6 lessons from Gideon

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Six Trust Lessons from Gideon - Judges 6-7

Here's the point: When tough times come, instead of looking at them as if God is punishing you, try to see them as God's gift of grace.


On Friday, April 3, 2004, the news of another soldier killed in action in the Middle East was reported. We never get used to these reports and every loss grieves us, but there was something unique about this particular soldier. His name was Pat Tillman, and what he did was extraordinary.
Tillman had everything a young man could want as a citizen of this country. Drafted into the NFL by the Arizona Cardinals in 1998, he won the strong safety position, where he broke the franchise record for tackles in 2000 with 224. He was at the top of his game, his 3.6 million dollar contract was never more secure. The Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams were already after him with three times as much money. Pat Tillman was living the American dream.
But after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks a higher cause gripped him. In May 2002, at 25 years of age, he walked away from the NFL, trading the multi-million dollar contract for $18,000 a year from Uncle Sam as an Army Ranger. He didn't make a big deal about this. He kept the enlistment quiet, shunning interviews. He told his friends he wanted to give something back to his country. Two years later, Tillman was killed about 25 miles from a U.S. military base in Khost, Afghanistan.
I read the comments of fellow players, soldiers, and politicians in the wake of Tillman's death. But his agent, Frank Bauer, said something that struck me: "They talk about the impact player [in this business] - well, [Pat] was an impact person. [Dale R. Yancy, Londonderry, New Hampshire; source: USA Today, (5-3-04)] He swam against the current. He marked those who knew him.
Over the next several weeks, I want to introduce you to some impact people from the Old Testament. Like Tillman, they weren't the headliners of the Bible. You'll typically hear a lot more about Abraham or David or Paul than these quieter heroes of the faith. I guess you could think of them as the "not-so-rich-and-famous" of the ancient world - people like you and me, common men and common women who did uncommon things because they trusted the unchanging promises of God. We can KEEP THE STORY ALIVE if we learn the lessons their lives hold out to us and put them into practice.
This morning we focus on a regular guy named Gideon. He is not very impressive at first look, but he makes some choices that flow from his faith in God. So significant is the mark this very ordinary man made in his time that he is listed in Hebrews 11 alongside the movers and shakers of the Old Testament. Track his story with me as we work our way through Judges 6-7, where we find a primer on trusting God. There are six lessons here to help us trust God more.

I. God uses tough times to get our attention (Judges 6:1-6)

Judges 6:1–6 NKJV
1 Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years, 2 and the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of the Midianites, the children of Israel made for themselves the dens, the caves, and the strongholds which are in the mountains. 3 So it was, whenever Israel had sown, Midianites would come up; also Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. 4 Then they would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. 5 For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, coming in as numerous as locusts; both they and their camels were without number; and they would enter the land to destroy it. 6 So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord.
As we open Judges 6, we find the nation of Israel coming off a time of relative ease. The bills are paid, the kids are behaving, and business is good. Everything's coming up roses. And as it tends to happen to us all in such times, Israel forgot God. They became self-sufficient. They didn't need God. So the Lord shook things up by rousing an enemy against them to show them how hard life can be without Him.
Sounds familiar doesn't it?
Verse 1 says that the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD handed them over to Midian for seven years. You need to know that the Midianites were extremely powerful and oppressed the Israelites mercilessly. Every year around harvest time, the nomadic Midianites would invade Israel. And v. 5 tells us that they would come in like locusts, ravaging the land. What they couldn't carry with them they destroyed. The Bible reports that it was so bad many of the Israelites left their homes to live in caves and strongholds, fearing for their lives.
This went on for seven years. Finally, the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help. Why did they wait so long to turn to the Lord? Because they're a lot like us - they waited until every possible option played out and they couldn't take it any longer. Verse 6 tells us that Israel became poverty-stricken because of Midian, and the Israelites cried out to the LORD. How many times have hard circumstances come to us, and we never stop to ask what God is planning for us in those circumstances? Instead we hold out, thinking that we can handle it on our own. Learn this from Gideon: every experience in life is a test. And every trial in the lives of God's people is tailored to draw us closer to God.
Here's the point: When tough times come, instead of looking at them as if God is punishing you, try to see them as God's gift of grace.
Proverbs 3:11–12 NKJV
11 My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; 12 For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
He loves you too much to let you keep living the way you are. He longs to be at the center of your life. So He has designs in our troubles, and they are always for our good.
C.S. Lewis said it like this, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It's His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

