That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night.
When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 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.” Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar. Judges 6:25-32 ESV
The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
who make their boast in worthless idols;
worship him, all you gods!
Zion hears and is glad,
and the daughters of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O Lord.
For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods. Psalm 97:6-9 ESV
Many years ago an English man named Boniface went to the people of Germany as a missionary. The German people still worshiped the god Thor, and there was a huge sacred oak tree that they wouldn’t even touch because it belonged to Thor. The people were horrified when Boniface took an ax and started chopping the sacred tree down. They thought Thor would strike him dead with lightning, but nothing happened. When the tree fell down, it broke into four pieces, because it was rotten on the inside. Some say that Boniface took some planks from the tree and used them to build the first Christian chapel in Germany.
God called on Gideon to do something similar. His own father had built an altar to Baal, a false god, and next to the altar was a sacred pole for Asherah, a false goddess. God told Gideon to take down this altar and pole and to build an altar for the true God instead. Gideon did this, but he did it at night because he was afraid. However, the next day the men of his town asked around and figured out who had done it. They wanted to kill Gideon because he had insulted the god and goddess they believed in. But his father protected him. He said that if Baal wanted Gideon put to death, Baal could take care of it himself. Nothing happened to Gideon, because Baal wasn’t real and couldn’t do anything to him, any more than Thor could strike Boniface with lightning.
Sometimes we are afraid of things that really can’t hurt us. We might be afraid of what people think of us if we don’t join them in turning away from God’s ways. We might be afraid of bad luck, or getting hurt, or of dying. It’s true that sometimes bad things happen to us, and we will sometimes get hurt. Unless Jesus comes back first, we will die someday. But we don’t have to be afraid of any of these things. Jesus died on the cross and rose again to defeat sin and death and the devil. He is always with us, and nothing can take us away from his love. Baal and Thor couldn’t help the people who believed in them, but Jesus is strong and mighty, and helps everyone who belongs to him.
Dear Jesus, thank you for your love and your power, and for defeating death and the devil for me. Amen.