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A Spiritual Tell

reveals whether you care.

Judges 8:4–9

When Gideon came to the Jordan, he and the three hundred men who were with him crossed over, exhausted but still in pursuit. Then he said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.”

And the leaders of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?”

So Gideon said, “For this cause, when the LORD has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers!” Then he went up from there to Penuel and spoke to them in the same way. And the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. So he also spoke to the men of Penuel, saying, “When I come back in peace, I will tear down this tower!”

What the Israeli army needs is carbohydrates. They’re in the middle of a long slog, and carb-loading with bread will give them the recharge they need to continue. So, Gideon doesn’t ask much of the men of Succoth (part of the tribe of Gad)—just some bread. They should give that much hospitality to complete strangers merely traveling through.

Gideon and his men deserve much more; they’re on a mission that affects Succoth’s future. The Midianites had been raiding them just as much as everyone else. Gideon could just as well have demanded the bread plus some soldiers to help with the fight.

But he doesn’t. He even uses the Hebrew word for “please” (נָא, na). Their refusal is astonishing. It’s tantamount to siding with the enemy. That really trips Gideon’s wire, and he threatens to punish them when he returns victorious. Then the same thing happens with the men of Penuel (also of the tribe of Gad),  and Gideon threatens them too.

What has Gideon so upset isn’t just their refusal to give him bread; it’s the excuse they give. They could have said that they were fresh out. They were used to hiding it from the Midianite raiders; they don’t have great storehouses of it anyway.

But they give an insulting reason for denying them bread. They’re not willing to contribute bread to an endeavor they think won’t succeed. Despite the amazing rout that has already occurred, they have no confidence in Gideon and his army.

So he basically says, “When I get back, I’m going to teach you a lesson.”

This is an example of a spiritual tell. The men from Succoth and Penuel don’t come right out and say they don’t give a rip about Gideon, but it’s obvious that they don’t.

This is what James was writing about in his epistle.

If you say you have faith, but apparently don’t really give a rip, that’s a tell.

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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