Covering All Our Bases

I'm loath to use sports metaphors in my vernacular. I must be honest. I live in Oregon and we host the "Civil War" (at some point in the year, not sure when). Where the Ducks of Eugene (The University of Oregon) face off against the Beavers from Corvallis (Oregon State). One of college football's biggest matchups I should add. As I step back a couple paces, I realize this bipartisan, if polarizing, event doesn't bode well for the spirit of unity at large. Granted, it's all done in the spirit of true sportsmanship (whatever that means), uniting Oregonians under the banner of "football". And that's great. But again, taking a step back I see no quarter in any of it if you're not inclined towards sports. All that competition. Playing both fields

I suppose the baseball teams of both colleges have their Civil War as well. But a point I want to touch on is that--all metaphors aside--of seeking an answer from God where you find yourself needing to make a polarizing decision. One that is incumbent upon you and placed there by God.

"And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites (they had "encroached" on the Israelites--that's a five yard penalty in football). And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour." (Judges 6:11-12) Just so you know, that's how God sees you. Whether you're a man or not.

This is all happening in a time in Israel's history before they were a proper kingdom. And so God brought forth judges from their midst to help steer them in the right direction. Samson was one. Deborah, another. And then God puts his finger on Gideon. Gideon... Sounds like "gridiron" and means in Hebrew, "warrior". The angel of the Lord says "thou mighty man of valor". Calling it like he sees it, like God sees it. I suspect, however, that Gideon wasn't the most decisive nor assertive person you're likely to meet, let alone think of in terms of martial leadership. That's alright. Beyond a certain point, it really isn't what we think about ourselves that plays out in the long run, but what God thinks. If you have any misery, any misery at all in your life, it very well may be due to the fact that your thinking isn't meshing with God's. Just a thought. Now. A little backstory on our man Gideon. His father Joash had an altar to Baal on his property. Something the angel told Gideon to destroy. Which Gideon did, under the cover of darkness--"because he feared his father's household, and the men of the city" (6:27). At this, the townspeople, incensed he'd do such a thing demanded of Joash that he give up Gideon to them for execution. To which his father responds, very brilliantly, "if he be a god (referring to Baal), let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar." (verse 31) And this is where it gets another layer of interest, at least for me.

Full count, no outs

"Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar." (Judges 6:32)

Gideon is now known by two names. The aforementioned "warrior". The literal connotation of his name in Hebrew is "feller of trees" by the way--and now this. His new appellation means "Baal will contend". Evidently he had raised the ire of, not just the townspeople appeasing the occupying army but also their fertility god. So Gideon comes out into this fight, a fight instigated by God to begin with, swinging. Both sides see him as a "mighty man of valor". But we already knew that about him.

"Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? Ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any." (Isaiah 44:9)

I've long wondered about the seeming vacillation of Gideon toward God with reference to the fleece. Think about the symbols at hand should you decide to wait on the Lord for an answer. How could He speak to you? Well, for one, Gideon asks God "If Thou wilt save Israel by my hand, as Thou hast said." (verse 36, emphasis) We always have His word. And His Word only and ever points back to Him. We have the inner witness of the Holy Spirit and also prayer. But when looking for an answer symbolic, further elucidation might be required to really know we're really doing what He wants. And what about this? What if we know it's what He wants us to do but aren't sure He'll back us once we step out? There's that. So Gideon asks twice in as many days. He, much like the inverse dichotomy of his two names, I think, tries one way and then the other. God will have his day. But first Gideon asked for the fleece to be soaked with dew (which it was the next morning) and then he asks the opposite (again, he gets his answer). And the next morning he has the confidence to rally his men to fight.

"...prove me now herewith..." (Malachi 3:10)

I don't really know what else to say except that, for real hard decisions, the ones that come around once every so often and that also have the potential to both derail or else vault you higher, take all the means with which you listen to God and play them up. Look for the wet fleece as well as the dry. Search the Word. Listen for the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart and validate every other means of communication. Ask Jesus to lead and guide you. He won't let you down.

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God..." (1 John 4:1a)

In closing, after being criticized by "the men of Ephraim" (Judges 8:1) for going to battle without them, Gideon says this: "What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim (which means double fruit) better than the vintage of Abiezer?" (8:2) It then says in the next verse, after he details some of the victories of Ephraim, that "their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that." If you've waited on God, that which He'll do for you will be tested from within and without and held under the exacting scrutiny of His Word and His Spirit. In other words, you can't lose.

"A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked." (Psalm 37:16)

And in somewhat of a postscript, should you be hard-pressed to choose between the Ducks and the Beavers, you could identify yourself as a "Platypus". Nothing wrong with bein' a monotreme for its own sake. If that's where it's at for you, provided you even like sports in the first place, then more power to you.

Before We Go Any Further

Self-reflection (The Tenets of Jesus part 3)