Advent Day 17: As on the day of Midian

13 December 2011 by Neil

Are you self-assured and financially secure? Are you a daddy? Are you safe? Looking forward to Christmas? In the little nook of your noggin that forges nightmares, substitute your confidence and western wealth with fear and debasement. Replace your happy homestead with a hidden hole in the ground, your wife with a sunken-eyed wraith, and your Skyrim playing kids with weeping malnourishment. It's not that you have no future. It's that your best case future involves decomposing alone under a bush. This is how low the Israelites fell in Judges 6:1-6. They were deer fleeing from the hunters during a long winter. And the most tragic part is that they brought it upon themselves.

From their gopher holes they could see the oppressing Midianites trampling their homes and eating their food. They must have raged with tearful impotence at the endless invasion. But they didn't turn to the One that could save them. Only after seven years (slow learners, they!), did the Israelites (well, a few of them) call upon YHWH. Would he save them in spite of themselves?

The rest of this story may be familiar. A reluctant young man named Gideon was cajoled into leading a raggedy force of 32,000 hole-dwellers against the Midianites' 135,000 well equipped fighters. It's unlikely that they could have won, but stranger things have happened. Think of the English victories at Agincourt or Crécy. It's always fun to use French military defeats as examples. The 32,000 would have been glorious heroes, revered and mythologized for generations as the men who saved Israel. But that's not what occurred.

We read on: the 32,000 were unremarkably whittled down to 300. I'm not military, but my recessive actuary genes tell me that 300 inferior fighters have 0.0000000% chance of displacing the Midianite hoard. If Midian were somehow defeated, then that would not be a military victory. Instead, it would be supernatural, a miracle of epic scale. Only God could have done it. It would be life from death, and restoration from damnation. Children would laugh. Grownups would dance. Crops would be harvested. The degraded walking dead would become a prospering people again, with the desire to serve the maker of the miracle.

A gazillion generations later, Isaiah 9:1-7 was written.