Judging the Judge, Plus More Mercy

Several weeks ago, I posted on my proposal to self to explore the book of Judges as material for my daily practice of lectio divina. It has indeed been difficult territory. I don’t know that I can recommend it as a first journey for lectio divina–a Gospel, a New Testament letter, or even a prophet would be better for a newbie.

The grisly experiences of warfare, mutilation, and violence are mixed with the Israelite experience of unfaithfulness, petition, judge, then a “time of rest” for the land. But the journey has not been without some insights of solace. Indeed, even an appropriate challenge has come along as I was reflecting on the wuss that is Judge Gideon:

That same night the LORD said to him: Take your father’s bull, the bull fattened for seven years, and pull down your father’s altar to Baal. As for the asherah beside it, cut it down and build an altar to the LORD, your God, on top of this stronghold with the pile of wood. Then take the fattened bull and offer it as a whole-burnt sacrifice on the wood from the asherah you have cut down. So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD had commanded him. But he was too afraid of his family and of the townspeople to do it by day; he did it at night. (Judges 6:25-27)

And the other day, Gideon striving to give the Lord–and himself–an out:

Gideon said to God, “If indeed you are going to save Israel through me, as you have said, I am putting this woolen fleece on the threshing floor, and if dew is on the fleece alone, while all the ground is dry, I shall know that you will save Israel through me, as you have said.” That is what happened. Early the next morning when he wrung out the fleece, he squeezed enough dew from it to fill a bowl. Gideon then said to God, “Do not be angry with me if I speak once more. Let me make just one more test with the fleece. Let the fleece alone be dry, but let there be dew on all the ground.” That is what God did that night: the fleece alone was dry, but there was dew on all the ground. (Judges 6:36-40)

Truly, it’s easy to read the Bible and know three millennia later that Gideon had nothing to fear in his great adventure as Judge of Israel. The author of the book was exceedingly sympathetic to a guy who performed his first act of civil disobedience under the cover of night. And who tried to bargain his way out of delivering his people. Show me a sign! Twice, please, Lord.

I don’t think much of Gideon, I wrote in my journal. But I see an opportunity for mercy. I’d like to think I’d be different, being called to be a Judge. But I wasn’t called to do that. I was called for different stuff. And looking back on my life, I haven’t always been the most assertive and confident person in parlaying my spiritual gifts for the Reign of God. Gideon eventually got the job done, though–there’s no arguing with that.

So maybe I’m not that different from Gideon, I thought. The challenge is to reflect and think of mercy. My final journal entry on this passage:

So what, then, is my opportunity? Perhaps to approach my life with different eyes. To have more mercy. More mercy for my family, certainly. The mercy and compassion of Christ, for this I pray.

And if nothing else comes out of the book of Judges, it will have been worth the journey. I suspect that more fruit is ahead.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Judging the Judge, Plus More Mercy

  1. crystal says:

    I haven’t read Judges so it’s interesting to read these posts about it – nice art too.

  2. I think if you followed an allegorical reading like many of the Church Fathers, you will find also other aspects of the Judges which can be useful.

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