The one hundred and fifty psalms collected in the scriptures are very nearly a bible unto themselves. These praises, prayers, and laments have spoken to the spectrum of human emotion and experience century after century as God’s people try to comprehend what it means to be just that, God’s people. The psalms have been a part of devotional bible reading and cried out as individual prayer because of the depth of the psalmists soul that the Spirit revealed for inclusion in the Word. The Psalter has a revered place in worship beyond the pulpit as well. The psalms often find their way into the call to worship and the musical selections. The Psalms provide us with God’s word for all seasons of life.
My next series of bible study posts will be on the psalms, one at a time. I invite you to contribute to a dialog on the meaning and theology of each of these important portions of scripture. Have they affected your life or your relationship with God? How does your church utilize this book? Will we be different when we finish this time together.
Gideon was surely puzzled at God’s move to weaken his army, the band of men who were going to save Israel. Yahweh instructed Gideon to diminish his force by sending all those who were trembling in fear to go home, leaving the army twenty-two thousand men lighter. As he watched the men file away, Gideon surely thought that God would be satisfied until the word came from Yahweh, “There are still too many men.”
The fearful, hesitant Gideon is faced again with the challenge to trust Yahweh in his weakness. He is far from the bold warrior of legend, being dragged against his will into this leadership, God has diminished the force that has followed him and now, Yahweh demands further attrition from his forces. While thoughts of turning and running back to Ophrah must have coursed through his mind, the Judge follows the Lord’s lead and invites his men to the spring for a drink. It is here that Yahweh will sift them out for him.
Yahweh will sort out the fighters based on the way they drink; some like dogs, plunging their face into the water and others, lifting the water to their vigilant faces and drinking from their cupped hands. Does God favor one method over the other? Contrary to many who have interpreted the scriptures through the centuries, the text does not give us this option. Yahweh’s method and choice of the warriors is purely his arbitrary choice and we must respect it. Certainly, Gideon does. In the arbitrary nature of the decision is the secret that God wants to convey; the 300 are not a sign of Israel’s strength, they are a sign of her weakness in the face of Yahweh, the one who can truly save.
This episode in the Gideon cycle explains so much in our own lives. How many times have we followed the leading of God only to find Him putting up barriers in our way, weakening us? Probably more than we would like. In some cases, we find that after we have accepted one barrier or humbling we find another one put in our way. We question whether or not we are truly following the proper leading. Perhaps the question should be, are we thoroughly dependent on God? Are we still hoarding some of the glory for ourselves?
What are your standards for exercising your voting franchise in this important election year? There is no consensus among the church members in the United States as to who is fit to lead us as citizens so what requirements do you have? Whether Obama or McCain or some yet undefined third party candidate, your vote is too precious to exercise casually or emotionally.
Unlike a King or a Prophet, the Bible does not provide us the standards of a Godly president. We are required then to put our worldview into action and use it to examine the character and positions of the candidate and all of the political machine that follow in their wake. If we have allowed ourselves to become theologically soft we have nothing to fall back upon in performing this vital exercise. Now is the time to truly examine what you believe and determine how you are going to apply these beliefs to life in the world.