Fueled by Anger, Satisfied with Revenge! Judges 8:17

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He also tore down the tower
of Penuel and executed the city’s men.
Judges 8:17

 

selfconfidence

Picture from google search.

Our hero, fresh from punishing the Elders of Succoth, turns his attention to those in Penuel for their refusal to help him.   A denial of bread solicits the response, “When I return victoriously, I will tear down this tower.”   Still steaming from the Succoth persecution, Gideon continues to fulfill the promises he made.  He continues to Penuel and proceeds to tear down the tower of the city.

As mentioned in a prior blog, towers were very important to cities.  Not only were they the result of much hard work, and resources, but they also served as a means of protection, allowing the soldiers and citizens to be aware of those approaching the city, and making a judgement call as to their intentions.

Angry upset boy, little man

Picture from Google Search

The tower was also a tactical advantage.  It allowed the soldiers to position themselves in such a way, that they could cause great harm on those attacking.  At the very least, it caused soldiers to attack in some cases, choosing whether o project their front back, or above.  Gideon was well aware of this!  However, because they refused to supply him with bread, Gideon decided to follow through with his choice to weakening their ability to protect themselves.

You still Mad?

I kept thinking as I read the verse, “Why is he still so enraged?”  I can understand the immediate words he spoke.  He was in the middle of a chase, and bracing for an epic showdown with the enemy, and he lashed out.  He had yet to experience victory, and had it further delayed by an adversary who continued to run from them.  In desperation he requested sustenance for his troop, and could not understand why his sincere request and genuine need was rejected.

He defeats the enemy.  Captures the Kings!  Drags them back to town, and is still boiling hot!  I would argue after reading this passage, that he wasn’t cooling off, but he was heating up.  Is this you?  Temperature steadily rising, though time has past, and success has been achieved?

This destruction is both a choice, and my responsibility

buildings in nepalGideon tore down the tower.    I love how simple God has this stated.  Though we can be sure Gideon didn’t tear the tower down with his bare hands, but the scripture lets us know that the tearing down of the tower was at the hands of and the responsibility of Gideon.  He chose to act out on his feelings of anger, and lead his men not just into victory, but to punish the men of Succoth and tear down the tower of Peneul.  Some of us hide behind the chain of command.  We give the order, and then see ourselves as innocent and refuse to bare the responsibility.  Hear this:  YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE!  If  you gave the order you made the decision to carry out the pain and suffering.

I wondered to my self:

How many towers have been pulled down because me?
How many people, families, and communities are lacking
because of my response to a set of circumstances?

I’m sure you like myself have some rubble in your past that you would like to forget. Some decisions that caused either yourself or someone else suffering and pain.  Maybe it was a lack of wisdom, or the absence of maturity handle what  you had obtained?

He looked at the rubble of the Tower and determined it wasn’t enough!

Gideon continued after, tearing down the tower, to execute the men of the Penuel.  His anger and frustration from their unwillingness to help him lead him to kill the men of the town.  While I pray that he didn’t take every male life in the city, we have no choice but to consider it because the text says “the city’s men”. worship-fast 

In this, we have to move forward understanding that their families were left without husbands, fathers, soldiers and leadership.  What is it to leave an entire town without its covering?  Leaving children without fathers, and women to fend for themselves (save the comments! Judges is not written in 2018).

Killing all the men was a complete upheaval.  Men were still the key earners!  Property was passed on via the Men.  Elders and Leaders were mainly men, and Gideon because of one disagreement has decided to cripple a town to the point of extinction (don’t know this to be true, just referring the the general circumstances).   Gideon’s actions are the definition of the “the punishment not fitting the crime!”  And in this, he represents many of us.  Many of us want to see those who don’t extend or lift a hand to assist us, suffer, wither and die.

Not only did he take their lives, he did it in such a way that was humiliating and intimidating to those who remained.  The text says that he “executed” them.  This paints a visual to us all.  Execution happens in many ways, but one specific is the individual nature normally associated with this death.  One could imagine men lined falling-on-your-sword1up, facing the sword.  Gathering their last moments and attempting to live them with dignity and honor, as Gideon imposes his will on them through torture.

