May 5, 2015

Settling disputes and being content

Judges 8:1–9:21, Philippians 2:12–18, Psalm 67:1–7

The usual reaction when accused is self-defense. The accuser is angry and the accused becomes angrier, offers reasons, explanations, and excuses. Not so with Gideon, a fairly well-known OT character. He had just saved the nation from a large and powerful army, the Midianites. He called for the men of Ephraim to help him with the clean-up, but these kinsmen were not happy...

Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely.

Gideon could have told them how God reduced his army of 32,000 down to 300 because “the people with you are too many” for the Lord to give the Midianites over to them “lest Israel boast” that they did it themselves. He also could have made excuses, or became angry and accused them of something. But he didn’t do any of these things.

Instead, 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 grape harvest of Abiezer? God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger against him subsided when he said this. (Judges 8:1–3)

He not only complemented them for their part in the clean-up, but he put himself down. Yes, he defeated an army of more than 120,000 with just 300 men, but it was God who gave him the victory, and he knew it.

Sometimes God has done something remarkable in my life, perhaps an answer to prayer, or the completion of a task. This past week, I submitted my last assignment for a Master’s degree in theology and Bible studies. People are patting me on the back, but I know that this is of God. I look back at the spiritual warfare and the many times I called out to God for help with that. I prayed over every assignment, many times without a clue how to do it. The Lord brought me through this. I cannot boast.

For me, boasting can be a challenge. However, the NT reading offers another one that can be just as tempting. It says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Philippians 2:14–16)

Grumbling about my lot in life, or disputing with others even in mild debate, are also challenges. May the grace of God give me contentment and take away all feistiness. I want to be without blemish, certainly for me another constant battle.

I noted that Paul said he wanted to be “proud” of the Philippians. That word is usually a negative among Christians so I looked it up. It means to be contented with your accomplishments. That is another challenge. In a ‘bigger, better, best’ world, it is easy to get caught up in striving to do more, to put another mark on the wall. The sense of being content includes having my heart at peace, even if the Lord tells me to sit and rest, rather than do, do, do. Too often my motivation is about my own glory and not His.

This is God’s world. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. I cannot do much of anything, even breathe without His grace. The best I can do is ask for His mercy and praise Him for all that He does, and include others in that prayer....

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! (Psalm 67:1–3)


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