Tonight we will be talking about Gideon and the biggest military upset in the history of the world!
Have you ever seen the movie 300? It’s pretty much that, except more epic because they win without allowing a single death on their side.
16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
We finished last week in Judges 3.
So a quick summary of the next couple chapters…
In Judges 3 we see Othniel, Caleb’s Younger brother, became Judge who delivered Israel and there was peace for 40 years.
Then came Ehud, a noted left-handed man. He secretly stabs king Eglon in his fat belly. This is followed by 80 years of peace.
Next was Shamgar. who killed 600 philistines with an oxgoad.
In Chapter 4 we see Deborah help lead a victory and Heber’s wife nailed a tent peg through king Sisera’s head.
Chapter 5 is a song of victory and 40 years of peace.
So let’s pick up in Judges Chapter 6:1-2
The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds.
Once again people do evil, and so God allows them to be oppressed by the Midianites.
God warns the people, but they do not listen. When do we do that in our own lives? God doesn’t make rules to take our fun away. He makes rules so we can live life to the fullest. He wants the best for us.
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. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
So we find Gideon in a winepress, hiding. Ironically, God calls him “mighty Warrior.”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
Gideon assumes that just because God is with them, all will be well in the world. And besides, they had directly disobeyed God, and now he is wondering why the enemies have invaded. He asks “Why has all this happened?” I know hindsight is 20/20 but this should be pretty obvious to Gideon since God told the whole country before hand in verse 10, “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” which is WHY this happened. As to WHERE are the wonders. Well, often times in life we need to stop waiting for the wonderful things in life to happen and BE that wonderful thing. Be the positive change you want to see. That is what God is calling Gideon to do.
Flip forward to 2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
I want to be that person. Don’t you?
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?”
Gideon, like many of us, just has the wrong perspective. God is saying why are you asking those questions when I’m giving you the answer. You see yourself and your country as weak and defeated, I see you as a Warrior leading a conquering nation. And in response to Gideon’s questions of why God isn’t saving them, He replies, “Am I not sending you?”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
God is not concerned with our limitations. That is the whole point. He does not NEED us for anything. He graciously allows us to be a part of His work. A piece in His puzzle. A tool in his craftsmanship. This is just me speculating, but it often seems that God prefers to use those who are seen as weak or insignificant so that way the only logical explanation to the victory is for people to look to God. And God loves to use the humble. There’s actually a lot of proof for this theory. Jesus says it in Matthew 23:12, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”
Understandable. Gideon wants a sign before he goes out to take on an army 10,000 times his group’s size.
Gideon gets an offering and prepares it. The angel of the Lord touches it and lights it on fire.
But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”
IF a man came up to me, performed crazy magic like that and said I wasn’t going to die, I would have a whole new confidence. I would feel like a super hero, like an avenger. I might try to take on the world. But I guess I don’t really know… I’ve never been in this situation.
“That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26 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.”
27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.”
Even though God told Gideon specifically that he would NOT die, he was still too afraid of what would happen if he took down the statue during the day.
The people of the town respond as expected and once they find out it was Gideon who did it, they shout, “He must die!”
Gideon’s father, being a sensible fellow, responds to the people saying in verse 31, “If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself…”
Gideon’s name changed to Jerub-baal, which means “Let Baal Contend with him”. This is consistent with many biblical life transformations and characters receiving a new name.
Thus begins the beginning of the war. But rather than looking at it as a war between the Israelites and Midianites, it should be viewed as a battle between Yahweh (the God of Israel) and the imaginary god Baal.
However before obeying God, Gideon procrastinates again with what is known as “putting out the fleece”.
36 Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised— 37 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.” 38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.
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, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.
Before we get on Gideon’s case for his apparent weakness of faith, just consider the circumstance here. A man who is NOT an experienced military leader of any kind is being asked to go to war against an army that is described as “like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it” (Judges 6:5).
Just because Gideon does the fleece test, this shouldn’t be taken as an indication that God normally approves of such a method for confirming His will.
Look at James 1:5-8
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
What does this mean? We have the Holy Spirit. Gideon did not. Do not test God, very clearly stated in the new testament when Jesus is being tempted in the desert.
Anyway, Judges 7:2
The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’
God takes the army of nearly 30,000 men and separates it in various ways and continues to send people home until there are only 300 men remaining.
If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah
Once again, God reassures Gideon of his victory. They sneak into the camp and spy upon a man having a dream interpreted by his friend.
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.”
14 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 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.’”
This is the beginning of the fall of Israel. Not immediately. In this battle they will be triumphant but this subtle addition of Gideon’s name in the title of glory will soon be there demise. It’s sometimes easy to avoid the blatant sins in our life. The ones we need to be aware of and watch out for are the subtle sins that slip in… pride, greed, deceit, etc.
How does this apply to us? Some of us here are teachers. Nurses. Students. Photographers. Scientists. Advisors. Coaches. Waiters. Managers. Regardless of what we do, ALL of us have platforms or positions of influence of some kind. The question is, how do you use it? Do you use it to make more money? To get more attention? To further your career? To advance your reputation?
Or do you use it to help others? Give glory to God?
Sometimes we do something in the name of the Lord, but slip our name into it just as Gideon did. We justify it by any means necessary. For example one might say, “Well, the more well known I become the more I can spread the Gospel.”
Give God all the glory. As John 3:30 states, “He must become greater; I must become less.”
20 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!” 21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.
22 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.
In a miraculous manner, the 300 Israelites are victories against the thousands and thousands of Midianites.
The victory they experienced is misleading as to the state of their country. We are about the see one of the greatest demises out of all the Judges. Usually there is a period of peace following a Judge of Israel. During Gideon’s time as Judge we see the people turn back to idolatry which is the ONLY time this occurs in the bible while the Judge is still living.
In small groups we discuss...
In the beginning we see Gideon hiding like a coward but when God first calls out to him he calls him Mighty Warrior… how is this indicative of how we see ourselves verses how God sees us?
Gideon can be seen as a procrastinator at times. When God calls him to do stuff such as take down alter of Baal, or attack the Midianites, he waits for several reasons. Sometimes he waits till night out of fear. Sometimes he waits, to make SURE it is God even though God had proved himself time and time again. When do we do this in our own lives? When do we procrastinate with things in our life because we are afraid, or unsure if it is what God wants, or just pure laziness? Why put off for tomorrow what can be done today? Is there a time procrastinating is appropriate?
The Lord tells Gideon time and time again that he will prevail and yet Gideon asks continuously for signs. God doesn’t need to prove himself to you every time he asks you to act. God has already proved himself on the cross. He has redeemed us and restored us. He wants obedience. Like we learned last week, obedience done on our timing is disobedience. So in a sense, procrastination can be disobedience at times. Final thoughts, when God does something in our lives, make sure he gets ALL the glory unlike what happens in Judges 7:18.