"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Raising The Standard: Generosity Is Withholding A gift That Will Hurt The One Who Receives It

"But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." ~ 1 Timothy 6:9
From The Pages Of Scripture:
One of the valid concerns of a wealthy person is the possibility of corrupting those to whom he gives gifts. Scripture says that when riches increase the desires of those who have them increase. God further explains that those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and hurtful lust, which drown men in destruction and perdition (1 Timothy 6:9). These powerful truths emphasize their importance of knowing when giving will hurt the one who receives. One of the most famous generals in Scripture is well-known for his victorious battle, but few are aware of the final events of his life. He was generous with his family and friends, but the gift he gave brought harm to those who received it.
A young ruler was given a choice between gold and wise leadership. He chose wise leadership. His name was Solomon. Many years earlier another man was given the same choice, but he chose gold. That man was Gideon.
The battle Gideon won was as unusual as it is famous. Three hundred carefully chosen men positioned themselves in the hills surrounding the armies of their enemy. On a given signal each one blew a trumpet and shattered a clay pot which covered a burning torch. The echoing sound of the trumpets and the sight of the burning torches startled their enemy. They stumbled out of their tents, saw the flaming signals dotting the mountain rim, and concluded that they were surrounded by three hundred advancing companies of soldiers. They grabbed their swords and fled in the night, only to be met by fellow soldiers fleeing from torches on the opposite rim. In the confusion over 120,000 enemy soldiers killed each other or were killed as they tried to escape. What happened next is not as well-known. The leader of this victorious army became a national hero. The people pleaded with him to become their king. He firmly and wisely declined, stating, "I will not rule over you. Neither shall my sons rule over you. The Lord shall rule over you." His eye was not on leadership, but it was on something else. This general wanted the golder earrings which were worn by the enemy soldiers he and his men had conquered. He asked if they might be given to him as a reward. A garment was spread on the ground, and the soldiers filed by and cast upon it the earrings which they had taken from their victims. With that gold this general made a lavish ephod. Then he gave the golden ephod to his city. From the very beginning the gift had destructive results. People from far and near came to see it. They were drawn by more than curiosity. Soon they began worshipping the golden ephod. The gift became a snare to this general and his household. Although he had refused to be king, on of his sons had aspirations to hold that position. After the general died, his son made a treacherous effort to seize power. He hired men to kill all his father's sons and then proclaimed himself the king. Later he was killed by a woman who cast a piece of millstone upon his head and broke his skull. This great general was Gideon. He had a generous heart and godly desires, but the gift he gave caused the nation to turn their attention to gold rather than to God and resulted in a heritage of destruction in his own family. (From Judges 7 and 8)
Why Did Gideon Withhold Leadership Which He Believed Would Harm The Israelites?
Gideon's explanation was, "I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you." (Judges 8:23) Gideon was convinced that the unique method of government which the Lord had established for Israel was more effective than a hereditary monarchy. The Lord had designated one particular tribe to judge issues of a local nature. The tribe of Levi was to be especially familiar with the Mosaic Law (cf. Deuteronomy 17:9). For issues on a national level, especially war, the Lord would appoint an individual at large in whom was the Spirit to lead the nation (cf. Numbers 27:18). Gideon had just demonstrated the effectiveness of this method during a national crisis. Three hundred men under the Lord's leadership had routed 135,000 Midianites. Gideon believed that God's plan of leadership --- His rule over the nation --- was superior to a kingship.
Why Did Gideon Make An Ephod?
The ephod was the shoulder dress of the high priest and probably included the breastplate, the Urim and Thummin, and the robe of the ephod. It required gold and precious stones (Exodus 28:6-35). The Urim and Thummin were used to discover the Lord's will in a matter (cf. Numbers 27:21). It appears that Gideon, so desirous of signs (Judges 6:13, 17, 37, 39; 7:10-11), made an ephod with which to inquire of the Lord. He should have known that only the high priest, a descendant of Aaron, was permitted to inquire of the Lord in this manner. The result was that Gideon's ephod became an object used in the illegal practice of divination (Deuteronomy 18:10). It became a snare, leading the people away from the Lord and into Baal worship.
