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Year 1, Week 26, Day 5

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Judges 6.

Today’s reading continues tracing the pattern of downward deteriorating cycles that Israel experienced during the period of the Judges. While twelve Judges are mentioned in the Book, six Judges are given heightened focus. Judges 6, which introduces us to Gideon, is the first judge in the second set of three Judges. Judges 6 begins with the patterned formula: “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (Judges 6:1). As a result, the LORD put Israel into the hand of Midian for seven years. The LORD sends Israel a prophet who ties what is about to occur with the LORD’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt: “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” (Judges 6:8-9). But the prophet also rebukes Israel: “I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice” (Judges 6:10). Into this situation the LORD raises up Gideon.

One of the things that struck me from today’s reading is the clarity the LORD brings to Israel concerning how their continued idolatry has brought them low: “Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.” (Psalm 79:8). The Israelites cry out to the LORD amid their oppression: “And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the LORD” (Judges 6:6). But what the Israelites are struggling to understand is that it was not the Midianites that brought them low but their own idolatry. The Midianites were like locusts to Israel: “For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them…like locusts in number” (Judges 6:3,5). The consequence of not obeying the voice of the LORD had already promised an experience with locusts: “But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you…You shall carry much seed into the field and shall gather in little, for the locust shall consume it” (Deuteronomy 28:15,38). Israel’s biggest issue is not external, physical oppression but internal, unfaithful hearts.

Gideon’s calling has parallels to the calling of Moses. Moses was in Midian when the LORD appeared to him and Gideon is under Midian oppression as he is summoned. As the Angel of the LORD appears to Gideon, Gideon himself refers back to the time of Egyptian captivity: “Please, my Lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?” (Judges 6:13). Similar to Moses, Gideon is reluctant and afraid: “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house” (Judges 615). To which the LORD replies: “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:16). The LORD told Moses that He would be with him and even give him a sign (Exodus 3:12). Gideon makes a request: “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me” (Judges 6:17).

As Gideon offered a sacrifice to the LORD and the LORD accepted the sacrifice, Gideon had his eyes opened: “Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the LORD. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face” (Judges 6:22). Even this statement is reflective of Moses of whom it was said: “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). But what happened next underscores that the LORD not only delivers the undeserving, but He also deploys the undeserving: “That night the LORD said to him, “Take your father's bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order” (Judges 6:25-26). Before the LORD uses Gideon to deliver the Israelites, He first has Gideon cleanse his own house by destroying his own families’ idol as the Law required: “you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces” (Exodus 23:24).

Still fearful and reluctant, Gideon asks for still more signs—much like Moses asked and received additional signs such as the staff turning into a snake and Moses’ hand became leprous (see Exodus 4). Gideon asks for some signs pertaining to wet and then dry fleece. These actions on the part of Gideon are not actions commended for deciphering God’s will. Gideon already knew God’s will, for God spoke it to him. But the description of Gideon’s request for additional signs is meant to show that the LORD is kind and patient with His people’s fears and apprehensions: “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said…And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew” (Judges 6:36,40). The LORD is willing to condescend to His people’s level even though His Word is sure.

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe