God, Carlos Pujols, And The NY Yankees
Judges 6:25-26, “Now on the same night the Lord said to him, ‘Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it; and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.'”
Baal? Asherah? Burnt offering? Altars? What’s all this about bulls? Why do I need two? And why does one have to be seven years old? (And why in the world is there a picture of a baseball player next to the lead scripture verse? Be patient. I’ll get to that shortly. It’s one of my prayer requests for this next year.) But back to the bulls… I just don’t get it. All I know is that with all the pulling down and the cutting down and the building up it sounds like an awful lot of work to me. Let’s be honest. There are plenty of times when we are reading scripture and we have absolutely no idea what is even going on in the story. We know that the words on the page are English but we have no clue what they mean. It’s almost as if we need someone to interpret the interpretation, someone to translate the translation. Now, I don’t want to get lost today in all the details and symbolism involved with OT sacrifice; so, I am going to speak solely to the issue of intent in this note. What was God’s message behind this critical act of obedience on the part of Gideon? I think I can answer that question in two words. Ready? Albert Pujols. (I know. Some of you are probably thinking, “Great!!! Now I need someone to explain the explanation.”)
For those of you who don’t know, Albert Pujols is a baseball player. But he is not just any baseball player. He is arguably the best player in baseball today. Just consider the following. In 2001 he was the National League Rookie of the Year. 9 times he has been selected as an All-Star. He has won the National League Most Valuable Player Award on three separate occasions. ESPN.com selected him as the greatest player of the decade for 2000-2009. Even if you don’t follow baseball I think it’s easy to recognize that the man is a tremendous talent. Currently, he is playing for the St. Louis Cardinals but at the end of this year his contract will expire and Mr. Albert Pujols will become a free agent.
For those of you who don’t follow sports, a free agent is no longer under any contractual agreement to one team. He can solicit and receive offers from as many teams as he wants. He then has the freedom to sign a contract and play with any team that is willing to pay him his asking price. (Dear Lord, if you are listening, Mr. Pujols would look great in Yankee pinstripes. Just saying.) No one is 100% certain where Albert will be playing next year. Most experts think that he will resign with St. Louis. But, all speculation aside, I can promise you one thing. He will not be playing for more than one team. He will not sign a contract with both St. Louis and New York. In the end, regardless of the number of offers he will receive, Albert Pujols will pick one team and agree to play exclusively for that one team whether it be the Cardinals, the Yankees (God?), or some other team.
Essentially, God was telling Gideon that Israel could not play for two teams. Years earlier Israel had signed a contract (the Bible calls it a “covenant“) with God. He would be their God and they would be His people. Unfortunately, God was the only One who had upheld their end of the agreement. Israel had traded in their Jehovah jerseys for Baal ball caps. Team God had become Team Asherah. The people of God were trying to play both sides of the field. For a while they were on the God Squad but then they would switch back over to the Idol Worshippers. Back and forth. Forth and back. Israel had spent generations trying to play for two teams at the same time. But then Gideon came along. And God instructs him that it’s time to sign a new contract. Pick a team. God. Or Baal. But not both. God was not going to share His people. It had to be Him, exclusively Him. Hence, the destruction of Baal’s dugout and the rebuilding of one for God. Make sense?
I know. It’s probably an oversimplification. But the baseball analogy works for me. I know what it’s like to try to play for two teams. I think all of us probably do. On Sunday you wear your Jesus jersey (maybe even on Wednesday night). But during the week you trade it in for a different team. One team at home. Another team at work. A different team on Friday night. And then, there’s that embarrassing team that you play for in private. So many different teams. Like Gideon we need to make a choice and take some decisive action. Stop playing for two teams. Make it God’s team. Exclusively. That’s what Gideon did. Hopefully, that’s what Albert Pujols will do. (What? Everyone knows the Yankees are God’s team...)