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Cheap tricks or simple honesty?

Judges 7:24–8:3

Then Gideon sent messengers throughout all the mountains of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites, and seize from them the watering places as far as Beth Barah and the Jordan.” Then all the men of Ephraim gathered together and seized the watering places as far as Beth Barah and the Jordan. And they captured two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued Midian and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side of the Jordan.

Now the men of Ephraim said to him, “Why have you done this to us by not calling us when you went to fight with the Midianites?” And they reprimanded him sharply.

So he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. And what was I able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.

Do the men of Ephraim not know that the LORD deliberately shrunk the Israelite army down to only 300 men? Their complaint is silly; Gideon was just following God’s commands.

But notice that Gideon doesn’t make that argument. Instead, he gives the kind of silly response their silly complaint deserves. That speaks volumes about what’s actually going on here.

The Ephraimites’ complaint is more about old rivalries than about anything substantive. We can deduce that, not from what they said, but from the way Gideon’s response shamelessly butters them up.

The line, “Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?” is especially slick. Gideon is an Abiezite (a tribe of Manasseh, Ephraim’s sibling). Gideon is saying that their “gleaning” of capturing the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb is better than the initial rout.

But he’s also implying that their tribe is better than his tribe.

And it works.

If people were logical, apologetics and evangelism would work quite differently from how they actually work. Buttering people up really does work.

This gets into psychology that’s too intricate for a devotional, but some general principles apply.

Folks don’t listen to people they don’t like. If you want someone to listen to the gospel, you have to make friends with them. Everything you say exists in context. Are you trustworthy? Do you really care?

Like with everything else in Christianity, “Be yourself,” is good advice here too. Being excited about this part of your life doesn’t look all that different from any other kind of excitement.

It’s infectious.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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