I've been really challenged by the lesson of Gideon this week. Here are the highlight thoughts:
The Seed Doesn't Change.
In the familiar parable of the four soils, the sower goes out to sow the seed.
Jesus explains that the "seed" in the story is The Word of God. The seed never changes. It is good and effective in its ability to produce fruit. It is the soil of the heart that makes a difference in the results.
How often does a teacher or proclaimer of God's Word "see no results" or have someone seem to respond and then watch their excitement "fizzle" and think that there is something wrong with the message? The temptation is to think that something other than God's Word would be "more effective" in producing transformation--or that the power of fruitfulness is in a method rather than the message.
Satan is Actively Involved.
All three accounts of this parable mention "Satan" or "the devil" or "the evil one" but only Luke's account tells us what his aim is..."so that they will not believe and be saved."
Whenever and wherever the Word of God is proclaimed, no matter how small or how young the group is, Satan is ACTIVELY involved in blocking understanding.
It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.
And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Jesus relied on His Father.
The Scriptures often record Jesus' times of slipping away alone to pray to His Father. On this occasion, the critical selection of twelve men to establish God's kingdom on earth was at hand. The selection wasn't based on their personality or request, but by the choosing and purposes of the Father.
The Traitor was not a Mistake.
The amazing thing is that Judas Iscariot was chosen after a night of prayer.
He was not a mistake that somehow got into the group unnoticed. From the outside, he looked just like the rest of the disciples. His covetous, unbelieving heart was unknown to the other apostles, but it was not unknown to God. From the beginning, Jesus knew that "not all of them were clean" (John 13:11) and that one of them would betray him. He knew that one of them was a "plant from Satan." (Matt. 13:38) From the very beginning, the choosing of a traitor was to fulfill the words given to the prophets made about Messiah. (Luke 22:22) The choosing of the Traitor was eventually going to lead Jesus to the Cross: the purpose for which He had come. (John 12:27)
When I am praying for wisdom about a situation, I often have in mind that there is going to be a "good outcome"...that all will "turn out well."
I don't often consider that a Judas Iscariot might be as much a part of the answer as a Peter and James and John--or that the long-range answer to my prayer is the way of the Cross.
Jesus did good to His enemies.
Immediately after choosing the Twelve Apostles, including the Traitor, Judas--
Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount. His words take on a new understanding when seen in light of Judas: "Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." This wasn't pious advice delivered at a Temple teaching. It was the daily example of how Jesus treated a close friend who was going to sell Him to His enemies to be crucified for 30 pieces of silver.
In Luke 5 Jesus tells Peter to let down his nets for a great catch of fish. Peter grudgingly does what Jesus has asked, and then realizes: "I am a sinful man!" He wants Jesus to depart from him, but instead, Jesus tells him not to be afraid and that he would be a "fisher of men."
What was Peter's response then?
In verse 11 they LEFT EVERYTHING AND FOLLOWED JESUS.
Immediately following that account, we discover that Jesus cleans an unclean leper, and forgives the sins of a paralyzed man. Then, seemingly random, He notices a tax collector (dubbed a "sinner" by the Pharisees) and says, "Follow Me." What was Levi's response? He LEFT EVERYTHING AND FOLLOWED JESUS.
Jesus then answers the grumbling of those who objected to the type of people who were coming to follow Him: "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."
Whether it was an overconfident fisherman, an unclean leper, a helpless paralytic, or a despised tax collector--the ground was level for all of them: a sinner in need of a Savior.
The Pharisees were welcomed to come to Jesus as well, but the stumbling block for them was the first step: admitting that they were "common sinners" in need of a Savior just like everybody else.
Not only was the ground level when coming to Jesus, the cost of following Jesus was the same as well.
Whether leaving a fishing business or a lucrative taxing business: both Peter and Levi "left everything" in order to follow Jesus.
When the Israelites were in the desert and had NO food, they complained to God, and He miraculously kept them alive by sending a new supply of manna each morning. And He gave very specific instructions:
The provision was From God. It was Daily. It was ENOUGH.
The manna would melt away with the heat of the day, so that each night it looked like there was nothing for the next day.
Each night they had to believe God would provide all they needed for the next day.
"Some left part of it until morning." What could be wrong with leftover manna?!
By leaving some until morning, they were putting their security in the provision of God rather than in God Himself as their Provider.
"And it bred worms and became foul."
What is amazing is that manna had not existed on earth before God provided it for His people, and when they reached the produce of Canaan, the manna stopped. So, not only was the manna provided, but the worms for the "leftover" manna were also provided!
(And evidently, these were Sabbath-keeping worms, because they didn't eat Sabbath-stored manna!)
The worms were purposefully sent to teach the Israelites not to trust in their own clever scheme to meet their needs apart from dependence on God.
Jesus reminds His disciples in Matthew 6:19-20 not to "store up treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy..." but to store up treasures in heaven. A few verses later, He commands us:
"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?'...for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
So DO NOT WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
And each day has enough manna for that day from the Provider that lovingly sends worms to the things we've hoarded, to keep us from trusting His provision instead of Himself.
About this blog...
Thousands have come to the same Word of God and seen His magnificance and penned commentary or devotional thoughts or hymns. What can I add that hasn't already been said?!
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