Thursday, May 2, 2024

Waxing the Unconnected Idol

Suggested Reading: Judges 6:11-16, 22-27 or the whole story - Judges 6:1-32

I was a kid when the original Karate Kid came out in the theater. I didn't get to see it until it came out on video, back in the days when you rented a VCR so you could watch your rented movies. (As I write this, I suddenly feel much older than I really am.) One of the best scenes of that movie was during Daniel's first karate training session when Mr. Miyagi has him wash and wax his cars. Showing him the particular motion he wants him to make with both hands, Mr. Miyagi repeats, "Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off."

One of the reasons that phrase made it into the mainstream of American culture was because, though Daniel couldn't see it, the audience knew exactly what was happening. Daniel was being taught karate without knowing it. Before Daniel could actually do karate, there were some foundations that had to be laid. Before he could get to kicking and punching, Daniel had to learn blocking and balance or the attacks would never work.

There is a character in the book of Judges that, I think, must have been just as confused as Daniel when he began his career for God. Gideon was the youngest member of the weakest family of Mannaseh. God appeared to him and called him to deliver the Israelites from their oppressors, the Midianites. After Gideon grudgingly accepted the calling, God's first command must have seemed like, "Wax on, wax off," to Gideon's ears: "Tear down the altar of Baal that belongs to your father and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Build a well-constructed altar to the Lord your God on the top of this mound" (Judges 6:25-26, CSB). If I was Gideon, I would probably have asked, "God, how does tearing down an idol's altar bring deliverance to my people?"

But just like the audience of Karate Kid, you can already make a pretty good guess about what is really going on. In order for God to truly deliver his people, the original trap they had fallen into had to be removed. The worship of idols, which had brought God's wrath in the first place, had to go. As long as those idols still stood, any deliverance God might bring would be fleeting.

We each have something like that in our own lives. God has called us to do something, or we have asked God to deliver us and the response we hear seems unrelated. "Lord, help us get out from under all this debt," we ask, and God responds, "Bring the tithe into the storehouse." "Lord, help me get that promotion at work," we plead, and God responds, "Step up your commitment to my kingdom." Confused because we don't see the connection, we think, "God wouldn't ask me to do that," or "I'll get to that, God, but I need help with this first." And just like Gideon and Daniel, God may be trying to lay the right foundation in our lives.

Is there an area where you have been seeking deliverance or wanting God to come through for you? Do you seem to hear God speaking about something totally unrelated? Chances are, it's not unrelated at all.

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