Called and Commissioned.
Judges 9-10, acts 22
And he said, “The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth;for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.” – Acts 22:14-15 ESV
Our two passages today present a stark contrast between two different men. In the book of Judges, we are introduced to Abimelech, the son of Gideon. He proves to be a conniving, murderous individual who will stop at nothing to see himself made king over the people of Israel. He was not appointed by God. He had no commission from God to seek the kingship. But after the death of his father, Gideon, Abimelech saw an opportunity to take advantage of. He knew that at one point the people of Israel had wanted to crown Gideon king. “Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, ‘Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian’” (Judges 8:22 ESV). But Gideon had refused their offer to make him king, warning them, “The Lord will rule over you” (Judges 8:23 ESV). But once Gideon was out of the way, Abimelech saw his opportunity. His father’s death had left a leadership void. But he had 69 brothers, all born to different mothers, with whom to contend. So took matters into his own hands and Abimelech murdered them all. Then his mother’s relatives, the Shechemites, crowned him king of Israel, and he reigned for three years. But his reign was not commissioned by God and it did not have the blessing of God. It would end in tragedy and with Abimelech’s violent death. And nothing Abimelech had done with his life left a lasting or positive impact on the nation of Israel. They remained unfaithful to God and continued their pattern of rebellion.
But in the book of Acts, we meet a man of a different sort. Actually, Paul was probably much like Abimelech at one point in his life. He was a self-made and ambitious man who was working his way to the top. Paul’s own story of his early life is quite transparent, revealing some of the more sordid details of his background. “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished” (Acts 22:4-5 ESV). Paul was a professional bounty hunter whose job it was to round up Christians and thrown them in jail. But something happened. God got a hold on his life and transformed him from the inside out. That day on the road to Damascus, as Paul was making his way to carry out his original commission from the Jewish religious leadership, he received a new commission and calling from God Himself. “The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:14-15 ESV). Paul was given a clear charge by God to act as His spokesman and representative, carrying the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
What does this passage reveal about God?
It is clear from the book of Judges that God uses men and women to accomplish His will. So far, we have seen Him call Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, and Gideon. These individuals were chosen by God to accomplish His divine will in the lives of His people. Each had a role to play in God’s plan. They were called and commissioned by God and had the hand of God on their lives and, as a result, they were able to deliver the people of God from oppression at the hands of their enemies. In the book of Acts, we see God call Peter, Barnabas, Paul, Timothy, Silas and John Mark. He chooses these men to accomplish His will and to carry out His work among both the Jews and the Gentiles. They did not aspire to their roles or seek them out. But God placed His hand on their lives and divinely empowered them to accomplish His will. Paul’s story is a vivid reminder of how God can take one man’s agenda and turn it on its ear. Paul had a plan for his life and he was working that plan out on a daily basis, doing what he felt was best for his own life. He even believed that his plan was well within God’s will, “being zealous for God” and persecuting “this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women” (Acts 22:3-4 ESV). But Paul’s way was not God’s way. He did not have the call of God on his life. But that would change. God would recommission him and reassign him for duty, providing him with new duties and responsibilities.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Like Abimelech, most of us can end up living our lives with a me-centered mindset that focuses on what is best for us. Abimelech didn’t really care about the people of Israel. And he most certainly didn’t care about his 69 brothers. He saw everyone as a potential roadblock to his own personal aspirations and plans. His desire for the crown was self-motivated and clearly not God-ordained. God had never called him to be king, but that didn’t stop Abimelech from doing everything in his power to see that it happen. At one point in his life, Paul believed he was doing the work and the will of God by arresting any and all who followed “The Way.” He saw this new-found sect called Christians as a nuisance and a potential threat to the one true religion: Judaism. He thought he was doing God a favor by wiping out this dangerous cult and had the blessing of the high priest and the whole council of elders. But he was wrong. He was not called by God. But his mistake would be rectified by God Himself. He would receive new marching orders and a new purpose for his life that would radically alter his future.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
Every human being wants to know what the purpose of their life is – why they are on this planet. They seek to find significance and meaning for their existence. And without a clear calling from God, we all begin to slowly determine our own destiny. Abimelech was not content to be just one of the sons of Gideon and slowly fade into insignificance after the death of his father. He had grander aspirations, and if they included the murder of his brothers, so be it. Nothing was going to stand in his way. But he was not called or commissioned by God. He did not have the blessing or permission of God to do what he did, and it did not turn out well. As a believer in Jesus Christ, it is of utmost importance that I seek to know what it is that God would have me do. It is a dangerous thing to assume I know what is best for my life. God calls us and then commissions us. We are not free to establish out life plan and agenda. And yet, that is exactly what most of us do. We make life plans without consulting God. We determine and map out our destinies without giving God a second thought. It is as if we think God is somehow obligated to bless our decisions with His divine stamp of approval. But God doesn’t call without commissioning. He doesn’t choose without having a very good reason behind that choice. I am here for a reason. God didn’t just save me in order to guarantee a future place for me in heaven. He has work for me to do while I am here. The same thing is true of every believer. But are we seeking to know His will for our lives? Are we asking for Him to provide daily direction for our lives? Do we make plans without His input and set agendas without His permission? God calls. God commissions. Abimelech had no calling on his life from God. Paul did. And the outcome of their lives are radically different.
Father, You have called me and You have a job for me to do. Never let me forget that fact. Don’t let me waste my life living it according to my own agenda and plan. Help me to live with a constant ear to hear what You are saying. Give me a growing sensitivity to Your will and Your Spirit’s voice in my life. I want to live out my calling and my commission faithfully. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men