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Today's Readings: Judges 7-8 | Isaiah 34 | James 5


Reading 1 - Jdg 7:15-24

"When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped God. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, 'Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.' Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside. 'Watch me,' he told them. 'Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, "For the LORD and for Gideon." '

"Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, 'A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!' "


"While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, 'Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Barah.' So all the men of Ephraim were called out and they took the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah" (Jdg 7:15-24).


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"From now on everything Gideon did was marked by the most complete confidence in God. So he well deserves to be included in Heb 11 with those who wrought 'by faith'. But -- it should be especially noted -- this was a faith maturing from personal experience of the ways of God.


"He now pushed forward preparations for the most unorthodox military operation in history. The three hundred elect were equipped with weapons of a unique kind. Trumpets were gathered from among the host, so that each of the three hundred might have one. Torches were fashioned and kindled, and carried in earthenware jars. Weapons they may have had, but not for use in the wild melee that was to ensue in this grotesque operation. Divided into three groups, these men of faith went forth into the night to take up assigned positions on the perimeter of the Midianite camp.


"His last instructions rang in their ears: 'Look on me, and do likewise -- as I do, so shall ye do.' Was the faith of these three hundred any less than that of Gideon himself? They were prepared to give implicit obedience in carrying through the most quixotic scheme ever detailed to a band of soldiers.


"Time passed slowly as they crept stealthily to their appointed stations. There they waited, tense and motionless. Then, suddenly the air was filled with a hideous crashing sound, the smashing of three hundred pitchers. Midianites, Amalekites, Arabians rushed forth in bewilderment and alarm from their tents to see all round the camp hundreds of torches describing vivid circles of fire like so many outsize Catherine wheels; and at that moment their ears were assailed by a deep-throated thunderous shout: 'The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon!'


"Immediately all was panic and chaos indescribable. Camels, plunging violently, broke their tethers and ran amok in the darkness and confusion. The startled Bedouin, already expecting the worst, were convinced that their enemies were in the midst of the camp in large numbers. Thus they fell to fighting furiously among themselves, an error made all the more easy since they were a mixture of at least three different tribes. And all the time there was this startling appearance of fire on the edge of the camp, as though supernatural powers were taking a hand in the bedlam of noise and carnage now rapidly intensifying. Many a son of Ishmael fell in violent bloody struggle that night as 'the Lord set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host.' At last, crazed with fear by unaccustomed sights and sounds and baffled by the mysterious destruction in their midst, the remnant broke and fled eastward through the night.


"As that night of horror passed, and morning broke over the shattered, mangled remnants of the camp, Gideon rapidly organized for instant pursuit and destruction of the enemy, the rest of his forces -- those out of the thirty-two thousand who had not yet gone back to their homes. Cross-country runners went out to the Ephraimite villages away to the southeast to warn fellow-Israelites there to hold the fords of Jordan. And the drama moved to the last act in the utter destruction of the hated Bedouin oppression" (Harry Whittaker, "Judges and Ruth").


Reading 2 - Isa 34:11-15

"The desert owl and screech owl will possess it; the great owl and the raven will nest there. God will stretch out over Edom the measuring line of chaos and the plumb line of desolation. Her nobles will have nothing there to be called a kingdom, all her princes will vanish away. Thorns will overrun her citadels, nettles and brambles her strongholds. She will become a haunt for jackals, a home for owls. Desert creatures will meet with hyenas, and wild goats will bleat to each other; there the night creatures will also repose and find for themselves places of rest.

The owl will nest there and lay eggs, she will hatch them, and care for her young under the shadow of her wings; there also the falcons will gather, each with its mate" (Isa 34:11-15).


"Edom [will be] a desert waste, because of violence done to the people of Judah, in whose land they shed innocent blood" (Joel 3:19).


As for the Last Days: "The most obvious outcome of this remarkable divine intervention will be the utter devastation of Esau's land for all time. The language of its wasteness is remarkably like that of Sodom and Gomorrah. How will this come about? It is tempting to assume that Israeli nuclear bombs will be used against an Arab oilfield so as to set going the mightiest conflagration the world has ever know. Sodom and Gomorrah over again, only worse. But how is one to reconcile this with the hint of cherubim of glory and divine action? There is a remarkable catena of prophecies which foretell that God will impose His final judgment on the nations by the simple device of allowing full rein to human devilry: Eze 38:21; Isa 24:19; 9:14 (= Jdg 7:22); Hag 2:22; Zec 14:13; Joel 3:11,12" (Harry Whittaker, "Isaiah" 338).


Reading 3 - James 5:7

"Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains" (James 5:7).

If I can be sure, when the time finally comes for the Great High Priest to return from the Most Holy Place bringing the final blessing.... that I'll still be here, waiting at my post, rejoicing in the tribulations which I endure, and having learned patience.... real PATIENCE...... enough for a lifetime, of broken hearts and broken dreams [sounds like a country western song, doesn't it?], of hurt feelings, of resentments, of disappointments, of bitterness, of ailments and illnesses, of the gradual and insidious decline of all my human powers, and the frustrations of coming short time and again of what I would like to be, but can't quite be, of asking forgiveness for the 490th time for the same sins, of forgiving others for the same number of times.... without throwing up my hands and walking away from the door of the temple. Out into the howling waste of a wilderness of snakes and scorpions -- where there is no hope and no life and no love... the wilderness where Judas went, and Cain, and Saul, and a million others -- who could not truly believe that the High Priest was coming to bring them the last great blessing. Yes, if I can only wait... long enough... then "I WILL BE saved" will turn into "I AM saved"! God give me strength enough to wait... that long. And I won't even care whether that strength should be called the Holy Spirit or something else...

 





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