Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Modus Operandi of Satan

There are other ways Satan acts against man; this article looks at the ancient modus operandi of Satan.


John 10:10 - The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

What does Satan come to do? To steal, kill and destroy. How does he do it? In other words, what is his modus operandi? This is how I look it:

1. To steal (the truths from the people) by contradiction with an outright lie/half-truth.

2. To kill by making one curious to try. You have heard it – Curiosity kills the cat. Interestingly, the thing that Satan uses to make one curious, is usually a truth or subtly distorted truth.

3. To destroy by promise of grandiose, appealing to pride and power.

In relation to The Fall, this is clearly seen in Gen 3:4-5 -

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Gen 3:4-5).

1. To steal (the truths) by contradiction with an outright lie/half-truth.
God said in Gen 2:17, “You will surely die” but Satan said, “You will not surely die”. Eve’s trust in God got shaken because of Satan’s lie.

2. To kill by making one curious to try.
Satan said, “……your eyes will be opened”. Eve probably thought in her heart, “Wow, what does he mean by my eyes will be opened. Was God hiding something? Let’s find out.” Of course, we know from Gen 3:7, “your eyes will be opened”, was a truth because verse 7 recorded that both Adam and Eve were opened and they saw that they were naked and felt ashamed (Earlier, In Gen 2:25, it was recorded that the man and his wife were both naked but they felt no shame).

3. To destroy by promise of grandiose, appealing to pride and power.
Satan said, “and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Eve probably thought, “What can be better? Let’s eat it, man! What are we waiting for?”

{added: 18/08/2010 NB: In the New Testament it was said that it was Eve who was deceived by the Serpent; nevertheless, Adam was accountable to God, and was considered to have sinned along with Eve when he listened to Eve to take of the fruit from the tree of knowledge and evil.}

In relation to The 3 Temptations of Jesus (the second/last Adam) (Mat 4:1-11) –

After 40 days and 40 nights of fasting, Jesus was hungry, and Satan came up to Him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." (v3). "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" (v6). "All this [the world with all its splendor] I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me." (v9).

The first Adam, fell when tempted by Satan but not the second/last Adam, Jesus; but the same modus operandi was used:

1. To steal (the truths) by contradiction with an outright lie/half-truth.Although these were not the exact words Satan used, I believe this was what Satan was implying to Jesus, “You did not eat for 40 days and 40 nights, you must eat to live, turn these stones into bread for food so that you will live.” "Eat (physically) and you will live" is only a half-truth. Jesus held on to the truth which was in Deu 8:3 and said it, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

2. To kill by making one curious to try.
Satan used a subtly distorted truth taken from Psalm 91:11&12 in an attempt to make Jesus curious enough to test God. If it were the first Adam, he probably might have thought, “Yah man, it would be interesting to see if God would send his angels to scoop me up before I hit the ground.” Jesus knew better and answered back with another truth, Deu 6:16, “It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

3. To destroy by promise of grandiose, appealing to pride and power.
Satan was saying, “I will give you the world!” But Jesus basically said, “World or no world, I will not disobey my God” when He said, “For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”(Deu 6:13).

In relation to The Triple Sins of King David (2 Sam 11 – 2 Sam 12) –

King David, said to be the man after God’s heart, broke 3 commandments at one go (one after another). What are they? Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, thou shall not commit adultery and finally thou shall not murder. The events recorded in the book of 2 Samuel chapter 11 and 12 do not have any mention of Satan. I am suggesting to you that Satan was at work (in fact Satan {and his team} is always at work). I believe the same modus operandi was at work:

1. To steal (the truths) by contradiction with an outright lie/half-truth.
In 2 Sam 11:2, we read that, from the roof of his palace, King David saw a very beautiful woman taking her bath. The King was subsequently told, the woman, Bathsheba, was the wife of Uriah, a soldier of the King, a loyal Hittite soldier (v3). The truth is that the Ten Commandment stated that one should not covet another’s wife. Playing the devil’s advocate, I would say at that point in time, Satan might have said to David, “But you are the King, what. A King can desire what he wants.” So, because David did not resist the temptation, he broke one commandment – thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

2. To kill by making one curious to try.
Satan probably went on further and said something like, “See, even God was on your side – He gave Saul’s house to you, including his wives, didn’t he? So, what’s the problem? [In 2 Sam 12:8, Samuel spoke about the Saul’s house and his wives being given to King David by the Lord].” David sent for Bathsheba and committed the 2nd sin – thou shall not commit adultery.

