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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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Service

Follow Me-Isaiah

We could say a lot about Isaiah, but we won’t. This sort of series, Follow Me, isn’t really designed to give a full biography of any person or to do an exposition of all the Scriptures around them. All I want to do with these is capture a brief devotional-like thought that maybe we can apply to our lives.

Isaiah 6:5-8 King 

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Here  am I, send me.“What a great line, right? We should all be that way. When God calls, that should be the response of all of us. I have talked on that passage before; today, however, that won’t be the point. There’s some other important stuff here that we should all take notice of because it is critical information. The thought behind it is critical.

There is an order here that matters, and it matters a lot. I don’t see that God called, Isaiah answered, and later at some point became purified. Friends, that’s not how it works. That would be a works/merit-based system, and that’s not the Grace program.

Isaiah lamented his sin, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips” That’s repentance, right there my friend. Jesus told us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:3. The realization of our sinful condition and separation from God is necessary for salvation. Note here, that nobody says we have to stop sinning for salvation. Isaiah was poor in Sprit.

thine iniquity is taken away” The Prophet’s sin, his iniquity, was TAKEN away. It was taken, or washed, by God. Again, Isaiah did absolutely nothing to make this happen, other than his realization of his state and his apparent faith. 

It’s important to see here, that God didn’t call Isaiah for a work until he was pure. That matters a lot. God calls the impure and unsaved for one thing, and one thing only; He calls us to repent and believe, and from that comes salvation. Then, and only then is God going to issue a call for us to work.

Friends, understand this. If you are working and striving in hopes that you will make yourself clean enough for God…..stop. It won’t work. Be made clean first by the blood of Jesus Christ. Then, get to work! Say those words, “Here am I , send me.”

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Follow Me-A Priest Gets Ready to Go

Ezra 7:6-10

This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him. And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

Ezra 7-10

As various Persian Kings granted the authority to do so, various groups of Jews who had been in the Babylonian Captivity began returning to Jerusalem to re-establish the thing which had been destroyed during the conquest some 70 years before. There were three waves of returnees. Wave one was the group led by Zerubbabel, who returned to rebuild the Temple. The third was the wave led by Nehemiah, who returned to rebuild the city wall of Jerusalem and the city itself. The second wave was led by Ezra and was going to rebuild nothing which was physical. Ezra’s mission was to restore and rebuild the newly free nation spiritually. He was to teach all the things of the law and restore Israel to proper worship of their God.

Clearly, Ezra was called for this mission, and clearly, God saw the need for a man to return to Jerusalem to accomplish it. Why is this clear? Well, twice in the above passage we are told that the hand of God was upon Ezra. This leaves little doubt as to his calling and the need for Ezra to answer. So, some 60 years after the Temple was completed, Ezra headed that direction as commanded. So, what quick lessons can we glean here?

First, Ezra went. That seems self-evident, but it isn’t really; men and women decline to answer the call of God in their lives all the time. While Ezra was probably a strong, intelligent and competent person, it is God’s call and hand in it which ultimately enabled Him to succeed in his mission. God will give us all we need to do His will; the only thing He won’t provide is the willingness on our part. So, had he not been willing, then this post would have been about somebody else.

The need for spiritual instruction and restoration is as real to Christians today as it was to the Jews in that day. The need for men willing to step forth boldly and accomplish that is also as real today as it was then. There is something else we who are called should have in common with Ezra:

Ezra 7:10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

Friends, that right there sets the standard for all who are called to be teachers of God’s Word to others. If we approach it any other way, then we are not performing to standard. Anything less and we are half stepping.

Ezra prepared his heart. Being a teacher of faith to others is not an accident. We have to be prepared spiritually. This will require much prayer, study and meditation on both the Scriptures and about God’s desires.

What did Ezra prepare his heart to do? He prepared it to seek the law of the Lord. Nothing has changed here, only we seek the knowledge of God’s completed canon of Scripture. If we are attempting to be teachers and are not striving to be as knowledgeable of our teaching as possible then, again, we are half stepping.

