Say, have you heard from the Midianites lately? Also known as Ishmaelites, they were an ancient Biblical people who regularly oppressed the Hebrews. One of the more memorable stories about them involved Gideon, the guy who kept flipping the sheep skin around asking God to dampen it first, then dry it. You can find the whole account in Judges chapters 6 and 7.
Anyway, back then, in Israel’s dark days when “Israel had no king (and) everyone did as he saw fit,” (Judges 17:6), what many people thought fit involved practices that God wasn’t too excited about, “and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites.” (Judges 6:1).
This amazing understatement doesn’t begin to describe the damage that the Midianites, which are depicted as swarms of locusts, did to Israel’s land and people. Masses of the invaders migrated through on a regular basis, setting up camp, eating and destroying everything, not sparing “a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys . . . Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.”
As I was reading through the passage this morning, I was interrupted by a call from College Girl, whose recent trip to the emergency room for a concussion resulted in $1,000 worth of bills landing in her mailbox — that after the $5,000 that the insurance paid. Like most impoverished people, she waited to go in, and after an MRI and a series of additional expensive tests — which were performed primarily for the safety of the hospital — she was told what she pretty much already knew: she had a concussion, and there was nothing that could be done about it but rest and taking it easy. That will be $6,000 please.
No actual bill arrived but a notification that one would be on its way. The next piece of paper had OVERDUE stamped upon it. The bill, two months after the procedure, was on its way to the collection agency. When College Girl called to see if she could take advantage of charitable care, given that her income falls right within the margins of the people this program is supposed to care about, she was told that it was too late.
And I thought about the Midianites, who “invaded the land to ravage it.”
Now lest you think I’m picking on the medical establishment, I’m not — there are lots of people invading our land to ravage it, many groups and companies and government entities and tax assessing organizations that impoverish us, especially those who are impoverished already. Mandatory insurance, property taxes, federal and state income and sundry taxes, assorted fees tacked onto every utility bill, revolving bonds, automobile license plates that need to be changed every 5-7 years, banking charges, bridge tolls (I’m waiting for the coin operated restroom stalls to return) — it goes on, and on, and on — and for many people of ordinary means, the limited paycheck they get back after taxes are taken out is eaten up and eaten into by things they themselves can’t eat, or wear, or take pleasure in.
And so where is Gideon, and whom will he fight?
You and I, my friend, are Gideon, and we fight by standing up, and speaking out against what is wrong, and supporting vulnerable people who are oppressed by powerful magnates who hide behind corporations, agencies, and establishments. The Establishment of Man — all of it — is designed to promote the interests of a few, and it is always wise to remember that, for Christians, our faith, trust, and hope lie in God, not our government, our schools, our hospitals, our Solons, our lawyers, our banks, our businesses, or our churches — mega or not — when they mimic the practices of the other establishments.
Only as individuals seeking to walk closely with God do we have any significance or power — and that comes not from ourselves, but from the God we are walking beside. What He calls us to do may be as small as saying, in a group, “That’s an unkind thing to say,” and for some, that will be a very scary thing to do indeed. But that’s where we start.
Gideon defeated the Midianites with 300 men, because God did not want Israel to “boast against me that her own strength has saved her.” (Judges 7:2) Whatever challenges and wrongs that there are to fight in this society, this country, and this time, God is calling His people to address them.
And when He calls us to do something, it’s frequently different from what we’re accustomed to; we may look weird to the people around us; and we don’t necessarily come out of the experience with pots and pots of money, celebrity fame, or even the remnants of our reputation.
Are we listening?
Join me on Wednesdays for my Contempo Christianity articles, which address living as a real Christian in the 21st century.
And speaking of the 21st century, I invite you to read a recent post in my Financial Health series, America: What Is the New Normal? If finances are a concern for you, I encourage you to look at my book, Live Happily on Less (paperback, $12.99, digital, $5.99 at Amazon.com) which is a commonsense approach to dealing with your individual and family finances.
NOBODY cares about your life, your family, your finances, your dreams, or your situation as much as you do, and if you’re going to get anywhere in these areas, it’s up to you to take the initiative.