Judges 6: A Man Named Gideon
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years He gave them into the hands of the Midianties. What we must realize in this cycle that continues to repeat itself with periodic regularity- the problem is created by the Israelites . At some point they become enthralled with the Promised Land and completely forget the Promise Giver. They become conformed by the society around them which is as John would write in I John 5- under the control of the evil one.
Here is a spiritual truth you can count on happening: when we do not fully obey Gods command, we will experience spiritual decline. Israel keeps entering periods of spiritual decline because the keep disobeying God. The Israelites forgot it was God who had blessed them? Have we forgotten what used to almost considered our national song: God Bless America. God bless America, land that I love, stand beside Her and guide Her through the night with a light from above.
Israel tried to solve their problems without God in the formula. If you took Algebra you learned how to solve an equation that had an unknown variable represented by X. Remember an equation is a statement that two quantities are equivalent. For example: X + 1= 4. The unknown is X. Now to solve the problem you subtract 1 from both sides and end up with a single variable. X+1-1 = 4-1 X= 3 . God is always the X factor and for us as Christians He should not be the Unknown- but the known. When God is brought into the problem the solution will be found. That is why General Patton knew exactly what it took to be successful in battle in war. Planning + Action + Prayer. Leave the prayer out and you are in trouble; leaning to your own understanding while prayer represents our reliance and dependence upon God.
The Midianites were a nomadic tribe of herdsman who would when it was harvest time, raid Israel and take all their crops for their own use. They were so numerous the Israelites believed it was impossible for them to defeat this enemy. This had gone on for seven years.
We read: Because the power of the Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. The Midianites ravaged their crops took their herds, killed their sheep, and cattle and donkeys. They came up like a swarm of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels .
So we get the picture once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and the Lord gave them into the hands of the Midianties until they cried out for help. Now we will probably spend more time studying this judge, Gideon than the others, because God in His Word has devoted more space to the story of Gideon than any of the other judges.
Notice what God did: when the people cried out for help the Lord sent an unnamed prophet first to tell them why they are suffering at the hands of the Midianites. The prophet told them why this had happened to them. The Israelites were told not to worship the gods of the Amorites and they listened not to God. Has this not always been the problem? Adam and Eve did not listen to God when He told them not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They ruined Paradise when they did, didnt they? Had not God blessed the nation of Israel and given them a land that flowed with milk and honey? And now they had forgotten what God had done and had not listened to Him and they were starving in a land of milk and honey.
I want us to personally be encouraged because Gideon was a nobody who believed he was nobody. Gideon had a hard time believing God could use him and do anything through him. You could call Gideon a realists, or even a pessimists ; but for sure you would not say he was an optimists.
Gideon had four doubts God had to deal with that I believe we all have to deal with especially when there are constant battles, and trouble in your life, your family and church, community and the world seem never ending. Here are the four doubts Gideon had:
- Does God really care about us?
- Does God know what He is doing?
- Will God take care of me?
- Does God keep His promises?
Are these not questions we voice in times of trouble and trials? Are you facing an ongoing problem that has been a problem for years? Does it seem sometimes to you- does God really care about you? Remember what the disciples said to a sleeping Jesus aboard their boat in the storm on Galilee? Dont you care we are perishing? Then why hasnt He done something? Does God always know what He is doing? Will HE take care of me and keep His promises? I hope you know the answer to all of those is YES>
Lets look at what God has done so far: God has raised up judges to unify the people. To stand against the enemy. We read in Judges 3:10- The Spirit of the Lord came upon him ( Othniel)a so he became Israels judge and went to war. And we read in Judges 6:34: The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and he blew the trumpet .
How will God , who does not change, deal with us today in the 21st century as we find ourselves under attack by the enemy?
He wants to raise up a prophet who will tell us why this is happening. A prophet who has the boldness to rebuke us.
He wants to raise up leaders who will unify the church, operating by the Holy Spirit and stand against the enemy.
We do not have unity in America any more. We are more divided now than ever before: divided by political views, race, gender, economics, and religion. If we do not have unity in our families and churches and communities how can we expect to wage a successful battle against the enemy.
Lets look at the questions and doubts of Gideon and see how the angel of the Lord answers. Gideon s questions why is this happening? And where are the miracles? These questions suggests Gideon is wondering does God really care for His people anymore? We know the reason God has given them over to the Midianites for seven years- it is to chasten them and bring them to repentance. Just like the Chaplain told General Patton- when there is fighting we are praying- but when it is quiet there is not much praying. God is chastening them, allowing a cruel enemy to bring them to repentance. Hebrews 12 tells us: No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who are trained by it. Our flesh usually hates discipline, doesnt it? Discipline sounds like a diet , where you cannot eat Bluebell Ice Cream. It brings to mind exercise that causes you to sweat, gasp for breath, and your muscles to ache.
Know this: God chastens His own for the purpose of conforming us and bringing us to repentance. This is what keeps happening to Israel.