3. To destroy by promise of grandiose, appealing to pride and power.
“Oops, Bathsheba got pregnant, what am I going to do?” maybe this thought crossed David’s mind. I imagine this would probably be what Satan said, “Good, now you have a son, isn’t that great, the King now has a son. You just need to get rid of Uriah and take Bathsheba as your wife and live happily ever after. Tell you what, you are the King, just set Uriah up to die at the battlefront, that should be easy for you. In fact, it is ok to let your general, Joab know so that people will know, as the King, you can do what you want, and whoever stands in the way will be destroyed. No sweat , no one would dare speak out against you.” David set Uriah up, and Uriah was killed as planned by David – David committed murder, the 3rd sin. We read in 2 Sam 11:26-27, David then took Bathsheba as his wife and she bore him a son, but the Lord was not pleased with what David did.

Anthony Chia – Lord, help me to be quick to recognize the ancient modus operandi of Satan in situations of my life.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Seeking the face of God when one is afflicted by wicked people - Psalm 9

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".
{For full listing of all articles in this Psalms exposition series, click here}

[To me, this psalm is about seeking the face of God when one is afflicted by wicked people. This is a supplication by David to God when he was faced with wicked enemies (this was most probably not the first time he had faced wicked enemies). Because the heading of the psalm had in it, direction to the music director pointing to the tune of “The Death of the Son”, some commentators said that it got to do with the death of his, David’s, first son with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12); but I could see no apparent link with the death of David’s son (the son was from the adulterous affair with Bathsheba). The death of the child was pronounced by God as a punishment for David’s triple breaking of the Ten Commandments. David was guilty of covetousness, followed by adultery, and finally murder.

So, let us just treat this psalm as such, David’s psalm in a time of facing enemies who were wicked.]

1I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonders.
[This is a psalm of King David. He opened this psalm with a reminder to himself, as well as to tell God that he would always do this one thing. And this one thing was to praise God. Praise is easy to understand – it implied singing, singing songs of praise, and worship, psalms, odes, etc. It can include other outward manifestations like clapping of hands and even dancing for the Lord. Another very important aspect of praise is to tell others how good and great God is, i.e. sing his praises, so to speak. Those were what David did – singing, and dancing and performing for the Lord, and he would do this with great exuberance (in fact with all his heart), as well as telling others of all of God’s wonders. David, ever since he was drafted into Saul service, from being a shepherd boy, was growing in influence. David used that which gave him influence, to spread the goodness and greatness of God.]
2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
[David said he will be glad and rejoice in God. It was not that there were no occasions at all that David had moments of sadness, and filled with frustrations. It could be, and can be for us all, too. Why? Because we are all living in a fallen world with Satan hard at work, and we are also subject to chastisement (which are not always to our liking) from God for our growth. Yet, just as David had and did, we must know that we have an underlying peace and fullness of joy that comes from the Holy Spirit that lives in us (for David, possibly not in him but was often with him because of the devotion and time David spent before the Lord, of course the Holy Spirit could come into David from time to time but unlikely the Spirit was dwelling in him like He is doing in us all); and we must choose to be glad and rejoice in God, in recognition to that belief. Faith must be acted out – in this case like David, we are to sing praises to God; when we do that, we are saying to God that we have faith in God to see us through all our life afflictions.]
3 My enemies turn back;
they stumble and perish before you.
4 For you have upheld my right and my cause;
you have sat on your throne, judging righteously.
5 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
6 Endless ruin has overtaken the enemy,
you have uprooted their cities;
even the memory of them has perished.
[How can we get ourselves to praise God despite our sad and frustrating circumstances? How can we act out our faith in belief that God is good, righteous, and great? Remember and recount, that was what David did here. David used a mix of past and present (present continuous) tense to declare to himself that not only God did, God would continue to do for him, the turning back of his enemies, the stumbling of enemies, and the perishing of enemies. David reminded himself that God was and is a righteous God; He had judged righteously and had upheld his right and cause. He was and is great; He had rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked, even blotted the names of the wicked forever and ever. Endless ruin had overtaken God’s enemy, their cities God had uprooted; even the memory of them had perished – in the Book of Judges, there are recordings of such cities or places, one of them is Meroz (recorded in Judges 5 – Song of Deborah).]
7 The LORD reigns forever;
he has established his throne for judgment.
8 He will judge the world in righteousness;
he will govern the peoples with justice.
9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
11 Sing praises to the LORD, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
12 For he who avenges blood remembers;
he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted.
[When faith had arisen, David started to magnify the Lord. He declared the Lord reigns forever; He had established His throne of judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice (there is always justice with the Lord, not necessarily equality – the two is not the same). For the depressed, the Lord will be a refuge, and for those afflicted, the Lord will be the stronghold. For all who know God, and therefore have their trust in Him, when they seek the Lord, the Lord will never forsake them. So David was saying, with one who reigns forever, and judges righteously; one who is a refuge for the oppressed, stronghold for the troubled; and one who never forsake those who know Him and have placed their trusts in Him, and are seeking Him, as our Lord, we are to rejoice and sing praise to our God who is enthroned in Zion, the Holy Mountain, and proclaim His name among the nations – give testimonies to glorify the Lord. God is our avenger, and the marvelous thing is that He remembers, and he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted (cries against wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah, for e.g.; also the cries of Israelites in Book of Judges when oppressed wickedly by enemies in the Promised Land), Hallelujah.]
13 O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
[Psalm is in fact, also a prayer. We see here, as typical of a prayer, now David present his request before the Lord. He said, “O lord, see how my enemies persecute me!” It was as if David said, “Help, Lord, help”. Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death. We see here that actually at this moment David was in affliction, yet we saw in the earlier verses of the psalm how David still got himself to magnify the Lord despite his circumstances; that is the attitude of heart that we must assume, in whatever circumstances that we are struggling in, we must arouse our faith to rise up to praise and magnify God.]
14 that I may declare your praises
in the gates of the Daughter of Zion
and there rejoice in your salvation.
[It was as if David was telling God to do it again for him, “so that I may declare (yet another time) your praises (sing God’s praise) in the gates of the Daughter of Zion {possibly referring to Jerusalem}, and there, greatly rejoice (celebrate) in your saving of me.”]
15 The nations have fallen into the pit they {referring to the enemies in v13} have dug;
their {referring to the nations} feet are caught in the net they {referring to the enemies in v13} have hidden.
[David explained to the Lord that he was (again) up against wicked people. David knew the heart of God concerning wickedness; put it mildly, God does not like wicked people. I believe this is one of the reasons why David was said to a man after God’s heart. David went on to paint the picture of the wicked people and what they did: Wicked people are like people digging pit or setting net to snare others. David said that nations had fallen into the pit dug by these wicked people; they were caught in the net the wicked people set for them.

