judges anyway.
This one’s just all about his birth, and the foretelling of his birth. Samson’s a bit different from the other Judges who have been called – each of them are already alive and kicking when they have their destiny thrown into their faces. Not to say that the plans for their lives weren’t already out there, but before Samson was born his parents were already being told that he had a destiny. The reason being that there were different rules for Samson. He was to live as a Nazirite – no alcohol, wine or otherwise, not even any grapes. He wasn’t to do anything unclean according to the law, and he wasn’t even allowed to cut his hair.
I’ve gone through a few stages of life where I had long hair. I don’t know if I still prefer it but I did at the time – maybe I could start growing it again and call myself a Nazirite.
Anyway, the important thing is that Manoah and his wife (who remains nameless in this story) have this angel come to them and tell them multiple times that they’re going to have a son in spite of the fact that she’s barren. He’s special, and is to be raised special, and therefore has to be raised special.
It’s an interesting word. I was actually having a conversation just last night with a few people about the whole concept of predestination and free will. I’m not going to go into that too deeply here, but this story sort of reiterates the kind of perspective that I have on the whole concept of destiny.
See, my personal view on the whole thing is that yes, God’s given me a destiny, but it’s still up to me to achieve it. I still have free will, which means that I can go and do what I want, and therefore not actually reach the destiny that God has for me.
There’s an onus on us – wow, I just realized the spelling of that – to actually walk into our destiny. In Samson’s case, there were very specific guidelines set out, I don’t know why, but they’re there. The point being here that Samson had a destiny, but he – and his parents – also had a responsibility to live in a certain way, to fulfil certain tasks, in order for him to actually achieve his destiny.
So here’s the question, because Samson was destined to be a Nazirite, and his mother was destined to be just that – his mother – then does that mean it was actually impossible for them to drink wine? It just couldn’t have happened? If this is the case, then why did an angel need to come and actually tell her that she wasn’t allowed to drink wine, and neither would Samson be able to either? The only reason to inform them was so that they would actually adjust their behaviour, and bring their son up in a certain behaviour, to ensure he could fulfil that destiny.
But I said that I wasn’t going to go into it too deeply.
The thing is that in order for us to fulfil our destiny, we actually have to walk in it. God’s got a plan for my life, and he has one for yours. The important thing to do is to ensure that we are following the right steps, living the right life and making the right choices to actually fulfil that destiny.
If you can’t say it properly, and instead say ‘sibboleth,’ you die.
Jephthah defeated the Ammonites and all was wonderful and happy again, right?
Across the Jordan come the people of Ephraim wondering why they didn’t get to join in the victory. Since Jephthah didn’t include them, they’re going to burn his house down. Jephthah points out that he did actually give these guys a call, but they just let it go to voicemail. So, in their absence, off he went with what he had and defeated the Ammonites. So he brings his men up as well and there’s a big fight with the people of Ephraim – and Jephthah and his men win.
They captured the crossings of the Jordan river and started doing tests – somewhat like the soothsayer in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, except instead of having to answer what your name and favourite colour (Blue… No! Yelloooooooooow!), you just have to say the password.
Apparently, the people from the other side of the river said it wrong, so if they didn’t say it right, they’d be killed. Forty two thousand of them were killed.
To be honest, I find the Shibboleth / Sibboleth thing kind of amusing. As I was reading it I imagined the Jordan River being the Tasman Sea. Imagine if every time someone landed in Australia they had to say “Fish and Chips.” You say “Fush and chups,” and you get killed on the spot. Sounds like a perfect way to determine whether someone should live or die, right?
Anyway, that’s not really my point.
I was thinking about the Ephraimites, and how they suddenly came over to attack Jephthah because he left them out of the victorious battle against the Ammonites. Except that according to Jephthah, he did actually ask them to come by. The beacons were lit. Jephthah calls for aid! The problem was that the Ephraimites ignored the call, and continued going on about their own business.
Seemingly, that is, until they realized that Jephthah actually won. Suddenly there was credit to be shared around, probably loot to be divvied up and celebrations to be held. Up comes Ephraim to join in on the party and stake their claim on the spoils of war.
I’ll admit that I’ve been on both sides of this coin at different stages of my life. I know that there have been times when I’ve come in at the end of something being done and made sure that I received some of the credit for doing it. On the other hand, I’ve worked hard at other things, only to have some other person come along at the last minute and take the credit for it. Let me tell you something, the latter option has made me livid before. Maybe I wouldn’t go so far as to kill them or go to war, but hey…
The thing is, don’t do it, and not just because someone will start throwing passwords in your direction and killing you if you say Shibboleth wrong.
