Judges 9:14 | Vote for Brambles

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Gideon was asked to be King and he refused reminding the people of Israel that their King is God and God alone. After Gideon’s death one of his 70 sons wanted to take the people up on the offer to be king and so he made a power move to achieve that. This power move was financed by with money collected at an idol’s temple by naive family and involved associations with worthless characters in society.

4 And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. Judges 9:4 ESV

The final power grab was cemented by the murder of all of Gideon’s sons just like any new king would do in the pagan countries that Israel has removed from the land. Gideon did not want to be King and he did not want his sons to be king yet they were all murdered as if they were rivals to a throne. One son Jotham Gideon’s youngest escaped. Jotham if he was seeking a kingdom could have mounted an army to fight his brother for power but like Gideon he wanted no King for Israel but God. So before he fled he told a parable that included a curse on the people who supported the evil acts of his brother.

8 The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ 9 But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’ 10 And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 11 But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ 12 And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 13 But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ 14 Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 15 And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’ Judges 9:8-15 ESV

Christ used parables extensively in his teaching and it should be no surprise to see God speak to the people in parables in the Old Testament as well. Here Jotham speaks even to contemporary society as we vote and install leaders. Each of the trees that were asked to be king refused because they would need to give up the blessings that they provided to everyone. The olive tree would stop providing oil, the fig tree would stop providing sweet fruit, and the vine would stop providing the wine to cheer the hearts of men. Finally the bramble is asked to be King. Unique among these trees, vines, and bushes is the bramble because he would be able to provide an authority and cover between other nations or God and the “trees” that called the bramble to be king. “Come take refuge in my shade” the bramble tells them, but the bramble warns that his shade will only be of benefit if the leaders called him in good faith. In contemporary society leaders are called to protect borders and keep order. They are needed. But some people want leaders that will provide for them with money or power. How can they manipulate the system to provide a benefit to themselves? People and corporations make a regular practice of this in today’s society. Votes are given to those that will do the most for a particular class, or culture, or type of person not what is best for society as a whole.

When you vote why do you vote for the person running for office? Abimelech wanted power and the people who voted for him wanted to share in that power. Abimelech killed all of his brothers because of a lust for power and money. Cain killed a single brother because of jealousy and God in mercy let him live. What can be said for a man who kills 68 of his own flesh not for passion but because of a lust for power? What can be said for the leaders who supported such naked evil?

All people are sinners so looking for a perfection in any man is a waste of time. Trump and Clinton are not saints so the question then is are you voting in good faith for one of these brambles to lead this country or are you supporting them because of a lust for power and you don’t really care if they unfairly crush the enemy to your side of the argument? As a conservative Hillary is a nonstarter for me to support. Her world view in regard to how government should be used does not align, she actively supports abortion which is the murder of children up until the day of birth, she lied about what happened in Libya to protect herself politically, and she sees herself so above the laws that should apply to all men when she kept her own email server for what could only be to hide conversations from the freedom of information and future historians. Trump on the other hand is a wild card. He does not care about ideological things like abortion but only to champion his own name “Trump”. He says he will build a wall to keep immigrants out of the country and he says he will ban Muslims from entering through visa programs to the cheering of Middle America. Racists and bigots have come out of the woodwork to attack anyone that does not support Trump. Would my vote for him lend credibility to the evil that surrounds this billionaire?

For the leaders that supported Abimelech it was a clear cut condemnation. A king was not needed and it was not Gideon’s wish that any of his sons would be king. The way power was consolidated with the blood of many men is one of the most shameful acts in the Bible. Jotham’s rebuke and curse is plain to see in that the shade provided by the bramble would also be used a trap and fuel for an all-consuming fire to the people who sought to install him in power. Paul puts it this way to the church in Rome.

2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:2 ESV

These people that supported and put Abimelech into power must now submit to his rule. When he becomes a tyrant and evil King that generation has no say in having him removed. In fact in just a few short years they grow tired of his oppressive ways and try to have him removed.