Quite a few Bible commentators viewed verse 15 as David stating that wicked nation {Strong number used was 1471 which can mean “heathen”, but not necessarily wicked, but if the parties were taken to be self-referring, then wicked nations were implied, which was not necessarily the case} had fallen into the pit they themselves had dug, or that they were caught in the every net they themselves had set. The verse by itself can be interpreted as such, and if such was the interpretation, the next verse, v16, was just to reaffirm the same position; although some scholars chose to explain verse 16 as God in executing his justice, ensnared the wicked with the works of his (God’s) own hands.

However, I personally feel that firstly, verse 15 was a description of the modus operandi of the wicked, and secondly, it was to be a clarification of the nature of David’s enemies mentioned by David in verse 13, i.e. it was meant to give a description of the kind of enemies that David were facing. In other words, the “they” in verse 15 were referring to the enemies in verse 13, not necessarily referring to the “nations” in verse 15 itself. If one was reading verse 15 in isolation or by itself, of course, “their” could only be referring the “nations” in the same verse itself. You can take either interpretation, but I believe whichever interpretation we use, clearly the NIV translation of the next verse, v16, is correct, i.e. the wicked are ensnared by the works of their hands, not God’s hands. That, I believe, was why the special musical notation “Higgaion” was used here (see next verse).]
16 The LORD is known by his justice;
the wicked are ensnared by the work of their {own} hands.
Higgaion {mediate on that}. Selah
17 The wicked return to the grave,
all the nations that forget God.
[David knew how God would deal with wicked people. God would and will use the wicked people’s very snare to punish them, i.e. God would/will cause wicked people to be ensnared by the works of their own hands! {Of course, it does not mean that God cannot execute his own form of punishment}. David said this was God’s known justice. Even in our times, under the New Testament times which many regarded as an era of grace and mercy (of God’s preference to be long-suffering, to be deferring judgment until the End, and to be giving people time and chances to repent), I believe God still does let the stubbornly wicked people get a taste of their own medicine even presently (present life). Wickedness and holiness are directly opposite. God is holiness, and you need holiness to see God. Where God is enthroned it is holy because He is holy. So, heaven is a holy place. God is holy and heaven is a holy place, and we want to go to heaven; the Scriptures exhort us to be holy as God is holy. If holiness gets to do with God, wickedness, Satan. If holy people get to heaven, wicked ones, Hell (or temporary, Sheol). So, in a figure of speech, it is correct to say holy ones come from heaven, wicked ones from the grave or Sheol (or even Hell). David said here, let the wicked return to the grave. What David was imploring God to do was to act presently concerning wicked people, send them to the grave; including all the nations that had forgotten the Lord. But why, you might ask, that nations that had forgotten the Lord be included? I believe nations that had forgotten the Lord had in them great numbers of wicked people, because nations that had forgotten the Lord, many depravities went unchecked, there were no voices to speak up against any form of wickedness. On the other hand, for nations that had not forgotten the Lord completely there will always be some voices speaking for the Lord, and calling for repentance.]
18 But the needy will not always be forgotten,
nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.
19 Arise, O LORD, let not man triumph;
let the nations be judged in your presence.
20 Strike them with terror, O LORD;
let the nations know they are but men.
[While David was calling for action presently by God towards the wicked people, he was also imploring God to help those who need the help of God (the needy here are not necessarily limited to those in physical destitute, of lacking food and clothing, although these could be included), and fulfill the hope of the afflicted ones so that that hope would not die out.

