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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Beauty of Biblical Balance


I have learned so much about this from Carson, especially number 5:
Balance in Integrating Complementary Truths That Lie on the Edge of Great Mysteries, Not Least Complementary Truths about God
God is unfathomably loving, yet his wrath reflects his perfect justice. He is utterly sovereign, yet he personally interacts with other persons, not least the human beings he has made in his own image, such that he holds them accountable for what they say and do and feel and imagine; for sovereign though he is, he never treats them as insensate robots. God is one, yet he exists as three persons who interact with one another. Even to begin to make sense of these complementary truths, it is not long before one is wrestling with the relationships between time and eternity, with the nature of secondary causality, with the nature of the will and the nature of freedom, with the notions of person and substance. Part of the aim of biblical balance in these cases is to learn to state the complementary truths in such a way that one is not unwittingly undermining something else that Scripture says. One refuses to draw inferences from one facet of the truth that endangers some other facet of the truth. One learns to let each truth function in our lives and in our theology in the same ways they function in Scripture, and in no other ways.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sunday, July 29, 2012

[Matt's Messages] “Jesus Will Build His Church" Serbia Missions Team Commissioning


“Jesus Will Build His Church”
Serbia Team Commissioning Service
July 29, 2012 :: Matthew 16:13-20

“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"  They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."  Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.” (NIV)

We will return, Lord-willing, to the book of Judges next Sunday, but this week, I felt led to preach on missions to go along with our Serbia Team’s Commissioning this morning.

I’ve been trying to drop ideas into our Serbia Team’s heads all along.

In the Spring, it was “Semper Gumby” “Always Flexible.” The Marines have “Semper Fi” Always Faithful. The Serbia Team has “Semper Gumby” always flexible in ministry.

This week when I met with the team for devotions, I encouraged them to memorize Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” That’s a great prayer–one that we should all memorize because we will all face things we are scared of as we attempt to be faithful to the mission Jesus has given us.

Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”

And today, I have one more phrase that I want to tuck away into the heads of our Serbia Team as they head off.

And this is a phrase that needs to be tucked into the heads and hearts of everyone here whether or not you’re planning to go to Serbia this week.

Ready?

“Jesus Will Build His Church.”

We learn this truth in our passage for today, Matthew 16:13-20.  

In these few verses lie one of the most important questions that Jesus ever asked and one of the most important promises that Jesus ever gave.  It’s a terrific text for talking about missions.  

I have just three points this morning, and I absolutely guarantee that (if you are listening) when I’m done you will remember all three of them.

Point #1.  JESUS Will Build His Church.

The key word in that sentence is JESUS.

JESUS Will Build His Church.

Let me ask you a question:  Who is Jesus?

That’s the question that Jesus was raising to the disciples when they were traveling through Caesarea Philippi.

Really, it’s the question that Jesus has been raising throughout the Book of Matthew.  He’s been forcing that question upon everyone He meets.  Everyone He interacts with. Everyone who hears about Him is forced to answer that question.

Who is Jesus?  What is His identity?

Jesus starts by asking the disciples what the word on the street was about His identity.  V.13.

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  “What are people saying about me?”

And the disciples knew what people are saying, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, or Jeremiah, or someone like them...a great prophet.”

Do you know that that’s the same answer that Muslims give to this question?  They don’t deny Jesus’ existence.  They call Him a great prophet.  But nothing more.  And that’s not enough.

Who is Jesus? 

Then Jesus asks the disciples (v.15), “Who do you say I am?”

And He’s asking us that very same question right now.

Who do you say Jesus is?

Simon Peter answers.  And for once, He gets an A+!  (V.16)

“You are the Christ (or Messiah), the Son of the living God.”

The Promised King, the Lord of Glory, Very God of Very God!

That’s who Jesus is!

Jesus, you are the Hope of Israel.  You are the Hope of the World!  You are God in the flesh.  You are the radiance of God’s glory!

Now, I don’t know how much Peter understood what He was saying.  It definitely wasn’t complete. It wasn’t until after the Resurrection that He began to have a full understanding of Jesus’ identity.  But he got it right anyway.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus congratulates him.  V.17.

“Blessed are you, Simon [Jonahson, he was Swedish, you know], for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”

Has the Father revealed who Jesus is to you, in your heart?

Who Is Jesus?

You need to decide right now.  Because if Jesus is not your Lord and your Savior.  If He is not your Boss and your Rescuer, then you are lost, you are dying, you are in big trouble.

Many people want Jesus to just be their Friend. Someone they can count on in a pinch.  Someone who is in their corner.  But not much more.  They want Him to be a guiding light but not a Master. They want Him in the car but not at the steering wheel.

Jesus wants to be Lord in your life.  Jesus wants to be seen as the Son of the Living God who is King over all things.

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," [that means BOSS!] and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved [that means RESCUED from sin and death and hell].”

There is no salvation outside of the identity of Jesus Christ.  In fact, Jesus builds his whole church on it.

In v.18, Jesus tells Peter who Peter is: “And I tell you that you are Peter [which means Rock.  His nickname for him was Rocky!] and on this rock [upon you and your God-revealed understanding of me], I [underline that] I will build my church...”

Jesus (the Son of the living God) will build His church.

Now, let me see if you’re paying attention.

Who is going to build the church? [Jesus!]

That’s right.  Jesus. Not Ernie DeGrasse. Not Curt or Stephanie Quick. Not Sheila Allen or Becky Forcey or Kendra Piotrowski.