Ezra strove to do it. We can’t learn God’s Word until we study it, but once we know it, we should attempt to live it. Can any of us live it perfectly? Of course not. We won’t see perfection until we see heaven. Here is a tough word, teacher friends. If we aren’t at least trying to live God’s Word, we aren’t ready; in fact, if we ignore, openly rebel, or turn a blind eye to disobedience around us we simply should not be leaders or teachers. This is worse than half stepping.

On after Ezra learned God’s Word did he try to live it. Only after he lived it did he try to teach it. He had two things: God’s hand on him, and his own willing and prepared heart.

Friends, the Israelites deserved this from the man who was to teach them God’s law, and those we are responsible for deserve it from us.

Follow Me-A Prophet Gets Held Back

Numbers 20:8-12 

Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

Today’s thought on men and women who were called by God and something of note about their service came about from a quick devotional I was called to do last night with our young people. They were studying the birth and call of Moses. The subject of young people and making life-altering bad choices came up in the fellowship hall, and as I scrambled to put together a devotional at the last minute, this all came rushing to mind.

So, really this is not about the calling of Moses at all; that has been written about extensively by folks way smarter than me. This is about choices and bad consequences.

Moses was called and is a quite spectacular way. God laid an intricate plan at the birth of Moses to free His people from bondage. Moses gave 80 years of dedicated service to His God. We really can’t over blow the important of Moses in the Biblical narrative. Moses screwed up, though.

Again, the people were grumbling. They always grumbled, right? This time it was over water. So, God instructed Moses to gather them, speak to the rock, and they would get water. Well, no doubt Moses was pretty irritated after decades of complaining, and maybe just a tad ticked off. Maybe he wanted to just show out a little bit, and be the big man prophet. So, Moses HIT the rock.  Bad plan. The Hebrews got their water, but Moses lost out.

Friends, decisions matter. It simply doesn’t matter who we are, or what we have done for the Lord. We can find a lifetime of work undone in a moment by a rash, impulsive decision. We can see a future life trashed by a rash, impulsive decision.

Think. Don’t be rash. If God has said: do it this way, then do it that way.

Follow Me-A Prophet Stays in His Lane

Isaiah 40:3-5 

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Not only was John the Baptist called by God, but God prophesied his calling through the Prophet Isaiah some 700 hundred years before he appeared on the scene.

John’s entire life was of serious note. There had not been a prophet in Israel for some 400 years since Malachi; God had seemingly been silent for all of the time. Then John the Baptist burst on the scene.

Even John’s birth was notable, as he was born to a couple far beyond childbearing years, Zechariah and Elizabeth. The birth of John the Baptist was special to our Lord:

Luke 1:15-17  For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

John the Baptist was a rock star, so to speak. He preached in the desert, famously living on locusts and wild honey, garbed in his camel hair raiment. He attracted crowds, he had disciples, and He even baptized the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. John was in the big time, and in God’s plan was a VERY important man.

Yet John, as our title says, stayed in his lane. Some may have thought John the Baptist was actually the Messiah. Despite fame and followers, John knew his place and what his mission was.

Before he was even born, he knew his Lord when he saw him. As the pregnant Mary is greeted by the pregnant Elizabeth, her cousin, we see this:

Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

As an adult, John knew who he was, and who he was not

John 3:28  Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.

Matthew 3:13-15  Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

John 3:30  He must increase, but I must decrease.

John the Baptist knew that his role in the Kingdom was not about him and that it was about Jesus. Despite his notability and his own fame, he never stepped out of his bounds; he stayed in his lane. Ultimately, he gave his very life, literally leaving the picture as our Lord rose in prominence.

Friends, we need to remember that also. Today, famous preachers and personalities are a dime a dozen, and many seem to be pretty full of themselves. Sometimes Jesus seems to be completely missing from the word they speak. But, we can also fall into that same trap. Some teach, some sing, some preach and others do things that tend to thrust them into the limelight. Even bloggers can fall into the same trap.

John never forgot what his place was, and we need to remember that ourselves.

Follow Me-God Saves a Patriarch

Genesis 12:1-4 

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

Hebrews 11:8-10 

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Hebrews 11:17-19 

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

Romans 4:22 

And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

Read the above passages, in the context they appear(full chapters,) and I need to write no more, as the post will have written itself. I think they will make the point here just fine; nonetheless, I will write.

The question sometimes comes up, “How were Old Testament saints saved?” Friends, they were saved exactly the same way we are and are excluded from salvation the same way some are today. Many have this idea that somehow salvation in olden times was the Law and Works, and that today it is all faith in Jesus Christ. This is not so; salvation has always been by faith, ultimately in the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation has NEVER been attainable for us by our works and efforts.

Revelation through God’s Word has always been successive and in stages. Abraham had only the promise of God and the promise that he would be a great nation. His promise was that his line would produce the Messiah. Later in history, the people had the clear promise of a Messiah who would come and rescue them. Friends, the promise has been fulfilled and today the promise of the Messiah has been fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friends, salvation has always been by grace, through faith. It was true for Abraham, and it is true for us. What we DO never restores us to God; the only thing that matters is what we do with His promise to us.

 

Follow Me-Burn Your Oxen

1 Kings 19:21 

And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.

1 Kings 19:15-21

As we read this story, we see the great Prophet Elijah nearing the end of his ministry; in fact, he had been commanded by God to pass his mantle on the man God had selected to be his successor, Elisha. Elijah did as he was told, and encountered the future prophet Elisha plowing his fields, and cast his mantle upon him. In this way, he signified the calling of Elisha. The mantle or cape of a prophet was a sign of his station; Elisha would have known immediately what the casting of it on him meant.

Elisha was plowing with a 12 yoke of oxen. This would be in today’s frame of reference, the biggest, fanciest combine a farmer could buy. Elisha was NOT some small time farmer; he had stuff and was likely not a poor man. He was also a gainfully employed, very busy man. The future prophet was not looking for something to do; he had plenty to do.

Notice how Elisha had to run after Elijah. Elijah didn’t wait around talking, he just tossed the cape and kept on going. Elisha understood and had a decision to make. He immediately ran after Elijah and asked to tell his mother and father goodbye. He did just that apparently. He also did far more than that; he burned his oxen, his plow and all of his equipment. Clearly, Elisha was never going back; he was committed!

When God calls us, do we turn our back on what and who we were and answer? Nobody is suggesting we necessarily burn our house down, or set fire to our car; the thought, however, remains the same. Too often we “follow” God but keep a handy back up plan in place in case things don’t work out. If the calling is a true one, we don’t NEED a backup plan. If we answer, God will equip and provide.

Follow Me-A Judge With Issues

Read the full story of Samson here

Hebrews 11:32-34

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

Well, Samson is certainly an interesting story, isn’t he? If one reads the thoughts of writers and commentators on Samson, you can actually find quite a bit of controversy. In fact, folks are pretty harsh on Samson, and many question his status as a man of faith at all. So, let’s dispel that thought right away; Samson is found in Hebrews 11 among those listed as men and women of faith. God inspired the writer of that book to put him there. God knows the heart of man, and God put Samson on that list. That really settles it, don’t you think?

It’s odd, but we don’t see Samson actually communicating with God directly until the end of his story; that certainly seems to cast doubts as to his faith. His call seems not to have come directly to him, but to his mother. As was typical, the Israelites had turned away from God and were being chastised once again. In this case, it was the Philistines. God, knowing they would need a rescuer, called Samson before he was even born to be the one to deliver them from the hand of their oppressors. The Angel of the Lord appeared to the wife of Samson’s father, Manoah the Danite, with the following:

Judges 13:1-5 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.

God called Samson, and God had a plan for him. I can’t help but think Samson knew all of this; that seems pretty self-evident, as his mother certainly would have shared with him what had happened to her. Samson would have been raised in a household of faith, understood what his God was about and understood the role God had called him for.

That didn’t seem to help much, did it? We don’t need to recount all of the sordid details here, but sordid they are. Samson’s list of transgressions is long, for sure. He disrespected his parents, he broke his Nazarite vows over and over, he chased women including prostitutes, he reacted out of anger, he killed, he was prideful of his strength and prowess and the list goes on and on.

There’s only a couple of brief thoughts I would offer here in regards to the life of Samson, as to really explore him would take an entire series.

First, God was not clueless about the nature of the man He himself had created. While this is no excuse for behavior that is offensive to God, God uses all things for His good and His sovereign plan. That includes even our flaws and mistakes. We see this in chapter 14 when Samson went to his parents regarding marrying the Philistine woman he had become smitten with. First, the Jews just weren’t supposed to marry gentiles, much less a woman of the enemy. Second, he disregarded the good advice of his parents. Under the absolute domination of his hormones and fleshly desires, Samson did what he always did: what he wanted, when he wanted, and how he wanted. It did not end well. Pride was hurt, violence ensued and folks died. Specifically, Philistines died. When God allowed this to happen, he was laying the groundwork for Samson to exercise God’s judgment on the Philistines.

Judges 14:2-4 King And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

Samson certainly did his job well. Philistines continued to die at an alarming rate, he was betrayed multiple times by both a woman and his own people. Ultimately he ended up in the hands of the Philistines with his eyes gouged out grinding grain. What a sad ending right? No, we know the story didn’t end there. Samson finished well. Despite his failures as a man, despite his failures to adhere to the law he had been given, despite his failure in all the works he wrought with his own hand, in the end, Samson finished well. They brought him out before the Philistine elites in the Temple of their god, Dagon, to mock and humiliate him before all the people…some 3000 of the who’s who of the Philistines.

Judges 16:27-30 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. And Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.

Friends, Samson believed God, and his inclusion in Hebrews 11 tells us that this was credited to him for righteousness. This in no way teaches us that we can just do as we wish for our lives, as that would be a serious presumption on God’s grace. But it does teach that we can’t earn that grace and that no one is outside the reach of that grace. In the end, Samson did what really matters. He believed God. Have you?

 

 

 

 

Follow Me-Jesus Calls a Harlot

Most of us are familiar with the story of Rahab the harlot. If readers want a refresher, read the story beginning Here. Jericho, where Rahab lived, was right in the path the Israelites were to take after crossing the Jordan River as they began their march into and conquest of the promised land. Joshua had sent two men into Jericho to spy and gather intelligence about the city prior to the arrival of the Israelite army. Rahab, a local prostitute, hid the spies from the authorities, protected them, and aided them in accomplishing their mission and escaping.

As we all know, Jericho was ultimately destroyed by the advancing Israelites, while Rahab and her family were spared. So, this is a good time to cover what, to some, is an offensive episode in the Bible. In fact, it is among the episodes described in Scripture often cited to justify non-belief in God. After all, what kind of god could do such a thing? So, let’s take an honest look at what happened. In a nutshell, the city was completely destroyed by the Israelite armies, and every living person in it was killed.(With a few exceptions, as we will see.) This cannot really be sugarcoated, as those are the facts as presented in the Bible.

Was God just and fair? Of course, He was, as God is always just and His ways are always fair. The truth is, Jericho was a hotbed of pagan idol worship, in particular, the goddess Ashtaroth who was the moon Goddess. This was a pagan, evil city which had rejected God and was deserving of His judgment.

So, of course, the question arises: How is it fair to destroy all of those people who had never even had the chance to come to know God? After all, no missionary or preacher had ever come to them and told them, right? Let’s take a look at Rahab, then.

Rahab lived in the city also. Obviously, the march of the Israelites was well known, as Rahab mentioned the citizens knowing of them since the crossing of the Red Sea 40 years previously. So, Rahab, as well as everyone else, knew all about them. Jericho was a thoroughly pagan city, coming to a different belief system than that was no doubt extremely difficult. Finally, Rahab had no first-hand information from a believer concerning the One True God. Yet, she said the following to the spies in Joshua 2:11 “And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.”

Notice something very important there; everyone was scared, but not all honestly sought and came to believe. Rahab didn’t know much, and she certainly had no proof. What she did have was a choice, and she made the choice to act by faith. Guess what? Her faith saved her, literally and spiritually.

