Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bible Doctrine Series-Jehovah-Shalom

Jehovah-Shalom—“the Lord our peace” (Judges 6:24). The specific name Jehovah-shalom is used only once in Scripture. Gideon experienced the peace of God when his circumstances told him there was no peace available. The sons of Israel had not obeyed God. As a result, He allowed Midian to oppress them for seven years. During this time, the Midianites fought against Israel, destroying their crops and their animals. The Midianites brought their own livestock with them, allowing them to overgraze the land to help devastate it. The Midianite oppression was so severe that the sons of Israel had to live in dens and caves in the surrounding mountains. This fierce oppression caused the sons of Israel to cry out to the Lord. He heard their cry and sent them a prophet to remind them that it was He who had brought them out of bondage from Egypt, and that they were not to fear their oppressors. One day Gideon was working to save a portion of the wheat crop from the marauding Midianites. Little did he realize that not far away was the angel of the Lord, observing. The angel spoke to Gideon assuring him the Lord was with him; the he called Gideon a valiant warrior. Gideon’s response was classic. He asked a question that we may have asked when things are not going as we would like. His words are recorded in Judges 6:13 “Oh my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” The angel did not answer Gideon’s question. God’s prophet had already delivered the answer: they had not obeyed the Lord their God. Then the angel told Gideon he would be the one to deliver Israel from the Midianites. Gideon was concerned about the insignificance of his ancestry and that he was the youngest in the family. This did not seem to concern his heavenly visitor; He would accompany the valiant warrior who would defeat Midian. Gideon was not as confident as was his caller, and asked for a sign and prepared an offering. Once prepared, Gideon presented it to the angel of God who had him lay the meat and the bread on a rock and pour out the broth. The angel touched it with his staff; fire sprang us from the rock consuming the sacrifice. The angel then silently vanished from Gideon’s sight. By this time, Gideon—convinced he had been speaking to the angel of the Lord—became very fearful that he would die. The Lord must have known what he was thinking because He said, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die” (v, 23). That was good enough for Gideon. He proceeded to build an altar to the Lord and named it “The Lord is Peace.” He called the alter “Jehovah-shalom” (Judges 6:24). That night the Lord told Gideon to tear down the altar of Baal and to cut down the Asherah; the wood was to be used to offer a burnt offering. Because of his great fear, Gideon took ten of his servants with him to do what the Lord had instructed. The men of the city were furious when they discovered what had happened and tried to get his father, Joash, to release Gideon to them. His father wisely responded; “If Baal is god, let him contend for himself.” Meanwhile the Midianites and the Amalekites were preparing to return to the land to remove everything of value and destroy the rest. Before that came about, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, for the purpose of rallying the people. Gideon must have been unsure of himself; he twice asked for a sign in order to ascertain that he was doing the right thing. The Lord, however, honored his requests. As Gideon and his followers rallied, the Lord told him he had too many men; they could have boasted in their own ability and strength. Therefore, the Lord cut his army from 32, -- down to a mere 300! At that point, their newly appointed leader probably felt he had a legitimate reason to be afraid! That night God gave him even further confirmation that he was doing the right thing. Therefore, Gideon took his small army to confront the enemy. Gideon’s army was not heavily armed as normally they would be. Instead, they were equipped with the armament of God: trumpets, and pitchers with flaming torches inside! At Gideon’s signal they blew the trumpets, broke their pitchers, and said, “For the Lord and for Gideon.” Now don’t you just know that would bring tremendous fear to the enemy! Can you imagine the Midianites and the Amalekites being overly alarmed by hearing the sound of trumpets, breaking pitchers, and the sight of 300 torches burning in the night? Normally, that would not send any great enemy reeling. This time was different, however. As Gideon and his men were obedient to God, “the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled” (Judges 7:22). Remember the situation. In his own eyes, Gideon was nobody. God heard the sons of Israel crying out because of their oppressors. He approached Gideon and told him to go fight an innumerable enemy. Once Gideon received his commission to confront the enemy, he built an altar to the Lord and called it Jehovah-shalom meaning, “The Lord is Peace.” The angel of the Lord had not come to Gideon during a long reign of peace; he came during a time of national crisis. This angel had required something of Gideon that no military leader in his right mind would ever consider as a plan of military action: He used the unlikely tools that God had given him—trumpets, pitchers, and torches—yet he won the war. The heavenly messenger had helped Gideon work through his doubts and fears, using him in a way that Gideon himself had never thought possible. Jehovah-shalom: the Lord my peace, Philippians 4:5-7 says, “…The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We need that message in our day as well. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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