Saturday, October 17, 2015

Angels and Inspiration

YoungLives Tea October 17, 2015

My favorite angel is Gabriel. He is most often remembered for his visit with Mary the mother of Jesus, but before then, he visited Zechariah the priest. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were good people but they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and at the time they were both very old.

Gabriel visited Zechariah while he performed his priestly duties in the temple. Gabriel announced that Zechariah and Elizabeth would give birth to a son, who would become John the Baptist, but Zechariah did not believe him. The angel’s response was:

 “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. ” (Luke 1:19)

The word “angel” means “messenger.” Here God had a message for Zechariah, but he doesn’t believe Him, even though the angel Gabriel stood before him in all his splendor.

Like Zechariah, we are also witness to a glorious miracle but it is so hard for us to see. The story of Zechariah and Gabriel must have been a favorite in their community at that time and repeated often. Eventually, Elizabeth told it to Mary, Mary told it to Luke who wrote it down for a friend, and that story was copied over and over again, first with ink on parchment and eventually with machines on paper, for 2,000 years. Even though Zechariah, Mary and Luke had no idea at the time, God preserved it for us to hear it today.

I believe God’s message from the angel is for us too. He has something to say to us, something He wants us to believe and something He wants us to do, if we would only hear Him.

The story of Gideon is another example of an angel with a message. Gideon lived in the period of Judges and his story is told in chapter 6. At that time, the Israelites were in the Promised Land but because they had failed obey God’s command to drive out the evil nations who lived there before, these nations continued to invade their communities.  The army of the nation of Midian ruined the Israelite’s crops and slaughtered their livestock. Gideon and his people were impoverished and lived in terror. When the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress, which is essential a pit. He was hiding from the Midian army.

12 When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? … now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”  (Judges 6)

Gideon felt abandoned by God because of the situation he was in. When you are at the bottom of a hole, hiding from your enemies, you feel pretty hopeless. The angel reminded Gideon, and us as well, that God is with us. He has plans for us if we would trust Him.

14 The Lord turned to [Gideon] and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest … and I am the least in my family.”

16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” (Judges 6)

Gideon was afraid with good reason. Midian had a massive, powerful army. But although the odds were stacked against him, God intended him to be a mighty warrior.  

Do you feel small and unworthy like Gideon? Do you feel unable to cope with what you have to do day by day? Me too. God reminds us that although He calls us to what seems impossible, He is with us. He will give us the wisdom, the strength, and the courage, to do whatever He put in our hand.

Even though we feel inept, unprepared, and unable to do what must be done, God is with us, and He is all we need. We often cannot see how He can use us, but He will. Maybe in a big way as He used Gideon. Maybe in a more modest way. But whatever way, it will be important. And it will be enough. As we rely on His Holy Spirit in us in our everyday lives, He transforms us into the women we are meant to be.

17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”

And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.”

19 Gideon went inside, prepared a young goat, and … made bread without yeast… the Angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the Angel of the Lord disappeared. (Judges 6)

Gideon was not only afraid, he also lacked faith. This magnificent angel stood right in front of him, and yet, he did not believe. He asked for a sign. God was patient with Gideon, even in his unwillingness to trust Him.

Do you lack faith? Me too! God is patient with us. He waits for us to be ready to believe and obey. He gently urges us and encourages us but never forces us. As the angel did here for Gideon, God is always willing to show off and do big things to remind us we can trust Him. He is faithful even when we lack faith.

22 When Gideon realized that it was the Angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face!”

23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

24 So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace… (Judges 6)

God has come not to destroy us, but to give us life and peace. Stepping out in faith can be scary. God was so gentle with this man who became a warrior leader. We can trust He will be gentle and patient with us when we struggle to step out in faith.

25 That same night the Lord said to him, “Tear down your father’s altar to Baal.” … 27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him… (Judges 6)

God told Gideon to take down his idols. It seems silly that ancient people would make figures of wood or stone and then think they were god. But I do the same thing when I trust in other people instead of God. How about you?

Do you bring your troubles to friends to discuss before you turn to God in prayer? Do you find yourself trusting in your job and your 401K for provision? Do you trust in our government officials or your insurance policy to protect you? Do you place your confidence in your doctor or medicine to heal you? Don’t get me wrong, a 401K, insurance policy and medicine are all good things and we should use them as the Lord leads. However, I have found all these things will eventually disappoint us. It is God who provides, protects and heals us. God reminds us to tear down those alters and trust Him most of all. He alone is worthy of our worship.

Gideon obeyed God but did it in the dark of night because he knew his neighbors would be furious, and in the morning when they discovered what he did, they were.

30 The people of the town demanded of Joash [Gideon’s father], “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar.” (Judges 6)

When we take steps of faith, when we talk about what we believe, we must expect some people to react negatively. Some will argue with us, dismiss us, ridicule us and talk about us behind our back. Let’s not be surprised. But there will be others who will see and desire our faith. In all, we need to trust God.

Let me tell you about Gideon’s battle and how the story ends.

19 Gideon and the … men with him reached the edge of the [Midian army’s] 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… 20 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!” 21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. 22 …the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. (Judges 7)

God used Gideon and only 300 men to defeat the enormous Midian army. Note, there was no bloodshed for Gideon’s people because the Midianites killed each other.  It was an outrageous miracle, just as the angel of the Lord promised.

We can lose sight that this life is a battle. We are fighting a war. In Israel women bear arms and fight against the enemy. In the Kingdom of God, we must too. God calls us to be brave and to trust Him. He is still in the business of doing outrageous miracles.

We all have a Midian in our life. Maybe for you it is caring for young children or an elderly parent. Maybe it is a loss of a job or a job that is so stressful it is killing you. Maybe there is a secret sin you are afraid to reveal, or you carry the burden of your teen’s or husband’s secret sin. Maybe your Midian is sickness or death of a loved one. Whatever it is, you feel like Gideon: impoverished, terrified, and in a hole. You are sure God has abandoned you.

Let us remember that God preserved these words for centuries for us to hear today. I believe the Angel of the Lord’s message is for us, just as He spoke to Gideon long ago. Please hear the words of the Angel of the Lord:

I see you as the mighty woman I always intended you to be.

Go. I am sending you.

I am with you and will give you all the strength you need.

I am patient. I will wait for you.

I am your peace. Do not be afraid.

Take down your idols and trust Me alone.

I am faithful.