22 Abimelech ruled over Israel three years. 23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, Judges 9:22-23 ESV

God is just and what was done to Gideon’s family would not stand so just as Jotham proclaimed the bramble became a trap of complete destruction.

45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day. He captured the city and killed the people who were in it, and he razed the city and sowed it with salt. Judges 9:45 ESV

As a Christian we must submit to the governing authorities in whatever land we live and if we are fortunate enough to have some degree of choice in our leaders then we should pray for them and take the vote seriously. However do not turn to politicians and government to save because they are always a bramble that can be the tinder in any fire just as quickly as they can be a shade and protection from the outside forces. Put your trust completely in Christ and weigh your motives when voting.

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, Ephesians 4:15 ESV

Judges 8:23 | Vote for …

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It is political season and a new president will be elected soon. The choice at this point in the race makes some angry and some excited. The emotion that some have wrapped up in the candidates is greater than even those that follow sports teams in devotion. There is no logic or reason for some because it is all about party affiliation. Strawmen have been constructed and the opponent must be demonized and dehumanized so the hate can spew forth. Neither of the candidates are moral people. Both crave power and earthly temporary success or transformation. Their followers may stand to benefit financially or otherwise if elected but in the end all of it is temporary. Sometimes a leader is unanimously chosen because of great success and the people come to force them into position. Gideon was successful enough as a general freeing Israel from the surrounding aggressors that the people wanted him to be more than a judge they wanted him to be more than even Moses. They wanted him to be a king.

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.” Judges 8:23 ESV

The people wanted to Gideon to rule so that his success would be passed onto them so they could say to the surrounding nations “Look there is our King he is greater than your king that died at his hands”. Gideon rejected this advance because he knows that the success that was achieved with just 300 men was done to give God glory. Gideon tried to remind the people that God would be their king and ruler. It was God that saved them. It was God that provided for them. The same is true today. Do you want a Democrat or a Republican to be your ruler? Or do you trust Christ as the king of Kings? The Bible narrative tells us that the nation of Israel continued to ask for a ruler so they could be like other nations.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 1 Samuel 8:4-5 ESV

Samuel a prophet who is judge over Israel is advancing in years so the people come to him and tell him to appoint a King as successor. When Samuel inquires to the Lord for their request God agrees but it is not His desire or plan for the people.

7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 1 Samuel 8:7 ESV

How many Christians look to the government and politicians to save them, to guide them, or to provide for them? God never intended for government to be our King. That is His role. Is God not our heavenly Father providing all that we need? Why do we look first and only to government and the corrupt people running it to provide for our needs? Certainly the government has a role and we need a judge to maintain law and order but the emotional view of our doom or salvation being based on who is in office is the height of unfaithfulness to God. Look at God’s warning to the people who demanded a King.

10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men[a] and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 1 Samuel 8:10-18 ESV

Why can we not put our trust in God to raise up people to lead when the time has need? Even Americans have not learned. Americans should be the first to understand that no kings are necessary and Government is not our salvation. Even in the time of Christ they wanted a King to rule over them.

15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. John 6:15 ESV

And why did the people plan to make Jesus King right there even risking war with Rome? Because they were focused on the temporary things of now. Jesus had just served food to the five thousand with only a few loaves and the people wanted that kind of power to be theirs. Is that not how politics work? Feed us and care for us. Lead us in battle. Make us successful. All the while God is there and able to do all those things without either of people who are trying to be elected.

Go and vote this year. Pick the candidate that speaks in alignment with your values or pick the candidate that will do the least harm. But do not look to any man or woman to save the country, laws, values, or whatever is most dear because that comes from God and God alone. The fact is that we already have a King His name is Jesus.

16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelations 19:16 ESV

Judges 6:12 | What name has God given you?