 

I wonder how many of you see death as not enough? 

Many of us are not satisfied with an eye for an eye, and in this passage it seems Gideon wants more.  Much like the men of Succoth, he punished each man for his role in not supporting him.  He executed the ones that voted not to support him, and executed the ones who had no say so, but chose not to disobey their town leaders. 

This is why we can not let the sun go down on our anger.  Our anger manifest itself in wrath, and our flesh and pain season our wrath with un-justice.  Thus we must deal with our feelings before the devil is able to use them to act outside of God’s will for our lives and the lives of others.

 

 

#PastorJDO3

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Respect My Authority! Judges 8:16

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He took the elders of the town
and taught the men of Succoth
a lesson by punishing them with
the desert thorns and briers.
Judges 8:16

Sadly, as I continued the journey of this passage, I found in verse 16 that Gideon is truly a man of his word.  He promised the defeat the kings, and to return to the men and punish them for their lack of belief in him.   He captures the kings, and then makes a bee-line for Succoth!

Gideon took the elders he gathered and set them before them men of Succoth.  The men of Succoth were about to learn a valuable lesson, both from Gideon, and from the Elders of their community.Decision-Making

Leadership has a cost

Yes, leadership has a cost!  The Elders of Succoth would make a decision for the town, not to supply bread to Gideon’s troop, knowing full well they could suffer from their decision.  Though the passage does not give us their counsel notes or dictation of their discussion, one can be sure that they carefully weighed the weight of their decision, and were willing to stand by it and suffer for the greater good of their community.  They could not allow the threat of Gideon to influence their decision.  The leaders had to consider the impact on the people, and look past the possible pain they could endure for being wrong.  They believed Gideon could possibly win, but decided that past history and the size of the troop of the Kings had a higher possibility of winning.

Sometimes you have to bear thorns and briers!

chess1I am sure they heard the cascading message of the battle, and braced themselves for the encounter with Gideon.  While they hoped the moment would pass, they were ready to face it, and prepared to embrace it.  And true to form, a leader will always have to answer for his decisions.  Many of us have been chosen to bear the scars that come along with leadership.  Leaders make decision knowing that they receive the full showering of the victory, and the terrible lashing that come along with defeat.  Yet, we lead.

Potential Pain must not influence the Decision!

decisionLeaders must stay balanced, accepting the good with the bad, focused on the people, not on the potential pain.  And while they might learn and choose differently in the future, they remain at peace with their decision, because it took into account the information of yesterday, not the data of today.    The reality is, everyone is correct after the fact!    Leaders know this, and don’t waiver with criticism or failings.

Respect is often Earned

Gideons goal was to teach the men of Succoth to respect him by inflicting pain uponwhip those that they admired and respected.  And truly they did.  They watched as their leaders were punished for the decision they made with them in mind.  And while some of them feared Gideon, I am willing to bet some gained more respect for the ones that bore stripes from the thorns and briers.

Gideon on a rampage is determined to earn the respect he believes he deserves.  Maybe the desertion of the original soldiers has left him feeling the need to assert himself among the onlookers?  Maybe some past failings has led him to want to prove himself?  We don’t know!  But we do  know that the taunting words of the men of Succoth have vexed him so, that he was determined to come back and make them respect him.

cartmonYes, he made them put some respect on his name.  Where they might have spoken his name causally, he wanted to insure that it was spoken from this point on with reverence, fear and trembling.

Before we put Gideon on full trial, I guess this would be the right moment to disqualify ourselves as good character witnesses!  While Gideon is clearly wrong, it is safe to conclude that his shoes have been worn by us all at some point in life.  We have all allowed the words of someone to serve as the driving force and reason for our actions. 