David, knowing God’s heart concerning wickedness, also hated people setting themselves up against God or were proud, having no regard for God (and God opposes the proud, said the Scriptures), so he called on God to arise, not to let man triumph; he asked that God judge presently the nations (wicked nations or nations that had forgotten God), and display his wrath [a display of wrath like that on the wicked place of Sodom and Gomorrah would surely strike great terror) so that the nations would know they were but men.]

Points to note/learn:

This psalm gave us a good model to follow when we want God’s help when facing wicked people.

1. Despite our circumstances, (and I can tell from first-hand experience that it is very demoralizing, and depressing, and outright frustrating when you are up against wicked people), we must remind ourselves, and even tell it to God, that we will always praise God, with all our heart. Very difficult, at times, but we must, if we profess that our trust is in the Lord.

2. Remember that praises include both singing (and dancing ,etc) praises to God, and singing his praises (testifying His goodness and greatness)

3. We must choose to be glad and rejoice in God. We must firstly know and believe by faith that we do have an underlying peace and fullness of joy that can come from the Holy Spirit. We must choose to act out our faith by singing praises to the Lord. The Apostle Paul was imprisoned yet he chose to be glad and rejoice in the Lord by singing praises to God. What happened after that? The prison shook and prison doors opened.

4. Still find it difficult, use David’s approach – recount God’s goodness and greatness. In the past, how have God delivered you? If you did not have much to go by, hang onto those of others, testimonies you have heard of. If even that, was lacking, look to the Word, many had been afflicted in the Bible; what God did for them, God can do for you too; claim them for yourselves.

5. And when your faith has arisen, even magnify the Lord. Are singing praises (v2) to God and magnifying God the same? Not necessarily, just in matter of degree or shades, we go from singing praises to magnifying. From a choice, and recounting of the past, you push your faith into action, to sing, to sing praises, more of referring the past in giving of your exaltation to God. Magnifying calls for moving into declaration, into making things bigger so to speak (you can never over-stretch God), of attributing greater importance (to the role of God, for example), of injecting greater expectation and excitement into your circumstances, of letting your faith to call forth the reality of God into your future, as opposed to referring to the past when you started off in singing praises. It is not hyping; it is speaking of the true perspective – God is gigantic, and your problem or enemy is tiny, God can fix it.

6. Tell God your problem or enemies; in this case, the problem is with wicked people, the enemy is wicked. Tell God to judge for you because you cannot likewise be wicked, go tick for tack. If indeed, your enemy is wicked, God knows how to turn your enemy’s wicked scheme back on him, the enemy, and turn your situation around. Please understand that we cannot be wicked just because someone is wicked towards us. If you turn wicked as well, you may lose the hands of protection/blessing of the Lord.

