Psalm 104:1-9; Judges 7; Luke 19:45-20:8

Psalm 104:1-9: This psalm starts out the same was as the previous one, but heads off in a completely different direction. Psalm 103 celebrates God’s kindness and compassion; This one is an almost ecstatic celebration of the glories of God’s greatness and His dominion over creation with two striking similes: “You are very great./ Grandeur and glory You don. / Wrapped in light like a cloak, stretching out heavens like a tent-cloth.” (2) God wears grandeur and his chariot is the clouds.

God is on the move everywhere in creation; we sense God’s own joy at what He has created: “He goes on the wings of the wind. /He makes His messengers the winds, / His ministers, glowing fire.” (3,4) The psalmist recapitulates the first parts of the Genesis story: “He founded earth on its solid base, / not to be shaken forevermore.” (5) Although people who’ve experienced earthquakes may dispute our psalmist’s assertion of “not to be shaken,” the reality is that earth has continued in its stable orbit for billions of years.

Then, a reference to water: “With the deep You covered it like a garment—/ over mountains the waters stood.” While this may be simply a reference to the vastness of the oceans, it could be taken as a description of the Noahic flood (“over the mountains”). The flood imagery seems reinforced at verse 8: “They [the waters] went up the mountains, went down the valleys, / to the place that You founded for them.” And then God’s promise that the flood would never happen again: “A border You fixed so they could not cross, / so they could not come back to cover the earth.” (9)

What strikes me most of all is the sheer energy of God’s creative power and that it is a dynamic, ongoing process. Creation didn’t just happen as some Genesis 1 static fact and then God went on to do something more interesting. Instead, God continues to be actively involved in His creation, a reality we can reflect on whenever we feel the wind or see a cloud cross the sky.

Judges 7: Gideon is now convinced that God is serious about Israel defeating the Midianites, so he assembles a really big army. But God has a point to make to Gideon and Israel: “ Israel would only take the credit away from me, saying, ‘My own hand has delivered me.’” (2) God orders Gideon to dismiss the “fearful and trembling,” which he does. But then after serious winnowing, the 300 troops who lapped the water remain. This is now Gideon’s army.

Gideon spies on the Midian camp at night and overhears a man telling his dream to a comrade: a cake of barley tumbles onto a tent and overturns the tent. The comrade coolly replies with the dream’s interpretation: “And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, a man of Israel; into his hand God has given Midian and all the army.” (14) 

But Gideon does not just rush back to camp and rally the troops. Instead, “When Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped.” (15) Gideon realizes that the comrade was the voice of God and is now fully convinced his army of 300 can defeat an army that “lay along the valley as thick as locusts.” And his first response is to worship. The question is, what is my response when God speaks to me? Do I pause and worship, realizing that I am God’s instrument, but the battle is his?

Gideon and his army of 300 carry out the famous trumpet and jar stratagem and secure victory for Israel. As with the walls of Jericho, trumpets again play a key role in defeating the enemy. But perhaps the most inspiring action of Gideon’s army was their cry, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” (20) That is how God works through us as he worked through Gideon. Both God and his instrument, the doubting Gideon were essential. Just as we are essential to carrying out God’s work in the Kingdom.

Luke 19:45-20:8: Jesus tosses the vendors out of the Temple. “The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him;” (47) but Jesus is too popular. Luke doesn’t tell us, but I think the leaders regrouped and thought if they could figure out a way to undermine Jesus’ authority then the people would abandon him–and they could be rid of this annoying rabble-rouser. So they ask the question,  “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?” (20:2). Jesus instantly perceives the stratagem and asks them, “Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” The leaders realize  they had been trapped. If they say “heaven,” Jesus can rightfully ask why didn’t you believe him? If they answer otherwise, the crowds, in front of whom this question was asked who still revered John, would have their heads. 

The leaders have been hoisted on their own trick question petard and Jesus refuses to answer. The issue is that in the end, each of us has to make a decision individually about whether or not Jesus “is from heaven.” It’s the same situation as when the Pharisees asked for “a sign from heaven” (Matthew 16). Even if they received one, they’d figure out a way to discount it. Because they preferred to keep their ego at the center of their lives rather than give themselves up wholly “to heaven.”

Same thing here. The world is pretty divided on the question. But in the end, it comes down to what each of us believes in our hearts. And who eventually occupies that heart.

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