Humans are slow, stupid creatures, really.
After Abimelech died, we have a couple of other judges who rise up, Tola and Jair. They’re pretty insignificant in the scheme of things by the looks of it. Each one only gets a couple of verses, and the most we know about them is where they lived and that Jair had thirty sons who rode thirty donkeys. Informative.
Then, though, we come to another stage in Israel’s history.
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. And because the Israelites forsook the LORD and no longer served him, he became angry with them. ~ Judges 10:6-7
Growing up, I remember that my parents had this series of bible comics, telling the whole bible story but in comic form. I remember one particular scene in particular, where you’ve got two people talking and one asking why God’s forsaken them. The other replies that God didn’t forsake them, they forsook God. The concept’s always stuck with me, that it may not always be God abandoning us when we struggle, but maybe we’ve abandoned God. I know that I did that for a very long time, personally.
Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD, “We have sinned against you, forsaking our God and serving the Baals.” ~ Judges 10:10
Suddenly, when everything’s going downhill, the Israelites remember who God is. However he replies differently, he points out that over and over and over he’s saved them – only for them to forsake him again and go back to these other gods. So God turns around and tells them to go call on the other gods for help.
I think we find it very easy to do exactly this in our own lives. We take God for granted. He’s there, he’s helped us through everything, but then as we continue to move forward we get distracted again by everything else. All these other shiny gods seem more appealing, don’t they? Sure enough, before we know it we’ve got ourselves stuck in some predicament again, and we’re calling out to God for help again.
Is he wrong to, every so often, just shrug and tell us to find our own way out of it?
Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the LORD. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer. ~ Judges 10:16
Thank God that he’s got more patience than we do. Thank God that he’s got more love than we do. I mentioned earlier that I abandoned God in my own life. Here’s the thing, though, the story was a lot like the Israelites in some ways. I knew what God had done for me, I’d grown up knowing how much he meant, I’d experienced him.
But I’d taken him for granted, and all of a sudden I reached a bit of a crisis point. I looked for God, but I didn’t find him. I tried to keep acting like a Christian until finally I gave up, and went off on my own path to follow these other gods – quite literally – I found myself following a path made up of a combination of New Age, Wicca and Paganism.
The thing is, though, that we’re like Israel. If we forsake the things that we’ve turned to, and serve him, then he won’t let us live in misery. He can’t bear to see us living in misery because he loves us. This is one of the very core essentials of Christianity and one of the core messages that’s ingrained into the bible. We turn away, we abandon God, but when we turn back towards him he doesn’t leave us out in the cold. He loves us too much to do that, no matter how much we take him for granted.
Now the story of Abimelech, here’s a real guy’s story. This chapter is the kind of thing that excites me as I read it.
Abimelech was a bad bloke, let me get that part out straight away. I’m not saying that I look up to him or am trying to laud him or anything, I’m simply pointing out that this is a pretty exciting chapter when it comes down to reading it.
Abimelech was Gideon’s son, born to him by his concubine who lived in Shechem. Gideon had a bunch of wives, and came out with 70 sons. Abimelech was an extra one.
If Shechem sounds familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time trouble’s started up out there. Back in Genesis 34, Jacob and his sons had a run in with Shechem, Hamor’s son after he defiled their sister, Dinah. In turn, Simeon and Levi killed the lot of them.
Now we have Abimelech, born of a concubine in Shechem. Abimelech, therefore, goes to the people of Shechem after Gideon’s death and has them make him king. After all, why should they be ruled by Gideon’s 70 sons when they have a son of Gideon who’s also a local right there in their midst? They agree, and Abimelech promptly trots off to Ophrah where the rest of his family is and kills his brothers. All but one. Jotham manages to survive. He’s predictably unhappy, and he goes off on a tirade at the people of Shechem, basically saying that if kings were trees, then Abimelech’s not an olive tree, or a fig tree, or a vine that produces fine wine – he’s a thorn bush.
Of course, then Jotham legs it and bolts into hiding in Beer.
After Abimelech had governed Israel three years, God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, who acted treacherously against Abimelech. ~ Judges 9:22-23
Here’s something interesting. This passage says that God sent the evil spirit – I’ll come back to this.
Anyway, so this guy Gaal shows up and moves in to Shechem, and the citizens suddenly turn and accept him as the new boss. He spouts his mouth off a bit and Zebul, Abimelech’s governor in Shechem overhears and gets a bit annoyed, sends word to Abimelech, who quickly shows up and kills Gaal, before taking out the whole population of Shechem and a few other places as well.
