Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gideon: Israel's Turning Point

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8
The structure of the Book of Judges is amazing.  A careful study will reveal that the judges, in the order of their appearance, are getting further from the truths taught them in the Law of Moses.  An even closer study will reveal that this book is written in a chiastic structure as was revealed in the book The Literary Structure of the Old Testament* by David Dorsey.  When the main judges are charted and compared, the pattern becomes obvious and the true message of the entire book becomes clear.  It is not how you start the race that counts, but how well you finish it!
Briefly, a chiasm is an ancient literary device that placed a symmetric pattern into the text.  The purpose was to highlight a specific theme.  This device is very common, and it is found in the New Testament as well.  Patterns revolve around a center point, a point of reflection, and the life of Gideon is the point of reflection in Judges.  Every judge before Gideon has predominately positive characteristics while those following him are mostly negative.  In future posts, these comparisons will be shown.
Chiastic pattern of Gideon
It was a grand day as recorded in Judges 6!  The LORD in pre-incarnate form visits Gideon and calls him to be a judge.  Furthermore, as He calls Gideon to battle the enemies of God, Jesus reveals himself as the LORD our Peace (a book could be written here but let's stick to the pattern).  Gideon then arises, builds an altar Orphah of the Abiezrites and offers a sacrifice.  He is on the mountain and ready to take on the enemies of the LORD.  Rising from the altar of worship he then casts down the nearby altar to the idol Baal.  Now go to Judges 8:27.  It is there we read these terrible words, "And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it..." Did you catch it?  The very place he arose in victory was the very place he fell in defeat.
After meeting the LORD, Gideon defeats the Midianites and assures his position as a judge of Israel.  Again, it was a glorious day for Israel.  Things were looking up, well almost.  Gideon forgot to call the tribe of Manasseh to battle.  They were not given a chance to be a part of the valiant 300.  It was at this point that the flesh and the adversary take over.  Petty jealousy rises and before you know it the valiant judge of Israel is seen fighting with Israelites.  His judgeship went down hill from there to Orphah where he made the ephod that led many astray.
So many start well but the flesh gets in the way and mars a great testimony.  They rise from the altar only to fall on it continually while woefully sobbing over their latest episode of outright rebellion.  Bitterness, jealousy, gossip and a whole host of nasty, fleshy sins seem to continually plague them and they never fully allow the image of Christ to be perfected in them.  Rather than being a witness to the world, they spend their time attacking their brothers and sisters in Christ. They constantly find themselves praying the repentant Psalm of David, Psalm 51.  God has better for us and pleads with us to live a life of surrender to Him.
What is the lesson for us?  Strive!  Thank God for the great gift of salvation!  Gideon was given a small mention in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11.  Yet, it is only a mention of his name among others whose antics often caused a duplicitous witness.  Again, thank God for grace.  Paul, however, had a much different idea.  He would follow the master in a relationship of total surrender.  His life would be devoted to Christ in ways that maybe even made others think he was a fanatic.  Paul revealed to his son in the faith, Timothy, it is not how you start but how you finish that counts.  What will you cast at the feet of Christ?  Will there be many trophies of victories fought and won in and through His presence and power, or will you stand at his throne, glad to be there, but empty handed?  Will you have a crown to toss at his feet in worship with all of the saints?
*Dorsey, David A.  The Literary Structure of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics 2004Gideon--Israel's Turning Point

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