The Irony of the Divine Call
Reflecting on the Third Sunday after the Epiphany: One Day after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 27:7-14
Old Testament: Judges 6:11-24
Epistle: Ephesians 5:6-14
O God, you spoke your word and revealed your good news in Jesus, the Christ. Fill all creation with that word again, so that by proclaiming your joyful promises to all nations and singing of your glorious hope to all peoples, we may become one living body, your incarnate presence on the earth. Amen.
Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you.” He responded, “But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (Judges 6:14-15).
Irony a: the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning b: a usually humorous or sardonic literary style or form characterized by irony (Merriam-Webster).
Almost all the persons called by God in the Bible are not expecting it. The ways of God continue to surprise us. Some like to say that God works in mysterious ways. I think that is often true because God does not always work with the presumptions of human conventional wisdom. God calls Abraham and Sarah in their old age to bear a son that will give birth to the nation of Israel. God calls David, a short, slight looking figure to be a king. Deborah, a woman is called to be a judge over God’s people; and God calls—drafts you might say—Saul (Paul) the most notorious enemy of the early church to be its most significant ambassador.
The call of God is often filled with irony. One such example is God’s enlistment of Gideon as a judge—or better—a deliverer. In verse 12, God greets Gideon by referring to him as a Mighty or Valiant Warrior. This is quite the address given the fact that Gideon is currently hiding from the Midianites while threshing wheat for his father Joash. A mighty warrior who is fearful and clearly resistant to the call offers a reasonable objection. “But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” Gideon is well aware that among the twelve tribes of Israel, Manasseh is among the most insignificant as there were great differences among tribes in population and land distribution. Moreover, he is from a poor family “the least,” the youngest. When it comes to the pecking order of power and influence in the ancient Near East, Gideon is not culturally “dressed for success.”
But the conventional wisdom of human beings and earthly cultures and values are not something God feels the need to work within to achieve his will. Gideon is chosen and will deliver his people. The irony of the divine call will remind God’s people that ultimately it is God who delivers; Gideon is the instrument God will use.
God still calls the unexpected and those everyone else deems unqualified. The irony of the divine ways should not be missed. Those ways can still be witnessed today. The irony is that God’s people too often fail to recognize the divine irony.
Irony is so ironic.
PRAYER: God of every land and nation, you have created all people and you dwell among us in Jesus Christ. Listen to the cries of those who pray to you, and grant that, as we proclaim the greatness of your name, all people will know the power of love at work in the world. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.