Not Pastor Matt Mitchell. Not Judy Carlson. Not anyone here.

Jesus is going to build the church.

Imagine for a second that every pastor, missionary, elder, and church leader in the entire world were to disappear or die tonight.

What would happen to the church?

Well, no one would fall asleep during my sermon next week!

Seriously though, what would happen to the church if every pastor, missionary, elder, and other church leaders disappeared or died tonight?

Individual churches would suffer greatly. 

But the church would still be built.  

Because Jesus is building it.

Jesus Will Build His Church.

So a key word of application to us is that we should not try to build the church on our own!

How often I have been guilty of that!

It’s got to be God’s work, GOD’S WAY for there to be any lasting value.

That’s why prayer, for example, has got to be central in the life of the church.  When we get away from praying...as individuals, as families, as ministry teams, in prayer gatherings, in worship services, as leaders...we start to take the burden for building the church off of the shoulders of Jesus and onto our own.

But that’s not the way it works.  JESUS Will Build His Church...or no one will!

Serbia Team, here’s a word for you as you get on the plane. 

You can’t do it.  You can’t win a whole camp full of children for Jesus Christ. You can’t save their souls. You can’t build the church.  You are too weak.  You are too small.  You are too powerless.

Congratulations!  You don’t have to have that on your back.  It’s not your responsibility.

Do you feel that?  That monkey is off of your back.

But you do belong to a Lord Jesus Christ who has taken responsibility for it.  He’s promised.

He said, “I Will Build My Church.”  And He can do it!

Here’s point number two.  It’s going to sound familiar.

#2. Jesus WILL BUILD His Church.

Did you get that?

Jesus WILL BUILD His Church!

Emphasis here on “WILL BUILD.”

You see, this is a promise that we can take to the bank!

It’s not a MAYBE.  It’s not a IF.  It’s not a AS LONG AS.

He says, “I WILL do it.”  I WILL BUILD My Church.

The building of the church (on the God-Revealed Rock of Jesus’ Identity) is UNSTOPPABLE.

It is a done deal. It is a sure thing.  It is a shoe-in to win.

Jesus will invincibly, irresistibly, triumphantly construct His church.

And nothing will stop Him.

Not even the gates of hell.  V.18.

“I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”  Or KJV, “the Gates...will not prevail against it.”

Let me ask you a question. Are gates offensive or defensive? 

Gates are defensive, aren’t they?

The church of God is not on the defense, brothers and sisters.  The church of the living God is an aggressive force moving against the stronghold of death itself and rescuing people from death’s jaws.

“Hades” is the Hebrew word for Place of the Dead.

And everyone one of Jesus’ people will be saved from the second death.  Jesus holds the keys to Death and Hell (Revelation 1:18), and He won’t let death stop Him from building His church.

Death is our last and greatest enemy. But in His Resurrection, Jesus has defeated death and will kill death itself.

That’s why the Bible says, “‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ ...  Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Jesus WILL BUILD His Church.

Now, this is not a reason to stay home.  This is a reason to go.

This is a reason to get on the airplane on Friday.

Some people, when they are confronted with this promise think that they don’t need to get involved in Kingdom work.  They don’t need to go to Serbia. They don’t need to give money to missions. They don’t need to pray for the team. They don’t need to share Christ at work or in the neighborhood. They don’t need to help with MOPS or serve at Kids for Christ.

Because, after all, Jesus said, He’d do it!

We’ll just leave it to Him.

But that’s missing the point.  Jesus does this through us.

And this is a reason to think that it just might work!

Don’t go to Serbia if you’re on the losing team.  Don’t give money to missions if it may not do much good anyway.  Don’t help out at MOPS if it won’t amount to much in the long run. Don’t teach at Kids for Christ if those kids will be just as good off staying home and doing their homework as being discipled by you.

But it’s not a question.  It’s a promise!  Jesus said, “I WILL BUILD My Church.”

Anything Jesus calls you to do for the Kingdom will have eternal success!

It may not seem like it at the time.  Serbia Team, your efforts next week may seem like they aren’t working.  You might not see immediate results.

But it will not fail.  Your labor in the Lord is NOT IN VAIN.

In fact, Jesus promises to give the church what it needs to accomplish her mission.

He tells Peter in v.19, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus gave Peter authority.  I think that the “keys” here are the Gospel and the authority that goes with the Gospel to say who is in and who is out.  That is, who believes in the true identity of Jesus and who does not.  The Gospel is the Keys to Heaven.

There are different takes on that, and I’d be glad to talk to you about different interpretations another time, but the point I want to make now is that Jesus is equipping Peter to be the Rock under the church. He’s making sure that the church is unstoppable.

He’ll equip you and me with everything that we really need for His Church Construction project.
  
He Will Build His Church.  Count on it!

Jesus WILL BUILD His Church.

And by now, you’ve probably guessed point #3.

#3. Jesus Will Build HIS CHURCH.

Emphasis on HIS CHURCH.

Who is this church FOR?

Jesus.

Not me.  Not you.  Not even “the people.”  This church that is being built is for the glory of Jesus Christ.

He is building A PEOPLE [and I guess it should be said that the church is not a building, it’s a people! Don’t be confused by these bricks up here. As our adult Sunday School classes have been learning, we are the bricks!] He is building A PEOPLE called out from darkness into light, called out from sin into righteousness, called out from the world to the Kingdom, called out from the path to Hell to citizenship in Heaven.  A PEOPLE for the praise of His glory!

