Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Call of Gideon: Unexpected Adventures (Judges 6:25-35)

In response to the suffering of his people, Yahweh spoke surprising words to Gideon. Yahweh called this weakest man of the weakest clan a “mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12). Yahweh then commissioned Gideon to deliver Israel from Midianite control (6:14). When Gideon understandably doubted his own ability to do so, Yahwe assured him, “I will be with you” (6:16). Their conversation ended when Gideon affirmed his call (6:22-24).

Now that Gideon has affirmed the surprising words which Yahweh has spoken to him, Yahweh can launch Gideon on a series of unexpected adventures.

For his entire life, Gideon had been one member of the people of Yahweh. Yet his life had been perfectly conventional; that is, a sloppy mixture of devotion to the Olympian gods combined with lip service to Yahweh.

Then, suddenly, his life changed radically and permanently. It changed because, for reasons known only to himself, Yahweh chose to speak surprising words to him. Once that happened, and Gideon affirmed them, there was no going back. Everything was different. He was as unconventional now as the new point of view Yahweh had given him.

As with Gideon, we too may understand ourselves as people of Yahweh and yet live a perfectly conventional life. We too may effortlessly combine devotion to the Olympian gods with lip service to Jesus.

As with Gideon, our surprising adventures begin when we too affirm Yahweh’s surprising words to us. Then we too never see things the same conventional way again.

That very night, Yahweh tells Gideon to commit challenging acts. He tells him to pull down the town altar his father had built to honor Jupiter. He tells him to cut down the town pole, beside that altar, his father had raised to honor Venus. He tells him to build an altar dedicated him, Yahweh, take a bull of his father’s, then sacrifice it on that altar as a burnt offering using the Venus pole as firewood. Gideon did as he was told but because he was too afraid of his family and the townspeople to do it by day, he did it at night (6:27).

Today, Jesus again calls us as Christians to act in ways which meaningfully challenge the devotion of Christians to the gods of Olympianity. Yahweh told Gideon to tear down the altar of Jupiter and cut down the pole of Venus. Jesus would have us do the same by removing the American flag (or any other national flag) from our church buildings. If we even suggest doing that, then we too should fear the rage of conventionally Christian Olympians.

Gideon was right to be afraid. The next morning, when Gideon’s neighbors discovered the town altar to Jupiter destroyed, the town pole of Venus cut down, and a bull sacrificed on an altar dedicated to Yahweh, they were furious. When they found out that Gideon had done all this, they said to his father, “Bring out your son, so that he may die, for he has pulled down the altar of Baal [Jupiter], and cut down the sacred pole [of Venus] beside it” (6:30).

Gideon’s father made an unexpected response to all this excitement. When his neighbors wanted him the hand over Gideon so that they could execute him for this outrage against their Olympian gods, Gideon’s father said, “Will you contend for [Jupiter]?...If he is a god, let him contend for himself” (6:31). Strangely enough, their murderous rage against Gideon evaporated and they left vengeance against him to Jupiter.

Today Jesus calls us prophetic witnesses, together, to ask for the removal of national flags from our church buildings, nationalism from our worship, Olympian holidays from our church calendars, and partisan politics from our sermons and prayers. When conventional Christians respond to us with rage, let us join Gideon’s father in telling them that, if Jupiter is the mighty god his followers insist that he is, then let him contend for himself.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.