Monday, June 11, 2012

Gideon (part 2 of 2)

Gideon, who now appears to be operating in a fully conscious awareness of the similarities between what he is presently experiencing and that which was reported to have been experienced by Moses, audaciously responds to the Lord’s words with, “If You really are pleased with me, then give me a sign as proof that it is really You speaking with me” (6:17).  Why did Gideon react in such a way?  It might very well be because Moses, after being told that the Lord will be with Him (as Gideon has also now experienced), is told by God (without Moses asking) “and this will be the sign to you that I have sent you: When you bring the people out of Egypt, you and they will serve God on this mountain” (3:12b). 

In that, God says to Moses, “I’ll be right here waiting for you when you come out of Egypt.  That will serve as the sign that all you are about to do has been ordained by Me.”  After his own instance of asking for a sign, Gideon sets part of the terms of his acceptance of the sign, saying, “Do not leave this place until I come back with a gift and present it to you” (6:18a).  In return, “The Lord said, ‘I will stay here until you come back’.” (6:18b).  Is that not what the Lord said to Moses as well?  God was sending Moses to Egypt so that Moses could come back with a gift (Israel) and present it to the Lord, basically saying, “I will stay here until you come back.” 

With the overt connection that we see between Gideon and Moses, especially in the area of their calling, and in conjunction with the situation of their people in exile and under the oppression of foreign subjugators, there is little reason to belabor the point.  Gideon is a deliverer in the mold of Moses, God’s people are groaning and crying out to the Lord because they are in exile, and an exodus is very much needed.  Through Gideon, God will bring about deliverance, and in the process He will move forward His schematic of cosmic salvation, which He is effecting through His chosen people, always doing so through a specific deliverer. 

Before leaving Gideon however, there is one portion of his story that, without making a connection between he and Moses in the larger framework of exile and exodus, is easily overlooked.  That portion is Gideon’s tearing down of the Baal and the Asherah.  This too is very much in the mold of Moses, as when Moses went to Egypt, the miracles and the plagues that were brought about at his request were very much a challenge to Egypt’s gods.  Two prominent gods were the sun and the Nile.  Turning the water of the Nile into blood, together with the plague of darkness throughout Egypt, was at least partially designed to show forth the powerlessness of Egypt’s gods in the face of the God of Israel.  We see this reflected in the story of Gideon, as after Gideon pulls down the altar of Baal and the Asherah pole, the men of the city desired to execute Gideon.  Gideon’s father interceded on behalf of his son and said to those men, “Must you fight Baal’s battles?  Must you rescue him?  Whoever takes up his cause will die by morning.  If he really is a god, let him fight his own battles!  After all, it was his altar that was pulled down” (Judges 6:31).  Just as the sun and the Nile were powerless to change what was happening to them because of the might of Israel’s God, so too was Baal.  In fact, Baal was brought down by a man, so the clear connotation is that he could not possibly be a god. 

We will not traverse the well-known and popular story of Gideon’s victory, as it will suffice to say that Midian was defeated, and therefore exile was ended.  God’s people were once again exodus-ed into His purposes for them.  However, it is clear from the Biblical presentation that Baal worship continued in Israel up to and after the time of Gideon’s death, and that it was probably owing to this fact that confusion and chaos reigned for a time following Gideon’s departure from the scene.  In spite of this, however, we do not see Israel re-subjugated into a state of exile.  

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