May 5: Believing in the Impossible
Judges 8:1–9:21; Philippians 2:12–18; Psalm 67:1–7
Too often, we’re cynical about circumstances. When people come to us for advice, we want to list all the reasons why they shouldn’t take a certain course of action. We want to dissuade them. But what if we had a little faith instead?
In Judges, we find someone who is surprisingly idealistic. When the men of Ephraim oppose Gideon, he says, “What have I done now in comparison to you? Are not the gleanings of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? God has given into your hand the commanders of Midian, Oreb, and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” (Judg 8:2–3).
Gideon cleverly couches his request in the middle of compliments; he places positives on either side of it. He wins back their favor: “And their anger against him subsided when he said that” (Judg 8:3).
Gideon’s motives were flawed, theologically or interpersonally, but his actions do teach us something fascinating. People often want to be told that they can accomplish the impossible. Those who believe in the impossible can often accomplish things that others can’t. Of course, Gideon was audacious; he and the men from Ephraim could have been crushed by these warring nations of mightier strength and military intelligence. Surprisingly, in this circumstance, he succeeded (Judg 8:15–17).
We shouldn’t necessarily look to Gideon as a shining example (he makes lots of mistakes). But this incident is a reminder that we need to carefully consider our interactions with those we influence. What if we chose to be encouraging? What if we didn’t default to cynic mode? When someone comes to you for advice, consider the work that God might be working in that person. If He deems that they are worthy, they will accomplish their work—even if everything looks bleak at first.
Who can you encourage? How can you affirm people’s calling?
JOHN D. BARRY
- Then the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? and they chide him with sharply. To whom he said, What have I now done, in comparison of you? is not the gleaning of grapes of Ephraim better, than the vintage of Abiezer? God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? and when he had thus spoken, then their spirits abasted toward him. And Gideon came to Jordan to pass over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, weary, yet pursuing them. And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, morsels of bread unto the people that follow me (for they be weary) that I may follow after Zebah and Zalmunna Kings of Midian. And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hands, that we should give bread unto thine army? Gideon then said, Therefore when the Lord hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, I will tear your flesh with thorns of the wilderness and with briers. And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise, and the men of Penuel answered him, as the men of Succoth answered. And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise, and the men of Penuel answered him, as the men of Succoth answered. And he said also unto the men of Penuel, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower. Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their hosts with them, about fifteen thousand, all that were left of all the hosts of them of the East: for there was slain an hundred and twenty thousand men, that drew swords. And Gideon went through them that dwelt in Tabernacles on the East side of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host: for the host was careless. And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he followed after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host. So Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle, the sun being yet high, And took a servant of the men of Succoth, and said, Behold Zebah, and Zalmunna, by whom ye upbraided me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah, and Zalmunna already in thine hands, that we should give bread unto thy weary men? Then he took the Elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and did tear the men of Succoth with them. Also he brake down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city. Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they, whom ye slew at Tabor? And they answered, As thou art, so were they, every one was like the children of a king. And he said, They were my brethren, even my mother’s children: as the Lord liveth, if ye had saved their lives, I would not slay you. Then he said unto Jether his firstborn son, Up, and slay them: but the boy drew not his sword: for he feared, because he was yet young. Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength. And Gideon arose and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments, that were on their camels’ necks. Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Reign thou over us, both thou, and thy son and thy son’s son: for thou hast delivered us out of the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not reign over you, neither shall my child reign over you, but the Lord shall reign over you. Again Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that you would give me every man the earrings of his prey (for they [had] golden earrings because they were Ishmaleites.) And they answered, We will give them, And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. And the weight of the golden earrings that he required, was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold, beside collars and jewels, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about the camels’ necks. And Gideon made an Ephod thereof, and put it in Ophrah his city: and all Israel went a whoring there after it, which was the destruction of Gideon and his house. Thus was Midian brought low 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. Then Jerubbaal the son of Joash went, and dwelt in his own house. And Gideon had seventy sons begotten of his body: for he had many wives. And his concubine that was in Shechem, have him a son also, whose name was called Abimelech. So Gideon the son of Joash died in a good age, and was buried in the sepulcher of Joash his father in Ophrah, of the father of the Abiezrites. But when Gideon was dead, the children of Israel turned away, and went a whoring after Baal, and made Baal-Berith their god. And the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God, which had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side. Neither showed they mercy on the house of Jerubbabel, or Gideon, according to the goodness which he had showed unto Israel. Then Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went ot Shechem unto his mother’s brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family, and house of his mother’s father, saying, Say, I pray you, in the audience of all the men of Shechem, Whether is better for ou, that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which are seventy persons, reign over you, either that one reign over you? Remember also, that I am your bone, and your flesh. Then his mother’s brethen spake of him in the audience of all the men of Shechem, all these words: and their hearts were moved to follow Abimelech: for said they, He is our brother. And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-Berith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light fellows which followed him. And he went unto his father’s house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren, the sons of Jerubbaal, about seventy persons upon one stone: yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left: for he hid himself. And all the men of Shechem gathered together with all the house of Millo, and came and made Abimelech King in the plain, where the stone was erected in Shechem. And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, you men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. The trees went forth to anoint a King over them, and said unto the Olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the Olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to advance me above the trees? Then the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and be king over us. But the fig tree answered them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to advance me above the trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and be king over us. But the vine said unto them, Shoudl I leave my vine, whereby I cheer God and man, and go to advance me above the trees? Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If ye will indeed anoint me king over you, come, and put your trust under my shadow: and if not, the fire shall come out of the bramble, and consume the Cedars of Lebanon. Now therefore, if ye do truly and incorruptly to make Abimelech King, and if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal and with his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands, (For my father fought for you, and adventured his life, and delivered you out of the hands of the Midian. And ye are risen up against my father’s house this day, and have slain his children, about seventy persons upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother.) If ye then have dealt truly and purely with Jerubbaal, and with his house this day, then rejoice ye with Abimelech, and consume the men of Shechem and the house of Millo: also let a fire come forth from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and consume Abimelech. And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer, and dwelt there for fear of Abimelech. Judges 8:1–9:21
- Wherefore my beloved, as ye have always obeyed me, not as in my presence only, but now much more in mine absence, so make an end of your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both the will and the deed, even of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmuring and reasonings, That ye may be blameless, and pure, and the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a naughty and crooked nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, Holding forth the word of ilfe, that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither have labored in vain. Yea, and though I be offered up upon the sacrifice, and service of your faith, I am glad, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also be ye glad, and rejoice with me. Philippians 2:12–18
- God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and cause his face to shine among us. (Selah.) That they may know thy way upon the earth, and thy saving health among all nations. Le the people praise thee, O God: let all the people praise thee. Let the people be glad and rejoice: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon the earth. Selah. Let the people praise thee, O God: let all the people praise thee. Then shall the earth bring forth her increase, and God, even our God shall bless us. God shall bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear him. Psalm 67:1–7