HONESTY- POWERFUL AND FREE!

There are some lessons that I truly enjoy being taught by God. One of the lessons that I keep constantly being taught (thank you, Jesus!) is of this amazing, free, beautiful aspect of our relationship with God that is only attained with honesty.

Take a look at Judges 6:11-16 with me, if you will. This is fastly becoming one of my favorite sections in the entire Bible.

11And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. 12And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. 13And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. 14And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? 15And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my fatherís house. 16And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.

Is that not AWESOME or what?!! I mean, here we have a man who has lived in about 7 years of Midianite invasion into the land of Palestine. Now, let me tell you a little bit about the Midianites before I get started.

The Midianites were distantly related to the Israelites. They came from Midian, one of the sons of Abraham. But they usually were enemies rather than friends of the Hebrew people. Abraham sent the children of Midian ďto the country of the eastĒ (Gen. 25:6) which probably included the desert fringes of Moab, Edom, and perhaps parts of the Sinai Peninsula. They were desert people.

The Midianites were at least loosely associated with others of this group, including the Ishmaelites (Gen. 37:28; Judg. 8:24). Ishmael, if you remember, was Abrahamís first son from his servant Hagar, but was sent away because he was not the promised son of Sarah and Abraham. Midianite travelers bought Joseph from his brothers and resold him in Egypt (Gen. 37:25Ė36). Now, Moses actually married into a Midianite family (specifically an associated group known as the Kenites) in ďthe land of MidianĒ (Ex. 2:15). His wife Zipporah and his father-in-law Jethro were Midianites ďThen Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter toMosesĒ (Ex. 2:21; 3:1). But this was the last friendly connection the Israelites had with the Midianites.

After the time of Moses, the Midianites consistently opposed the Israelites. Do you remember the story of Balaamís attempt to curse Israel? Remember, God opened up the Donkeyís mouth, and then later when he was brought out to curse Israel he couldnít do it three times in a row and instead blessed them? Well, that was the Midianites. They joined with the Moabites, in whose territory they had partly settled, and hired Balaam to curse Israel (Num. 22:4, 7). At Moab, just before the conquest of Canaan, the Midianites were among those who practiced sexual immorality as part of the ritual of their idolatrous religion. They involved some of the Israelites in this idolatry, causing Godís judgment to come upon His people (Num. 25:1Ė9). Because of this the Midianites were singled out for destruction (Num. 25:16Ė18).

Now, we are entering into this story of Gideon during the days of the judges after the Midianite warriors invaded Palestine. They came on camels, which was an innovation in combat. The Israelites were driven into the hill country as the Midianites and other easterners raided their territory, plundering crops and cattle for seven years (Judg. 6:1Ė6). (Much of the previous was excerpted from Ronald F. Youngblood, general editor; F.F. Bruce and R.K. Harrison, consulting editors, Nelsonís new illustrated Bible dictionary: An authoritative one-volume reference work on the Bible with full color illustrations [computer file], electronic edition of the revised edition of Nelsonís illustrated Bible dictionary, Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1995.)

And so Gideon was threshing his his wheat here in secret, to hide it from these plundering people. Seven years. Almost as long as 2 full Presidential terms in America. 7 years of hiding fields of grain and working at night. I donít know if youíve ever tried to hide a garden from people looking for it, but it couldnít have been easy!

Now, I know, if you were Gideon, you probably would have acted differently. I mean, I know I would have not had such a grim outlook, right? Try to see the good. "Pretend" things are better, for Peteís sake. Just "have a little more faith." :-) Well, I can guarantee that there were probably people with that outlook in the land of Israel at that time as well. I donít know if it is coincidence or not, but God didnít send His angel to any of them. He did not pick a "pretender" to lead the people of Israel into victory over the Midianites.

But look what He chose. Gideon bordered more on the complaining side, I would have to say. Now, having said that I need to tell you that there is a difference between complaining out of honesty and frustration and anger and downright desperation for God to move, and simply being bitter at life. One is governed by honesty. One is governed by self-pity.

So hereís the angel, "The LORD is with thee, you swell righteous dude."

And Gideon, in his Gideonish-way, says, " God, if you are with me, than why in the world am I harvesting my wheat in the middle of the night? Didnít you get my granddaddy out of Egypt? Huh? Is that true? I think Youíve have abandoned us, and you know what, I hate it."

"Thatís right," says the angel. "Now go with this, you mighty dude, and get Israel back on track."

"How do you want me to do that? I canít do it as is. Iím poor and basically a wimp."

Do you get the picture here? I like to imagine in my mind the angel smiling out of joy and awe when Gideon answers his statements with another list of problems without solutions.

Now, let me put this into modern day terms. How many of you here truly enjoy reading the Bible every day? Liars! Everyone comes into days where the last thing they want to do is read the Bible! And you know what, sometimes, not all the time, but definately sometimes, I believe that the best thing that we can do is not to pretend to enjoy it, or get something out of it, or even to like it! Iíve had times where I hated the Bible. Iíve even told God, "God, this is a stupid book! It doesnít make any sense to me, and Iím glad it does for some people, but Iím not going to read it anymore unless You change my heart." Itís amazing how free you can feel just being honest with God. And do you know what? The last time I did that I was reading it again within a week, but not because I had to. It was because I wanted to.

There was a time not so long ago when I really was interested in a girl, and God had made it clear that it was not the one. But I wanted her to be "the one." But she wasnít. And so, God and I had a fight over this for a few months. Finally he won, and I felt very bitter inside because I felt she was perfect for me, and I for her, and that together we could genuinely grow in Godliness. It wasnít even a physical thing, it was purely a spiritual and emotional desire. (Which is odd for a man!) And so I hated God. I hated him for this. Has anyone fainted from my "blasphemous honesty" yet? Good. Iíll continue.

Now, how many people know that you canít hate God for long and have your relationship with Him be the same. And so finally I actually told Him. I said, "God, I hate you. I just hate you. Here she was, the finest woman I have ever met, spiritually and physically, and I know we would have had a great life together and you ruined it. Iím pissed at you right now." And then I went "arggggh!" Because Heís God and He always wins and I wanted Him to know that I was frustrated at even that. And you know what? I felt better after that. I even snickered. And God was closer than before. And we were able to walk away, together, from this situation that had gripped my spirit for so long. But I had to be honest. I had to be honest.

You can not know what it is like to enter into this cliche we as Christians use, this "relationship with God," unless you get honest with Him. That is where it really starts rolling. That felt so good Iím going to say it again. You canít have a true relationship with God outside of honesty. Honesty turns our walk with God from religion to relationship in under a second.

You know, there are some people that never learn this simple lesson. And there are many unsaved people who are more honest with God than we as Christians are. At least they will tell Him that they are angry with Him.

I am nearly convinced that there is not an easier power that God has given us that can better serve our relationship with the Lord than honesty. Forgiveness is hard. Laying down our own pride and personal desires is hard. Loving others more than ourselves is very hard. But honesty, oh, honesty! What a beautiful power He has given us. All we need to do is tell Him the truth. I pray weíll always tell Him the truth.