The View From 1776

Signs and Assignments

For those with ears to hear, God gives intuitions of what we should do to help others.

Captain Brian Thomas, leader of the Stamford Salvation Army unit, preached Sunday’s sermon at the Black Rock-Long Ridge Congregational Church in North Stamford, Connecticut.  His subject was Signs and Assignments.

In the Old Testament God frequently provided signs to the Israelites to confirm his commands.  One such is recorded in the Book of Judges, which chronicles the period between gaining the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership and the Israelites’ first king, Saul. 

As all too frequently happened, the Israelites periodically became too wealthy and contented, shifting their worship from God to pursuit of worldly goods and pagan gods. 

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites.  Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds.  Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country.  They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys.  They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it.  Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.  (Judges 6:1-6)

The Lord answered the Israelites’ entreaties by calling upon a young and untried Gideon, who, as would most of us, asked, “Why me God?  How can I be sure that I’m really hearing your call correctly? Please give me a sign.”

Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised-  look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.”  And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew?a bowlful of water.

Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.”  That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.  (Judges 6:36-40)

Thereafter, following God’s instructions, Gideon led his outnumbered band against the Midianite army, blowing his trumpet and sending the enemy fleeing in disarray.

In the New Testament, the nature of signs from God changes to a more personal, less heroic vein.  Each of us is a potential Gideon, called by God to aid one of his fellows in need. 

The Apostle Paul lays it out in Romans 12:10-12:

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Again in the Book of Matthew 25:34-40:

Then [Jesus] will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

[Jesus] will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

When you have a sudden inspiration to call someone or to do something that will help a family member, a friend, a member of the church, or a non-believer, do it.  We can never know what good may come of it, but God does.  That’s why he gives us such inspirations, and that’s why we must always be alert to God’s voice prompting us and why we must respond.