Today’s Bible reading: Judges 7-8:17; Luke 23:13-43; Psalm 97-98:9; Proverbs 14:7-8
Our story of Gideon continues today in Judges 7. Yesterday we saw God call Gideon to lead Israel against the Midianites who had been oppressing Israel for many years.
There was only one problem: Gideon had too many men. About 32,000 men had joined Gideon to fight Midian. If they had fought with all these men then Israel would have taken credit for their victory. But God wanted to get credit for the victory. Not because He is egotistical. But because people would believe in Him if Gideon was victorious with a vastly inferior army. God does everything for our benefit. His goal is to make Himself known to all the world so that people will believe in Him and be saved from hell. Lopsided victories from unlikely underdogs is one way He does that.
Eventually Gideon’s army is reduced by 99% but God promises victory against the vastly numerous Midianites (Judges 7:7). With God’s power on our side we can defeat any enemy in our life no matter how much stronger it appears to be.
As we read yesterday, Gideon lacked confidence. In today’s reading God continues to boost Gideon’s confidence. He allows him to overhear a conversation between two Midianite solders in which they state that they are confident they will lose (Judges 7:14). So often we think that our problems are too big for us. Little do we realize that we already have victory over them. All we have to do is act.
Gideon and his army attack Midian causing the Midianites to actually fight against themselves and to run away (Judges 7:22).
As Gideon pursues the enemy they are denied assistance from the cities of Succoth and Peniel. These towns were not asked to fight but to simply provide food for Gideon’s army. But they wanted to wait and see which side won. They didn’t want to help the losing side for fear that the victors would seek revenge on them. So many people want to sit on the sidelines of the spiritual battle that is happening on this earth. They don’t want to get involved for fear of choosing the wrong side. But as God has told us already in our readings: there is no middle ground. We are either for Him or against Him. And since we already know that God will win its kind of silly not to join Him.
Its hard to imagine how the crowd could turn on Jesus the way they do today in Luke 23:18. Just a few days before they were cheering Him as He entered Jerusalem. But even back then, it seems, people liked to tear down their own heros. Perhaps they did this because Jesus didn’t meet their expectations. Instead of overthrowing Rome He was arrested. Maybe the crowd thought that He was therefore a fraud. But Jesus being arrested and crucified was always part of God’s plan from way back in Genesis 3. The people and religious leaders just didn’t know it because they didn’t read their Bible. If we read our Bibles then nothing will come a surprise.
Luke doesn’t give as many details as the other Gospel writers regarding Jesus’s crucifixion. But we know from those other accounts that Jesus was whipped as was the custom before someone was crucified. He was therefore too weak to carry the crossbar that He would be nailed to. So someone else was forced to carry it (Luke 23:26).
Even as He is walking through the streets naked and in shock on His way to die, Jesus is thinking of others. Notice how He tells the grief-stricken people following Him not to cry for Him but to cry for those who are killing Him (Luke 23:28). Even when He is hanging on the cross He asks God to forgive those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34).
While on the cross in incredible physical pain, Jesus has to endure emotional pain by being mocked (Luke 23:35-39). Jesus could have easily come down from the cross. Nails did not keep Him there. He had demonstrated power over leprosy, demon, blindness, and even death. Surely He had power over nails. What kept Jesus on the cross was love. His love for us was so strong that He chose to endure the pain and humiliation of crucifixion so that a path to heaven could be opened. Without Jesus’s death on the cross everyone who ever lived would be banished to hell. Jesus, who was God, didn’t want that to happen. He wants us in heaven with Him. So He stayed on that cross.
One of the criminals who was crucified with Jesus gets to go to heaven based on his faith. Notice this criminal recognized Jesus for who He was, knew that he was a sinner himself, and believed Jesus was who He said He was (Luke 23:40-42). This criminal had done nothing to earn salvation in heaven. He was about to die and had no good works to point to. Yet he went to heaven (Luke 23:43) because of his faith and nothing else.
Psalm 97 tells us that God is king over all the earth and will rescue and protect all people who belong to Him. For this reason we should gladly rejoice and praise Him.
Psalm 98:9 reminds us that someday God is going to judge all the earth. He will do so fairly. I know so many people who claim they are going to tell God off when they come face-to-face with Him after they die. First, why have that attitude? Why not just humble yourself before Him now? Second, I don’t think telling God off will be an option. When God pronounces judgement on people I think they will know that they are being judged fairly. Sadly, they will have all of eternity in hell to ponder their life sentence.
We need to choose who we hang out with carefully. That is the lesson I get from Proverbs 14:7-8. We can surround ourselves with fools, who may seem like fun, but who really do nothing more than make us stupid. They can’t lead us anywhere worth going. But a wise person knows where he/she is going in life and can help us get to a worthwhile destination.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post