Friday, February 14, 2014

28 Stories - Study 23: All Who Would Come

Fundamental: Unity and the Body of Christ

Bible Story  

The sun beat down on Gideon’s neck as he threw the final bushel of wheat into the winepress. Carefully he climbed down the dry walls of the old pit and began threshing the wheat.
Threshing wheat in a winepress, he mumbled to himself as he worked, what if the Midianites find me? I think the embarrassment of being caught hiding would be worse than any punishment they could give. But, we need this wheat.
The Midianites had been tormenting the Israelites for seven years—not letting them keep any of their harvest. Every cluster of grapes, every bushel of wheat, every olive picked from the trees was taken by raiding parties from Midian. You had to hide like a coward just to survive, or die of starvation.
Gideon paused from his work to study the sun. It was high in the sky, nearly time for lunch. He turned back to his work and picked up another armload of wheat. I’ll thresh this lot, and then I’ll go home and eat.
Moments later, focused on his task, a voice nearly gave Gideon a heart attack: “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!” Gideon didn’t look up. He knew a joke when he heard one. He was no warrior. He was a coward, if anything.
“Yeah?” Gideon shouted over his shoulder. “If God is with us, why am I in a winepress instead of on the threshing floor? If God is with us, why are we being decimated and humiliated by the Midianites? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’?”
The voice above him took a stern tone, “I am sending you, Gideon. I want you to rescue Israel from their oppressors.”
Gideon stopped what he was doing and looked up. The sun brilliantly backlit the head and shoulders of a man. Slowly, Gideon climbed out of the winepress. When he stood, facing the unknown visitor, he noticed the man was still glowing. It hadn’t been the sun. Realising he was in the presence of a spiritual being, Gideon began to shake and stammer.
“But Lord,” Gideon said. “How can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”
“I will be with you,” the man said. “And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”
Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me. Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you.”
   The man answered, “I will stay here until you return.”
Gideon rushed home, cooked a goat, made some special bread and broth and brought it back to the winepress. The visitor stood next to a large rock. Seeing what Gideon had brought, he said, “Place the meat and the unleavened bread on this rock, and pour the broth over it.”
Gideon obeyed. Once the offering was on the rock, the visitor touched it with His staff and fire leapt from within the rock and devoured the offering. A thick cloud of smoke billowed from the rock and enveloped Gideon. Moments later, when the smoke had cleared, Gideon, realising he was alone, fell to his knees in fear at what he had just seen. He cried, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”
“It is all right!” The voice of the Lord filled the air around him. “Do not be afraid. You will not die.”
Gideon built an altar to God on the spot where this amazing event had taken place. He understood this was a special moment in time and he had been chosen for a special work.
That night, God spoke to Gideon again. He was commanded to destroy the altars in his father’s front yard—the altars the entire town worshipped—an Asherah pole and an altar to Baal. In the cover of darkness, Gideon and a couple of servants did as God commanded.
In the morning the townspeople saw the destruction and were irate. It didn’t take long for them to discover Gideon was responsible. When they demanded that Gideon’s father turn his son over to be punished, Gideon’s father had an inspired comeback, “Does Baal need you to do his dirty work? If he is a God, he can punish Gideon himself!” The people were so impressed with this answer they gave Gideon a new name. They started calling him Jerub-baal, which means “Let Baal deal with him!”
The story of Gideon—the god destroyer—spread quickly and the enemies of Israel combined forces and prepared to attack. The very fact that Gideon was alive and well mocked their gods and angered their priests. Gideon must die.
The spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and he blew a ram’s horn—calling the people of Israel to battle. From every corner of Israel an army emerged. Farmers and laborers of all kinds began training to become warriors in the Lord’s army. Plows, pitchforks and metal objects of all sorts were melted down to make swords and shields.
When all the Israelites willing to fight had gathered together and stood before Gideon, there were 32,000 men and boys prepared to fight for the Lord and for Gideon. They were tired of being beaten down, mocked and robbed. They had cried out to God in their time of need and God had answered by providing a hero from within their midst—God had called Gideon. And Gideon had called them.
The energy in the camp was a physical thing. Gideon could feel the swell of momentum building as men joined together from all over Israel. Things had dramatically changed compared to when he was hiding alone in the bottom of a winepress. God had showed up. Gideon’s father had stood beside him. And now, an army was amassing that would surely accomplish the will of the Lord. It was only a matter of time.
And from the signs all around them, time was very short.

My Reflection

Imagine you were Gideon at various stages in this story. How would you have felt when:

You were carrying wheat to the winepress to harvest in secret.

You heard someone mocking you, calling you a mighty warrior, while you worked in the bottom of a pit.

You realised God was speaking to you, calling you to lead a revival.

You father protected you after you knocked over his altars.

All of Israel turned out to fight in the army you were building for the Lord.

My Story

Have you ever felt completely alone and believed no one cared about you? Describe that feeling. What did it take to make you feel differently?

Have you ever been asked to be part of something big—a member of something new and exciting? What was it? How did you respond? What effect did it have on your life?

What would it be like if everyone who knew God worked together to accomplish the work Jesus left for us to do? What impact would that unity of purpose have on the world? What effect would it have on the church? On you?

My Assurance

Read Jesus’ prayer in John 17. When Jesus prayed, He asked God to help his people (that’s us!) to think and act as one. Instead, Christianity is the most fragmented religion in the world. How do these verses give us encouragement as we strive to embrace our fellow Christians in obedience to Christ’s prayer?

John 17:20-23 ~  “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one. . . . May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 ~ So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Matthew 28:20 ~ And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

My Commitment

Jesus commissioned His followers to be disciple makers — connecting people to God by building bridges between them and us. How do these verses challenge you in your actions toward the people in your world and beyond?

Matthew 28:19-20 ~ Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Ephesians 4:1-6 ~ Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.

My Outlook

It is hard to move outside of our comfort zone, especially our religious comfort zone. How do these verses broaden your view of what a true follower of Jesus would look like to the people who do not know Him?

Romans 12:4-5 ~ Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

Psalm 133:1 ~ How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!

Acts 17:27 ~ His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us.

Ephesians 4:14-16 ~ Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

My Response

The following statement is the 14th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

Unity in the Body of Christ

The church is one body with many members, called from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. In Christ we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us. We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation. Through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures we share the same faith and hope, and reach out in one witness to all. This unity has its source in the oneness of the triune God, who has adopted us as His children.

Bible Story

The Bible story of Gideon can be found in Judges 6-8.

Further Reading

1 Corinthians 12:12-14, Galatians 3:27-29, Colossians 3:10-15.

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