As promised, I am going to start doing book reviews. These book reviews are meant to be an introduction to a resource. I cannot guarantee that they are all going to be particularly great, but I will try to provide my honest assessment of these materials.
In today’s chapter, God raises up the fifth Judge in Israel’s history, Gideon. After 7 years of oppression from the Midianites, God tells Gideon that he will rescue Israel from them. God then called Gideon to break down an altar to Baal that was within his town, and cut down the Asherah poles. When he did, he then built an altar to God in their place and sacrificed a bull. Then the people of Midian, Amalek and others in the east formed an alliance against the people of Israel. Gideon called forth an army from the people of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Nephtali. Gideon then asked God to give him two signs to prove that God was going to use him to bring His people out of oppression.
The most meaningful part of this chapter, to me, was Joash’s reaction to what Gideon had done to the altar of Baal. Upon discovering that the altar had been destroyed, the people formed a mob and searched for the person responsible. After asking around they discovered that Gideon was responsible. The mob approached his father’s house and demanded that Gideon be handed over to them so he could be killed. Joash’s response was, “Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar” (6:31, NLT). Joash was defending his son and also calling out the false God. Joash knew that the Israelites were not to worship other gods. So this was also a play to bring the people back to God.
How hard is it for us to stand up for what is right? Especially when everyone around is telling you that you are wrong? God calls us to stand up for righteousness, and fight off the ways of the world. The mob that formed was telling Joash’s family that it is wrong for them to worship any god but Baal. Yet the first Commandment stands against this. Which is right? And which is easier to stand up for? Being against everyone around is a hard place to be. But God doesn’t ask us to agree with the people around us. He asks us to follow Him, and live according to His Word. It’s not easy. It may cause you to stand up to a mob. But that’s the life that we are called to live, because that’s the life Jesus lead. He faced people who were against him all the way until he died on the Cross. So we must stand strong, and know that God is with us! “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31, NLT).
I’ve been working on some new music here lately, and I’ve been drawn to a rather odd place in Scripture. I’ve been taken into my second favorite grouping of Scripture, the minor prophets (my first favorite being the Pauline epistles). I only say that it’s an odd place in Scripture because they seem to be the most infrequently used books of the Bible. I have heard countless sermons, read countless books, and done countless Bible studies; yet no one seems to think about the books from Joel-Malachi (with the possible exception of Jonah; that dude is always mentioned in children’s Bibles). However, there is a lot of really good wisdom to be found in these books.
I have been reading in the book of Habakkuk here lately. It’s pronounced exactly the way it looks (Ha-back-uck). The book is a conversation between God and the prophet. During this time, Judah has had many wicked kings, the people seem to be falling away from God, and the people of God were being persecuted against. Habakkuk is asking God why He does nothing while evil people prosper. God responds to Habakkuk showing how the wicked will be punished, yet He shows that this will happen in the future, not in the present (Habakkuk 2:3).
This is a question that we all wrestle with. Paul writes about it in 2 Thessalonians stating, “In his justice he will pay back those who persecute you.” (1:6 NLT). He goes on to talk about that punishment. I’m pretty sure the point being that the wicked maybe prosperous now while we suffer, but after death they will suffer for all eternity.
Honestly, it’s a question we all ask sometimes. When I get feeling down and wonder why people, who don’t follow Jesus, have more/better than me, I find comfort in the words of Habakkuk.The wicked may get a great life here on earth. The righteous may not. But ultimately, the true prize is salvation through Jesus Christ. He gave us eternal life, and blessings. Our true treasures are stored up in heaven, not here on earth. I suggest giving the book a good read sometime. It can give some great comfort in a world that look like Judah did then.
Something I think most of us have trouble with is bridging a connection between the Old and New Testaments. We find it pretty easy, as Christians, to connect with Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the rest of the New Testament, but the Old just seems a little irrelevant. I, however, disagree with that thought. The Old Testament is what gives us the frame of reference for why Jesus is important.
I think that in this chapter, Paul does a very good job “bridging the gap”. In the previous chapters, he began to roll out his argument that all you have to do for salvation is have faith. This concept was obviously a little hard for the ancient Hebrews, and Gentiles, to understand. So Paul made a case for the main figure in the Jewish faith.
Paul spoke of Abraham, the father of the entire Israelite nation. Abraham was the man that God came to in Genesis 12, and made him a promise based on his faith and righteousness. Paul states, “Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith. But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!” (4:9b-10 NLT).
The circumcision issue being raised here, I’m sure comes from some of the debate going on with the Roman church. Many times Paul has had to combat the issues of being bound by the Law while also accepting Christ. One of the points being made was that Gentile Christians had to become circumcised because that was part of the Law. But Paul disagrees. His statement is, once again, that faith is what is necessary for salvation, not Law. He speaks of Abraham because he is one of the highest people in the Jewish faith. He wasn’t circumcised, but God counted his faith to him as righteousness. Not because he was following the Law (which hadn’t been written yet) but because He believed in God and in His promises.
So where’s the connection? It is through our faith in Jesus. “So the promise [given to Abraham] is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.” (4:16 NLT).
For us today, this means that we still get to be recipients of God’s promises because of our belief in Jesus Christ. His sacrifice opened the door to us Gentiles, and allowed us to have salvation as well. People still come up to us and say that we are doing the wrong thing, or we need to be doing something else. But honestly, so long as we have our faith in Jesus we get to be counted among Abraham’s children as the People of God!