Gideons main concern is voiced next after being told God is sending Gideon to lead the people against the Midianites. Gideon replies- he is the least of his family. He is not capable of leading anyone. Do you see what Gideon is doing? Gideon is leaving God out of the equation. How many times do we lean to our own understanding which mean we are leaving God out of the equation.
Notice how patient God is with Gideon. God assures Gideon: I will be with you; and you will strike down the Midianites. Has not God promised He would never leave us? We must trust God with all our heart if we are to face the enemy with confidence going into the battle. What is your confidence in? What problems are causing you anxiety?
- We, like Gideon, must come to believe God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do.
- We must also believe we are who He says we are and can do what He says we can do.
This is what Gideon wants: he wants to be sure God was who He said He was and could do what He said He could do. Therefore, Gideon asks for a sign. Have you ever come across a section of scripture, a verse, a promise that leapt off the pages into your heart? And you wanted to believe God wanted this for you personally. It seemed so bold to claim this promise as true and applying to your problems, it required a leap of faith. In your heart of hearts- you wanted God to give you a sign that this was really meant for you.
There is a little or sometimes a lot of Gideon in each one of us.
Gideon asks God to wait for him and do not go away until I bring an offering back to you. Look how gracious our Lord is: I will wait until you return. Let me ask you a question: Are you waiting on the Lord to do something for you now? Fix a problem, answer a prayer, deal with a pressing issue? Could it be God is waiting for you to return to Him?
Gideon prepares an offering consisting of a young goat, bread without yeast and offers them to the Lord underneath the oak tree where he placed them on a rock. The Angel of the Lord, ( which is the pre- incarnate Lord) touched it and fire flamed up and consumed it. Gideon at this point realizes he has seen the Lord face to face and fears for his life.
The Lord said to him: Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.
In response, Gideon builds an altar to the Lord there and called it: The Lord is Peace.
If one is going to build an altar to the True and Living God in their life- they must tear down all other altars in their life. What altars? Everyone of us have idols in our lives which our lives revolve around. It does not mean you do not formally worship God, but we have combined worship of God with worship of idols, other gods in our lives.
The gods we worship today have not changed that much from the day of Gideon, because human nature has not changed. We all regularly create other gods in our lives. What are they? We could summarize them by saying they are the pursuit of happiness, comfort and well-being. A good life, a nice home, good health, financial security, family, marriage, children doing well and pleasure. The question is do we rely on these things to make our lives better? Now we all want these things and Jesus understands we have need of them.( Matthew 6) However He is careful to warn us not to let the things of the world and the love of money creep into our hearts and become treasures to us- for where our treasure is there will our hearts be also. You cannot serve two masters. This is why Jesus emphasizes seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the things we truly need will be added to our lives.
Whole hearted devotion- loving with all your heart, trusting with all your heart are the message of the Bible. In fact, Jesus said this is the first and most important commandment: To love the Lord thy God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength. And remember- when God gives us a commandment- He always enables us and empowers us to obey His commandment. This is why we are told God will circumcise the flesh away from your heart, so that you might love Him with all your heart.
Gideon must tear down the altar to Baal and Asherah and build a proper altar to the Lord. Here is the problem, the altar is Joash, his own father. Gideon goes at night- he reminds me somewhat of Barney Fife, he has a lot of fearfulness and lack of confidence when he faces a tough task. Gideon not only goes at night, he also takes 10 servants with him, so it is no wonder someone tells who did this. Gideons father, Joash, confronts the townspeople and stands up for his son and tells the people: Let Baal ,if he is really god, take care of the one who broke his altar.
If you have ever decided God has commanded you to do something that takes a leap of faith, then you know what happens next- the enemy comes in like a flood, with greater strength than before. The Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern people joined forces and crossed over the Jordan River and camped in the Valley of Jezreel.
At the same time, the Lord responds to the threat and we read: Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and he blew the trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him . He sent messengers through Manasseh, calling them to arms . Gideon was gathering the forces.
Now comes the critical moment for Gideon. Here is where the famous fleece story comes in.
Gideon once again asks for a sign from God. The first night he asked God to make the fleece wet and keep the ground dry. God did it. Then the second night, asking God not to be angry with him, Gideon once again asked God for a sign. This time he wanted the ground to be wet, but the fleece dry. And again God did it. What are we to make of this fleece test? I know when Satan approached the Lord Jesus in the wilderness and tempted Jesus to test God, Jesus replied we must not put God to the test. We also note how Jesus answered each temptation from the enemy with the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit. Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You. ( Psalm 119)
I do not know why God did this for Gideon. I do know Gideon wanted to have the faith to believe God. And I know where faith comes from: Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. ( Romans 10) Is this not where Gideons faith came from? From the Word of God.
