The very first question to ask

Published 2:53 pm Sunday, June 2, 2024

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By R.A. Mathews

The day began with an angel.

He appeared as a man with a staff and sat beneath an oak tree, watching a warrior beating out wheat. Mind you, the warrior was not on an open threshing floor. Instead, he had hid himself inside a winepress as he worked.

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Gideon had no choice.

It seems that a coalition of countries had come against Israel for years, wiping out the nation’s sustenance. As a result, the people had turned to caves in the Promised Land and to threshing wheat in hiding. Here’s the passage.

“Because of Midian the sons of Israel made for themselves the dens which were in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. For whenever Israel had sown, the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites and the people of the east…  and destroy the produce…  and leave no sustenance in Israel, nor a sheep, ox, or donkey,” (Judges 6:2-5).

The Midianite crisis happened roughly two hundred years after God’s people had boldly crossed the Jordan River with God holding back the waters. They now cried to the Lord.

So God sent a prophet. It seems the Israelites had turned to Baal, the god of fertility, the lord of rain and dew, necessary for bountiful harvests. God’s children didn’t see Baal as a bad thing. Afterall, they hadn’t turned away from the Lord, just “added” to Him.

That’s when God took matters into His own hands. His angel came to the warrior beating wheat in a winepress. The angel then moved closer.

Speaking to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, valiant warrior,” (Judges 6:12). Listen to the bitter response.

“Then Gideon said to him, ‘…  if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles…  the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to Midian,’” (Judges 6:13).

But the angel had a mission. “Go in this strength of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” (Judges 6:14).

Just as Moses had argued with God, Gideon did the same. “‘…  how am I to save Israel? …  my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.’ Yet the Lord said to him, ‘I will certainly be with you … ’” (Judges 6:15-16).

Gideon then asked for a sign.

He placed meat and bread before the man, who touched it with his staff and fire appeared. Gideon suddenly realized that the man with the staff was an angel.

That’s how it is with angels. Roughly 1,000 years later, the author of Hebrews would say, “some have entertained angels unaware,” (Judges 6:21-24) (Hebrews 13:2).

But first things first.

Gideon needed to get his people right with God. He is commissioned to destroy the idols ” a crime punishable by death. Here’s what happened.

“The Lord said to him, ‘…  tear down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father … ’ Then Gideon took ten men…  and because he was too afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city to do it by day, he did it by night, (Judges 6:25-27).

Sure enough, when the townspeople found out who had committed this heinous crime, they sought the severest of punishments. “The men of the city said to Joash, ‘Bring out your son, that he may die… ” (Judges 6:30).

Gideon’s father, a man of great influence, replied with striking words that changed the course of history. “Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal …  If he is a god, let him contend for himself,” (Judges 6:31).

In other words, let your god fight his own battles. The words reverberated, and God’s people saw just how inept Baal was.

This is not the end of Gideon’s story”it’s the beginning. The Midianites had returned.

Next week, we’ll see how this powerful moment in Israel’s history unfolds. A scene that began with an angel and a warrior.

Both Israel and Gideon had refused to deal with this one question: Am I right with God? But once Gideon destroyed the idol worship, God began leading him.

It’s the very first question we all must ask. When faced with calamity, look to heaven and say, “Am I right with you, Lord?”

God will guide you. He will fight for you. But remember to fight for Him.

The Rev. Mathews (BA, MDiv, JD) is a newspaper faith columnist and the author of Emerald Coast: The Vendetta. Write to her at (Just one t in Mathews)

Copyright © 2024 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.