Judges 6:31 – Contending for Baal

Why is it that those who follow other gods feel they have to protect their god; that he cannot do the work of protecting himself?  I’m thinking specifically of Islam right now with the followers of Allah, but this certainly applies to every other god.  All of them apparently need their followers to act in their name because they seem incapable of defending themselves.  We’ll come back to Allah, but first let’s look at the most prominent Old Testament example of this scenario.

For anyone who has read my commentaries in the past, you’ve seen me explain the origin of the gods of other nations.  Briefly, following the Tower of Babel where Yahweh commanded men to disperse throughout the earth, they gathered instead to build the tower to exalt other gods and themselves.  Yahweh wasn’t pleased at this disobedience.  He scattered mankind into nations and confused their single language into many.  Most notably, God placed His divine sons over all these nations (Deuteronomy 32:8 – ESV).  Their job was to point people back to Yahweh who had decided to raise up Israel and solely deal with her as His unique inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:9).  God’s sons (bene Elohim) rebelled in disobedience and appropriated the position of gods over these various nations.  From this we have the condition that remains with us today where the nations follow their own gods and the people are subject to them.

This condition is the basis for our spiritual warfare.  Satan seems to be the leader of these rebellious spiritual princes, and they act in a semi-coordinated effort against God and His creation.  The war intensified when Jesus came to seek and save those who were lost and to restore the nations.  For believers in Jesus Christ, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).  It’s an intense daily battle that we face; one that will only end with the 2nd Coming of Jesus.

This brings us back to the original question: Why is it that those who follow other gods feel they have to protect their god; that he cannot do the work of protecting himself?

Gideon, in the work that the Lord commissioned him to accomplish, faced this issue.  Yahweh instructed him to tear down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah pole where his tribe of Manasseh and other Israelite tribes worshiped.  Once he did this, the men of the town were outraged and sought to find who did this act (Judges 6;30).

Notice in this account how enslaved these people were by Baal and Asherah that they would kill Gideon because he had destroyed the means of worship to these pagan gods.  In the place where these people sacrificed, Gideon built an altar to Yahweh and sacrificed to Him.  This was a direct assault on these pagan gods, i.e. one the Biblical writer makes a point of noting.  This is a polemic – that is, a strong written or verbal attack; something that is quite common in the Biblical text.  Here’s the thing: these men are Israelites who are supposed to have been following Yahweh; yet, they’re ready to kill to defend these foreign gods!

As they build up their anger and ready themselves to apprehend the perpetrator of this “atrocity,” Gideon’s father poses a key question in Judges 6:31:

But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.”

In the context of spiritual warfare, this is a pertinent point.  Why is it that Baal can’t defend himself?  Why does he need these humans to protect him and take revenge for these actions against his sacred name?  Isn’t he capable?  Is he not strong enough – particularly against Yahweh whom Gideon has exalted in Baal’s place?  As Joash, Gideon’s father said: “If he is a god, let him contend for himself.”

Apparently, that quieted the men, as they took no further action against Gideon.  They saw the logic that Joash brought to the situation.  Let Baal and Yahweh duke it out; why should they do Baal’s fighting for him?

Of course, we know that Baal is simply a divine being and not God.  He has no power and authority over his creator.  He cannot contend for himself.

But, look at those all over the world who think the same way as these ancient Israelites.  Muslims follow Allah.  This pagan god has deceived his followers.  They think they have to defend him when someone has done something they consider blasphemous that profanes his honor.

Allah’s adherents believe they have to take revenge in his name.  They have to do their god’s work, to fight and kill for him.

However, the same question applies to Allah as it did for Baal.  Can he not contend for himself?  Why do Allah’s followers have to save him?  Is he not mighty in the heavens to fight against and destroy God the Father of Jesus Christ?

Of course, true Christians know the answer.  There is none like God.  He is above all things as Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that inhabits them.  Allah – like Baal and the multitude of other gods – are pretenders to the throne.  They cannot contend for themselves.

Psalm 2 describes the situation and the ultimate end:

Why do the nations rage

    and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

    and the rulers take counsel together,

    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,

“Let us burst their bonds apart

    and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;

    the Lord holds them in derision.

Then he will speak to them in his wrath,

    and terrify them in his fury, saying,

“As for me, I have set my King

    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:

The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;

    today I have begotten you.

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

    and the ends of the earth your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron

    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;

    be warned, O rulers of the earth.

Serve the Lord with fear,

    and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son,

    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,

    for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Indeed.  God sits in the heavens and laughs at those who contend against Him, while all who take refuge in Christ Jesus are blessed.

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