Thursday, April 26, 2007

Delusion or Inspiration?

I think it was somebody named Kennedy who said this maybe 40 years ago: "Some men see things as they are and ask 'Why?'; I dream things that never were and ask 'Why not?'" Today's reading from the book of Judges shows God taking that one step further; he calls things that are not as though they were.

Here's the setting: raiders from Midian invade the Israelite territory, ruining crops and destroying livestock, and the Israelites prepare hideouts for themselves in mountain caves and the like. In the midst of this...
11The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior."
Judges 6:11-12
The scene is almost comical. Gideon is hiding out in this enclosure to thresh out the grain, and the angel of the Lord calls him a "mighty warrior." Gideon is so astonished that he forgets to be afraid. (Most of the time, when an angel appears, his first words are, "Don't be afraid.")

What follows is truly outstanding, and many sermons have been preached on it. You've probably heard some. But I want to focus today on "the vision thing." Gideon was hiding in a winepress. (I looked this up once in a Bible dictionary, and I seem to remember that it's basically a box.) He's not in a very warrior-like position, but the Lord's angel calls him "mighty warrior."

What an astonishing event! It's a naming actually. The Lord (OK, his angel) is giving Gideon a new picture of himself, and with the new picture, a new mission. Not Gideon the timid, barely scraping by -- but Gideon the Mighty Warrior, who will lead his people to victory.

This makes me think of two things. First, is there a mission I'm missing because the name, the picture I have of myself, isn't the right one? Is my Milquetoast image of myself at variance with the image, and the mission, God has for me?

Second, is there someone that I need to help rename? Do my wife and children, for example, know that I see them as powerful agents of blessing in the world? Do my colleagues know that I think they're doing, and will do, great things? I hope so!

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