Jesus is building a church FOR HIMSELF.

He does it by His blood.

Peter didn’t understand that.  In the next set of verses, Peter rejects Jesus’ prediction of his death.  But Jesus knew that His blood would build a church.

He bought a people for Himself on the Cross.

Jesus is building HIS CHURCH.

And so, you and I should get involved.

We should share the gospel.  We should allow ourselves to be used in the world-wide church-building mission of our Lord.

There are really only 3 options:

GO to the Nations and Share the Gospel
SEND Others to the Nations and Share the Gospel Where You Are
Or Be Disobedient to the Command of Jesus Christ.

In v.20, Jesus commanded them to NOT tell everyone who He was.  And that was for a reason for a short period of time. It was temporary.

But now, the marching orders are to tell everyone.  The end of the book (Matthew 28) says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations...”

Or as we studied in book of Acts: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Including Pennsylvania and Serbia.

Jesus is saying, “Allow ME to BUILD MY CHURCH through you.”

Are you going?

My sister-in-law, Sharon Toews, is here with us this morning. She and her husband are in the process of becoming missionaries with Greater European Mission.

Her husband wants to lead short-term construction missions teams all over Europe.

And they would be based in Germany.

They are going.

Are you going?

We have had a number of missionaries return from the field in the last couple of years.

I am praying that God would raise up some of us here in this room to go into missions full-time as career missionaries.

Is God tapping you on the shoulder and saying, “I want to use you?”

Are you sending?  

Praying, giving, supporting, helping missionaries with their ministry?

Thank you to everyone who gave for the Serbia Team to go.

I love pastoring a church that can raise $13,000 from gifts and their budget to send a team to Serbia for a week.

I love pastoring a church that exceeds its most audacious goal for a Family Bible Week offering and sends not 4 kids but 6 kids to school in Haiti for the year.

I love pastoring a church that supports 8 missionary families around the world.  And is forming plans to support more.

This is a sending church.

Are you a sender?

Or are you disobedient to the command of Jesus Christ?

Are you sharing Jesus?

Let me ask you a question.

Do you think about every person you meet as either A) LOST or B) Your Brother or Sister in Christ?

They are either one or the other.

Are you sharing Jesus Christ with others?

Do you have a heart for the lost? 

Next month is our Good News Cruise. It’s less than a month away.

And we still need some key people to step up to help.

The point of the Good News Cruise is not the Cruise. It’s the good news.

The cruise is a creative way of getting the good news out.

Is there something you can do to help?

Today at the meal and meeting, Keith is going to talk about those ways that you can get involved.

Come along to the meeting and join up with the mission.

As we’ve said again and again: the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is the gospel.

Are you living for the gospel?

Are you allowing the Lord Jesus to build His church through you?

On the back of your bulletin, write down at least one thing that the Lord Jesus is asking you to do to be used by Him to build His church.

The Main Question for the World is: “WHO IS JESUS?”

We need to decide right now what the answer is to that.

And the glorious promise is that the answer to that question will be the foundation of an unshakeable people–the church of the Living God.

Jesus Will Do It.

JESUS WILL BUILD HIS CHURCH!

Serbia Team, remember this over the next two weeks:

JESUS WILL BUILD HIS CHURCH!

Lanse Free Church, remember this:

JESUS WILL BUILD HIS CHURCH!

Take that to the bank and count on it, no matter how it seems.

JESUS WILL BUILD HIS CHURCH!

And He’s calling us to join Him.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Last Enemy

This Spring, I read Michael Wittmer's The Last Enemy: Preparing to Win the Fight of Your Life: and absolutely loved it. I still think it's the best book I've read this year.

It was the inspiration for my Palm Sunday message on Death.

Today, I read a Gospel Coalition review of The Last Enemy. I agree with the reviewer 100%. Highly recommended. Take up and read.

Monday, July 16, 2012

[Matt's Messages] “Gideon Part Two: The Snare and the Thornbush King”

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“Gideon Part Two: The Snare and the Thornbush King”
Downward Spiral: The Message of Judges
July 15, 2012 :: Judges 8:1-9:57

It would be great if Gideon’s story ended with chapter 7.

If you remember the story so far, Israel (because of her idolatry) had been overrun by the Midianites like a swarm of human locusts. And the LORD had sent a “Mighty Warrior” the chicken–I mean the man–Gideon.

Gideon did not just hesitate. He fretted and required sign after sign before he would head into battle.  But God was patient with Gideon, and he did go to battle with just 300 men, and they won! God gave him the victory.

And it would be nice to end the story right there at the end of chapter 7.

But Gideon’s story doesn’t end with him being a mighty warrior. It ends with him being ensnared, trapped, caught in a snare.

And the effects of that snare run into the next generation. That’s the story in chapter 9.  Chapter 9 is the story of Gideon’s son, who I’ll call, “The Thornbush King.”

So today’s title is “Gideon Part Two: ‘The Snare and the Thornbush King.’”

And it is a depressing story.

A real downer.

Why does God include such depressing stories in His Bible?

Before we read this set of depressing stories, it would be good to think together briefly about what are some of God’s purposes for including to stories like this in His Holy Word.

Because I don’t know about you, but I’m often tempted to just skip over this stuff to get to the good stuff.

But if we do that, we miss a lot of what God has included in His book.

In fact, we’d skip most of the rest of Judges. The book is on a downward spiral–it’s only going to get worse.

So, why read it? Why does God include it?

Here are three quick thoughts to chew on.

