Mar 10, 2010

Lessons From the Life of Gideon 9: No Neutral Ground

Considering the gracious leading and patience Gideon had received from God while in preparation for the great battle, it might seem ironic that Gideon would threaten (and carry out) such severe punishments on the residents of Succoth and Penuel for refusing to supply him and his men while they were pursuing the Midianites.
15He came to the men of Succoth and said, "Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning whom you taunted me, saying, 'Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are weary?'" 16He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them. 17He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city (Judges 8:15-17, NASB)
To help understand this, let’s take a look at the scene. First, we see Gideon and his 300 men (note that none had been killed because God was with them), crossing over the Jordan in pursuit of the Midianites. The enemy still fielded a sizable force of 15.000 men, even though 120,000 had fallen from internal fighting and at the hands of the combined forces of Israel that were mustered after the battle began.

Nevertheless they were fleeing before Gideon. The retreating enemy would have been visible to both Succoth and Penuel, even though it may have seemed to them like a vast pride of lions was being pursued by a little flock of goats.

Even so, the men of both cities responded to Gideon’s request for assistance, not with reluctance or even cautious aid, but with taunts. These were Israelites refusing help in the battle or even aid to their countrymen who were in harms way. While they may have believed they were preserving their cities by remaining neutral in the conflict, they actually became collaborators with the enemies of Israel. As a result, after the battle was won, the elders and men of Succoth and Penuel shared, in some measure, the lot of the enemy.

Mar 3, 2010


Jezreel Valley where Midian camped

Gideon had called for the people of Ephraim to cut off the retreat of the Midianites. They did so and captured and killed Oreb and Zeeb, two Midianite leaders. They brought their heads to Gideon, but were angry that he had not called them when he first went out to fight the Midianites.
1Then the men of Ephraim said to him, "What is this thing you have done to us, not calling us when you went to fight against Midian?" And they contended with him vigorously. (Judges 8:1, NASB)
We are not told why the men of Ephraim were so angry with Gideon or why Ephraim and Issachar, who each had territory bordering on the Jezreel Valley, were not initially called, when the other territories adjacent to Manasseh (Asher, Naphtali and Zebulun) were.

Instead of rebuking them for their pettiness, Gideon wisely consoled them. The once cynical Gideon had learned by God’s example of patience and grace towards him.
2But he said to them, "What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? 3"God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb into your hands; and what was I able to do in comparison with you?" Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that. (Judges 8: 2-3, NASB)
It is important also for us to remember that we Christians have been graced by God, and that we must offer to others who offend us, anger us, or just plain annoy us, the same grace that we have received from God.
“7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8which He lavished on us.” (Ephesians 1:7-8, NASB)
In Part 9: the aftermath. Why was there no mercy for the leaders of Midian and the two cities that would not help Gideon?

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission

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