“And he sent up from there to Penuel and said the same thing to them and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth. And so he said to the men of Penuel, ‘When I return in peace, I will tear down this tower.’”
Once again, Gideon is turned down and rejected when seeking a very basic thing — food and sustenance. And once again Gideon pronounces judgment against them for failing to take sides with the army of the God of Israel. And though one might suggest that Gideon simply take what it is that he wanted, in the people’s eyes, the affirmation of one’s Judge-ship was tied to the defeat of the foes of the people…something that had not yet happened (at least with finality). Thus, they are making Gideon work for his standing.
If you have a map of ancient Israel handy, you will find that Penuel is along the Jabbok River and not quite half of the way into the tribal region of Gad. This is important because they are getting closer to territory that is outside of Israel’s borders. Gad, along with Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh are the outer borders on the eastern portion of the Jordan River. They are the first territories to be invaded from the east and thus they are most at risk from invading nations. In a very human way, one can sympathize with their reluctance to align with Gideon.
Yet, we are not called upon to make decisions based on human reasoning, but on divine revelation. God is the God of Israel and he is Israel’s warrior. So, whom shall we fear? The Midianites? Surely not. Isis? Again, no. Radical Islamic terrorism? No. Atheists, Buddhists, and Hindu’s? No, we are called to fear God and Him alone. Men cannot harm us outside of what is expressly permitted by God for his purposes.
The sad thing is that the church, more often than not, sounds like the people of Succoth or Penuel — cowardly and indecisive. May our prayer be that God awakens this sleeping giant of the church that Reform and Revival may come once again.