Sunday, October 13, 2019

An Afterthought about an Afterthought

“As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped.”

By his own admission, Gideon was the least accomplished son in the household of a father whose clan was a mere afterthought within its tribe. Worse, in the latest recorded Israelite census, the tribe of Manasseh had finished dead last in the number of fighting men it was able to supply to Israel’s army, less than half the number available from Judah and well behind even small-but-pugnacious Benjamin.

To top things off, the tribe of Manasseh then voluntarily split itself in half.

All the Right Qualifications

That made Gideon the most insignificant guy in the most insignificant clan of the most insignificant (and only) half-tribe in the whole nation. If you were looking for an army general who brought no credentials whatsoever to the table and whom nobody in his right mind would be inclined to follow, Gideon was your number 1 candidate. He had no experience, no political clout, no relatives with power and influence, and no natural force of personality to impose.

Are we agreed that was precisely why God chose him? Good. On we go.

I have often wondered at Gideon’s fearfulness and repeated need for reassurance from God. I wonder no more. Other than God, what on earth did he have to put confidence in? There was no backup plan whatsoever.

Gideon Worshiped

I point these things out not because what God did through Gideon in destroying the Midianite army was so impressive and unlikely, though it was. What really interests me is this little statement in Judges that “Gideon ... worshiped.” I’m trying to get my head around what exactly that entailed.

He wasn’t at the tabernacle. He wasn’t offering a sacrifice. He wasn’t even at home doing his personal devotions. No, he was probably lying in the underbrush in the middle of the night behind a Midianite sentry post, or maybe leaning up against the side of a tent eavesdropping on a couple of bedded-down Midianite soldiers, one of whom apparently possessed the gift of prophecy and made the rather outrageous (and probably unpopular) claim that his own army was about to be defeated by Gideon the son of Joash.

Hearing this, Gideon worshiped. No wonder. And despite his insignificance — of which Gideon was acutely aware — God heard, appreciated, and made a note about it for us in Judges.

No Altar in Sight

It was not formal worship, to be sure. But equally, it was not the present-your-bodies-a-living-sacrifice kind of “lifestyle worship” that is taught in many circles today. There was a moment when Gideon, in the service of God and in full fellowship with him, was sneaking up on the Midianite camp. He was doing everything right, to be sure, but it would be a semantic stretch to call crawling through the underbrush “worshiping”. Then there was the moment right after Gideon worshiped when he returned in confidence to the camp of Israel, declared that the Lord had given the Midianite army into their hands, and divided his 300 men into three companies. That wasn’t worship either. In between, it was.

What did Gideon’s worship consist of? There was no altar in sight, no sacrifice to be offered, and speaking out loud wasn’t safe — there were more Midianites around the two Israelite spies than could possibly be counted — so he obviously didn’t stop to do a little impromptu orating. He definitely didn’t break into song. No, Gideon’s worship was a mere few seconds in time, almost surely all in his head (though perhaps he took the knee for a moment) and cannot possibly have consisted of much more than the ancient Hebrew equivalent of “Wow, Lord, you are absolutely amazing! I cannot believe you just did that.” Awe, reverence, astonishment, grateful appreciation, perhaps in equal parts — genuine, deeply felt and energizing.

But quick. Very quick.

No Excuses

Gideon may have had a more unexpected and timelier provocation to bow in reverence, but it strikes me that his manner of worship is precisely that of all godly women and more than a few quiet, godly men down through the last twenty centuries in church meetings all over the world ... except perhaps that our opportunity to prepare our hearts and organize our thoughts appropriately is appreciably lengthier and more predictable, and our legitimate distractions considerably fewer.

No matter how significant or insignificant our lives may appear to us, if they do not include regular moments of consciously entering into the presence of God to deliberately contemplate his greatness, we do not have much of an excuse, do we? Not from scripture anyway.

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