My Journey of Spiritual Reading

Jerubbaal, Joash, and the Juxtaposition of Rome and America

While we, as a society, may be pondering the relationship between America and Rome, I have been of late pondering the relationship between the modern church and the book of Judges in the scriptures.  I have been brought to this line of thought primarily by my reading in the book, particularly when it comes to the story of Gideon.  Most of us are vaguely familiar with some aspects of Gideon’s life and work as a judge within the Israelite nation.  For many believers however, our understanding of Gideon’s life centers around two specific acts – the paring of the army and the fleece.  Those are both great moments in the life of Gideon and offer much to the contemplative reader.  However, it was the opening and situational moments of Gideon’s story which drew me to deeper consideration of the story.

In Judges 6, the Bible says the sons of Israel “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and the LORD gave them into the hands of the MIdians seven years” (vs 1).  It is during this time of oppression that the sons of Israel will “cry out to the Lord on the account of Midian” (vs 7) and God will answer by calling Gideon to be a judge and deliverer for the people.  The first thing Gideon is required to do is to tear down the altar of baal (a false god and the constant source of their disobedience to God throughout the book) and the Asherah pole which was beside it.  Gideon did it.  When the men of the city came out and saw what had been done, they set forth to kill the vandal.  When they learned it was Gideon, they beseeched his father, Joash, to turn over his son to mob.  Joash stood against them by uttering these words:

31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him? Whoever will plead for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar.” 32 Therefore on that day he named him Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he had torn down his altar.

Joash is pretty smart.  His argument is basically that baal should be able to take care of himself if indeed he is a god as the people believe him to be.   And what a powerful argument it is!  The bible doesn’t give any more information about the scene, all we know is Gideon doesn’t die at the hands of the mob.  So we can infer reasonably that Joash’s philosophical pleadings were persuasive enough to save his son’s life.  Gideon will go on to be a great deliverer, though not a perfect one.  The land and the people will enjoy 40 years of peace.  But it was Joash’s words which stayed with me.  They caused me to think.

If the sons of Israel were abandoning Jehovah for the baals, why didn’t they cry out to the baals in the first place, as opposed to crying out to Jehovah like they do in Judges 6:1.  The point of their disobedience was the forsaking of Jehovah for a god who was, by evidence of their precipitating action, deemed better.  Yet, it was not baal to whom the sons of Israel cried in the face of the Midian onslaught of oppression, it was Jehovah.  Of course, the answer must be the sons of Israel didn’t believe the baals were real gods and their worship of them was only skin deep, as it were.  Their worship was like a beautifully wrapped present which when opened contains nothing but air.  I came to the conclusion that the sons of Israel stunk at following baal just like they stunk at following Jehovah.  They didn’t worship either one well.

And so I wondered about me and about you, intrepid reader (which if you have made it this far you are intrepid indeed, or bored…you might just have a lot of time on your hands), about us together in the Lord.  I wondered if maybe Christians in the modern world, surrounded and inundated as we are with the prominent and glittering  idols reminding us to worship ourselves, are equally as bad at serving those idols as we are at serving the Lord.  I wondered if maybe our land resembles more the barren and confused wasteland of Israel in the time of the judges than it does the halcyon Christendom of the Holy Roman Empire.  I wondered if maybe a generation has now arisen in which they really do not know the LORD nor yet the ways in which He has moved in history, or even in the hearts and lives of the people around them.  When Joshua died the bible says, “and there arose another generation after them (the generation of Joshua) who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).

I wondered if maybe you and I are a part of that pagan generation, complicit in its iniquity with our own bad following (disobedience).  And I wonder what, if anything, we are willing to do about that.

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