Weekly Bible Devotional
“Finding God in the Waves: Beyond Contradictions”
August 14, 2022
Scripture: Judges 6:36-40
36 Then Gideon said to God, ‘In order to see whether you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 I am going to lay a fleece of wool on the threshing-floor; if there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said.’ 38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, ‘Do not let your anger burn against me, let me speak one more time; let me, please, make trial with the fleece just once more; let it be dry only on the fleece, and on all the ground let there be dew.’ 40 And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.
Notes on the Text:
In our Bible story for this week we hear about a man who wanted to get certainty about his faith and about the guidance of God. This story comes from the book of Judges. This is the period of history after the Israelites were delivered from slavery out of Egypt by Moses, wandered in the wilderness for forty years and then entered in the land of promise. A few years had passed, and they had judges who were leading them. This was a period of about 300 years. The dominant pattern of the book of Judges is that people would do what was evil and then a leader would come and help lead them back to the ways of God. Judges functioned as leader/rulers.
Today’s Bible story is about one of these judges. His name was Gideon. He was called to be a military leader and a judge. But he felt ill-equipped. There was a whole landscape of fear and doubt in his life. Gideon was the lowliest member of the lowliest clan of Manasseh. He did not consider himself to be adequate for the call. Gideon wanted to make sure that God was not going to leave him and that his leadership was going to be accepted. Gideon wanted to make sure that the results were going to be good. He did not want to lead his people to death. He wanted to ensure that his military campaign was going to be successful. He also wanted control and so he set up several tests for God. He wanted clear signs. Gideon’s enemies were powerful. This was a huge risk for Gideon and his people. Gideon only had trumpets and clay pitchers with torches hidden in them. Thus, the risk was very high and his trust in God was to be totally based on faith and not on any sense of control or skill.
He could not imagine risking his people’s safety and wellbeing based on faith. What is interesting is that even after Gideon got his signs and won the battles, he lost his way. His faith was only skin deep. He ended up worshipping an idol and led his people to idolatry! In other words, there is no science or proof strong enough to chase away all of our struggles, misgivings, or doubts. The work of faith to always lean into our relationship with the divine.
This week we focus is on mystical experiences that lead us beyond trying to reconcile the contradictions of our logical minds which often seek to control and define reality. By looking at the example of Gideon, we see the limitations of seeking proof or control over faith. The work of faith is to always lean into our relationship with the divine instead of relying on our definitions of God and of reality. Scientific or logical explanations of mystical experiences often fall short of capturing their wonder.
Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun, theologian, and author, wrote that “God is the mystery nobody wants…what people want from God is not mystery but certainty, the very element in ourselves that binds itself so often to making sure that nothing ever changes, that tomorrow never comes…What it comes down to is this, I decided; I can either believe in the greatness of God or not believe in God at all.”
Mike McHargue writes, “The need for certainty is an addiction we can kick –that it’s possible to have faith, and even follow Christ, without needing to defend historical Christianity like a doctoral thesis. We can approach beliefs not as gems to be mined from the earth and protected with clenched fists, but as butterflies that land on an open hand –as gifts to enjoy but not possess.”
Wendell Berry’s poem speaks to this as well: “It may be that when we no longer know what to do / we have come to our real work, / and that when we no longer know which way to go / we have come to our real journey.”
Macrina Wiederkehr: There is something in me that is not content to hang about directionless along the edge of the path … A thirst in me so deep it will move aside the rocks, seeking moisture. There is a yearning that is intense in its desire to put God first. It may take a lifetime, but I have no doubt this unnameable Mystery within, the seed that fell at the beginning of creation, will finally crowd out the thorns. Yes, there is One who believes in me enough to continue singing up the country of my heart.”
Prayer by Marina Wiederkehr:
Oh Gracious Giver of the Day, bountiful has been my daily bread; and in the heart of sorrows you have surrounded me with grace. Like the earth circling the sun, blessings have circled my day. As the lamps of evening are lit, I live in the circling. My eyes scan the horizons of your goodness. Standing tall with thanksgiving I praise you with a grateful heart. O Mystery within Mystery, touch the paradoxes of this day with your healing breath. Let your mantle of peace clothe me in this…hour. It is well with my soul. All shall be well; all shall be well. Amen.