So they said to one another, "Who has done this?" After searching and inquiring, they were told, "Gideon son of Joash did it." Then the townspeople said to Joash, "Bring out your son, so that he may die, for he has pulled down the altar of Baal and cut down the sacred pole beside it." But Joash said to all who were arrayed against him, "Will you contend for Baal? Or will you defend his cause? whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself because his altar has been pulled down." Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, "Let Baal contend against him, " because he pulled down his altar. Judges 6:29-32 NRSV
On the one hand, this part of Gideon's story is rather humorous. However, it really points to how unfaithful the people of God have become.
You have to chuckle when Gideon's Dad defends him by asking the people why they were so upset on Baal's behalf. "If Baal is such an important deity, why are you having to be so angry on his behalf?" says Joash. "Why don't you let Baal stand up for himself if he is so great!" Then the people seem to get it because they give Gideon a nickname: he who contends with Baal. The really funny thing for the rest of us is that Gideon spends most of his time "contending" with Yahweh!
But the people have truly become unfaithful to Yahweh. According to Deuteronomy 12 and 13, the people of God are instructed to tear down all the pagan shrines and to stone to death anyone who tries to worship other gods. Yet, God's people built this shrine and the pole and are worshipping these other gods. When Gideon, under the cover of darkness, actually carries out God's instructions (from Deuteronomy 12 and in person) the people are mad at Gideon. The truth of the matter is that Gideon should be killing them! What is sad is that his father also has lost God's directive in terms of how to handle other gods and their shrines. He neglects to remind the people of what God really wants and makes a joke instead (this may have also defused a bad situation so perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on Joash).
Have we, too, lost the point?
Have we tried to make it into a joke?
How often do we contend with God when we should be contending with "other gods?"
God, it isn't funny when we lose sight of who you call us to be and what you call us to do. Help us to truly worship you with everything we are and everything we have. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Question for the day: What things in your life could you label "other gods?"
Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims