Judges 8:1-21 (Part 3) – Throwing Your Brother Under the Bus!

Posted: August 28, 2017 in Book of Judges
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Judges 8:1-21 (Part 3 of 4)
Gideon Kills Zebah and Zalmunna

Back in the day when my brother and I lived at home with our parents, we moved around a lot as sons of a United Methodist Church minister and his wife. Before I left home and got married (the first time) in 1980, we sure had lived a few different places. I was born on August 25, 1962 while my dad was pastoring churches in Lamar, SC. That was my dad’s first appointment and my family lived there from June 1960-June 1963. We lived in Anderson, SC the first time from June 1963-June 1966. We moved to Walhalla, SC in June 1966 and lived there until June 1968. From there, we moved to Rembert, SC and lived there from June 1968-June 1970. Rolling on, we lived in Hartsville, SC from June 1970 to June 1972. Still with the moving, we then went on to Elgin, SC where we lived from June 1972 through June 1974. After that, the United Methodist Church in South Carolina moved us once more to Anderson, SC where we lived from June 1974-June 1976. Finally, after moving every two years for a good while, we moved to Travelers Rest, SC in June 1976 and dad served churches there until my parents were moved to Charleston, SC in June 1980. In the fall of ’78, my brother was off at college and by the summer of 1980 I had finished my freshman year in college and was about to be married to my high school sweetheart. For me, it was the end of the moving merry-go-round. From that point, I lived in the Greenville, SC area (of which Travelers Rest is a part) from June 1976-January 2006 during which I became a dad twice, married twice and divorced twice. From there, I moved to Rock Hill, SC just outside of Charlotte, NC and lived there from January 2006-May 2008. While there, I met the woman to whom I would be married later. In May 2008, I moved to the San Francisco Bay area where I lived until August 2010. Elena and I were married while out there. Finally, in 2010, we moved to the Lyman-Duncan, SC area where we have been living now since August 2010. I have lived a lot of places over these 55 years. But one of the most vivid memories that is still fresh in my mind takes me back to Hartsville, SC. That’s when my brother and I started drifting apart.

Up until we moved to Hartsville, SC, we were kind of inseparable. We were only 18 months different in age with my brother being the elder of us two. But it was in Hartsville that we began to have our own friends and doing different things. Sure, we still did stuff together like playing football against two of our buddies every Saturday morning in the fall, but it was in Hartsville, that we began seeing that we were independent of each other. While there my brother was ages 9 – 11 and I was aged almost 8 through almost 10 when we moved. He was in fourth and fifth grade there while was in third and fourth grades while there. Prior to Hartsville, we were less socially oriented and more attached to our parents than we were to the kids that we know. In the other towns, we were just little kids with no real concept of what school age social pressure was. But in Hartsville, we began to understand a world without the attachment of parents. It was there that we began to hang out with kids our age more than we hung out with our parents. It was there that we would tear out in the summer mornings and ride bikes all over town with our friends (Lanny Melton, Steve Peavey, and the two Johnson boys, Johnny and Robert) and would not be home til dark. We had great adventures the six of us. If you remember the movie, The Sandlot, or the movie, Stand By Me, that was kind of like us in our summertimes there in Hartsville in the Summer of 1970 and the Summer of 1971 (and part of the summer of 1972 before we moved that June). Fun times. Adventures at Lake Robinson. Riding through Coker College watching the girls like we were such studs…on our bicycles. Riding through the railyards at the mill. We did everything together. Hartsville in the early 70’s was just so like the towns that the guys in the Sandlot and Stand by Me grew up in.

As it was in Stand by Me, there was an ugly side to it as well. Not a murder like in that movie, but it was the fact that my brother was becoming more and more socially awkward. My brother is a brilliant guy. He always has been. He has an eidetic memory. He can remember yesterday’s baseball standings verbatim. He can remember the USC Gamecocks offensive linemen from 1980 by name and what they ended up doing after college by recall. With that kind of memory, you can suspect that he excelled at school. It was always easy for him and he dove into it. He beginning in Hartsville became more and more of a geek. His social problems began there, worsened with the geek squad he ran with in Elgin, was exacerbated in Anderson, and came to full flower in Travelers Rest. Hartsville was pretty much the last time we would spend any time together. From Elgin forward, we had separate groups of friends (what friends my brother would have) that did not intermingle with one another. I was with the non-braniac cool kids and my brother would always gravitate by the force of the social caste system of school age kids to the less popular, let’s say, kids. It all began in Hartsville though for us. That ripping of the bond between us as brothers from which we still have not fully recovered today. Sure, today, my brother and I love each other, but it is not like some brothers who talk every day. There is still that distance between us caused by years of eidetic memory Ralph vs. social chameleon but still worked hard and made good grades Mark. There was a world of difference in our social skills that started becoming apparent in Hartsville that it took us getting married, having kids, and living apart from one another for several years before we began to reconcile our relationship with one another when we were in our mid-twenties.

