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Gideon: A Wise and Mighty Wimp

May 10th, 2009 by Vic

Judges 6-8

Today is Mother’s Day.  Maybe I should have looked at the story of Deborah or Hannah.  Deborah was the 4th judge that the Lord raised up to bring Israel to repentance.  Gideon is the 5th.  Hannah was the mother of Samuel and many will speak well of her today.

Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua (Judges 2:7).  They did not drive out the inhabitants of the land and the local gods became a snare to them (2:3).  The sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals (2:11).  Then the Lord raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.  And yet they did not listen to their judges.  They turned aside quickly from the way their fathers had walked (2:17).  When the judge died, they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers; they did not stop doing stupid things (2:19).

The first time Israel cried to the Lord (there is no sign they repented) the Lord raised up Caleb’s grandson, Othniel as the first judge (3:9).  The land had rest 40 years.  Then for 18 years they served Eglon, king of Moab.  God raised up Ehud, a left-handed Benjamite.  The land had rest 80 years.  Shamgar is listed as a 3rd judge.  Israel served Jabin, king of Canaan for 20 years.  God raised up Deborah, a prophetess.  The land rested 40 years.  The Midianites raided Israel for 7 years.   God raised up Gideon, the 5th of 12 judges.

These Israelites had their ups and downs.  They did not faithfully fear God.  They did what was right in their own eyes, forgot God and life went sour.  When they called on God, He sent a savior.  For 300 years they had these good-bad-good-bad cycles.

People have not changed, neither has God changed.  When we sin, our thinking about God becomes distorted and we do stupid things.  The Bible says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Honor God as God.  It’s a sign of wisdom.

When you read judges, notice the heart of God.  During this time we never see God as the big man upstairs with a big stick.  God does not look for ways to punish them.  He seeks ways to help them.  However our culture sees God like one of the Greek gods who enjoyed punishing sinners.  Many think God just sends tragedies, storms, or disease to punish sinners.  But God does not desire that any should perish.  He’s looking for ways to draw people to Himself and His ways.

The Bible says He does not want any to perish.  He died for the ungodly.  He sent Jesus to save the sinner from themselves.  God created the world and gave us an owner’s manual.  When you fail to follow directions you hurt yourself.  The way of the ungodly is a dead end.  A sinner is hurting himself.  The life of the ungodly is descending to destruction.  They are on the wrong way.

The way of the transgressor is hard.  Psalm 1 says God knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly will perish.  The righteous walking in God’s way have abundant life, but the way of the transgressor is hard.

6:1-6

The Midianites were Bedouins.  They lived in tents.  They could move easily like locusts and their campsite is compared to locusts devouring the produce of the land.  They had more camels than you could number.  Camels could run 100 miles without needing any water.  They were like our military Humvees.  They could come to a farm, empty the granary and leave quickly.

Israel was doing their own thing and God let them go do it.  They were brought low or became poor.  It took them 7 years to realize that God had left them.  They were suffering.

When we do what is right in our own eyes, we become spiritually poor and often financially poor and intellectually poor.  The quickest way to become poor is to do what is right in our own eyes.  The quickest way to become very low is to forget God.

In Daniel 5, Belteshazzar thought he was rich and wise.  When a hand started writing on the wall, his face grew pale, his knees knocked, and he wet his pants.

Daniel said he had been found deficient.  He was drinking out of gold cups and God said he was less than poor.  He had a minus in his bank account.

The Israelites had brought great riches out of Egypt.  They had defeated many kings and received the spoils of war.  Were they poor because of their wealth?

I want us to be rich spiritually and intellectually.  Fear God.  Do good and you’ll become very rich.

The people were brought low.  They cried to the Lord because Midian was making life miserable for them.  It does not say they repented.  They just want God to make life better for them.  God was gracious and sent and unnamed prophet.

6:7-10

You have forgotten God.  You have forgotten that He really loves you.  You have disobeyed His commands.  You’re in this mess because you have sinned and turned from God’s ways.  You need to repent.  God is not punishing you.  You’re just being stupid.

