In the midst of life all of us are caught in situations where plans are laid, by others, which impact upon us. Sometimes, roles might be reversed and such planning might have to be done by ourselves. This is a common experience in all organisations whether it be in the workplace, in a family, in a church or wherever. The question arises as to how we, as those affected by such arrangements, respond when we are not happy with the plans.
In this context it is interesting to consider the Ephraimites and how they responded to the conquering of the Midianites by Gideon and the people of Israel. The specific passage is in Judges 7:23 – 8:3.
In calling together a force of men to attack the Midianites Gideon had drawn from the tribes of Manassah, Zebulun, Asher and Naphtali (see Judges 6:35). In due course, through the marvellous workings of God, an army of three hundred men gathered from these tribes defeated the vast hordes of the Midianites (see Jud. 7:1-22). It was an incredible victory! In seeking to eliminate any future threat from the Midianites Gideon enlisted the support of the Ephraimites to assist with the cleaning up operations. They duly got involved and were most successful. Their success included capturing two Midianite princes, Oreb and Zeeb (see Jud. 7:23-25).
We look at all this and wonder at such a mighty triumph wrought by God through His people and wonder what could be wrong. However, we soon find that the Ephraimites were miffed. Instead of looking to see how glorious this triumph was in the working out of God’s glorious purposes they were occupied with self-interest. Their “noses were put out” by the fact that Gideon had not approached them when he was gathering his force from the tribes of Israel (see Jud. 8:1). They effectively say “why were WE not consulted in the first place!?” Their response seems to be so out-of-order and yet how often we see this replicated today. In church life when something works out in a way that they do not like then they take issue with the way things have been done.
Notwithstanding how he might have felt Gideon is so amazingly gracious in his response. When you think about how much he had risked through fulfilling God’s call on his life and how he had seen God mightily at work we could almost have excused Gideon for exploding at the the Ephraimites. Nevertheless, he quells any potential bad feeling by his wise and Godly response. He draws the attention of the Ephraimites to how much God had used them in gaining His victory and most graciously downplays his own role (see Jud. 8:2-3).
When we stop and think about it how up-to-date and familiar this all sounds. How often do we hear people complaining in offices, factories (and yes very sadly churches) that “I am not happy because I was not consulted”. Or people say “Nobody spoke to me about this new arrangement and so I am not going to co-operate”.
In the situation, as described in Judges 6-8 it is no doubt possible to say that the Ephraimites had a case. There is no reason given as to why Gideon chose from the tribes which he did. But when you think about:
the pressure on Gideon; he was facing a humanly impossible task. The fact that he double-checked God’s calling in Judges 6:36-40 through the putting out of the fleece indicates how overwhelming he felt his task to be.
The fact that the outcome was a great victory for God.
The Ephraimites had a great role to play in achieving the victory.
When you think about these things the attitude of the Ephraimites surely seems to be completely outrageous.
So the next time you think about complaining that the proper process has not been followed think about these things first and seek to get some perspective:
Think of the pressure that those in leadership may well be under. In the church think about the spiritual opposition which the elders are facing. We are not here saying that any deceit or malpractice by the elders should be excused. However, think about giving the benefit of the doubt when the elders do not happen to speak to exactly everybody or call a meeting at the right time when they are seeking to make a decision to move the church forward.
Think about the outcome. Is what is taking place as a result of the decision in harmony with God’s word. It may not be exactly what you want, but are you going to stage a boycott or raise a complaint just because it was not organised exactly the way you wanted it.
Are you able to fulfil your ministry for God? If you are then praise God.
So the next time you want to take issue with the way decisions have been arrived at at home, work school or in church remember the selfish pre-occupations of the Ephraimites. And remember for for the sake of our LORD to determine to not cause an unnecessary fuss.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of May 2010)