One of the memories that I have there was one night the Lanny, the Johnson boys, Steve, my brother and me where split up in teams of three playing war around and through the buildings of one of my dad’s churches, Twitty Memorial UMC. The parsonage was right next door and was in the middle of the mill village in which we all lived. Something happened that night. Something was said that offended my brother and he retaliated with some harsh words (for a 9 year old) toward everybody else. Maybe, my brother didn’t get his way about something, because his way was always the best way. Whatever it was, all of them (not me at first) turned on my brother and started calling him names and making fun of him. Because of the social pressure of the situation, I joined in the name calling. It got so bad that my brother ran in the parsonage crying and, of course, as he did it we questioned his 9 year old “manhood” by calling him a “crybaby”. It was within 30 minutes after my dad heard my brother’s story that I was called into the house. I remember Dad giving me the business about not defending my brother. In my defense, I tried telling dad what an ass my brother was being before all the name calling started. But my dad was big on family. He came from a family where his parents were big on family. He told me in no uncertain terms that when you have nothing else you have family. He told me that it does not matter if your brother is right or wrong you defend family. I guess that was where my resentment toward my brother began because my brother over the next decade made it so easy for people to pick on him with his need to show everyone how intelligent he was. He was like Sheldon on Big Bang Theory. Like Sheldon’s character, he has softened over the years but back in the day it was like Sheldon at the beginning of that TV series.

However, my dad was right. There are times when we must stand up for our families regardless of what the cost to us might be. When we have nothing else we have our families. We don’t throw our families under the bus just to satisfy the madding crowd. We must sometimes stand up for what is not the socially popular thing to do. I threw my brother under the bus that night in the haze of social pressure. I was a social chameleon and it began there. Fitting in. Getting along. Seeking approval.

 

That’s what I thought of this morning as we read about the town leaders that refused to help Gideon because it would have required going against the odds, going against what was the norm. They did not want to take a chance and stand out for possible ridicule or retaliation themselves. They threw Gideon under the bus. 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, in vv. 15-17, Gideon carried ou the threats that he had made in Judges 8:7 and 8:9. It is difficult to determine whether this act of revenge was justified or whether he should have left the punishment up to God. Gideon was God’s appointed leader, but the officials of Succoth and Peniel refused to help him in any way because they feared the enemy. They showed neither faith nor respect for God or the man God had chosen to save them. We should help others because it is the right thing to do, regardless of whether we benefit from it personally or not.

Sometimes, being a Christ follower is like my story and like the story of these town leaders. There will come a day when all of us have to decide to be a Christ follower or throw Christ under the bus to keep our social seal of approval or at least not to stand out for ridicule. Have you ever hid the fact that you are a Christ follower so as not to be ridiculed? Have you ever went along with the crowd doing something that was against what Christ followers believe just to fit in with the culture? There will come a day when Jesus has to decide whether we are a sheep or goat or whether, though we said, “Lord, Lord!”, he knows us or not. How often are we ashamed our faith? How often do we not share the gospel truth with others because it is uncomfortable and might cause us to stick out like a sore thumb? How often are we silent on social issues that we should be speaking out on because they are against what God teaches us in His Word? How often do we not stand up for Jesus? How often do we throw Jesus under the bus just to fit in and go along and seek approval from others. How often do we fail to realize that it is Jesus’ approval that matters and not the world’s. We sure will be spending a whole lot more time in eternity than the fleeting moments on this side of eternity. Yet, we act as if this side is the one that counts. Let us begin living to please Jesus rather than pleasing our social acceptance rating. Let us stand up for Jesus when it counts. He is our family. He is our blood. Let us live for Him and stop throwing Him under the bus to gain acceptance from that which is fleeting and temporary.

Amen and Amen.

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