#1. REALITY.

God is keep’ it real. It would be great if there were no depressing stories in the world. If there was no sin, no death, no war, no offensive things, no strife, no trouble.

But that’s not how it is. Not since Genesis 3.

Any aside from Jesus, every human character in the Bible is fallible.

I actually love that about the Bible. It tells it like it is.

It doesn’t make the good guys all lily white.

It shows the dirt on the good guys!

And that actually gives me hope.  Because I’ve got dirt on me.

#2. WARNING.

Judges is here to keep us from going down the downward spiral ourselves.

If we see where other people have failed, and are given a new choice ourselves, their story serves as a warning.

Gideon is going to get in over his head.

Do you want that yourself?  No?

Learn from Gideon’s fall not to fall yourself.

#3. CONTRAST.

If we see how dark is the darkness, how much more we can appreciate the light!

These dark Old Testament stories aren’t meant to just depress us, even if they do. They are meant to show us how good God is and how bright God’s glory is as it shines in the deepest darkness.

It stands out in contrast.

Does that make sense?

We’ll need that reminder that this is reality, warning, and contrast for the rest of the book.

We’re actually picking up right in the middle of two battles.

In chapter 7, Gideon and his 300 men saw the Midianites defeated and chased.

In chapter 8, the Ephraimites (one of the Joseph tribes) get offended with Gideon that he didn’t include them in the battle until it was time to capture and kill the leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. Chapter 8, verse 1.

“Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, ‘Why have you treated us like this? Why didn't you call us when you went to fight Midian?’ And they criticized him sharply. But he answered them, ‘What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren't the gleanings of Ephraim's grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer [his family]?  God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?’ At this, their resentment against him subsided.”

And Gideon presses on. V.4

“Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it. He said to the men of Succoth, ‘Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.’ But the officials of Succoth said, ‘Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?’ Then Gideon replied, ‘Just for that, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.’ From there he went up to Peniel and made the same request of them, but they answered as the men of Succoth had. So he said to the men of Peniel, ‘When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower.’”

Just a second here.

These are Israelites. And they are in sharp dispute.

It’s one thing to fight God’s enemies the Canaanites and the Midianites, but something else is brewing here. V.10

“Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with a force of about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of the armies of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen had fallen. [God did that!]  Gideon went up by the route of the nomads east of Nobah and Jogbehah and fell upon the unsuspecting army. [Now, he’s a mighty warrior!]

Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, fled, but he pursued them and captured them, routing their entire army.

[But notice, God is not mentioned here. God is startlingly silent at this point and through most of this chapter and the next.]

Gideon son of Joash then returned from the battle by the Pass of Heres. He caught a young man of Succoth and questioned him, and the young man wrote down for him the names of the seventy-seven officials of Succoth, the elders of the town.

Then Gideon came and said to the men of Succoth, ‘Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me by saying, 'Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your exhausted men?'’ He took the elders of the town and taught the men of Succoth a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers. He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town.

Then he asked Zebah and Zalmunna, ‘What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?’ ‘Men like you,’ they answered, ‘each one with the bearing of a prince.’ Gideon replied, ‘Those were my brothers, the sons of my own mother. As surely as the LORD lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you.’

Turning to Jether, his oldest son, he said, ‘Kill them!’ But Jether [much like his father had been] did not draw his sword, because he was only a boy and was afraid.

Zebah and Zalmunna said, ‘Come, do it yourself. 'As is the man, so is his strength.'’ So Gideon stepped forward and killed them, and took the ornaments off their camels' necks.”

Notice that Gideon has slipped into personal revenge as his motive.

Gideon’s main problem, his overarching struggle is:

#1. INCONSISTENCY.

He says one thing and then does another.

He handles something really well (like the Ephraimites) but then handles something incredibly poorly like Succoth and Peniel, and I think Zebah and Zalmunna.

Inconsistency.

The Bible calls Gideon a man of faith. He makes it into Hebrews 11.

But, as we’ve seen, and as we will see, he was not always a man of faith.

Take for instance, his stance towards kingship.

Gideon was a judge. Should he become the king?  V.22

“The Israelites said to Gideon, ‘Rule over us–you, your son and your grandson [a dynasty]–  because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian.’”

[Well, uhm, actually it was the LORD who did that saving. V.23]

But Gideon told them, ‘I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.’”

Sounds good, huh?

Way, to go, Gideon! That’s the guy who cut down Baal’s altar.

Jerub-Baal! Let Baal contend with him!

But...v.24

“And he said, ‘I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.’ (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.) They answered, ‘We'll be glad to give them.’ So they spread out a garment, and each man threw a ring from his plunder onto it. The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels [42 pounds?], not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels' necks.

Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.”

Inconsistency.

We are all inconsistent to some degree.

None of us is what we want to be or what we will be.

So the question is which direction are we headed in?

Are we growing in consistency or in inconsistency?

Are you the same person at church as you are at work?
Are you the same person you are work as you are at church?

Are you concerned about finishing well?

The apostle Paul was concerned that he finish as well as he started.

“I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

I feel that way, too. I don’t want to be disqualified by inconsistency.

It takes a life-time to build up a reputation. It can be destroyed in a moment.

Inconsistency. V.28

“Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon's lifetime, the land enjoyed peace forty years. [That is a significant verse because that’s the last time the land gets rest in the book of Judges.] v.29

Jerub-Baal son of Joash went back home to live. He had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives. His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelech. Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.”

Stop there for a second.

This is what I mean by inconsistency.

