Judges 8:1-21 (Part 1) – Sometimes, You Gotta Guard the Bathroom

Posted: August 26, 2017 in Book of Judges, Uncategorized
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Judges 8:1-21 (Part 1 of 4)
Gideon Kills Zebah and Zalmunna

I remember several years ago when Elena and I were co-directors of the Community Transformation ministry of our church (to outsiders desiring non-“church speak” nomenclature, we were co-directors of the church’s local outreach ministry). At the same time, I was the leader of our small group. In that small group, we had encouraged our small group members to participate in the upcoming major event in our church’s outreach calendar, the annual Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway.

As I have mentioned here before, our church has this major event where we invite anyone who feels less fortunate in our community to come to our church and get a complete Thanksgiving meal including an 11-12 lb. turkey to take home. In that way they can have a nice Thanksgiving meal with their family rather than sitting in some church gym eating a meal on long tables with hundreds of other folks they don’t even know. All the while, eating the meal off a paper plate with plastic forks, knives and spoons after having gone through a serving line where some nice church person is the one who determines how much of a portion of each foot item you get. Those generic en masse dinners though an act of generosity are often another slap in the face in the fact that you are poor. You want to have a Thanksgiving meal but you end up feeling like a kid in elementary school eating a meal with hundreds of others. It can be somewhat degrading to the spirit. That’s why we do ours the way we do. Allow these families some dignity where they can take their meal home and have a private meal with their family – not to mention that we don’t have an industrial kitchen at our church where we can feed hundreds of people at once…so there’s that!

Back to my story though. I had encouraged our life group members to get off the couch and help out on the day of the event. So, most of the group did, those that could get off work on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. But I had this one lady from our group that was not there early (we ask volunteers to arrive as early as possible but no later than 7am on the day of the event) for the prep meetings and volunteer assignments to the various functions, just show up around 9am. This particular year, because the weather was going to be unusually warm for late November (it was going to be in the upper 70s that day), we held the event outside. All the stations of our process for the event were outside. It was already in the upper 60’s by event time and it turned out to be a great choice for that particular year. Meanwhile, this lady came directly to me and it seemed to because she knew me, was in my small group, and I was a co-leader of the event that she thought she would get a plum assignment out front engaging people, a place where she could be seen. However, since all positions had been manned I gave her a position as bathroom monitor since we needed someone inside to direct our guests to the bathroom. You know the person that directs others to the bathroom and making sure that people do not wander off into the unattended areas of the main worship center of our church. You know, this lady, though not said directly to me, was telling others how angry she was that she had such a demeaning position. She wanted to be seen. She thought because she knew Elena and me that we would put her in a prime position where she could be seen. She didn’t want to be behind the scenes.

But sometimes in life we have to “guard the bathroom.” In serving the Lord, there are times and there may be many times where we are not out front. We may talented in ways that cause us to be like the old BASF commercials. Remember, “We don’t make the ______. We make the ______ better!” Sometimes, we may be called to rearrange the chairs in the worship center for an event, but not be on stage. We may work in the kitchen at the soup kitchen and not be the ones serving and interacting with the guests. We may build the coat racks but not be the ones who gives the coats away to guests at the coat giveaway. You may be the one running a camera during a church service but not be the pastor delivering the sermon on stage. You may be the accountant who manages the church’s financial reporting but no one notices other than a few people within the church. We must remember who we are working for. We are working for the Lord. We are not working for personal acclaim. We give what we give in our time, talent, and resources not so our pastor will notice us but rather to give glory to God.

That was the first thing that I noticed about this passage, Judges 8:1-21, this morning was how those leaders of the Ephraimites were mad at Gideon because they were given what they considered a lesser role. That was a reminder of how we are sometimes in the church. How we will fall away from participating in some task because it is not in the limelight. Let’s read the passage now:

8 Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?” And they challenged him vigorously.

2 But he answered them, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? 3 God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?” At this, their resentment against him subsided.

4 Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it. 5 He said to the men of Sukkoth, “Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.”

6 But the officials of Sukkoth said, “Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?”

7 Then Gideon replied, “Just for that, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.”

8 From there he went up to Peniel[a] and made the same request of them, but they answered as the men of Sukkoth had. 9 So he said to the men of Peniel, “When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower.”

10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with a force of about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of the armies of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen had fallen. 11 Gideon went up by the route of the nomads east of Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the unsuspecting army. 12 Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, fled, but he pursued them and captured them, routing their entire army.

13 Gideon son of Joash then returned from the battle by the Pass of Heres. 14 He caught a young man of Sukkoth and questioned him, and the young man wrote down for him the names of the seventy-seven officials of Sukkoth, the elders of the town. 15 Then Gideon came and said to the men of Sukkoth, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me by saying, ‘Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your exhausted men?’” 16 He took the elders of the town and taught the men of Sukkoth a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers. 17 He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town.

18 Then he asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?”

“Men like you,” they answered, “each one with the bearing of a prince.”

19 Gideon replied, “Those were my brothers, the sons of my own mother. As surely as the Lord lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you.” 20 Turning to Jether, his oldest son, he said, “Kill them!” But Jether did not draw his sword, because he was only a boy and was afraid.

 

21 Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Come, do it yourself. ‘As is the man, so is his strength.’” So Gideon stepped forward and killed them, and took the ornaments off their camels’ necks.

In this passage, we see that Ephraim’s leaders felt left out because Gideon had not called them to join the battle but had left them in place to “clean up” the escaping Midianites (the “leftover grapes”) and so they angrily confronted him. Gideon assured the leaders of the tribe of Ephraim that their accomplishment was even greater than his own clan (Abiezer). His diplomatic explanation pointed out that the rear guard had managed to capture the enemy’s generals, thus, cutting off the army of the enemy from its leadership – effectively destroying the enemy. Not every necessary job is a highly visible leadership role. Much of the necessary labor of any effective enterprise is considered by many to be dirty work (the behind the scenes seemingly unrewarded and unnoticed). But such work is vital to getting any big task done. Engineers and millionaires may design and finance an elegant building, but it is the metalworkers, brickmasons, electricians, drywallers, and so on that actually get the work done. Pride can cause us to want recognition. Are content to be God’s bricklayer when he needs you to be or are resentful of the work you have been assigned (and thereby miss what God has in store for you).

Oh, Lord, in your infinite and mighty wisdom, you assign us to serve the body of Christ in ways that are not always out front or on stage and help us to remember that it is you that we are out to please and not our own egos. Help us to be willing to crawl through the mud for you if that is what you call us to do. Help us to be your humble servants because you are a great and mighty God full of infinite wisdom and understanding of a far greater plan for our lives than we can see in our limited nature. Help us to trust you and to glorify you in everything we do regardless of whether it is a job out front or it is a job that is in the background. All parts must work together to make the body of Christ effective. Help us to learn that as part of the body there are no unimportant roles and all roles have a purpose as part of God’s plan. Help us to be humble and serve to the best of our ability and for Your Glory in whatever we do for you, Lord.

Amen and Amen.

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