We also see this journey of faith all through the Bible from Abraham to the disciples and people the Lord Jesus encountered in his ministry. He will ask his disciples often- where is your faith? He will rebuke them oh you of little faith. While others amaze Jesus with great faith. And we must remember: Without faith, it is impossible to please God, and those who come to Him must believe that He is and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. ( Hebrews 11:6) By the way, Gideon ended up in Hebrews 11 listed in the Hebrews Hall of Faith.
Why did these problems keep occurring in the life of the nation of Israel and her people? Quite often we confuse regret over sin with repentance from sins.
Regret is based on worldly sorrow. Repentance is based on godly sorrow. Regret is sorrow over the consequences of sin. If there are no consequences- there is no sorrow. And as soon as the consequences go away- the behavior returns. Real repentance is godly sorrow that takes place in the heart as David prayed: Create in my a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit in me. ( Psalm 51)
Here is your scriptural definition: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. ( 2 Corinthians 7)
If repentance is real and one is restored to God, we do not hate ourselves anymore and we do not hate our lives. When someone sins and cannot be consoled for their sin, when they become inconsolable and cannot overcome their regret. Guess what? Regret is all about us- how hurt we are, how miserable our sin makes us, how we cannot get control over it and our hearts are breaking,.
Real repentance is all about God. It is about how we have grieved Him. It is the picture of the prodigal son who came to his senses- sick and tired of his life and sin- he realized I have sinned against my father. He realized how good his father had been to him. He realized how much his life had grieved his father causing him sleepless nights. He had enough of feeling sorry for himself. He realized it was all his own doing. He would arise and go to his father and confess his sins and seek reconciliation. Their reunion is a picture of how of there is rejoicing in heaven over the repentance of each and every sinner.
I woke up the morning of September 16th, 1977 in the Holiday Inn on West End Avenue in Nashville. I had been drunk since Monday. I had not made any sales again that week. As I looked in the mirror that morning, I said to my image: I hate you. I hated myself, my life and what I had become. Alcohol had been ruining and controlling my life for the past 14 years since I was 17 years old. I had failed at everything I had done: college, marriage, fatherhood, work and I was failing again. I was married to Gina who I loved dearly. We had a precious, baby girl, Carrie, who was only 5 months old. She was the very essence of sweetness and captured my heart from the first time I saw her. Yet in spite of my great love for these two- I could not stay sober. I had broken my parents hearts time and time again.
I was defeated. I could not win this battle. I was overwhelmed by this enemy and could not go on any more. I cried, I sobbed, I was inconsolable. I was hopeless without any hope of ever being sober. I was without hope, because I was without God.
I saw no way out but to take my own life. I stood on the balcony of that 10th floor hotel room. I swung one leg over the rail and begin to push up with my other foot which was on the bottom of the rail.
I do not know how close I came to not being able to stop the force of gravity. But I did stop. I have never been as afraid as I was that morning in my entire life. I went back into that room. Everything that happened that morning is like a video I can replay. I can recall the color of the cover on the bed, the texture of it as I went down on my knees and buried my face into the covers and prayed this prayer: Lord Jesus, if you are real, come into this room and into my life and save me or I will die.
An unusual prayer- it is what I call the prayer of an honest doubter who wanted to know the truth. Maybe Gideon and I are not that different. He was afraid and feared for his life- just as I did. He wanted to believe- just as I did- we both had some honest doubts.
All I know is something happened to me that morning- almost 37 years ago. I was no longer inconsolable. I felt a peace that passes understanding. I know why Gideon built an altar and called it God is peace. I no longer hated myself and for the first time in a long, long time, I had hope and peace where before I had been hopeless and fearful. For now I had the God of Hope and the God of Peace.
On that Friday morning I went to my first AA meeting, as I began the process of tearing down one altar and building another one to God. I met a man that morning at that meeting who took me to his office after the meeting and placed a call to Gina. It was new beginning and as Gina would tell a friend some months later- I have a new husband.
For years I had felt sorry for myself because I could not be or do what I wanted to be or do.
Somehow through the mystery of salvation I became a new creature, indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit. I would spend three wonderful years working for my in-laws, Houston and Hope Sipes, making less money- but we had more than we had ever had before.
We started attending Woodland Baptist Church under Brother Bob Earvins preaching and it was there Brother Bob after listening to my testimony in his office- asked me to share it with the church. I faced my past with my children and told my story on a Sunday night to a crowded sanctuary which heard my story which Brother Bob had entitled in that weeks bulletin: From a Sot to a Saint. A perfect description, for I went down on my knees a sot and arose as saint that September morning 37 years ago. From that day until now, I have had the opportunity to share my testimony with thousands of people.
I do not consider myself to have arrived and often feel I am not bold enough or doing enough for the Lord, to whom I owe my life, my everything.
But l am convinced of this: Godly sorrow brings repentance which leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. ( 2 Corinthians 7) I know for I was inches away from worldly sorrow bringing death to me on September 16, 1977.
Gideon learned, as I am learning:
- God is an encourager.
- God will meet you in a personal relationship.
- God will test you.
- God will help you.
Last modified: 08/12/14