Did Gideon refuse kingship or what?

Yes, he did with his words.

But look how he lives.

He lives like a Sultan.

He has many wives, 12-30 wives. He sires 70 sons and who knows how many girls.

He dresses in 40 pounds of gold bling.

And he names he son by his slave girl, “Abimelech.”

What does that mean in Hebrew?

It means “My father is king.”

That is inconsistency.

Is God putting His finger today on some area of your life that is inconsistent with what you have said your life would be about?

God cares about that, obviously, and He wants to help you to be what you say you are.

Gideon’s inconsistency led to His snare which turned out to be idolatry.

#2. IDOLATRY.

The Gideon of verses 24-27 really sounds to me like Aaron with his golden calf.

Doesn’t it remind you of that?

“Give me your gold earrings from the plunder, and I’ll make a high-priest-looking vest called an ephod.”

And what happened?  V.27

“All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.”

It’s possible that Gideon had some good intentions for that golden ephod. Maybe he was trying to imitate what the high priest wore and remind everyone what the high priest does.

But soon everyone was worshipping it, not God.

The man who tore down Baal’s altar! ... Leads Israel back into idolatry.

And our God is a jealous God.

He won’t stand to be second fiddle.  Or even first fiddle with other fiddles hanging around.

Here is where the warning comes in.

Don’t follow other gods. Even if a great man of God leads you to them.

False gods will prove to be a snare.

Don’t settle for having cut them down once and then thinking that all is well.

Be vigilant and cut them down every time they raise their ugly heads.

Warning!  False gods are very attractive.

They don’t say, “Hey, I’m a false god. Worship me!”  Not at first.

They like to sneak in through the back door.

Shut the back door.

V.27 “It became a snare to Gideon and his family.”

V.33 introduces the last main point for today.

#3. INGRATITUDE.  V.33

“No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith [Lord of the Covenant] as their god and did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side. They also failed to show kindness to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) for all the good things he had done for them.”

Ingratitude.

They conveniently forgot the LORD, and even his servant Gideon for all the good things he had done for them. A downward spiral, indeed.

They failed to remember. They forgot.

They did not give thanks. Ingratitude.

And that ingratitude even extended down to Gideon’s son, Abimelech.

He hated his father and his father’s sons, and he wanted to be king.

So, he killed them all.  Chapter 9.

“The Thornbush King.”

“Abimelech son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother's brothers in Shechem [Canaanites] and said to them and to all his mother's clan, ‘Ask all the citizens of Shechem, 'Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal's sons rule over you, or just one man?' Remember, I am your flesh and blood.’ [He’s their flesh and blood, too.]

When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, ‘He is our brother.’

They gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and Abimelech used it to hire reckless adventurers, who became his followers. He went to his father's home in Ophrah and [this is hard to read] on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal.

But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding.

Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelech king.

[Gideon had said, “My son will not rule over you.”  He was wrong.]

When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, ‘Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, 'Be our king.' ‘But the olive tree answered, 'Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and men are honored, to hold sway over the trees?' ‘Next, the trees said to the fig tree, 'Come and be our king.' ‘But the fig tree replied, 'Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?'

‘Then the trees said to the vine, 'Come and be our king.' ‘But the vine answered, 'Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and men, to hold sway over the trees?'

‘Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, 'Come and be our king.'

The thornbush said to the trees, 'If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!'”

Does a thornbush give shade to the trees?

No, a thornbush is good for just one thing–burning.

And that’s what Abimelech is for. V.16

“‘Now if you have acted honorably and in good faith when you made Abimelech king, and if you have been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family, and if you have treated him as he deserves–and to think that my father fought for you, risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian (but today you have revolted against my father's family, murdered his seventy sons on a single stone, and made Abimelech, the son of his slave girl, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is your brother)–if then you have acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today, may Abimelech be your joy, and may you be his, too!

But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelech!’  Then Jotham fled, escaping to Beer, and he lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelech.”

And the rest of the chapter is just the playing out of Jotham’s curse. And Jotham’s curse came from Israel’s ingratitude.  If they had thanked God for His deliverance and had acted in appropriate thanksgiving to Gideon, none of this would have happened.

That’s how important gratitude is.

Are you a thankful person?

We are so forgetful of the good things that God has given us.

We should be the most thankful people on Planet Earth.  V.22

“After Abimelech had governed Israel three years [that’s all God would allow], God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, who acted treacherously against Abimelech.”

These are the very people who had elected him. They are not betraying him. V.24

“God did this in order that the crime against Jerub-Baal's seventy sons, the shedding of their blood, might be avenged on their brother Abimelech and on the citizens of Shechem, who had helped him murder his brothers.

In opposition to him these citizens of Shechem set men on the hilltops to ambush and rob everyone who passed by, and this was reported to Abimelech. Now Gaal son of Ebed moved with his brothers into Shechem, and its citizens put their confidence in him.  After they had gone out into the fields and gathered the grapes and trodden them, they held a festival in the temple of their god. While they were eating and drinking, they cursed Abimelech.

Then Gaal son of Ebed said, ‘Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should be subject to him? Isn't he Jerub-Baal's son, and isn't Zebul his deputy? Serve the men of Hamor, Shechem's father! Why should we serve Abimelech?  If only this people were under my command! Then I would get rid of him. I would say to Abimelech, 'Call out your whole army!'’

