Rocky Road Epistles Chapter 21

Many words have been written and spoken since the lockdown started.  In the early days, a joy when going out for a brief exercise, or to applaud the NHS on a Thursday evening, was the time and chance to speak to other people.  There was less rushing around and a greater sense of wanting to communicate with others.  Phone calls became especially important and some of us have conquered the use of Zoom on the computer, that is when Zoom does not conquer our attempts to connect.  I hope that as society continues to come out of lockdown, we will not go back into rushing around and not taking opportunities to speak to others.  Even if it is just a “Good Morning”, surely that should not be misunderstood!

Please note there is no Bible Study on Wednesday 12th August.


Reflection

From Phillip based on Judges 6 v 1-14

“God speaks in lockdown”
Biblical situations of lockdown by looking at the story of Gideon

After the Lord had rescued the Israelites and settled them in the promised land there should have come a time of quiet and stability.  But there wasn’t, for the people did not live by God’s standards and calamities came upon them.  Eventually they cried out to the Lord who rescued his people through a series of leaders, referred to as Judges.  One commentator describes the book of Judges as a series of R’s, Rebellion, Retribution, Repentance (of a sort) and then Rescue.  You will find it again and again throughout the book, for it did not happen once, but several times.

Prior to the story of Gideon, Israel had sinned and for seven years the Lord gave them into the hands of the Midianites.  These are graphically described, in verse 5, as coming like swarms of locusts.  If you have ever watched the animated film “A bug’s life”, you will know that the movie is about a colony of ants who are annually faced with a visit from a swarm of locusts.  The locusts leave the ants alone during the year, so that the ants cultivate and gather the crops, and only arrive at the last possible minute to carry off the best of the harvest.  I don’t know if the screenwriters knew their Old Testament, for the film reflects perfectly what was happening to Israel in the time of the Judges.  Consequently, the people were in lockdown, hidden away for fear of the enemy.  As verse 6 puts it, Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.

Frightened and hidden away, Gideon’s behaviour was typical of people in that situation in Israel.  In normal circumstances he would not have been threshing grain in a wine press, which is basically a hollowed-out depression in a rock.  It is poorly suited for winnowing wheat where wind is needed to carry the chaff away.  Gideon was doing it there because he was anxious about the Midianites and did not want to be seen.  Yet it is into that situation that God appeared.  He met Gideon, at his lowest point.  God did not wait for Gideon to feel better or think they that he could start to drive out the enemy on his own.  No, God met him in the pit.

I wonder what Gideon was thinking about as he was threshing the grain.  Perhaps he was pondering “where was God in all of this”?  Even though Gideon had hidden himself God was also there, under an oak tree and about to reveal himself.  But as Gideon looked up, there was no shimmering white light bursting from the base of the sacred oak.  Nor did he see the majestic spread of an angel’s wings or a halo circling a face of indescribable beauty.  No, he just saw a stranger sitting comfortably under the tree, no lightening, no thunder bolts.  Now I do not doubt for one moment that God could have acted in any or all of those ways, but that isn’t how God usually works, he didn’t for Gideon, so we shouldn’t think he will necessarily do that for us.

The stranger spoke with the words, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior" (v 12).  To judge by appearances Gideon was anything but a mighty warrior and he challenged what was said with the wonderful reply in verse 13, “Pardon me my lord, but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened?” 

There is no short answer to the “why” question, and Gideon certainly did not receive one, but what he did get was a command to go.  God never tells us everything that lies ahead, but we have the past and his presence with us for the present (as the future becomes the present).  Gideon describes himself as the least member of the weakest clan, he thought he was a nobody.  But the great news of this passage is that he was somebody with God.   God said to Gideon, what he had said to Moses, and through Jesus says to us, “I am with you always to the very end of the age”.  (Matthew 28 v20)

Gideon’s lockdown had been self-inflicted; he had hidden himself away for fear of the Midianites.  Concealed from the enemy and probably isolated from his family and friends he was nevertheless still contactable by God.  God spoke to Gideon first to reassure him that he, the Lord, was with him, and then he commissioned him with the words, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand” (v 14).  We have been in lockdown for the past few months and things have been different and at times difficult.  Shut off from others, we have still been known and loved by God.  As God spoke to Gideon in his lockdown, so he speaks to us with words to comfort and encourage us into what lies ahead. 

Next week we will continue looking at Biblical situations of lockdown by looking at the story of:

David fleeing from Absalom – “Getting right with God in lockdown” Psalm 3


Songs for Sunday

1. God has spoken by His prophets,
Spoken His unchanging word;
Each from age to age proclaiming
God the One, the righteous Lord
In the world’s despair and turmoil
One firm anchor still holds fast:
God is King, His throne eternal,
God the First and God the Last.

2. God has spoken by Christ Jesus,
Christ the everlasting Son;
Brightness of the Father’s glory
With the Father ever one.
Spoken by the word incarnate,
Life before all time began,
Light of light to earth descending,
God revealed as Son of Man.

3. God is speaking by His Spirit,
Speaking to our hearts again;
In the age-long word expounding
God’s own message, now as then.
Through the rise and fall of nations
One sure faith is standing fast:
God abides, His word unchanging,
God the First and God the Last.

George W.  Briggs
© 1952 Hope Publishing, CCLI #5638

God has spoken to His people
Alleluia!
and His words are words of wisdom,
Alleluia!

1. Open your ears, O Christian people,
open your ears, and hear good news;
open your ears, O royal priesthood,
God has come to you. 
            God has spoken to His people, …
 

2. They who have ears to hear His message,
they who have ears, then let them hear;
they who would learn the way of wisdom,
let them hear God’s word!
     God has spoken to His people, …

3. Israel comes to greet the Saviour,
Judah is glad to see His day;
from east and west the peoples travel,
He will show the way.
            God has spoken to His people, …

Willard F.  Jabusch
© 1966, CCLI #5638


Prayer

Our Father
we come to you our Father, thanking you for your great love for us, we bring to you those we love and who are on our hearts at this time.  We ask that you would bring comfort to those who have lost loved ones and bring peace to those who are worried about family or friends.

who art in heaven,
praise you that you reign overall, that you know all that happens in our lives and have a plan for us.  Help us to trust in you and your provision.

hallowed be thy name.
praise you that you hear us as we speak to you and that you want to speak into our lives.  Open our ears to hear you and our hearts to obey.

Thy kingdom come,
we pray that you would be at work in and through the church around the world, that love would be shown even in the most difficult of situations and that people would be drawn into your kingdom. 

thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
guide our government, and those in authority, in their decisions, we pray that those who are vulnerable would be helped and supported.  Grant wisdom in the steps taken to deal with the problem of Covid 19, its impact and the necessary arrangements as the lock down is eased.  Guide the discussions on Brexit and.  the plight of refugees.

Give us this day our daily bread
we lift those to you who are struggling to find enough food to eat, those whose daily existence is a full of difficulty.  Bless the work of the Food Banks and all  those who work hard to support and care for others, may we be ready to respond to your promptings.

and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
we are sorry for the times we go wrong and let you down, forgive us Lord, and help us not to hold onto bitterness or quarrels. 

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Father we do not know what we will face tomorrow, but in all situations may we live as your children and not give in to wrong thoughts or ideas.  Protect us when we face danger and grant us your peace.

For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
For ever and ever.  Amen.

Prayer Requests

We are asked to pray for “Kingsthorpe” Baptist church in Northampton, and also this week please pray for the work of “Christian Aid”.