"That night this happened. God said to him, "Take your father's best seven-year-old bull, the prime one. Tear down your father's Baal altar and chop down the Asherah fertility pole beside it. Then build an altar to God, your God, on the top of this hill. Take the prime bull and present it as a Whole-Burnt-Offering, using firewood from the Asherah pole that you cut down." Gideon selected ten men from his servants and did exactly what God had told him. But because of his family and the people in the neighborhood, he was afraid to do it openly, so he did it that night. Early in the morning, the people in town were shocked to find Baal's altar torn down, the Asherah pole beside it chopped down, and the prime bull burning away on the altar that had been built. They kept asking, "Who did this?" Questions and more questions, and then the answer: "Gideon son of Joash did it." The men of the town demanded of Joash: "Bring out your son! He must die! Why, he tore down the Baal altar and chopped down the Asherah tree!" But Joash stood up to the crowd pressing in on him, "Are you going to fight Baal's battles for him? Are you going to save him? Anyone who takes Baal's side will be dead by morning. If Baal is a god in fact, let him fight his own battles and defend his own altar." They nicknamed Gideon that day Jerub-Baal because after he had torn down the Baal altar, he had said, "Let Baal fight his own battles."
Before God ushers in deliverance he wants something big to happen. He sees the wandering of human hearts - how we go chasing after anything that makes us feel secure for a moment or two. We build and shape, giving honor to things that are merely a part of the creation. They can never take the place of the Creator. We have a tendency to worship things. We worship voiceless, souless things because we know they can't reject us. They can only superficially serve us and that seems safer than serving God in the silence.
Gideon's people have been wandering around for a long time. Again. And God doesn't just want their physical freedom. He wants their spiritual freedom.
So first, Gideon, tear down the altars and build one to God right on top of it. Cover that old, useless thing with repentance. Return to God in the midst of the rubble of your old way.
Gideon is still scared, but courage is stirring in his gut, so he goes out at night and does what God asks. He may not have done it in broad daylight, but Gideon was obedient. And the fallout was not small. The response was desperate and angry. All these people had was lying under a smoldering altar. That's something.
I love Joash's defense of his son and of God. Let Baal fight his own battles. Yes. Let those useless things try to rise up and fight back. Let them try to climb back over the holy weight of returning to God. The more we lean into Jesus, the less honor we give to things. And those things become useless again. Just a pile of unimportant ash.
Courage doesn't mean perfect, but courage stirs other people to the same profound cause. Joash found his own heart brewing with a renewed longing for a new way. Sometimes one act of obedience and bravery opens the door for others to follow. Courage makes us leaders.
[Tweet "Courage stirs other people to the same profound cause."]