And yes, again, this is wrong; but God allowed it.  Maybe God allowed it to further motivate Gideon? God allowed this to be a part of his story, and was so kind enough to document it so that we could also identify with his journey.  Sadly, there are some stories like this in my past.  And while they have not been marked into the paper, they have been etched into the tree!  God has died for the sins both you and I have committed.  His blood covers the penalty and helps us deal with the shame.  His love covers us, and allows us to start each day new, knowing that the only respect due is to God, and the only opinion and approval that matters comes from Him.

 

 

#PastorJDO3

 

 

What Drove Him to Victory! Judges 8:15

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Then Gideon said to the men of Succoth,
Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about
whom you taunted me saying,
‘Do you already have the hands of
Zebah and Zalmunna in your
possession?  Why should we give
bread to our exhausted men?”
Judges 8:15

This is the verse I dreaded getting too.  Gideon walking down hill, carrying his spoil, looks to torment the people who denied his troop and didn’t believe in him.   He drags them around like a trophy, determined to make believers from the doubters, and earn respect and fear from those who previously counted him as less than.

yourenotgoingtoHe has the men gathered, and has one of the greatest “Your not going to believe this…” moments in history!  They gather in front of  him to see one of their newest and greatest fears and are about to live out their latest regret; a revengeful Gideon.  Gideon full of frustration and anger, holds up his trophies in front of the his doubters.  His audience stood polarized, watching Zebah and Zalmunna stand helplessly before them.  While confronting them, no doubt, he had revenge and making the doubters respect him.

“Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me…”  Gideon again showing how the words and actions of the men of Succoth impacted him.  He recalls their words, as though they just spoke them, “Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession?” He recalls them as though their words haunted him.  These words served as motivation  and helped drive him to capture the two kings.

I wondered to myself, 

How many of us allow the words of others to serve
as the driving force behind our accomplishments and conquest?

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Here Gideon is, a called man of God, chosen for greatness, steps ordered, armed and equipped, and the words that are driving him to victory don’t belong to the Lord.  His anger robbed God of the glory, and marred the victory by tainting it with the punishment and torture of to lands who were just meant to be a part of the testimony.

What drives you?

Are you bringing glory and honor to the Lord with your victories?

Will you open your mouth and praise the true and living God?

The power of God worked mightily through him.  Conquering his foe with by blowing a trumpet.  Marching up a mountain, exhausted, and stood toe to toe 300 soldiers to 15,000 soldiers.  Now Gideon stands before these men as though he personally won these battles.

confidenceAnd so do we!  We accept the call from God.  Chase down the goals, conquering feats, surviving battles, overcoming obstacles and somehow, we forget that it is He working through us that allows us to defeat armies of 50 to 1.  God protects us through times of lack; keeping us while we are starving, and still allowing us to excel, and yet the words that come from our mouth don’t honor Him.  I thought about Gideon, and gave praise because God protected Him,though he lost his focus as to why he was fighting and how he was going to win.

Let us not forget why we are bold in our pursuits!  Let us not forget how God protects us, and fights for us!  Let us not pretend that we are more than just a chosen vessel!  Let us honor God and not get consumed with the words of others that we encounter on the path.

 

#PastorJDO3

 

 

 

Caught up in Drama! Judges 8:14

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He caught a young man of
Succoth and questioned him,
and the young man wrote down
for him the names of the
seventy-seven elders of the town.
Judges 8:14

Gideon, fresh from the victory, starts his parade.  Imagine the scene!  Gideon and company have overcome the 15,000 troops with 300 men, and have captured the 2 kings alive.  They are returning to the two cities that denied them help because they doubted them and had no faith in their God.

loudvoiceI can imagine that Gideon was walking so proudly back to the group, ready to display his capture.  He was eager to make the doubters eat their words, and to uphold the promise that he gave them.  He would torture the leaders of Succoth and destroy the tower in Peniel.  I’m sure they saw him approaching victoriously, and knew that he would honor his word, and that suffering was about to be experienced at his hands.

As a servant of God, the journey of faith we take often leaves us to look foolish in the sight of man.  People are often questioning how and why, and their doubt in God, and our belief in God is considered by some to be a sign of weakness.  They speak of us as though our acknowledgement of a superior being is foolish, and our willingness to submit to a higher power, is irresponsible.  There are those who believe they are truly the captain of their soul.   But not the believer!  We know that God is alive, and is in control, and is looking to direct us towards His perfect will for our lives. 

