Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Playing games with God

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Judges 6:22-40

TO CHEW ON: "Then Gideon said to God, 'Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.'" Judges 6:39

This little story is the origin of the saying 'put out a fleece' meaning ask for a sign to test a situation.

Asking for or depending on signs was a frequent thing in the Bible.
  • Abraham's servant asked for a sign when he was sent to find a wife for Isaac - Genesis 24:42-44.
  • Samuel told Saul that certain signs would prove that God was with him as he assumed the role of king (1 Samuel 10:7).
  • Later Saul's son Jonathan determined that the sign he and his servant should fight the Philistines would be if they said: "Come up to us" instead of "Wait until we come to you" - 1 Samuel 14:10.

So why does Gideon seem fearful of God's anger when he asks for this sign?

I believe it's because this is the second sign that he asks for to confirm the same situation. God has already given him an answer with a sign, so he realizes that in a way he's trivializing God's first response by asking for another one.

Perhaps Jesus' vexation over the Pharisees' request for a sign is the reaction Gideon fears from God: "When the Pharisees came to dispute with Him and sought a sign from heaven to test Him, He sighed deeply in His spirit and said, 'Why does this generation seek a sign?'" Mark 8:12.

Seeking sign upon sign can easily disintegrate into playing games of stalling, quibbling, and rationalizing with God—what the Pharisees do again and again. That is not the behavior Jesus calls "blessed." Rather, He praises simple faith that believes because of the signs it already had. To Thomas, who insists that he see Jesus' scars before he will believe that He rose from the dead, Jesus says: "'Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" John 20:29.

The Bible is full of reported signs: "... these (referring to "this book"—John, and all of Scripture) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life in His name" - John 20:31. Let's let them be enough for us.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, please grow my faith so that Your sign-filled Bible is enough for me. Help me to recognize the signs of guidance, confirmation and affirmation that You send my way. Amen.

MORE: Reckless faith

"If you debate for a second when God has spoken, it is all up. Never begin to say - "Well, I wonder if He did speak?" Be reckless immediately, fling it all out on Him. You do not know when His voice will come, but whenever the realization of God comes in the faintest way imaginable, recklessly abandon. It is only by abandon that you recognize Him. You will only realize His voice more clearly by recklessness." - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, June 18th reading
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