7. And when you secured your victory, do not forget to sing God’s praises, and give thanksgiving unto God (v14).

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - Lord, deliver me from my wicked enemy.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Judges series - Judges 8

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".
{For full listing of all articles in this series, click here}

Judges 8
[This chapter is the last of the 3 on Gideon. Indeed, Gideon was a major judge; 3 chapters were devoted to him, Judge Deborah had only 2 (only Judge Samson whom we will cover in the future, has more chapters devoted to him). In this chapter, we will read of the capturing of the 2 last kings (“the 2 Zs”, I called them), and the punishments of the 2 cities which refused to aid the Lord, finally a brief about Gideon’s life, including the creation of the Gideon’s Ephod, and his having a son called Abimelech, by a Shechem woman.]

Zebah and Zalmunna {2 remaining Midian Kings}
1 Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, "Why have you treated us like this? Why didn't you call us when you went to fight Midian?" And they criticized him sharply. 2 But he answered them, "What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren't the gleanings of Ephraim's grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? 3 God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?" At this, their resentment against him subsided. [There is a little background to the Ephraimites’ remarks. Like I said in the last commentary in Judges 7, a little knowledge of the 12 tribes of Israel helps in understanding of some of the Bible stories. At the start, Manasseh and Ephraim are the 2 sons born to Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Israel (aka Jacob). Customarily, the firstborn will carry the family line down the generations; there are great privileges and rights to the firstborn families. What happened was, when it was time to bless Joseph’s children, Israel (Joseph’s father, and therefore the paternal grandfather of the 2 kids) placed his right hand on the Ephraim, and left on Manasseh (in the words of my daughter, Audrey, the crossing of hands), although Manasseh was the firstborn, and should have had Israel’s right hand on him. What resulted was that Ephraim was put ahead of Manasseh, and to cut the story short, the matter was resolved with 2 tribes being established in the house of Joseph. So, the tribes of Israel often got quoted with Ephraim and Manasseh in them. It is almost like there were 13 tribes because Ephraim and Manasseh were often quoted, and quoted separately.

Because Gideon was from the weakest clan in the Manasseh tribe, and in Judges 6:35, we read that he sent messengers out to some of the tribes of Israel but did not include the Ephraimites, and now there was victory, the Ephraimites were not happy. Gideon had God’s wisdom, and he answered them saying firstly, the Ephraimites had better privileges and rights (though they did not come from the firstborn, descendants of Manasseh were of the firstborn line), the mere gleanings of the Ephraimites were better than the full harvest of the Gideon’s clan, Abiezer; secondly, the Ephraimites got to slay the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. Gideon did subsequently sent messengers to Ephraim to come and kill the Midianites (Judges 7:24). Basically, Gideon was saying to the Ephraimites, “You got the better end of the stick”. He made peace - no wonder God made him the Judge.]
4 Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it. 5 He said to the men of Succoth, "Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian." 6 But the officials of Succoth said, "Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?" 7 Then Gideon replied, "Just for that, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers." 8 From there he went up to Peniel and made the same request of them, but they answered as the men of Succoth had. 9 So he said to the men of Peniel, "When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower." [There will always be people who will not aid the cause of God. We read of this also in Judge Deborah’s exploit, where she, together with Barak led the Israelites to fight at the Kishon River, and there was a village called Meroz whose inhabitants refused to help. The Lord cursed the village (Judges 5:23). Here we read of the peoples of two separate cities refusing to provide bread for Gideon’s 300 men troop, when the latter were pursuing the remaining 2 kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna. Earlier on, in Judges 6, I suggested people like Abraham, Moses and Gideon have the favor of God. Indeed if you study a little more of their lives, you will know that they had the favor of God. I really hope I can grow in favor with God. Do you know why? It is because people with God’s favor will be able to do great exploits for God. If you want to read a little more about this favor and doing exploits for God, you can read the 3rd section of my article – Reserve glory and worship for God, practise honor, and grow in favor with God. I believe that the words of people with God’s favor can be powerful; God is likely to bring their words to pass, if they are not inconsistent with His ways. Gideon declared that he would come back to them, men of Succoth and Peniel, and teach them a lesson. That would surely come to pass.] 10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with a force of about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of the armies of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen had fallen. 11 Gideon went up by the route of the nomads east of Nobah and Jogbehah and fell upon the unsuspecting army. 12 Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, fled, but he pursued them and captured them, routing their entire army. [Gideon finally managed to route the entire enemy army; even with reduced numbers, still it was 300 men versed 15,000. The 2 Midian kings were captured.] 13 Gideon son of Joash then returned from the battle by the Pass of Heres. 14 He caught a young man of Succoth and questioned him, and the young man wrote down for him the names of the seventy-seven officials of Succoth, the elders of the town. 15 Then Gideon came and said to the men of Succoth, "Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me by saying, 'Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your exhausted men?' " 16 He took the elders of the town and taught the men of Succoth a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers. 17 He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town. [This is the record of Gideon’s declarations against Succoth and Peniel coming to pass. Don’t play, play with people with God’s favor, God is on their side. You can read of other examples of this from my separate article – Don’t play, play, the words from the mouths of favored men of God can be powerful]
18 Then he asked Zebah and Zalmunna, "What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?" "Men like you," they answered, "each one with the bearing of a prince." 19 Gideon replied, "Those were my brothers, the sons of my own mother. As surely as the LORD lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you." 20 Turning to Jether, his oldest son, he said, "Kill them!" But Jether did not draw his sword, because he was only a boy and was afraid. 21 Zebah and Zalmunna said, "Come, do it yourself. 'As is the man, so is his strength.' "So Gideon stepped forward and killed them, and took the ornaments off their camels' necks. [I was wondering what these verses about the killings at Mount Tabor were about. Perhaps, Gideon was referring to the atrocities of Midianites against the Israelites in the seven years after Judge Deborah and before God’s appointment of Gideon, recorded for us in Judges 6:1. It was possible. Deborah, together with Barak fought Jabin in the area of Mount Tabor, in the valley below the mount and at the bank of the Kishon River. With victory, it was likely that the Israelites occupied and lived on those lands around Mount Tabor. In fact, in Judges 6:2-6, the Israelites were so oppressed by the Midianites that the Israelites had to run up the mountain and live in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. I believe although many Israelites were killed, many of the Israelites were left alive for oppressions (including perpetually being robbed of the fruits of their labor, crops and livestock – free food for the Midianites); maybe the nobles and the royalties were mostly brought before the kings of the Midianites, to be dealt with. They ended up being killed. To avenge the deaths, Gideon decided that the 2 kings must die. Maybe Gideon thought of giving the honor to his firstborn, but the boy was too young and was afraid to kill; it ended up Gideon himself did the honor.]