All this, and then he makes one final attack against a place called Thebez. They get into the city, but everyone inside goes for the tower. Abimelech’s plan is to set it on fire, but as he gets too close to the tower, a woman drops a millstone on his head. Abimelech has just enough time to be a bit misogynistic, getting his armour bearer to run him through so that no one can say a woman killed him.
Seriously, it’s got the makings of a great movie all over it.
This is an interesting chapter, really. The conclusion is:
Thus, God repaid the wickendess that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also made the men of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came upon them. ~ Judges 9:56-57
See, it’s God’s interaction and interference that speaks to me in this chapter. It doesn’t say that God allowed the evil spirit. It says that God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech and made the people of Shechem pay. It says that Jotham’s curse came upon them.
The repayment and judgement against Shechem, well, that’s fairly frequently told throughout the bible that evil people end up paying for their actions in some way. The curse, though, or the sending of an evil spirit. These don’t necessarily fit neatly in with the most common pictures that we see drawn of God. The whole thing tends to be that God doesn’t send evil – and in Job it almost seems to state that God is in more of a position where he allows it to happen rather than specifically causing it.
I’m not saying one way or the other, I’m just drawing the question. Does God send evil spirits also?
Interesting thoughts, at least I think so…
Same-Sex Marriage. It’s arguably one of the hottest topics in the world right now.
I want to address, first, two thoughts that have been on my mind for quite some time as this topic’s gone through the media, internet and conversation and so on. Most will like one thought and despise the other.
- Proponents of same sex marriage continually fall back on the reasoning that homosexuality is natural. This is actually a fair call, homosexual behaviour has been observed in over 1500 species of animal. Let’s clarify, firstly, that this is homosexual behaviour, not necessarily homosexuality. One of my mates drunkenly kissed me at midnight on New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago – that doesn’t make us gay, but it does constitute homosexual behaviour.
Separate to this argument, though, I also want to point out another behaviour that is observed in over 1500 species of animal: Cannibalism. Last I checked, we’re not about to start saying cannibalism should be legal based on the fact that it’s “natural” are we?
- “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” ~ Matthew 5:31-32
Now, last I checked, church congregations aren’t banning or refusing to perform marriages of divorcees. Yet according to Jesus, by performing marriage ceremonies for divorcees, Christian leaders are not only condoning, but actually facilitating it! I’m sorry, but if Christians are going to argue that same-sex marriage should not be made legal because of it’s biblical sanctity, then shouldn’t the restrictions be spread across the whole thing?
My opinion is simple: As much as I would like to stand against same-sex marriage because of it’s biblical context, I can’t.
The fact is that most of the people on either side of this debate aren’t even arguing on the same topic. On the one hand you have people arguing for the spiritual sanctity of marriage, a covenant between God, man and woman to the exclusion of all others, til death do us part.
This, in my heart, is true marriage.
On the other side, though, of the same-sex marriage coin (which isn’t even the same coin as above), we have the argument that all ‘committed’ relationships deserve equal recognition in the eyes of the law. I use quotes around ‘committed,’ because the modern, legalised marriage doesn’t exactly have the same veracity as ‘to the exclusion of all others, til death do us part.’ We’ve seen the examples of this on Facebook and the internet, too: Jesse James; Tiger Woods; Elizabeth Taylor; Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears, just to name a handful.
Sorry, but in my eyes, this isn’t marriage – not as God defined it, not as the bible defines it and not as it’s meant to be.
So what, then, do we do? What do I think? Frankly, as I said above, I’d like to stand against it, but I can’t in good conscience do that. We live in a secular society; that’s just fact. The law of the land isn’t the law of God here.
Does that mean we should just lie down and capitulate, though? No!
This isn’t a fight, though, that’s going to be won by standing up against same-sex marriage. The only thing that serves to do is paint the Church as hypocritical and judgmental, two things that Jesus condemned the Pharisees for being when he was walking this Earth.
I can only come back to a blog entry I wrote on this topic several months back. Love is the answer. Love is the way.
I can disagree with someone. I can say that their behaviour is wrong. The only way I’m going to get that message through, though, is to love them.
You know, I just did a bit of calculating.
This passage says that Gideon told each of the men to bring one gold earring to him from their plunder and tribute. There ended up being 1700 shekels of gold, which translates, apparently, into about 20kg.
That’s a million dollars plus in gold at today’s price.
And he moulded it into an Ephod.
Here’s the thing, though; the Ephod became an idol.
Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family. ~ Judges 8:27
In this chapter we see Gideon go off and pursue the Midianite Kings Zebah and Zalmunna and while he’s doing so, Gideon crosses the Jordan and stops by Sukkoth and then Peniel. At both places he pauses and asks them to provide food for his men, although neither location will. So Gideon swears to return and punish them for it. Which he does – Gideon comes back and tears down the tower of Peniel, killing the men in the town, as well as using briars and thorns to tear the flesh from the elders of Sukkoth.
The thing I notice – and before I go here, just let me clarify that this is how I’m reading it – there’s nothing in the passage here at all about God telling him to do this.
To repeat: This is just how I read this passage, but to me it reads like Gideon didn’t take heed to some of the things God said before.
See back in Judges 7, God said to Gideon that he had too many men, so some had to go home otherwise the Israelites would boast that the battle was won in their own strength.
As I read this passage, the feeling that I get is one of Gideon winning the battle and taking on the victory as his own. His confidence grows higher, and they go off and defeat all of the Midianites, then come back and trash Sukkoth and Peniel also. Especially as I read the rest, the verse above that says the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping the Ephod rather than God.
The victory became their security, their confidence, and the victory became their god. The Ephod wasn’t a symbol of God’s victory, it was one of their victory over the Midianites.
And for that, it became a snare to Gideon and his family.
I feel like this is something that we need to be careful of in our own lives. When God does something, we can look to the victory that is achieved in pride, and begin to worship that rather than God who did it for us. Suddenly the miracle becomes greater than the one who performed it. The creation becomes greater than the creator.
We need to remember the things that God has done in our lives – but not for those things themselves, but for the provision, protection and prosperity that God has given.
Otherwise, those things become a snare to us – and we’ll keep tripping over them. We’ll become trapped by them, and when you’re ensnared by something, it’s hard to move forward – sometimes even impossible.
Don’t become ensnared by worshiping the things God has done. It’s the one who did it who deserves your worship.
So, growing up in the Church, the book of Judges could have really just been the book of Gideon and Samson – they’re the two main occupiers of the children’s stories that I remember from Sunday School and the like.
Here’s the beginning of Gideon’s story, and it opens in a pretty familiar fashion.
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. ~ Judges 6:1
They were oppressed, troubled, abused – and after a few years of this, once again, they cried out to God. Sounds almost identical to how the story of Deborah got started.
So this time it’s a young guy called Gideon, he’s just going about his daily duties when an angel shows up.
When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” ~ Judges 6:12
And Gideon’s first response is, ‘but’.
Gideon reminds me a bit of Moses, actually. When Moses was first called by God to go back to Egypt he had every argument under the sun ready – not bad, really, for a guy who claimed he wouldn’t be able to speak to Pharaoh. Now Gideon’s being called, and his immediate reaction is basically, “Wait, you’ve got the wrong guy.”
The interaction here is interesting, actually. Gideon shakes his head, saying that if God’s with them, then why are they suffering? He brought them out of Egypt, but he’s abandoned them.
The angel’s response is what I like.
The LORD turned to him and said, “Go out in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” ~ Judges 6:14
When it comes to Gideon asking the why question, when it comes to him saying they’ve been abandoned, the angel doesn’t say anything. Just get on with it – you’re being sent, aren’t you? Let’s go.
Gideon’s not convinced – he asks for a sign, and gets one. After that he cuts down the Baal altar and uses the Asherah pole for firewood, but then when he’s called to go after the Midianites, he’s wanting two more signs before he’ll go.
Now here’s the big thing I noted in this chapter – it’s not actually about the signs, it’s about the few verses in the middle. Gideon sneaks in at night, not wanting to get caught, and destroys the altar to Baal and the Asherah pole alongside it, and sends up a sacrifice to God.
We go off track, and we fall into these troughs in our lives. I know I do, a lot, so I’m glad God’s as patient with me as he was with the Israelites – coming to the rescue and looking after them despite their constant fluctuations between loving him and thinking he must hate them. This little part, though, between Gideon’s signs speaks something very important.
It starts at home. Gideon’s first task was to destroy the Baal altar and the Asherah pole. Why? Because they needed to make sure that they had cleaned up things internally before they could go out and deal with the Midianites.
How often, when things are going wrong in our lives, do we blame the outside influences? How often do we say that it’s all someone else’s fault?
Maybe it is, but the fact is that the place where we can make the most peace, the place where we can do the most restoration is right in our own hearts.
Please note: I’m not necessarily saying that if things aren’t going well for you in your life right now, then it’s because of something you’ve done wrong. However what I am saying is look closer to home. Instead of blaming someone else for things not going right, what can you change in yourself to make the situation better?