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Gideon is the mighty warrior that God called up to save Israel… Wait that is actually not right. Gideon is young, untested, and needy. In fact the world would say that Gideon is not leadership ready let alone capable of leading a nation to war when God calls him. Yet this is who God has called and blessed to be leader from among the people to save the nation from oppression. Oppression the nation caused themselves because they refused to trust or seek God. He left them to their own and the end result was being overrun by people that did not respect or love them. Now God in His mercy is going to save Israel, because they cried out to Him, through a young unproven man. Gideon recognized his place in the societal pecking order and responded to the Angel accordingly with sound worldly logic.

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.” Judges 6:15 ESV

Gideon sees himself as part of the weakest family from a tribe not named Judah. Then he reminded God that he, Gideon, is the weakest member of this weak family. Do you see yourself the same way? Or do you see yourself as a successful achiever? The Angel addressed Gideon as a successful achiever at the start of the conversation.

12 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” Judges 6:12 ESV

God called Gideon what he would become not what he was right at that moment. Whatever success Gideon is about to see and live is not because Gideon is a powerful person who is able to achieve great things. That designation “mighty man of valor” is the result of Gideon doing exactly what God will ask him to do. God sees the beginning and the end of everything. This mighty man of valor designation is a result of the life lived in God’s mercy and for God’s glory. This name however is not something to be desired for the sake of personal ego because even an achieving person is not able to save outside of God’s plans. God lifts or brings down for His glory and for His purpose. There have been other mighty men of valor besides Gideon like the ones that Israel overcame to move into the Promised Land.

And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. Joshua 6:2 ESV

And the mighty men of valor could not save Israel from the judgment of God when they had forsaken Him.

He carried away all Jerusalem and all the officials and all the mighty men of valor, 10,000 captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained, except the poorest people of the land. 2 Kings 24:14 ESV

Mighty men are raised and fall according to God’s great wisdom and mercy. God calls Gideon this name because that is what Gideon will become as a result of God’s plans and God’s effort to save Israel. Gideon will become a mighty man of valor because from a worldly perspective Gideon will accomplish the impossible. He will rout the invading armies of tens of thousands with only a few hundred soldiers.

2 The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Judges 7:2 ESV

God looked at the 32,000 fighting men and told Gideon he had too many soldiers. Realistically Gideon’s 32,000 was woefully small compared to the 130,000 and more of the enemy encamped on Israeli land. Gideon asked the fighting men if they were afraid and if so they could leave. No surprise that 20,000 walked away knowing that this small army was going to be guaranteed death. The 10,000 that remained were still too many. In the end God kept less than 1% of the original fighting force. A force so small that everyone involved and everyone who observed what was to come would have no choice but to acknowledge the God of Israel had saved them.

God is still at work today and He calls His children by name. Is your name “mighty” because of what God has done or will do through you for His glory? Jesus told the disciples that they could know that He and God were one because of the amazing miracles.

11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. John 14:11 ESV

God wanted to show Israel that it was Him that they should trust and put their hope in. Gideon is mighty because he trusted God to go into battle with just 300 men. God’s power and glory were on display because of the amazing victory that day. Jesus performed miracles as signs and wonders that gave his words authority. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” and these wonders are the proof he told the disciples. Then he followed that up with an even more profound statement.

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father John 14:12 ESV

Jesus told the disciples and those that are called by His name even today that through them God will do mighty works. Follower of Christ have you listened and obeyed God in His call on your life? Have you become mighty because of what God has done through you for His glory?

Judges 6:36 | Fleece Moment

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Have you ever tested God and inquired of Him to determine what direction He would have you go in life? Gideon a Judge and ruler of Israel did just that to confirm that God would be with him before going into battle.

36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” Judges 6:36-37 ESV

Just as Gideon had asked in confirmation he received a result. He then also asked God for the reverse on the second night.

39 Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” Judges 6:39 ESV

Again God confirmed what Gideon requested. The reader might be thinking could I also be able to test God to determine an answer to this burning issue in my own personal life? Could this work for anyone?