Gideon's Ephod
22 The Israelites said to Gideon, "Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian." 23 But Gideon told them, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you." 24 And he said, "I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder." (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.) 25 They answered, "We'll be glad to give them." So they spread out a garment, and each man threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels' necks. [The Israelites wanted to make Gideon King over the Israelites but Gideon declined. Instead he asked that he be given an earring from each man from the share of the spoil of war. At first I was stumped by the sentence in the bracket in verse 24. On checking I learnt that the Midianites and Ishmaelites are the same (Gen37:25, 28), the descendants of Ishmael, the son Abraham had with Hagar, the Egyptian maidservant. Wearing gold earrings was the custom of Ishmaelites, and so that accounted for the great number of earrings collected as war spoils.] 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family. [What a pity! What a pity! To me it was a pity, unless some references can be found to support that the worshipping was after Gideon’s time, I really have to take this verse plainly and say that it was a pity, Gideon did not end well. Such worship was and is an abomination to God.]

Gideon's Death
28 Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon's lifetime, the land enjoyed peace forty years. [Israelites enjoyed 40 years of peace while Judge Gideon was alive] 29 Jerub-Baal son of Joash went back home to live. 30 He had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives. 31 His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelech. 32 Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. [Gideon lived a long life, had 70 sons and many wives. Specifically recorded here is a concubine in Shechem who bored him a son, called Abimelech. Gideon died and was buried with his father, Joash in their hometown of Ophrah] 33 No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and 34 did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side. 35 They also failed to show kindness to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) for all the good things he had done for them. [History repeated itself, again after the death of a judge, the Israelites went back to the worship of pagan gods, and forgot about the Lord who rescued them from the hands of all their enemies. They also forgot what Gideon had done for them, and did not show kindness to the family of Gideon. The first bit, I can understand easily. Why the 2nd bit got recorded for us? Maybe the Lord would like us to not forget to be kind to the families of the servants of God after the servants had passed on. Many servants of God gave of themselves, even at the sacrifices of their loved ones, whom they then left behind when they (the servants) passed on. Shouldn’t we be kind to those they left behind?]

Points to take note/learnt:

1. Love peace, and be gracious as the Lord has been to you
Many of us have a mindset of being very hard up for things, wealth, status, and even power and authority. Worse still, some of us are having this mindset despite already having and are being blessed with much by the grace of God. The relentless pursuit of these things, without the blessing of God inadvertently leads to strive, and peace taking a back seat, and enmity will arise, or made worse. We saw that Gideon was not like that, but we will read later in Chapter 12 (you do not need to turn it now, as I will cover it in due course) that another judge raised by God, called Jephthah, although also from the Manasseh tribe, just like Gideon, was not like Gideon in this respect.