When Zebul the governor of the city heard what Gaal son of Ebed said, he was very angry. Under cover he sent messengers to Abimelech, saying, ‘Gaal son of Ebed and his brothers have come to Shechem and are stirring up the city against you. Now then, during the night you and your men should come and lie in wait in the fields. In the morning at sunrise, advance against the city. When Gaal and his men come out against you, do whatever your hand finds to do.’

So Abimelech and all his troops set out by night and took up concealed positions near Shechem in four companies. Now Gaal son of Ebed had gone out and was standing at the entrance to the city gate just as Abimelech and his soldiers came out from their hiding place. When Gaal saw them, he said to Zebul [who is NOT his friend], ‘Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains!’ Zebul replied, ‘You mistake the shadows of the mountains for men.’

But Gaal spoke up again: ‘Look, people are coming down from the center of the land, and a company is coming from the direction of the soothsayers' tree.’ Then Zebul said to him, ‘Where is your big talk now, you who said, 'Who is Abimelech that we should be subject to him?' Aren't these the men you ridiculed? Go out and fight them!’

So Gaal led out the citizens of Shechem and fought Abimelech.

[You know, there is no one to root for in this story. They are bad guys!  They are the bad guys fighting the bad guys. I hate movies like that.  The only good part is that they all lose. V.40]

Abimelech chased him, and many fell wounded in the flight–all the way to the entrance to the gate. Abimelech stayed in Arumah, and Zebul drove Gaal and his brothers out of Shechem.

[Abimelech wins round one.]

The next day the people of Shechem went out to the fields, and this was reported to Abimelech. [They are vulnerable there.] So he took his men, divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he rose to attack them.  Abimelech and the companies with him rushed forward to a position at the entrance to the city gate. Then two companies rushed upon those in the fields and struck them down.

All that day Abimelech pressed his attack against the city until he had captured it and killed its people. Then he destroyed the city and scattered salt over it.

On hearing this, the citizens in the tower of Shechem went into the stronghold of the temple of El-Berith.  When Abimelech heard that they had assembled there, he and all his men went up Mount Zalmon. He took an ax and cut off some branches, which he lifted to his shoulders. He ordered the men with him, ‘Quick! Do what you have seen me do!’

So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelech. They piled them against the stronghold and set it on fire over the people inside. So all the people in the tower of Shechem, about a thousand men and women, also died.

[Abimelech wins round number two. And a fire went out from the thornbush king. V.50]

Next Abimelech went to Thebez and besieged it and captured it. Inside the city, however, was a strong tower, to which all the men and women–all the people of the city–fled. They locked themselves in and climbed up on the tower roof.

Abimelech went to the tower and stormed it. But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire, a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull. Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, ‘Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can't say, 'A woman killed him.'’ So his servant ran him through, and he died.  When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they went home.”

What’s the point?

“Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also made the men of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them.”

And that is what happens to all of God’s enemies.

They receive the justice they deserve.

Did you know that the Bible says that judgment is coming on sinners for their INGRATITUDE?

We were given life and breath and everything and then spurned it.

Romans 1 says, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,  since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Ingratitude is at the root of sin.

And it earns for us the wrath of God.

The thing I like about the Judges chapter 9 is that justice is done and seen to be done.

What feels like just a personal vendetta is actually (verses 56-57), the LORD working out his perfect justice.

That’s good.

God is just.

If you ever wonder if justice is going to be done on the Earth, worry no more.

Justice will be done and will be seen to be done.

But there is something even better that is also going on.

It isn’t in Judges 9, but it runs throughout the Bible and is centered on Jesus.

And that is grace.

There was a man who could really have the name Abimelech, “My Father is King.”

And He allowed His father to put Him to death for you and me.

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

My Father is King, Jesus Said.

And His Father Said, “This Is My Son With Whom I Well Pleased.”

And He gives us grace.

What we do not deserve.

For all who turn from their sins and put their trust in Jesus.

Rejoice in the Salvation of the Lord!


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Messages in This Series:

Saturday, July 07, 2012

[Matt's Messages] “Gideon Part One: The ‘Mighty Warrior’”

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“Gideon Part One: The ‘Mighty Warrior’”
Downward Spiral: The Message of Judges
July 1, 2012 :: Judges 6:1-7:25

Chapter 5 was a high point in the book of Judges. The LORD used Deborah and Barak and Jael to free Israel from the clutches of the wicked Jabin and his powerful general Sisera. And then Israel partied! They remembered and rehearsed and rejoiced in the salvation of the LORD.

Kind of like what we’re going to do at this table in just a few minutes.

But chapter 6 opens with Israel falling off the wagon again and provoking the LORD’s jealousy again and the cycle of the judges beginning again. 

And, you almost wonder if the LORD will send a deliverer this time.

He does though, and it is a man named Gideon.

Gideon and his family’s story spans 4 chapters of the book of Judges, so we won’t be able to cover it all this week.

This week, we’ll just do chapters 6 and 7, what we’ll call “Gideon Part One: ‘The Mighty Warrior.’” (And notice that I have that “Mighty Warrior” in quotes! We’ll see why in just a minute.)

But I’ll start by saying this:  Gideon is not a great judge.

He’s not as bad as it gets, but he’s certainly not as good as it gets, either.

He is no Samson [!], but he is also no Othniel, nor Ehud, nor even Barak.

While Barak briefly hesitated last week, Gideon hardly does anything but hesitate. (And then he gets worse.)

And yet, God uses Gideon mightily.

And that should give us encouragement for serving the Lord with all of our frailties and insecurities today.