It is amazing that while walking in the ordered steps of the Lord, we have moments where we receive praise and accolades.  Gideon, like all of us, has to endure challenging moments where our ability and our sanity is questioned.  

validateI thank God that as we follow Him, He gives us moments where we are validated.  Times where those who doubted, feel foolish for not believing in the God we serve, and in some cases are inspired to follow the God we serve or even gain faith in us and our abilities.

Sadly, this will not happen in this encounter, mainly because Gideon is about to use the same power and authority he walked in to capture the 2 kings, to destroy those who didn’t help him.  I believe this is a story similar to what we experience today.  While people watch God accomplish amazing feats through us, and witness miracles upon the earth, people are challenged by the encounters they have with those God uses to carry out His will on the earth.  As opposed to being focused on the power and authority of God, they are distracted by the anger and frustration of men and women who are distracted by the flesh.  Gideon like many of us was so caught up in the negative encounters, that he was determined to punish those who didn’t believe in him.  He took a moment that could have been the early equivalent to the show down of Elijah and the prophets of baal, and turned it into two armies fighting it out in the sight of man. 

Angry upset boy, little man

Not only where these men and those that witnessed the encounters challenged, but so was the focal point of this verse!   Gideon caught a young man, and directly questioned him.  Caught helps us to understand this young mans position.  He was like these leaders of his city.  He most likely wanted to steer clear of any drama and feud that existed and would exist between the people of Succoth and Gideon.  He wanted to go home to his family after a long days work and enjoy their presence.  But Gideon is so concerned with proving himself right that he involves this young man, capturing a 3rd person, and then uses his power of “influence” to get him to give up those who decided not to invest in him.  Notice “influence” is in quotes, as this young man knows his life is on the line if he refuses to participate.

Under pressure, the young man gave up 77 elders! 

writingThe young man protects His life and writes on the paper.  My heart goes out to this young man, as his efforts to steer clear place him as a cog in the effort to severely punish 77 people.  In this “snitches get stitches” culture, we should acknowledge that his safety with the community once Gideon leaves. 

Besides that, this young man might be like many of us.  Maybe he wasn’t afraid of any physical harm that would come his way, but dreaded living with the results of his actions?  Even if his listing of the names remained a secret, he would wake each day, and encounter as he walked through the town, either the 77 elders, or members of their family; forced to live with the role he played in their injuries.

discouragedNot were they just 77 people, but 77 Elders, which were leaders in the community.  I’m sure as he wrote, he knew his part in this effort, would remove much wisdom and some resources from the community.  This small community would be challenged, but the injury and loss caused to its leaders.  Remember, Gideon’s plan is to gather thorns and briers and to tear their flesh.  He want’s to make them suffer by shedding their blood.  Lord forbid that this young man could potentially watch his country deteriorate.

Not that I’m looking for confessions, but I have been in this place before.  That moment where you look at what has occurred and have to consider your role in said event.  Now, I haven’t cratered a city, or destroyed a culture, but I have regretted words spoken that has given tension to a relationship that was eventually destroyed.

What about you? 

Ever had a moment you wish you could take back?

Or maybe like Gideon, you evolved someone past their wishes into a situation they desired to steer clear of, and didn’t consider the potential affect it would have on their life?  I This young man would eventually witness 77 people have their flesh torn off because of his testimony, and I am sure he would eventually loose sleep over his decision.   In a rage, Gideon impacts this mans life by including him in the punishment of those he desired to get revenge with.  This isn’t right!  I wonder how many people can’t close their eyes because of a situation you placed them in?  How many scurry past the mirror, hastening to look at themselves after they consider their choices?

I aim to consider my actions first, and then the actions of those aiding me as I journey.  I believe God wants us to see people not as pawns, but as participants in life whose lives we are to value and respect even when we are eager and desperate to achieve.

 

#PastorJDO3