As I’ve been writing about running the race God has set before us and the importance of stripping off all that hinders our faith and trust in God I’m reminded of some lessons we can learn from the Israelites and the story of Gideon.
The Israelites were God’s chosen people. God called Abraham out from among other nations, not because of anything he did, but because God loved him and chose to love and bless the nation that would come from him.
It has always been God’s heart to love and bless His people and to set them apart from the ways of other nations to make a distinction between those who love and worship Him and those who don’t.
God miraculously brought His people out of slavery, into the promised land, the land He set apart for them, a good land filled with blessing. Though this was the land God promised His people would inherit, it was still inhabited with those who didn’t worship Him. These nations were as enemies because they worshipped false gods, their knowledge and ways were based on their own understanding, the lies of the enemy. God told His people to destroy all their enemies in the promised land. He warned them that if they didn’t, they would be as a snare to them. He knew that by living with people who didn’t worship as they did, with those who lived according to the nature of their flesh, His people would begin to compromise. Their flesh would crave the very things those around them had and enjoyed.
“When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.” Deuteronomy 18:9
God loved His people, chose them, and set them apart to enjoy the blessings He had for them. Because He created them He knew what was best. He gave them commandments that were meant to set them apart as His chosen people, keep them safe and free, and enjoying the abundant life He intended.
God’s love and blessings are intended to be returned with love and worship of Him.
So when the Israelites began to compromise by trusting in the knowledge and ways of the nations around them they suffered consequences. They rebelled against God by trading their worship of Him to worshipping idols. God is a jealous God and demands all worship. He doesn’t share His glory with any other. Their sin hindered God’s blessings. Their sin put them into slavery, bondage to their enemies, the very nations that God set them apart from.
It was during a time of compromise and rebellion that the sin of the Israelites resulted in bondage to their enemies, the Midianites. The oppression of the Midianites caused the Israelites to flee to the mountains and brought them to starvation.
And it was this fear and scarcity that caused Gideon to be found threshing wheat in a winepress.
So we too are God’s chosen people, the objects of His love and blessing.
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:3-5
And we too, have been set free from the bondage of our enemy, Satan. We have been bought with the blood of Jesus and brought into the promised land of salvation, filled with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms! We have been declared holy, and without fault in the eyes of God! Through the sacrifice of Jesus we have been adopted into God’s own family, set apart from the world to make Him known, and to bring Him great pleasure!
This freedom, this salvation, this new identity as God’s very own beloved child is meant to result in our love, trust, and worship of God alone.
Living by these truths enable us to run the race God has set before us.
To live fully the destiny we have been created for.
But, same as the Israelites, we live surrounded by those who don’t love and worship the One true God, and while we may not face flesh and blood enemies like the Midianites, we do have an enemy who is after our soul, who battles against us in the spirit realm. These influences and attacks around us weigh us down and hinder us. We find ourselves conforming to life situations in the same ways as those around us who don’t worship God. We begin to think as they think, do as they do, speak as they speak, and believe as they believe.
Conforming and compromise distance us from God.
Away from the truths of God, the ways of the world begin to make sense, doubt and unbelief creep in. Our own understanding becomes what is true, and we soon forget the truth.
Conforming and compromise bring guilt and shame.
These cause us to forget who we are as God’s beloved child and we “hide” our true selves, allowing ourselves to be defined by the world.
Conforming and compromise create discontent.
Striving results as we pursue things that never satisfy, leaving us empty, but striving for more.
I believe many people of God are just as Gideon today. We are doing all we can to stay alive in the scarcity we face in our lives. We know God, we believe in God, but compromise has kept us from experiencing the blessings of God. The signs and wonders of God seem only as things in the past. Many of us are hiding our true selves because we have forgotten who we really are as God’s chosen people. Conforming to the ways of the world has redefined us and that’s how we have chosen to see ourselves rather than how God sees us.
It took the bondage of fear and scarcity to bring God’s people to cry out to Him.
There were things God needed to strip off His people, and He could finally do it when they cried out to Him for help.
What about you?
Perhaps you have conformed and compromised and you feel distant from God. Perhaps you have allowed busyness or guilt keep you from spending time with God. Maybe it has been so subtle you haven’t even thought about where God has been, and you haven’t even noticed that God’s presence is missing from your life.
Do you find yourself hiding your true self because you don’t even know who you really are anymore. You don’t like the person you’ve become, but you have no idea how to get out of the place you find yourself. Is there scarcity in your life, an emptiness that come from striving after those things that never satisfy?
Well, if any of these are true of you, the truth is that just like the Israelites you can cry out to God.
God loves you and is for you! He doesn’t condemn or bring shame…
and He sees you even if you are threshing wheat in a winepress…hiding in fear and living in scarcity! He is ready to come to you with a new name and an incredible plan to bring you victory and freedom!