Very clearly God had raised Gideon, from the weakest clan in the Manasseh tribe, and the least in his family, above all; yet we saw how he dealt with the sensitive issue between the sub-tribes of the house of Joseph. Gideon was a man of war (we are all men of war; the Apostle Paul said we are all soldiers of Christ) and at the same time he was a peace-maker, and loved peace (blessed is the one who is a peace-maker). God is love yet God has to discipline and punish. God is peace yet God has to war. God is a giver yet God has to take away, too, at times. God knows when to do what, because God is Wisdom. For us, to juggle such ironies in life (sorry, we cannot avoid them all), we need the wisdom of God. We are being told, in life, to get into the company of the “wise”, learn from them, tap on their “brains”, etc, yet that is not good enough, and it can never be enough (the wisdom of men are just plain foolishness in the eyes of God), we need to get into the company of God, learn of His ways, and tap on the wisdom of God to correctly juggle such ironies.

Gideon was not hard up at all; he just concentrated on doing the things that God wanted him to do. I believe he knew what mattered was how God looked at him. In the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul talked about serving, and he put it in this way: Serve righteously, and serve in the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit, in that way, our service will be pleasing to God, and our service will also gain the approval of men. Such had been the attitude of Gideon, and we read that at the end of the war when finally the entire Midan enemy had been subdued, the people still wanted Gideon, and his descendants, to be their king, despite the fact that the war was over, and his letting the Ephraimites taking some of the choicest credits. Jephthah, whom we will read about in chapter 12, was different; he demanded that the people promised him leadership even before going to battle for the people -such a contrast.

You do not need to shine all the time before men, let others shine too, and you will shine even brighter before the Lord.

2. Can one sit on the fence? Apparently not
We read here that apparently one cannot sit on the fence, and not choose side. Indeed the line dividing the kingdom of God and the domain of darkness can be a thin one. God is spirit, and Satan is spirit. God has powers and Satan has too (but much lesser, in reality, but is still a force to content with for the mortal men). There are “realities” on both sides of the fence, yet many of them, on Satan’s side are fakes. For example, there is real authority on one side but no real authority on the other, Satan’s side, over the children of God. Satan has no authority over us (Christians), the children of God, unless we choose to submit to his make-believe authority. I believe the real authority of Satan over the lives of the children of God had been effectively cancelled by Jesus’ victory on the cross.

Men need to choose side; he cannot sit on the fence. In fact, more correctly, in this matter, a man is never sitting on the fence. By The Fall of Man, unregenerate man is on Satan’s side. The only choice for man is either he remains on the side of Satan or he crosses over the line or the fence into God’s side. Jesus Himself said that those not with Him is against Him (Matt 12:30a, Luke 11:23a). What is even more startling to know is what He said, for the second part, that those who do not gather with Him, scatter. The KJV version used the phrase, “scattereth abroad”. Scattering has the meaning of “to separate and disperse. The KJV gives the connotation of being far away, from God.

If you are not on God’s side you are on Satan’s side; Harsh, it might seem, but that is the reality, although I believe in most cases, if not all, God does provide a chance for one to choose. When it is the time to choose, when one does not choose, one is actually not sitting on the fence; he has made a decision, and that decision is that he has opted to ratify his existing position of being on Satan’s side (As a side issue, those on God’s side, if you turn your back on God, you are a mutiny, you can be given over, and the enemy knows it, and you can be devoured, left, right, and centre, so to speak. Stay steadfast, please.).

In this Book of Judges, there are 3 examples of men or cities not taking side with God. In Judges 5:23, we saw how the place, Meroz, was cursed for her refusal to help the Lord who was fighting the enemy.

Here, we have the elders of Succoth not willing to feed the fighting men of God; also, the case of the men at Peniel. Gideon prophesied or declared judgments over these 2 cities, and God honored the declarations, and the punishments went ahead. These examples did not show that the parties went against God, but only that they were not with the Lord (just like Jesus said it in the New Testament), and they would not gather with the Lord.

