Saturday, September 30th, a Boko Haram member by the name of Mohammad Bashir was taken into police custody in Ondo State, in Southwest Nigeria. He was found in Ondo State after fleeing from the Nigerian military’s manhunt for Boko Haram members in Northern Nigeria. While in custody, Ondo State’s police commissioner paraded him around in the public to different news reporters. In doing this, Bashir shared with news reporters that he and other Boko Haram members had planned to attack Ondo State, before being taken in by the Nigerian police.
In telling his story, Bashir admitted to “only” killing two people: a “small child” who was in the brush, and an adult whom he “killed by the roadside,” according to Sahara Reporters. As if killing two people was not a heart-breaking event in and of itself, forever scarring the hearts and minds of those involved.
This news comes out just as another news report was updated, concerning Boko Haram’s victims: 48 people were slain by Boko Haram on July 25th, 2017, and four lecturers from the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, were taken captive. They have now spent 72 days, and counting, in captivity.
It was reported that one of the lecturers wrote a letter to his wife. In it, he urged the Nigerian government to help them, and free them, soon. He spoke of the horrors of captivity. About how much he hated it.
As sin runs rampant in Nigeria; as small children are sold for cheap, and killed in the brush, and as innocent men, women, and children, cry out for ANY sign of freedom; as the hearts of men grow cold with violence, and the wealthy in Northern Nigeria fuel such evil, one question can rise up out of the muck and mire: “GOD, WHERE ARE YOU?”
It has already been shared, on this blog, that some people have said that God has left Africa. While the events going on in America– Las Vegas, and the Church Shooting in Antioch, Tennessee— are nothing short of abhorrent and heart-rending, the amount of corruption and violence going on throughout all of Nigeria can easily lay one’s heart, low.
It is in times like these where one can truly ask the question, “Where is God?” and seemingly receive no answer. It reminds me of the story of Gideon, set during a time when Israel was experiencing equal corruption, violence and oppression.
In Judges 6, Israel is in the midst of being oppressed by the Midianites, after turning from the LORD (Judges 6:1). The Midianites had SO oppressed the country of Israel, that the Israelites resorted to hiding their food in the mountains and caves, because the Midianites would take all of their food and livestock (Judges 6:2-5). The Israelites became so oppressed that they cried out to the LORD for help (Judges 6:6). Sound familiar?
Israel’s sin introduced oppression– sin has a way of doing that in every country (Proverbs 14:31, 34). But Christ did not let His beloved, wayward nation of Israel fall to ruin. No; instead, He intervened.
“Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!’
(Judges 6:11-12, NLT)
“The Angel of the LORD” is a commonly-used term in Old Testament scriptures, to speak about how the LORD Himself appeared on earth (Genesis 22; Exodus 3). God Himself was speaking to this man, Gideon!
But Gideon gives a reply that is less than chipper.
“‘Sir,’ Gideon replied, ‘if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, “The Lord brought us up out of Egypt”? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.'”
(Judges 6:13, NLT)
One can almost hear the anger, the hurt, and the pain in Gideon’s voice. “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?! Where is this God who does miracles, who took us up out of a land of oppression?! We are oppressed. How could God be with us?”
I read these words, and can’t help but get teary-eyed. In the midst of what is continually happening in Nigeria, and what has so horrifically happened in Las Vegas– and, on a somewhat smaller scale, how Nabeel Qureshi just recently passed away of stage four stomach cancer— this is a question that has, without a doubt, crossed the hearts and minds of many deeply hurting people, recently.
But I notice that God does not fight with Gideon. Instead, God gives Gideon a shocking, scary proposition. He tells Gideon to go out, and fight those who are oppressing Israel:
“Then the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!’
‘But Lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!’
(Judges 6:14-15, NLT)
God did not try to defend Himself against Gideon’s accusations that He was not there. Instead, God called upon this scared, “wimpy” Israelite, a man afraid of the darkness and violence all around him… and told him to fight against it.
But God does not ask Gideon to do this seemingly HUGE endeavor, by himself. Knowing Gideon’s fear, doubt, and heart full of pain, God says something very special to Gideon’s heart.
“The Lord said to him, ‘I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.'”
(Judges 6:16, NLT)
Just like that. Jesus does not ask Gideon to do something about this darkness, without promising His Loving Presence to Gideon.
These were words that the very broken, doubt-filled heart of Gideon needed to hear.
And I think it is something that Las Vegas; Antioch, Tennessee; Charleston; and Nigeria need to hear, too. Something that you may need to hear, today.
If there is anything that we can learn from this passage of scripture, it is this:
Sin will always end in oppression.
But God, even in our rebellion, will not leave those who have called on Jesus’ Name.
Not even now, in our darkest of hours. And this Loving, Faithful God can handle your questions– even the rawest, most painful, accusatory ones.
And perhaps, one of the biggest take-aways is this: Jesus does not want us to merely “curse the darkness”; He calls us to loving, compassionate action. To be “the light of the world, a city on a hill” (Matthew 5:14-16).
So, as corruption does not seem to stop in Nigeria– and as the whole world is hurting, once again, over the evil, oppressive sin of another– I pray that Jesus’ Love would shine out from us, lighting a world that is, more than ever, entrenched in darkness. That we, apart of the Lord’s army, would fight against sin and darkness– knowing that, because Jesus is with us, the victory is truly ours– no matter how the fight looks, right now.
“The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”
(Judges 6:12, NLT)
Let God’s words to Gideon be a comfort to our hearts, as well. My friends, “Mighty Heroes” in Christ, do not fear; the Lord is with you.
This blog post is in tribute to the three American special agents that passed away in warfare in the country of Niger, Africa. Our prayers are with their families.
Do you know Jesus?
Jesus, 2,000 years ago, achieved the ultimate victory against sin and death– by dying for the sins of mankind, and rising again on the third day!
We have real, true Victory in Christ! Learn more about this victory– and why Jesus came to win it, in the first place– here.
Pray with me…
“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for dying on the cross for our sins! Thank You for giving us TRUE victory, that can only be found in You.
Dear Father God,
We come to You today, as it is day 72 of these people’s captivity… and day 1271 of the remaining 113, Chibok young women’s captivity.
We just ask in Your Mighty and Precious Name that You would bring these members of Boko Haram to Justice. Please humble them and bring them to the ground, so that they would completely repent and submit to You.
Please bring these lecturers, the Chibok young women, and the rest of the captives of Boko Haram out of captivity, soon.
Dear Jesus, we also pray for those still reeling– and for those who will be grieving– the evil that has happened all across America, for the rest of their lives. Dear Jesus,
Please bring these people to You, and allow them to ask the hard questions; please be their Answer. Dear Jesus, please be near to them; please comfort them.
Please continue to be with our first responders, police, and the police in Nigeria, as they all battle the evil, evil darkness we have all seen unfold. Please protect them, Lord Jesus; bring them to Yourself, so that they might live and work for Your Glory.
Please also help and hold the families of the three special agents who were killed in Niger, as well. Please be their comfort and shade from the sun of violence.
The gates of hell will not prevail– thank You, Lord Jesus (Matthew 16:18).
In Jesus’ Name we pray,