Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - Jdg 7:15-24
"When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he
worshiped God. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, 'Get up! The
LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.' Dividing the three hundred
men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all
of them, with torches inside. 'Watch me,' he told them. 'Follow my lead. When I
get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. When I and all who are with me
blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, "For the
LORD and for Gideon." '
"Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the
camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the
guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The
three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in
their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to
blow, they shouted, 'A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!' "
"While each man held his position around the camp, all the
Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. When the three hundred trumpets
sounded, the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with
their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border
of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh
were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. Gideon sent messengers
throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, 'Come down against the
Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth
Barah.' So all the men of Ephraim were called out and they took the waters of
the Jordan as far as Beth Barah" (Jdg 7:15-24).
"From now on everything Gideon did was marked by the most
complete confidence in God. So he well deserves to be included in Heb 11 with
those who wrought 'by faith'. But -- it should be especially noted -- this was a
faith maturing from personal experience of the ways of God.
"He now pushed forward preparations for the most unorthodox
military operation in history. The three hundred elect were equipped with
weapons of a unique kind. Trumpets were gathered from among the host, so that
each of the three hundred might have one. Torches were fashioned and kindled,
and carried in earthenware jars. Weapons they may have had, but not for use in
the wild melee that was to ensue in this grotesque operation. Divided into three
groups, these men of faith went forth into the night to take up assigned
positions on the perimeter of the Midianite camp.
"His last instructions rang in their ears: 'Look on me, and do
likewise -- as I do, so shall ye do.' Was the faith of these three hundred any
less than that of Gideon himself? They were prepared to give implicit obedience
in carrying through the most quixotic scheme ever detailed to a band of
"Time passed slowly as they crept stealthily to their
appointed stations. There they waited, tense and motionless. Then, suddenly the
air was filled with a hideous crashing sound, the smashing of three hundred
pitchers. Midianites, Amalekites, Arabians rushed forth in bewilderment and
alarm from their tents to see all round the camp hundreds of torches describing
vivid circles of fire like so many outsize Catherine wheels; and at that moment
their ears were assailed by a deep-throated thunderous shout: 'The Sword of the
Lord and of Gideon!'
"Immediately all was panic and chaos indescribable. Camels,
plunging violently, broke their tethers and ran amok in the darkness and
confusion. The startled Bedouin, already expecting the worst, were convinced
that their enemies were in the midst of the camp in large numbers. Thus they
fell to fighting furiously among themselves, an error made all the more easy
since they were a mixture of at least three different tribes. And all the time
there was this startling appearance of fire on the edge of the camp, as though
supernatural powers were taking a hand in the bedlam of noise and carnage now
rapidly intensifying. Many a son of Ishmael fell in violent bloody struggle that
night as 'the Lord set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all
the host.' At last, crazed with fear by unaccustomed sights and sounds and
baffled by the mysterious destruction in their midst, the remnant broke and fled
eastward through the night.
"As that night of horror passed, and morning broke over the
shattered, mangled remnants of the camp, Gideon rapidly organized for instant
pursuit and destruction of the enemy, the rest of his forces -- those out of the
thirty-two thousand who had not yet gone back to their homes. Cross-country
runners went out to the Ephraimite villages away to the southeast to warn
fellow-Israelites there to hold the fords of Jordan. And the drama moved to the
last act in the utter destruction of the hated Bedouin oppression" (Harry
Whittaker, "Judges and Ruth").
Reading 2 - Isa 34:11-15
"The desert owl and screech owl will possess it; the great owl
and the raven will nest there. God will stretch out over Edom the measuring line
of chaos and the plumb line of desolation. Her nobles will have nothing there to
be called a kingdom, all her princes will vanish away. Thorns will overrun her
citadels, nettles and brambles her strongholds. She will become a haunt for
jackals, a home for owls. Desert creatures will meet with hyenas, and wild goats
will bleat to each other; there the night creatures will also repose and find
for themselves places of rest.
The owl will nest there and lay eggs, she will hatch them, and
care for her young under the shadow of her wings; there also the falcons will
gather, each with its mate" (Isa 34:11-15).
"Edom [will be] a desert waste, because of violence done to
the people of Judah, in whose land they shed innocent blood" (Joel 3:19).
As for the Last Days: "The most obvious outcome of this
remarkable divine intervention will be the utter devastation of Esau's land for
all time. The language of its wasteness is remarkably like that of Sodom and
Gomorrah. How will this come about? It is tempting to assume that Israeli
nuclear bombs will be used against an Arab oilfield so as to set going the
mightiest conflagration the world has ever know. Sodom and Gomorrah over again,
only worse. But how is one to reconcile this with the hint of cherubim of glory
and divine action? There is a remarkable catena of prophecies which foretell
that God will impose His final judgment on the nations by the simple device of
allowing full rein to human devilry: Eze 38:21; Isa 24:19; 9:14 (= Jdg 7:22);
Hag 2:22; Zec 14:13; Joel 3:11,12" (Harry Whittaker, "Isaiah" 338).
Reading 3 - James 5:7
"Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how
the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is
for the autumn and spring rains" (James 5:7).
If I can be sure, when the time finally comes for the Great
High Priest to return from the Most Holy Place bringing the final blessing....
that I'll still be here, waiting at my post, rejoicing in the tribulations which
I endure, and having learned patience.... real PATIENCE...... enough for a
lifetime, of broken hearts and broken dreams [sounds like a country western
song, doesn't it?], of hurt feelings, of resentments, of disappointments, of
bitterness, of ailments and illnesses, of the gradual and insidious decline of
all my human powers, and the frustrations of coming short time and again of what
I would like to be, but can't quite be, of asking forgiveness for the 490th time
for the same sins, of forgiving others for the same number of times.... without
throwing up my hands and walking away from the door of the temple. Out into the
howling waste of a wilderness of snakes and scorpions -- where there is no hope
and no life and no love... the wilderness where Judas went, and Cain, and Saul,
and a million others -- who could not truly believe that the High Priest was
coming to bring them the last great blessing. Yes, if I can only wait... long
enough... then "I WILL BE saved" will turn into "I AM saved"! God give me
strength enough to wait... that long. And I won't even care whether that
strength should be called the Holy Spirit or something else...