6:11-18

Gideon is the 5th judge.  The angel found him in a wine press.  That was not the ideal place.  Usually wheat would be threshed on the mountain top where the breeze was blowing, but that was very visible to men on camels.  It was hard for camels to run in caves and dangerous around steps to wells and wine presses so grain was hidden in caves and pits.

Gideon was a wimp, but God saw his heart and called him a valiant warrior.  God knows what you can be if your heart is right.  The angel says, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.”

Gideon says, “That’s easy for you to say.  If God is here with me, why is all of this happening?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why isn’t God doing some miracle to rescue us?  I don’t see any evidence that God is here.  If God was here I would not have to be in this pit.”

The Lord saw his heart and commands, “As God’s messenger, I am commanding you to get out of your pit, go in your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian.”

Gideon says, “You must be kidding.  I’m not your man.  I’m the youngest in my family.  My family is the smallest in Manasseh.”  Gideon thought something should be done, but he couldn’t do anything.  His focus is on I, I, I.  Gideon asks, “Who am I?”  And the Lord responds, “Who am I?”

The Lord says, “I”.  I will be with you.   You will defeat Midian.  It really has nothing to do with you, your age, your size, your skills, your family, or your lineage.

The Lord often uses the least likely or the underdog so He gets glory for what is done.  This is very contrary to our culture and training.  I was told that I needed to prepare to become a pastor.  That meant a formal education, graduate degrees, and submission to man’s authority.  But we do not present our skills and our knowledge to God for His use and say, “OK Lord, now I’m ready.”  He does not need my abilities or my head.  He wants my heart and hands.

God is making you what He wants you to be.  Moses was in the wilderness 40 years before he had an assignment.  Elijah only preached one sermon.  Don’t think too highly of yourself.  Self-conceit is self-deceit.

When you think you have something to offer God, when you think you have some skills He can use, you disqualify yourself with God.

Gideon says, “If what you say is really from God, can you give me a sign?  You think about a sign and I’ll go fix you something to eat.”

6:19-24

Gideon prepared enough for several families.  He presents the food as an offering to the angel of the Lord.  The angel says put the food on that rock and pour the broth over it.  Gideon did it.  The angel touched the offering with his walking stick and fire came out of the rock and cremated the offering.

Gideon is afraid.  The angel vanished in vs. 21 and the Lord says in vs. 23, “The God of peace sends you peace.”  Gideon built an altar to the Lord and named it “The Lord is peace.”

6:25-32

That night, after Gideon had a little time to process what had happened to him, the Lord gave him something to do right away.  Get rid of your father’s garden chapel to Baal and build an altar to the Lord your God in an orderly manner.

Gideon, the valiant warrior, was afraid so he took 10 servants with him and did what the Lord told him to do that night before someone would try to stop him.

In the morning, 2 altars were smoldering with a bull’s carcass on each.  And the backyard park where the neighbors had worshiped Baal was destroyed.

Joash knew his son was right.  He tells the men of the city to ask Baal to kill Gideon.  They should not have to defend their god.  After removing his family idols Gideon could go to battle.

6:33-40

The Midianites and Amalekites got together to pillage the land again during harvest.  The Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon and he sent a call out for troops.  32,000 farmers came to fight the 135,000 trained soldiers of Midian in the valley of Jezreel.  The odds are 1/4

Gideon has second thoughts.  He does not want to be responsible for the deaths of all these men.  He asks the Lord for a sign.  God is gracious and patient with Gideon.  This does not mean that God will give you a sign.  But it does mean that God likes you and will be gracious to you.

Gideon is still not sure.  He senses a lot of fear in the camp.  He apologizes and asks for another sign.  How many signs would you ask for?  When struggles and challenges overwhelm your mind, go to God in prayer.  He may not give you a sign.  The scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day wanted a sign and Jesus refused to give them another sign.

7:1-3

Gideon gets his men up early and they head for the battle field.  That day the Lord tells Gideon, “You have too many guys.  Let the fearful go home.”  Probably there were some thinking about the odds against them.  Now the odds were 1/13.

