Theme for 3rd Week: Calling. The lessons this week may seem far removed from Advent, except they’re focused on God making all things new through calling and commissioning people to bring newness (change) to a world that desperately needs it.
Helpful Background to Judges 6
Because of their sin ("did evil in God's sight," 6:1) Israel had been defeated by the Midianites who oppressed and cruelly brutalized them for seven years. Then the nation cried out to the LORD (6:6). God’s response came in a call to Gideon. Abiezrite, was one of the families of the tribe of Manasseh.
Prepare to Listen. Light the pink candle this week with the first 2 purple candles. Be still with this reminder: The Lord’s mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. (Luke 1:50)
Prayerfully Read Judges 6:11-18
11Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. 12The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, ‘The LORD is with you, you mighty warrior.’ 13Gideon answered him, ‘But sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, “Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?” But now the LORD has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian.’ 14Then the LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you.’ 15He responded, ‘But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’ 16The LORD said to him, ‘But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them.’ 17Then he said to him, ‘If now I have found favour with you, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. 18Do not depart from here until I come to you, and bring out my present, and set it before you.’ And he said, ‘I will stay until you return.’
The Midianites’ oppression included waiting for the Israelites to harvest their crops, then they’d raid and steal the harvest. Despite bravely defying them, hiding his harvest in the wine press so that his family was fed, Gideon had no desire to deliver his people from them. He was an unlikely (the least in family and tribe) and reluctant choice, as we see in his wrestling argument with the LORD.
Two years into a persistent deadly pestilence, perhaps we too might say with Gideon, “But sir, if the LORD is with us, why then does this pandemic persist and keep getting worse? Why are so many getting sick and dying? Why are we still living in fear, wearing masks and social distancing? And where are all God’s wonderful deeds that our church communities recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD save us, give us good things, do great things for us?’ But now the LORD has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Covid-19.” It’s hard to believe God is present, let alone might call us to be deliverers.
Gideon’s reluctant response was an honest wrestling, coming from genuine trust in the LORD. Those who truly trust in God do complain. As Veneetha Risner writes, “When we wrestle—in our pain and our need—we are acknowledging that we trust God to hear us and respond to our cries.” We learn to trust and obey through wrestling.
Hear God’s call to Gideon as given directly to you. How might you respond?
Respond to Jesus
Lord I know in my head that you are with us in this messy world of today. But, like Gideon I have trouble knowing it in my heart. Help me wrestle with you in prayer about the needs of my life and the world so that I trust you can use me, however unlikely I seem. Amen.
Live obediently. Wrestle with God and trust him.
 Risner, Veneetha R. “How should we pray when we suffer?” Christianity Today, August 23, 2021.