By Thom Mollohan
Troubling times? Well, yeah. But not for the reasons we might think. If our nation, our world, is in a mess right now it’s not because of terrorists. It’s not the economy either, and it’s not necessarily due to any of the recent devastating natural disasters. No, what makes these times truly troubling is our calloused hearts and indifferent attitudes towards our Maker. Nonetheless, the Lord has His eye on you and desires to break through the racket of everyday static, reaching straight to your heart.
What’s stopping Him? Glad you asked. In a word: “idolatry.”
Idolatry isn’t just a stone statue on the mantel or rabbit’s foot in our pocket. Neither is it a daily horoscope addiction or occasional visit to the palm reader. Idolatry is anything to which we selfishly devote our time, energy and resources and it is also trying to make God something that He is not. Viewing God as a wish granter, or some vague force that we hope will ensure that we live pleasant lives, is the same as bowing down to an idol in the form of our false concept of God. Historically speaking, it’s the human thing to do. But God has higher hopes for us than this.
In Judges 6:7-10, the Israelites slip once again into idolatry. “When the Israelites cried out to the LORD because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. I said to you, “I am the LORD your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.” But you have not listened to me.’”
Baal and Asherah – Canaanite forms of Ishtar – were the Israelites idols of choice at that time.
God’s people had so muddled their worship with trust in the Baals and Asherahs that they barely worshiped God at all. To really worship Him, one must bow to His supremacy in all things and depose of all the competition. Consequently, God permitted trouble to wash over them until they simply couldn’t stand it anymore. Foreign invaders oppressed and so effectively impoverished them that the Israelites had to keep secret places of safety for themselves and for their crops.
But in spite of their obstinate refusal to give up their idol worship, God showed them grace. It so happened that in this particular instance, God sent His angel to an unsuspecting man named Gideon who was secretly threshing his wheat in a winepress – the bad guys would have swiped it all if he did it in the open. (By the way, it doesn’t matter to God where you are, what you’re doing or who you think may have forgotten about you.)
“When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.’ ‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, “Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?” But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.’ The LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?’ ‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’ The LORD answered, ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive’” (Judges 6:12-16).
And so began the greatest adventure that Gideon had ever known. It started with Gideon offering genuine worship to God (Judges 6:17-24). The very next thing he did was become a catalyst in his family, town and people for spiritual truth and he radically challenged their worship of idols (Judges 6:25-32). Notice that God didn’t just wink at their spiritual adultery while setting them free from their oppression: He was determined to attack their spiritual oppressors first!
After the Lord had addressed their spiritual need, He set Gideon to the task of preparing an army which God promptly whittled down to a mere 300 men – any more than that would have raised some doubt about who really was going to win the battle for them (Judges 7:1-7). (God is not interested in service to Him done in our own strength.)
Yet, God used this tiny group of 300 men to overthrow an army of about 135,000 warriors. Now, if the Lord can accomplish such an astounding victory with a small force like that, what can He do through you in the face of such adversaries as doubt, hate, grief, greed, hate and violence? What could He do with a man who would render Him sincere and unadulterated (unidolatrized) worship along with a life of wholehearted service? He can take someone like you and change the world. All He needs from you is a willingness to trust Him.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ… Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8, 10-11).
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 16 years and is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables. He is the pastor of Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).