Was the Lord being cruel? No, you must understand that in those days, for all the 3 cities or peoples involved in them, the God of the Israelites was clearly “known” to them; they heard of the mighty exploits and the works of the Lord all around them, yet they chose to reject the Lord. You can see for yourselves what Gideon and his 300 men were asking for, only bread, not anything that the people were not able to provide for them, yet they chose not to do so. I believe, although some of us, because of the remoteness of the events from us (and lack of detailed facts), cannot fully comprehend, but it must have been very clear in the hearts and minds of the peoples in those two towns that they were deciding not to be siding with God, the God of Israel.

Accept it, we all have to make choices; do not blame Adam and Eve for they had to make a choice when confronted by the Serpent (remember, not making a decision is still a choice made), they made their choice which affected you and I, but we have to make a choice of either staying in the condemned state or be set free from the curse of death, and cross over the fence to God’s side.

3. Don’t play, play, the words from the mouths of favored men of God can be powerful
For the exposition of this, please read my separate article – Don’t play, play, words from the mouths of favored men of God can be powerful. For those not reading the separate article, it suffices for me to say here that the declarations or prophetic words of favored men of God can very well be honored by God, and be made to come to pass, just like what had happened to Succoth and Peniel, here.

4. Any form of idol worship is abominable to God
Gideon made a golden ephod with the gold melted down from the gold earrings from the spoil of war. This ephod was placed in his hometown and was being worshipped by the Israelites; and this was recorded for us as a snare to Gideon and his family.

This is not an isolated case, and I believe if we are not careful, we, men, tend to do these things – instead of worshipping God, we end up worshipping or giving the due reverence to a thing (making it an idol) rather than the Giver, who is God Himself. Another example of this is the bronze snake or serpent Moses erected for the Israelites, under the instruction of God, but later became an idol, the worship of which (and it was worshipped, the Israelites burned incense to it) became an abomination to God (Numbers 21:9 & 2 Kings 18:4).

5. Always be on your guard (be watchful) so that you may finish well
Few men of God, recorded for us in the Bible, finished well. Moses finished with one thing against him (you can read of this in Why Moses did not enter the Promised Land), King Solomon strayed away from God with grave consequence to the kingdom of Israel (In 1 Kings 11:4-6 & 11-14, we read that as Solomon grew old, he was turned by his many wives to other gods, incurring the wraths of God, so much so, that God decided to tear away the kingdom from him, but for the sake of King David, Solomon’s father, who did finish well (you can tell, even from the reading of these verses concerning Solomon), deferred the tearing away until the reign of Solomon’s son; leaving only one tribe intact, again, for the sake of David, the man after God’s heart), John the Baptist, which in recent days, was being preached about as being doubtful of Jesus’ identity (sending messengers to question Jesus) when at the beginning of his ministry he was so emphatic that Jesus was the true Messiah, the shoe laces of whom he was not worthy even to tie, or that it was not in proper order that he should baptize Jesus; or even Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 Disciples of Jesus who ended up betraying Jesus, and hanging himself from a tree. Although how and when Paul, the God appointed Apostle of Jesus Christ, died, are not fully verified, it is generally accepted that Paul (and the Apostle Peter) died in persecution, or at least in general persecution, during the reign of Roman emperor Nero. I believe although Paul did not start well (he was an ardent persecutor of the Christians and the Christian faith until he was supernaturally blinded by the Lord on the road to Damascus), he finished well. He had repeatedly called believers to be watchful, to keep our eyes focused on the finishing line, and to press on, and to run the race in such a way as to finish the race, wining the prizes. His motto for us is to run to win the prize God has in mind for each one of us, in Heaven.

Moses obviously cannot be blamed for the bronze snake or serpent being worshipped by the Israelites, but Gideon, it looked to me, could not absolved from blame unless it can be proved that such worship was started only after his passing on.

6. Again, without a judge, after the death of Gideon, the Israelites went back to pagan worship
History repeated itself for the Israelites in this area - a consistent failure on the part of the Israelites over the judges period. Look at ourselves honestly, is there an area in our lives, we consistently fail the Lord?

7. Be kind to the family of the servants of God
Despite Gideon’s failing, of installing the golden ephod in his hometown leading to people worshipping the ephod, God still have it recorded here that the Israelites ought to have been kind to the family of Gideon after he passed on. To me, there is a point that the Lord wants to put through, that we should be kind to the family of the late servants of God. This, I am encouraged that in my church I saw at least 2 examples of kindness being extended by the church to the spouses and children of a pastor and a missionary who died.

Anthony Chia – This concludes my exposition of the 3 chapters in the Bible on the major Judge, Gideon. Lord, there is much to learn from Gideon’s life; help me to learn them well so that I may please you, always.

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