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Posts Tagged ‘Gideon’

As human beings we tend to look to our past and say, “this is how I’ve always been,” which effortlessly becomes, “this is who I am.”  From there it is easy to conclude that, “this is who God made me to be.”  Then, as He did with Gideon, God sends us a messenger to tell us that He made us to be something greater (e.g. a mighty man of valor).  But like Gideon, we point to our history, and doubt that this is truly the word of the Lord.  For us, the strongholds of our mind (i.e. what we’ve already accepted to be fact) become the barrier to the genuine liberating power of the truth.

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Once upon a time, there was a man named Gideon, who God used to win a great battle.  This experience not only changed Gideon’s life, it helped to change the course of his nation.  Had there been Christian Bookstores in Gideon’s time, he would have undoubtedly written a book about this episode, and he might have called it something like “5 Steps to Victory with God”.  Based on his story, those steps could’ve been something like:

 

  1. Never take an angels word for it, always test God for yourself.
  2. Too many people being involved will rob God of the glory.
  3. God won’t use people who lap up water like a dog.
  4. You don’t need a sword, but always remember to bring an empty jar.
  5. The sound of trumpets & breaking glass will bring down the enemy.

 

Within the context of Gideon’s experience, these steps would seem pretty valid; but just because God worked within that framework, can it then be applied as the model for how God works?  While we may be able to derive some principles from Gideon’s story, it seems unlikely that God intended for this to become the model for seeing His hand move; and while that may be obvious in this example, I’d suggest that our Christian Bookstores are filled with books (& other media) that have been built on much the same premise (i.e. My Experience + God Moved = This is How God Works).

 

While I’m not saying that we shouldn’t study the ways in which God has worked in the past, I am suggesting that there is an element of our nature that wishes to find “the formula” for moving God’s hand, and that it is not necessarily a virtuous thing.  I believe this impulse is rooted in our desire to be “self-sufficient”, as opposed to being dependent on someone else (even a benevolent God).  It is much easier to memorize the formula and to insert our values into the equation, than it is to have an ongoing, dynamic relationship with a God who largely resides in another realm.  Like the children of Israel, we don’t want just a days’ worth of manna, and yet the Lord knows that if He gives us provisions for a full year, He’s not likely to see us again before that provision is gone.

 

As we develop our doctrine for how we think God works, we begin to contrive ideas about what that might look like and these “preconceived notions” often become the stumbling block that keeps us from experiencing the genuine move of God.  Just like the Pharisee’s, who’d spent their entire lives studying the scripture, we search for the true manifestation of God on the earth, only to fail to recognize it when it stands before us, simply because it doesn’t come in the way we’d imagined that it would (i.e. it doesn’t fit into our formula).  Generally these preconceived notions will lead us to disillusionment and eventually to discouragement.

 

It seems as though God delights in sending His blessings in packages that challenge our way of thinking.  Gideon was the least of his family, which was the least of his tribe, which was the least of the tribes of Israel.  Jesse didn’t even bother sending for David when the Prophet came looking for the next King nor did he bother to send him when Israel went up against the Philistines.  What self-respecting Jew would have picked Rehab or Ruth to be in the Messiah’s lineage?  The Gospel’s are littered with stories of Jesus touching “unclean” people, of healing on the Sabbath and in which He used pagans as examples of both great faith (e.g. the Canaanite woman, the Roman Centurion…) and of being a good neighbor (e.g. the Samaritan).  If God were insecure, I’m sure He’d package his blessings in a more marketable format, but considering that it is faith that pleases Him, I suspect that it’s never going to be exactly the way that we’d expect.  Though the Jews recognized that Jesus had unusual power, authority & knowledge, it was ultimately the form in which He chose to come that they could not accept.

 

Within the “Post-Modern” church, I believe that at least part of our problem is rooted in the concept of “Systematic Theology”; which I would characterize as man’s attempt to put God in a context that he can understand.  The problem with that idea is that God is under no obligation to remain within that context.  While it is not wrong to have a systematic approach to teaching God’s truth (as He has revealed it to us), I believe that we veer into presumption when we attempt to apply that approach in defining who He is and how He works.  The “system” itself is comprised of the things that we as men can conceive (i.e. finite) and yet God is beyond what we can conceive (i.e. infinite).  This system generally becomes the proverbial box and despite the popular saying, God refuses to abide in it.  Ultimately it becomes the confines for those who insist on this approach to understanding God.  The scripture clearly states that our knowledge and understanding of God is partial (e.g. that we see through a glass dimly); and I’d submit that no amount of effort on our part will ever be enough to render those words untrue.  I believe that this is why Jesus said that unless we become as little children we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Mat 18:3).  Ultimately God hasn’t called us to understand Him, but to know Him, to love Him and to trust Him.

 

Throughout the Old Testament we see God orchestrate victory for His people through many different means.  We see Him bring Joshua victory through Moses upheld arms; we see the walls of Jericho fall to the shouts of His wandering tribes (Joshua 6); we see the angel of death wipe out 185,000 enemy soldiers in their sleep because of Hezekiah’s prayer (2Kings 18 & 19) and we see the enemy turn on each other as Jehoshaphat leads the people onto the battlefield while praising the Lord (2Chronicles 20).  While these and many other stories may cause us to conclude that there is no formula, it occurs to me that there is a common thread, which is that in each case they trusted and obeyed.  While that sounds simple enough, we must understand that before we can trust, we must first believe and that before we can obey, we must first receive direction from the Lord.  Whenever we see God’s people seek direction from the Lord and then act in obedience to that direction, we see victory.  When we see people who are unwilling to wait for direction & acting based on their previous experience (e.g. Israel marching against the Philistines & losing the Ark of Covenant – 1Samuel 4) we see defeat.

 

Though from God’s perspective I would suspect that “trust and obey” could work as a formula, I doubt that it would be very satisfying to our human nature, as it places us in a position of utter dependence on God.  Certainly Jesus Himself gave us the most explicitly stated formula in all of scripture when He said that He didn’t do “anything” until He saw His Father in heaven do it first.  If we would adopt that kind of relationship with His Holy Spirit, trusting and obeying would be the only formula we’d ever need.

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