While this message is about Gideon, the “Mighty Warrior,” it is even more about Gideon’s great God, whom we know and love today.

This is a long story, so most of what we’ll do with it this morning is just to read it and to understand better what we see.

But I will give you three points this morning that all have application for our lives.

Here’s #1. THE LORD IS JEALOUS.

We’ve talked about that already in the book of Judges (and we’ll talk about it again), but it’s a very important lesson to learn.

God is a jealous God.

Not the green-eyed monster of greed for something that is someone else’s, but the warm-hearted passion for something that is rightfully His.

His people and His glory.

God is jealous for His people and His glory.

And that’s why He brings discipline to the nation of Israel when they turn away from Him. Chapter 6, verse 1.

“Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites.”

This should be depressingly familiar to us by now.

Israel turns to false gods, to idols, and God, in His loving jealousy, gives them over to the power of a foreign nation.

This time, it’s the Midianites. And they are worse than Jabin’s crew with his 900 iron killing machines. V.2

“Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.”

It’s a sad story.

These Midianites progressively and successively attack Israel’s crops like a swarm of human locusts. The infestation is so bad that Israel takes to hiding!

And then, in a move which should be no surprise to us, they cry out to God for help.

Not that they are repentant or anything, just miserable, and they ask God for deliverance.

And God sends, what?

A prophet.  Not a judge. Not yet.

And here the message is, “I told you so.” v.7

“When the Israelites cried to the LORD because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land. I said to you, 'I am the LORD your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.' But you have not listened to me.’”

And that’s the end of the message.

Do you think that God is jealous?

God is saying, “Let’s just understand how we got in this situation. You did it. You deserve the Midianites. I saved you. I gave you this land. I said, “Do not worship other gods. ... But you have not listened to me.”

Let the weight of that fall on you before we go any further.

Sometimes, we think that this “cycle” is just automatic, robotic, even.

Israel does evil. That flips the switch for anger and discipline.
They cry out for help, and {click} God is obligated to save them.

Is that how it works?

Automatic salvation. Just press the button!

That’s what God is here for.

No. That’s not how it works.

We are not dealing with a robotic salvation god but a personal and jealous God who is zealous for His people’s affections and for His own glory.

Verse 10 leaves you hanging. Will God show up and save this time around?

Verse 11 answers the question.

“The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.’”

God does have a deliverer in mind for Israel, but it is a very unlikely deliverer.

I think that the LORD is poking a little fun at Gideon when he calls him, “Mighty Warrior.” Oh, yes, God sees what Gideon could be and will be by His grace, but He also sees what Gideon is now–a very fearful man.

Gideon is threshing wheat, where?  In a winepress.

That’s weird, isn’t it?  Why is he doing that? Gideon afraid, like the rest of Israel, of the Midianites.

But God says, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”  “Mighty man of valor” the  King James says.

At this point, he is anything but.

In fact, he is skeptical of the LORD’s intention to save Israel at all. Even a little sarcastic. V.13

“‘But sir,’ Gideon replied, ‘if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.’”

He basically blames God!

“Where is God when we need Him?  What have you done for me lately?

This is all God’s fault!”

And this is the man that God wants to use to deliver Israel?  Oh, yeah. V.14

“The LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?’”

Now that should be enough for Gideon to go, but Gideon doesn’t really know very much about the LORD. He lives among Israelites that have become Canaanized.

He talks about the LORD, but he is surrounded by the Baals.

And he doesn’t believe.  V.15

“‘But Lord,’ Gideon asked, ‘how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’ The LORD answered, ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.’”

Now, that should be good enough, right?

I mean, if you have the LORD on your side, that should be good enough?

Not for Gideon. He wants reassurances. He wants signs. V.17

“Gideon replied, ‘If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.’ And the LORD said, ‘I will wait until you return.’ Gideon went in, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak. [That’s quite a big offering and a long process, but the angel waits patiently. V.20]  The angel of God said to him, ‘Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.’ And Gideon did so.

With the tip of the staff that was in his hand, the angel of the LORD [God’s personal representative that is basically an appearance of God himself] touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the LORD disappeared.

When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, ‘Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!’

But the LORD said to him, ‘Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.’

So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.”

Gideon has now been called to clean house and to save Israel.

But there is one more thing he has to do before raising an army.

He’s got to clean his own house first. V.25

“That same night the LORD said to him, ‘Take the second bull from your father's herd, the one seven years old. [As old as the Midianites have been oppressing you.] Tear down your father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the LORD your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.’

So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD told him.

But because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime."

Why is this action important?

Because the LORD is jealous.  You have to choose between Him and the other gods.

He is not willing to play second fiddle or even first fiddle with other fiddles.

He wants us to cut down all the other altars.

So, here’s the first application. 

Cut down the other altars.

Gideon could not truly be a “mighty warrior” for God while he had false gods set up in his own backyard.

What false gods are set up in your backyard? In mine?

Anything can be a false god if it takes the place of the real God.

What do you run to and find your refuge in?

Cut it down.

What do celebrate as the greatest things ever?

Cut it down?

What are you counting on that is not God?

Cut it down.

Gideon did this at night because of his fear, but he did it. And that’s something.

And he was blessed because of it. V.28

“In the morning when the men of the town got up, there was Baal's altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar! They asked each other, ‘Who did this?’ When they carefully investigated, they were told, ‘Gideon son of Joash did it.’

The men of the town demanded of Joash, ‘Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal's altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.’

[Are these guys Israelites?! And this is how they are talking? A downward spiral indeed.]

