There was a time after God delivered Israel from Egypt into the promised land when they were harassed by the nation of Midian for seven years. The people of Israel hid in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. Every time they planted crops, marauders from Midian and other places would attack them. They would camp out, destroy the crops, steal the sheep, goats, cattle and donkeys and leave the land stripped bare. The people of Israel became impoverished, destitute and on the verge of starvation. They finally began to cry out to God for help.
Although we do not have a record of the prayers that Israel prayed, I can imagine that they reminded God of His promise to bless them and protect them in the promised land. I’m convinced that they reminded God of how He brought their ancestors out of Egypt and through the Red Sea; How He gave them the ten commandments, fed them with Manna and Quail, and helped them defeat their enemies and take possession of the land. I further believe that they reminded God of what their ancestors had done for Him. How they followed Him in the wilderness, built the tabernacle, worshiped and sacrificed to Him. Some may have even asked, “Where is the God of Israel in our generation?”
Whatever the content, God did indeed hear their prayers and He responded. I’m sure expectations were many. Some probably didn’t expect to hear from God at all, while others looked for a miracle similar to ones they had heard stories about. Some may have been expecting a great deliverer to rise up like Moses or Joshua. These miracle seekers would not be disappointed, but before God worked in those ways, He did something far more fundamental. The Bible tells us in Judges 6:7, “When Israel cried out to the Lord because of Midian, the Lord sent a prophet…”
This response had to be a surprise to many. Before the Lord would deal with their enemies, he was first going to deal with his people. He spoke through the Prophet and let them know that the whole reason they were in the mess in the first place was because they had failed to listen to Him. After He had their attention, and their repentance, He sent someone else – a warrior. God used Gideon to drive out the enemy, save His people and remind them about the God they should be listening to.
In the New Testament the Apostle Peter declares that it is time for judgment to begin in the House of God (1 Peter 4:17). The second and third chapters of Revelation lays out the warnings of judgment to the churches before the Tribulation judgments come upon the world. Is it possible that we, His modern-day people, are failing to listen to Him the way we should?
With the various and sundry groups who are claiming persecution nowadays, it may be surprising to many to discover that Christians are the group who actually top the dreaded list. According to the Center for Studies on New Religions, 90,000 Christians were killed on the basis of their religious faith in 2016 alone. 600 million experienced religious suppression last year. Even here in the United States, it often appears that Christians are quickly becoming persona non-grata in our society. Perhaps we should take a closer look at Saint Peters words, “For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household…”
So while it can be good to rehearse God’s promises, and even to cry out for help in times of trouble. May we be ever more diligent to listen to – and obey – God’s instructions.