Discipleship: Calling, Apprenticeship, & Ministry II

Apprentice

Repro. of painting by Emile Adan, copyrighted by Braun & Co., N.Y.

When I felt the push to explore this theme of Discipleship throughout the Old Testament, I had initially purposed to move through the Old Testament chronologically. However, I think that as long as I do a good job of identifying the Calling of each individual, I can skip to the more popularized figures of the Old Testament so that we aren’t always introducing readers to new characters; rather, we can begin with individuals whose stories most Christians feel they know well. In today’s post, I’d like to take a look at Gideon.

Gideon

So, I’d like to move forward a bit into the era of the Judges. The Lord God has led Israel into the promised land under Joshua’s leadership. To this point, however, Israel has failed to fully eradicate the inhabitants of the Promised Land. So after Joshua’s death, Israel sins, God raises up a judge to deliver Israel, and then Israel sins again. Most recently, God delivers Israel from the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan and the land goes undisturbed for 40 years. Now, we pick up our story in Judges Chapter 6.

Judges 6:1-6 (ESV) 6 The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. 3 For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. 4 They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. 5 For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in. 6 And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.

Oh my… another period of sin. The Lord God gives them over to Midian for 7 years. Discipline often requires punishment. The Midianites and the Amalekites are a ruthless, ungodly people about whom Israel was instructed to completely eradicate. The Lord God waits for His people to cry out for help. The answer He first sends comes in a formal rebuke (Discipline always involves rebuke of wrong-doing).

Judges 6:7-10 (ESV) 7 When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites, 8 the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. 9 And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 And I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.”

Ouch. The Lord God heard the cry of Israel, and He was going to send help, but they needed to understand that their predicament was not “bad luck” or “neglect”; rather, it was punishment. The Lord God making it absolutely clear to them of His Sovereignty, His mighty hand, and His promise. Now, once again, the Lord God will call from among His people a Judge.

Judges 6:11-16 (ESV) 11 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”

The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor… When men “call” on someone, we are limited in what we know of them, or in what we hope may be in them. The Lord God knows no such limitation. When the Lord God calls Gideon a mighty man of valor, He is not necessarily referring to that which stands before Him (or as some would call “seeing something undiscovered within him”)… threshing wheat in a wine-press rather than on a threshing floor… He is speaking it into existence, for He is with Gideon to make it so. I love how Gideon’s first response isn’t even about the irony in being called a mighty man of valor in his present circumstance, but he struggles to accept the first part of the statement, “The Lord is with you“. He knows full well the history of what the Lord God has done for Israel in the past (perhaps he even heard the rebuke that came from the prophet sent by God?) and he has fully accepted that Israel’s present condition is punishment for disobeying the Lord God. Additionally, notice how Gideon clearly makes the case that he had done nothing… nothing… worthy of the Call of the Lord God on his life. The youngest in his household, the weakest clan of the tribe of Manasseh.  We’ll find out later that his father, Joash, had built an altar to Baal and complete with the Asherah. Evil in the sight of the Lord. God demonstrates a great deal of patience with Gideon, as his response to the Call of the Lord God involves a lot of hesitation and requests for confirmation by signs. Definitely not a prescription for how one should respond to the Call of God… except… that Gideon answered the call and submitted to the calling of the Lord God.

As with any apprenticeship, the Master instructs, tests, admonishes, and rewards the apprentice in his growth. As you’ll read on (please, I urge you to read the rest of chapter 6 and chapter 7 on your own, so that I need not include it within the text of this post), you’ll see that the Lord gives Gideon step-by-step instructions and encouragement so that he will learn to trust in the Lord God and in the Calling God had placed upon him. The Lord delivers the camp of Midian into the hand of Gideon. Now let’s go to chapter 8:

Judges 8:1-3 (ESV) 8 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. 2 And he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? 3 God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger against him subsided when he said this.

With this encounter, Gideon has graduated his apprenticeship and is now walking in his calling (his ministry) as a mighty man of valor. When the men of Ephraim accuse him of basically seeking to deprive others of their share of the glory, Gideon remembers the Word of the Lord, and that it must be known that to God be the glory for this victory. God fulfills His promise to Gideon, and to Israel and saves them from the hand of Midian. At the end of Gideon’s ministry, he again credits everything to the Lord God

Judges 8:22-23 (ESV) 22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.

Sadly, the nation of Israel does not remain faithful, and even Gideon falters. For you see, what Gideon did right, was to believe in the Lord God. Everything else, was accomplished by God, and through God, to preserve the Promise of God to one day bless all the nations of the earth through the offspring of Abraham, that is, Jesus Christ. And with that thought, I’d like to leave you with this thought from the Apostle Paul:

Philippians 1:1-11 (ESV) 1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Amen. I pray you have a wonderful weekend, and may the Lord bless and keep you always,
In Him,
Jorge

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