Friday, April 05, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 89: Judges 7-9; Psalm 75; John 9

Blood for blood, sin for sin....
Abimelech kills his brothers and takes command...
Gideon's story in Judges is a study in snatching failures from the teeth of achievement: God is clearly with him, even in the wake of Gideon's testing of God with the fleece. Still, despite all that God achieves through Gideon/Jerubbaal, in the wake of a series of dramatic victories a few poor choices by Gideon and some tragic decisions on the part of his son Abimelech prove an unraveling of those blessings. Gideon takes on the Midianites with a force of a few hundred. He defeats tens of thousands of soldiers, captures kings and razes rebellious cities. Still, in the wake of that victory, he takes from his men a portion of their loot, melts it down and fashions a "breastplate for a priest." God doesn't tell him to do it, and thus he breaks covenant. Further, of his many sons, one Abimelech arranges a coup d'etat after Gideon's death, murdering his siblings (save the youngest, who escapes) and then ranges through the land, basically leading a band of thugs on a pillaging spree.

What began as God making a witness through a leader inspired by a charism of leadership disintegrates in a rugged exchange of blood for blood and sin for sin. It sets the patterns of the book of Judges, and it also serves as a lesson and reminder that action and life apart from God are not sustainable. No human effort can maintain connection to a life of blessings apart from a deep and faithful binding of will to God.

The sin: healing on the Sabbath
I had that thought in mind when I started reading the passage from John for today: here is a blind man, blind from birth, for whom Jesus restores his sight. A beautiful moment, and yet that healing generates deep controversies. Effectively, it highlights the stumbling block the Pharisees have set up for themselves in their controversies with Jesus. Their zeal, according to John, is based not on their faith in God but in their trust in their own strength to maintain and protect the Law. Jesus challenges them...he heals the man on the Sabbath (breaking the Law by doing work on the day of rest). He challenges their assumption that this man, afflicted from birth, is carrying the sin of his parents. They reject the man's identity: he cannot possibly be the man blind from birth. That sort of thing can't be healed, everyone know that. When that idea falls apart, they expel from the synagogue for the sin of suborning work on the Sabbath. When confronted with grace, they choose to focus on sin.

Both of these stories are a challenge to us today, for they remind us that life is NOT all about us and our strengths, opinions and certainties. Life is at its best when we are willing to open ourselves up to God's grace and dial in on being faithful to God's desire for us. It means an open willingness to see with loving hearts just how wild, free and unpredictable God can truly be when working out God's purposes for creation-particularly through us and our fallible, stumbling selves.

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