Under the right circumstances God will reveal himself to anyone who draws near. However be warned that God is the very Creator of the universe and he is not required to answer mankind. Mankind answers to Him. In my youth I tested God in a similar way in something personal where God confirmed His will in my life. It is something I needed at that time to help me recognize His voice and what His expectations of me were to be. So I know personally first hand that God does accept these kinds of requests, but take note of how Gideon approached God in this test. Make sure that the request is worth the weight of coming before God and make sure it is in response to something God has put on your heart.

#1.) Testing God with some physical act like Gideon has done might be necessary for a young believer who is still learning to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit in their heart and mind. Gideon is called by God to be a leader and God is asking Gideon to do some things that could get him killed. It is understandable that Gideon might have second thoughts or that the voice speaking to him needed to be confirmed in some tangible way. Jesus was gracious to the father of a child who sought to have a demon cast away from his child. The father speaking to Jesus said “if you can do anything” and the incredulous reply of Jesus highlights the error of the father “if you can”!

But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:22-24 ESV

The father however recovers with wisdom that can only come from God “help my unbelief” and it is here that the father of the child has his faith worked out in real time in God’s grace and mercy. Faith is something that must be grown and worked at over time. The young Gideon about to go to battle or a new follower of Christ may be given mercy in their unbelief by God for God’s glory.

#2.) Testing God in this way might be necessary for a young believer who does not have a history of experience with God to draw on. When I was just becoming a believer in Christ I could hear him speaking to me, but He was asking for my service and a commitment of my life to Him. My relationship with Him at that time was new and shallow. Today I have years of a relationship and I know when God is speaking and if He tells me to do something worldly wisdom would say is a bad idea or might seem irresponsible I know through the faith of previous experience that God is trustworthy. Like the Psalmists I give thanks to Christ for past wonders knowing He will be faithful to the future unknown.

1 Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. 2 Sing to him; yes, sing his praises. Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds. 3 Exult in his holy name; rejoice, you who worship the Lord. 4 Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him. 5 Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given, Psalm 105:1-5 NLT

A young believer like Gideon without a lifetime of experience with God to trust on may need this kind of physical tangible proof of God’s intention and faithfulness.

#3.) Testing God is a dangerous pursuit under the wrong circumstances or the wrong motives. God had provided Gideon the tangible representation through the fleece yet Gideon wanted a second test and in this test Gideon recognizes that he might be pushing for something that is not needed. Others have found a negative reaction for challenging God and asking for a sign. John the Baptist’s father asked for confirmation when presented with a prophecy concerning his son the future herald for Christ.

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” Luke 1:18-20 ESV

Zechariah was the high priest and was not given any task other than to receive the good news from the angel. He did not believe what was before him when he rightly should have due to his history and position as priest. Gideon however acknowledges God’s power and in humility asks for the final test with the words “let not your anger burn against me”. God in His graciousness accepted Gideon’s request because God knows the heart of where the request came from.

#4.) God is not here to perform pony tricks for the amusement of people. Gideon did this over two mornings in the quiet of his relational prayers with God. This was not a spectacle from a throne of men to establish power. This request was part of something relational between God and Gideon to firm up Gideon’s faith that God would be with him and would carry him through the danger that lay ahead. God does not perform or jump to our commands. The opposite is true. If God calls then obey and jump eagerly knowing that God’s plans are always true.

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. Matthew 6:5 ESV

My own fleece moment happened between myself and God when he called me to submit to Him when I was a youth. God the Father asked me to follow His son Jesus. I objected telling God that I was much too young and that it would be better for me when I was older. God is persistent and in the quiet of my heart God spoke to me, confirmed by a “fleece moment”, establishing a relationship with me that continues today. Since the days of my youth I have not had additional need for this kind of test with God. I do not need to test God or confirm His voice in that way. I know his voice and I have a history of God being exactly who He said He is and I trust Him even when things appear crazy or the request from God seems painful to me at that moment. If you are a young believer and God is calling you in your heart to something mysterious and amazing do not be afraid to draw near and test His faithfulness.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! 9 Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Psalm 34:8-9 NLT