7:4-8

The Lord says, “you still have too many men.  Here’s the next test.  When you get to the next creek, notice those that fall on their bellies to drink with their face in the water.  Send those men home.  I want to use the other men who just kneel and take water in their hands to drink.  Were these the alert ones or the older ones more out of shape?  The older I get, the harder it becomes to get down on the carpet with grandkids.  The younger ones who were not afraid or intimidated, who were brash and reckless, were sent home.

Now the odds are 1/450.  Gideon has 300 men willing to die with him.  That night the Lord again speaks to him and promises to give the enemy to Gideon.  The Lord is gracious and this time He offers to give Gideon a sign.

7:9-18

Gideon returns to camp and tells his men, “Get up.  Now is the time.”  They got up quickly and prepared to fight.  Gideon says, “No, here’s my plan.  Leave your swords, shields, and spears.  Grab a trumpet and a pitcher big enough to put a torch in.  We are going to divide up into 3 groups, blow the horns, smash the pitchers and let your light shine.  That’s all.”  They probably asked, “When do we get our swords back?  Do we just hit them with the horns?”  Gideon says, “I don’t know, but the Lord will take care of it.”

7:19-25

In the valley at night the sound carries far.  There is an unusual smashing noise, strange lights, and a lot of men shouting in the hills around the whole camp.  The enemy starts to self destruct and run.  Gideon calls other Israelites to be part of the victory.

8:1

Ephraim, one of the tribes, criticizes Gideon.  Satan often uses those close to us to rob us of the joy of victory.  Here is a lesson on attitude.  Gideon handles it very wisely.  Ephraim wanted to be part of the glory from the beginning.  They wanted to be part of the big event.  While those who were part of the big event are just praising God, those not part of the big event are jealous, critical and just thinking of themselves.

God has big events for some and mop up events for others.  When the Lord opens a door, walk in it.  When the Lord calls, obey quickly.  Gideon understood.  Ephraim was called by God to mop up and they did a good job, but they were not content.  Be careful about your attitude.  When you are content, God will use you.  Be faithful in the small things.

8:2-3

Gideon’s response quieted their criticism.  He says you guys have done better than we have.  He could have reminded them that they did not show up with the 32,000 when he made the first call.  “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov 15:1).  Be slow to anger.

8:4-7

The leaders of Succoth did not want to side with Gideon.  He just had 300 men and the Midianites still had 15,000.  Gideon said, “The Lord is with us and when we return we will drag you through the cactus.”  They were only thinking of themselves.  They were ignoring their brother in need.

8:8-9

The leaders of Penuel were also afraid and Gideon says he will return, tear down their towers and make them defenseless.  They were only thinking of themselves.  They were ignoring their brother in need.  The did not sense the Spirit of God with Gideon.

8:10-12

There were only 15,000 of the original 135,000 Midian soldiers left.  Gideon defeats them and returns to keep his promises.

8:22

The people see Gideon as the one who defeated the enemy.  Gideon reminds them that God is their ruler.

8:24

But did Gideon start thinking he was worth something?  The people made him rich.  He made a beautiful and expensive piece of furniture or a robe that caused many to sin.  Religious symbols and monuments can become things of worship.

God is good at using people who have nothing to offer.  Church organizations use people with gifts and talents.  God uses people with nothing who are over weight, out of shape, and willing.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 We have the light of God in clay vessels.

Matthew 5:13-16 We are the light of the world.

How does the world see the light of Christ in you?  How is the light of Christ seen in me?  When I am broken the light is revealed.  When difficult times come, is Jesus seen in me?  The enemy is defeated when they see the light.  The enemy is confused when they see the light.  Through broken times, through challenges, do others see the light in you?

Gideon was really afraid.  He knew his weakness and the impossible assignment God was asking him to do.  God still liked Him and was patient with him.

Lord, give us courage to let Your light shine through us during difficult times.  Stop allowing us to just play it safe.  Give us courage to get out of our wine press and obey quickly.  Lord we are like Gideon’s army.  We are weak and out of shape.  Keep our focus on You Lord and not on what we can’t do.  Let Your light shine through us.

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