What Were The Consequences Of Gideon's Hurtful Gift?
Rather than encouraging and supporting the proper worship of the Lord at the tabernacle located at Shiloh, Gideon's ephod drew people away from the legitimate sanctuary. The people came to Ophrah to worship rather than to the priests at Shiloh (Judges 8:27). This not only undermined the authority and respect of the priesthood, but it provided a precedent for further idolatrous practices. Gideon's own son used a gift of silver from the house of Baal and hired worthless mercenaries to kill his seventy brothers. This son was eventually judged by God for his wickedness (Judges 9:56). Gideon's gift of an ephod was the downfall of his family and the city (Judges 8:27).
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
Bembix pruinosa --- Bembix which means "buzzing insect" in Greek, is an appropriate name for this creature. The sand wasp creates sounds by using its wings and indicates its mood by various tones. When contentedly gathering food or feeding, it hums. Its tone is intensified while calling a mate and becomes a roar if attacked. The life-style and structure of the Bembix pruinosa, a member of the order Hymenoptera, resemble man's characteristics in many ways and make the wasp an interesting subject for study. An inhabitant of North America, the wasp makes its home in sand dunes east of the Rocky Mountains.
How Does The Bembix Wasp Illustrate The Need To Withhold A Gift?
Flying back and forth, the sand wasp tried to elude her quick opponent. But it was to no avail. She could not outmaneuver the adversary, and so she darted away in confusion. Faithfully the wasp had brought dead flies to feed her newly hatched larva. Its developing body needed constant nourishment in order to continue rapid growth. After burrowing below the surface of the sand, the mother wasp had tunneled out a passageway in which she laid one egg. Once it hatched, the young wasp began feeding on the flies that the mother provided. Now the mother wasp returned to the nest cradling a large housefly between her legs which she would drag down the tunnel to her young. She scanned the area as she approached the entrance searching for her feared opponent --- the tachina fly. This fly isn't big. In fact, if she had been able to catch it, the wasp could easily kill it. Why then was the wasp so alarmed by the tachina fly? The mother wasp wasn't concerned for herself, but rather for the safety of her young, and her fears were not unwarranted. The unwelcome threat emerged from behind a sand dune. The mother wasp tried to chase it away, but her effort was in vain. The fly was too quick and stayed just beyond reach, returning immediately to its watchful wait. Realizing the futility of this tactic, the wasp darted away, whining her wings in frustration. The tachina fly did not pursue her because it knew she would return. Camouflaged on a nearby dune, it settled back and patiently waited, all the while fixing its large, blood-red eyes on the entrance to the wasp's burrow. After several attempts to return, the mother wasp's patience was wearing thin. This time she hoped that the fly had finally become discouraged and left. Even though the young, developing wasp still had plenty of food, the mother was motivated by a compelling drive to bring more. As she approached the burrow this time, she was relieved to see no sign of the fly. Quickly she flew to the entrance. Once in the tunnel, she turned around and began to drag the limp housefly carcass behind her. She tried to maneuver as quickly as possible, but she wasn't quick enough. With incredible swiftness the tachina fly swept down and, unknown to the mother wasp, accomplished its destructive work. The sand wasp was trying to make generous provision for her young, but no food at all would have been better than this. For in those few, split seconds when the mother wasp positioned herself in the tunnel, the efficient tachina had laid its deadly eggs in the carcass of the dead fly. Soon, gluttonous maggots would hatch from the tachina's eggs. They would ravenously devour whatever food the mother wasp had provided in her underground nursery. The developing tachina would not only eat the stored provision but would eventually feed on the young wasp itself. Although the mother desired to provide for her young, her generosity destined it to death because she did not realize the destructiveness of her provision.
Scriptural References To The Hornet:
The Hebrew word for hornet includes its close relative, the social wasp. When the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, they probably encountered this insect. The wasp and hornet --- easily angered if disturbed --- were plentiful in Palestine. One city, Zoriath, means "place of hornets."
"Moreover the Lord thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed." ~ Deuteronomy 7:20

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