Truly Strong

1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” 8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel – because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.  (Genesis 11:1-9)
1 Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ 3 Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. 4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” 5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.’ 6 Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. 7 The Lord said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.”  (Judges 7:1-7)
The builders of Babel were not just building a tower. We are told that they tried to build “a city and a tower”. If you know your geography, then you might have spotted that the plain of Shinar was the site of ancient Babylon. The words Babel and Babylon are the same in Hebrew. The builders of Babel were the original builders of Babylon.

Babylon is all about looking strong. The city is described to us as a spiritual entity in Revelation 17-18, where it is big, strong, proud and seemingly invincible. That’s how the builders of Babel must have appeared to anyone who passed by and saw their building work towering up into the sky. And yet, the message of Genesis 11 is that the builders of Babel were weak. They set out to build a tower that would reach up to heaven, yet we are told that the Lord needed to come down from heaven to see what they were doing! That’s how it always works, in God’s economy, when people try to become strong in their own strength. They actually become weak and fail.

That’s because the Lord wants to teach all of us to rely on his strength instead. There aren’t too many places in the Bible where God says to a person “I can’t”, but he says it to Gideon in Judges 7 in order to teach us how we can become truly strong. The Lord tells Gideon that he cannot grant him victory over his enemies because he has too many men. He thinks that he is strong, so if the Lord worked a miracle through him, Gideon would imagine that the victory came through his own strength. The Lord therefore whittles Gideon’s army down from 32,000 men to just 300 men. Then he says to him: Now I can bless you! If I give you victory now, I know that you will attribute it entirely to me and to the strength that I work in you. This is what the Lord means when he says to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”
1)   How has the Lord frustrated and weakened you personally in 2020?

2)   How has the Lord frustrated and weakened us as a church in 2020?

3)   Why do you think that he has done this? In what ways were you/we strong in our own strength before he did this? How are we more poised for victory now, like Gideon, as a result of this year’s weakenings?

4) How is what the Lord says to Gideon and to Paul an encouragement to you today? How can you start again, fully reliant on God’s strength, proclaiming with Paul that, when you are weak, that’s when you are strong?
Father God, I thank you so much for the weakenings of this past year. I thank you for those weakenings personally, and I thank you for those weakenings as a church too. Lord, we confess our weakness to you and we believe your promise today, that you power is made perfect in weakness. Please make us strong by your power. Amen.
If you have time, consider carrying on your conversation with God using one of our helpful Prayer Pathways.
Today’s Everyday Devotions have also inspired a devotional video that you can watch on our YouTube channel.
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