But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, ‘Are you going to plead Baal's cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.’ [Good for Joash, he’s learning from his son!] So that day they called Gideon ‘Jerub-Baal,’ saying, ‘Let Baal contend with him,’ because he broke down Baal's altar.

[I guess he’s starting to become a Mighty Warrior. V.33]

Now all the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel.

Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon [and gave him power], and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him.

He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them.”

Okay. It looks like Gideon is going to swing into judgeship action.

“Gideon said to God, ‘If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised–look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.’  And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew–a bowlful of water.”

How is that!  Okay, how many signs is that that Gideon has asked for?

Two, right?  How many has God granted? Two ... so far.  V.39

“Then Gideon said to God, ‘Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.’ That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.”

#2. THE LORD IS PATIENT.

I don’t know about you, but I would get exasperated with Gideon.

He’s been told the LORD is with him.

He’s been given a sign.
Then another sign.
Then he asks for another sign!

Have any of you heard of this passage as a biblical way of making decisions?

“Put out a fleece?”

This is NOT the way to make decisions!

There is no question what God wants.  Gideon knows exactly what God’s will is!

He’s just a scaredy cat who wants more and more reassurances.

He has not learned who God really is so that He trusts Him.

His life has been full of Baal not Yahweh, and it shows.

Putting out a fleece is a sign of fearful unbelief, not a way of finding out God’s will.

But here’s what we need to see.

Catch this!

God does the miracles for Him anyway!

God is so patient. So gracious. So longsuffering.

If I were God (and praise God I am not God!), then Israel wouldn’t have gotten another deliverance, and Gideon would not have gotten his 3 (and counting) signs.

God is jealous, but He is also amazingly patient.

Give thanks!

Thank you, Lord, for being so patient with me!

I think we take God’s patience for granted, but it is really an amazing thing.

His patience is not forever. God is just and righteous, after all.

But He is longsuffering, and we are the beneficiaries of His amazing patience.

Give thanks. And learn from it.

Don’t take His patience for granted. Don’t assume it and presume upon it.

Learn to trust God.

Barak hesitated. Gideon hesitated and hesitated and hesitated.

But they both did BELIEVE. They had faith. The book of Hebrews tells us that.

They believed God. His patience taught them to trust Him.

Thank God for his patience, but learn from it to trust Him.

I am so thankful for the Lord’s longsufferingness with me.

But I don’t want to test His patience. I want to learn to trust Him myself.

Amen?

Here’s number three and last.

#3. THE LORD IS MIGHTY TO SAVE!

His jealousy for His people and His glory always issues into salvation.

Here’s how He did it with Gideon and the Midianites.  Chapter 7, verse 1.

“Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The LORD said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her,  announce now to the people, 'Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.'’ So twenty-two thousand [scaredy cats] men left, while ten thousand remained.”

This is a great story!

Gideon is fearful?

“Well, I’m sorry, Gideon, I’ll give you more signs, but not more troops. You’ve got too many already. Let’s send two-thirds of them home.  You know, what?” V.4

“But the LORD said to Gideon, ‘There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, 'This one shall go with you,' he shall go; but if I say, 'This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go.’ So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the LORD told him, ‘Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink.’

Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.”

Okay, let’s make it 300!

“The LORD said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.’ [We don’t need ‘em.]  So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites to their tents but kept the three hundred [out of 32,000], who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.”

Stop there for a second.

Why did God do this?

Look at again at verse 2. It’s the key verse of this whole chapter.

He says that He did this, “In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her...”

Oh. Isn’t that interesting?

Do you think that Israel might make that mistake?

Trying to the steal the glory from God in salvation?

Mistakenly coming to believe that they had saved themselves?

Do you think that you or I might make the same mistake?

I know I have....How many times?!

God is jealous for His own glory.

He cuts down the men to show that this is His battle and that He is mighty to save.

V.7, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you...”

This would be an absurd battleplan if it was not the LORD’s.

We find out in chapter 8 that there are 135,000 Midianite warriors in this valley.

Gideon had only 32,000, and now he only has 300.

It’s a good thing he’s a mighty warrior!

You and I would be quaking in our boots.

And so was Gideon.  V.9

“Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. During that night the LORD said to Gideon, ‘Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands.  If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.’

So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp.  The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.

Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. ‘I had a dream,’ he was saying. ‘A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.’

[Sounds like a bad dream!  Tumbling bread knocks over the tent!]

His friend responded, ‘This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.’

When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped God. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, ‘Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.’

[I think this is just hilarious that he doesn’t believe God but he will believe when he hears a Midianite say it. But it is obvious now that God is at work. V.16]

Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.

‘Watch me,’ he told them. ‘Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, 'For the LORD and for Gideon.'’”

Hmmmm.

That might be okay. But in light of what we’re going to see in chapter 8, this shows another part of Gideon’s flawed character. He is not just scared, he’s proud!

But God still uses Him. V.19

“Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. [Pop! Smash! Flash!] The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, ‘A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!’

While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites.

Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, ‘Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Barah.’ So all the men of Ephraim were called out and they took the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah. They also captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued the Midianites and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was by the Jordan.”

Now, the story goes on, but we’re out of time, and we have to get to this table.

You see what happened.

And just so there is no mistake, verse 22 makes it clear, “The LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords.”

The battle was the LORD’s.

The victory is the LORD’s.

Despite overwhelming odds, Israel wins because the LORD is mighty to save.

Rejoice in the Lord’s Salvation.

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