Follow Along

Get new posts by email:

Saturday, July 07, 2012

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

Image Source
“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.

--------------------------------------

Messages in This Series:

2 comments:

Matt,
Thanks for your service to God. I finally crossed paths with this devotional today (Nov. 29, 2012) and God is using it to encourage my "mighty warrior" trembling heart in preparation for the good fight.
David.

You're welcome, David.

Thanks for dropping by.

Blessings,

-Matt