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Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Judges 6:11-24 & Mt. 19:23-30

A second-generation Israelite in the Promised Land had not grown up under Moses or Joshua, nor witnessed God’s power in parting the Red Sea or giving the people manna in the desert. These works of the Lord were known to Gideon, but they were in the past. To him it seemed that God had abandoned His people who lived under the oppression of the Midianites, having their produce stolen at every harvest. (Judges 6:3-4).

It’s no wonder that the first time we see Gideon he is hiding his family’s grain in the secret compartment of a wine press. It’s no wonder, either, that when the angel of the Lord meets Gideon to call him to battle, Gideon replies bitterly, “If the Lord is with us, why then has all this befallen us? And where are all His wonderful deeds?”

Obviously, God had to begin again with Gideon and his generation; through this encounter he was brought peace, enabled to tear down an altar used for pagan sacrifice and to build one to the Lord in its place (Judges 6:24-26), and he realised how the Israelites had turned from the Lord and sought other gods. From here he would go on to rally his people and overthrow the Midianites. Although Gideon continued to test the Lord along the way, his confidence was built slowly on the knowledge that the Lord was with him. An incompetent and fearful man over time became one of God’s great warriors!

In the time of Our Lord it was generally understood that God blessed those He loved with prosperity; and to those who sinned He brought ruin. Therefore the disciples must have been amazed when Jesus told them of the pitfalls of riches. But He is trying to teach them that those who trust in their own abilities or wealth can find it very difficult to rely and turn to the Lord. He was explaining that our Father wants hearts that burn with love for Him alone. Such hearts would have to keep possessions and wealth in the right perspective.

The seekers of wealth that Jesus spoke of are the independent type who gave great importance to possessions and power, and sought to be held in high esteem by others. But in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". The Father wants His children to acknowledge their sins and to ask for forgiveness through His Son; to acknowledge their weakness and to rely upon Him alone for guidance and strength. So often rich and powerful people fail to rely on God, feeling they can get along quite nicely on their own.

Those who cast themselves on Jesus need to be willing to part with anything that gets in the way of their relationship with the Lord. Possessions, position in life and even relationships must be less important to us than God because these things cannot save us. In some cases they can help us draw closer to God, but so often they can hinder our progress just as easily. It all depends on whether our hearts are set on the Lord.

Lord Jesus, open our eyes to see Your presence, in times of shadow and darkness or success and wealth. Whatever our circumstances may we put our whole trust in You, more and more convinced that You never leave our side, as we strive to love the Father above everything else.

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