Who all heard the news in that city? Everyone. Who chose to act in faith and believe? Rahab and her family. Here is another thought. God knew there were a woman and family in that town honestly seeking after Him. Remember how Jericho was destroyed? It just fell down. Those spies were not needed! Here is some food for thought: maybe those spies weren’t sent to spy, but to be witnesses to Rahab of the true God. She honestly sought Him, and He sent somebody to her.

God still does that today. I know of a missionary who answered a call from God to go to Mongolia and preach the gospel. Why Mongolia of all places? Maybe there was a Rahab there, maybe there was some single person who was honestly seeking the knowledge of God. Now guess what? There is a man there ready to tell that person all about Jesus.

Friends, God is calling. We aren’t all called by a burning bush, or by a visit from the Angel of the Lord. Some of us have far less than that. Some of us have only the innate knowledge we have of God and our own conscience. Rahab didn’t have much, but she responded. If you are reading this, you know far more than she knew. What is YOUR response?

Follow Me-A Scared Warrior of God

Well, here we go again! As was so typical during the time of the Judges in Israel, the nation had slipped off into sin and rebellion against God. As was also typical, God removed His protection from them, and their enemies executed God’s judgment on them. As is further typical, they eventually realized what was going on, cried out to God in belief to save them, and He sent a rescuer. This is where Gideon shows up.

Judges 6:11

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.

Judges 8:28

Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.

Read Judges Chapter 6 here

Read Judges Chapter 7 here

Read Judges Chapter 8 here

In between those two passages a whole lot of story took place, and we really don’t have time and space to talk about it in detail. Read the story, though, as it is quite a read.

What’s the back story here? Well, the Midianites, in loose alliances with a bunch of other “ites,” were constantly raiding the farms and settlements of the Israelites and stealing their stuff. The people were scared to put it bluntly. So, in the midst of this, we have poor Gideon threshing wheat by the winepress. Threshing wheat requires some things to be done effectively. Among things of note would be a prominent place, probably on a hill, with a good breeze and some infrastructure to make it easier. These things are all needed to be able to stir up the wheat, let the chaff blow away and reclaim the wheat kernels for use. Yet, here we see Gideon and crew down by the winepress, behind an oak tree, striving strenuously to thresh that wheat. It may be they simply didn’t have much to thresh. It may be they ran up the hill with small loads to frantically toss them in the air. Either way, their fear had driven them to conduct their threshing operation in a really inconvenient way.

Then this:

Judges 6:12 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.

Can you say irony? I actually chuckle each and every time I read that verse because on the surface it seems absurd. Obviously, Gideon was NOT a great man of valor, because he was hiding by the winepress trying to thresh wheat!

Friends, I won’t even try to really dig into this whole story; you can all read it for yourselves. That verse, while seeming absurd on the surface, actually illustrates a wonderful lesson to us all.

God knows who we are and what we can do. God knows the end from the beginning and knew that, in the God view of time, Gideon WAS a great man of valor. It became so when God stated it. As the saying goes, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” All that had to take place was for Gideon to answer that call. He did. Will we?

Gideon had great faith. Many seem to dwell on Gideon’s asking for signs from God as a sign of weakness, but that is probably a bit harsh. Signs are a way back then for one claiming to be a messenger of God to prove his bona fides, so to speak. Once the deal was settled, Gideon moved forward in faith and executed just what God said, even when the direction must have seemed simply crazy.

Gideon understood very precisely the role he had played in the great victory the Israelites ultimately won over their oppressors:

Judges 8:22-23  Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.

We can get trapped after great success to want to pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves we are wonderful. Especially when every around us is telling is that. Gideon clearly understood what his role had been here, and offered the glory of the success back to the One who gave it. That’s a good thing for us each to remember when we start to get full of ourselves.

My friends, God has a call of each of us. If you are lost, He is calling you to salvation. If you are saved, He has a work for you. It may seem overwhelming, and impossible to accomplish. Those things may be true if it were just up to us. It’s not, however; the strength to do what says comes from God, and He secures the victory.

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