II. God sees more than we do (6:7-12)

Judges 6:7–12 NKJV
7 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried out to the Lord because of the Midianites, 8 that the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage; 9 and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 Also I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; do not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.” But you have not obeyed My voice.’ ” 11 Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!”
The wonderful thing about God is that even though we're slow returning to Him, He is never slow in responding to us. Verses 7-8 show us that when we cry out to God, He moves in mercy and love toward us. He tells us the truth, and begins to work behind the scenes to help us. For Israel, He first sends an unnamed prophet to call them back to total surrender and full devotion.
But His plan also included a most unlikely man named Gideon. We meet Gideon in v. 11 where he is threshing some wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. Now some of you know this, but city boys like me don't. Normally, you would want to thresh wheat out in the open so that the wind could blow away the chaff. But Gideon has apparently been stung before, so he goes into hiding in an underground winepress, hoping to avert the attention of the Midianites. It's a pitiful sight, full of frustration, discouragement, and fear.
In case you ever wonder if God has a sense of humor, read v. 12: Then the Angel of the LORD appeared to him and said: "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." Can't you imagine Gideon around for the man of valor the Lord was addressing! Was God being sarcastic? Or did He see more than Gideon saw? I believe God saw what He was about to make of Gideon. It was time Gideon saw it too.
Hey, brothers and sisters, do you know who you really are? One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is that God only uses special people. If you are a born-again believer, you are God's child (John 1:12), His friend (John 15:15), and His masterpiece (Eph. 2:10). You have been justified (Rom. 5:1), freed forever from condemnation from God (Rom. 8:1). You are adopted into His family (Eph. 1:5) and your citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). You belong to God (I Cor. 6:20), never to be separated from His love (Rom. 8:35)! And you have everything from Him you need for life and godliness! God knows who you are, even if you don't. And He will work to help you see your true identity.

III. God confirms His priorities with His presence (6:13-24)

Judges 6:13–24 NKJV
13 Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” 14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” 15 So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” 17 Then he said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me. 18 Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You and bring out my offering and set it before You.” And He said, “I will wait until you come back.” 19 So Gideon went in and prepared a young goat, and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot; and he brought them out to Him under the terebinth tree and presented them. 20 The Angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. 21 Then the Angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of the Lord departed out of his sight. 22 Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the Lord. So Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.” 23 Then the Lord said to him, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” 24 So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it The-Lord-Is-Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
After being called a mighty warrior, Gideon questions God: "Please Sir, if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened? And where are all His wonders that our fathers told us about?" (v. 13) Gideon's conclusion was that the Lord has abandoned them.
Verse 14 records something that must have bulldozed Gideon's sensibilities. It says that the Lord turned to him. He looked Gideon full in the face and said, "Go in the strength you have and deliver Israel from the power of Midian. Am I not sending you?" Gideon still isn't doing the math in this divine equation, so he notes just how unimpressive his resume is. He is the weakest link in his clan, the youngest in his family. He doesn't have any authority to call out the cavalry from his own tribe, let alone from others.
God confirms His priorities with His presence in v. 16, " I will be with you," the LORD said to him. "You will strike Midian down [as if it were] one man." Gideon is given an undeniable commission, told the remarkable results in advance, and promised the unrivaled partnership of the Lord Himself. After further confirmation that he was in fact, dealing with God Himself, v. 22 tells us that the pieces fell into place for Gideon. He cries out, "Oh no, Lord GOD! I have seen the Angel of the LORD face to face!" His fears comforted, His calling affirmed. So he builds an altar to the Lord.
Gideon needed a personal encounter with God. God met him right where he was, giving him a sense of peace and purpose by His promised presence. It was said among Napoleon's soldiers, "When Napoleon takes our hands and looks at us, we feel like conquerors." There's something that changes in us when we listen to His voice and look "full in His wonderful face." Suddenly, His priorities become the most important thing on earth.
Gideon was ready for the first test, and we're ready for the fourth lesson.

IV. Private faithfulness is a prerequisite to public usefulness (6:25-32)

Judges 6:25–32 NKJV
25 Now it came to pass the same night that the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s young bull, the second bull of seven years old, and tear down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the wooden image that is beside it; 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on top of this rock in the proper arrangement, and take the second bull and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the image which you shall cut down.” 27 So Gideon took ten men from among his servants and did as the Lord had said to him. But because he feared his father’s household and the men of the city too much to do it by day, he did it by night. 28 And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, there was the altar of Baal, torn down; and the wooden image that was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was being offered on the altar which had been built. 29 So they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And when they had inquired and asked, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, because he has torn down the altar of Baal, and because he has cut down the wooden image that was beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Would you plead for Baal? Would you save him? Let the one who would plead for him be put to death by morning! If he is a god, let him plead for himself, because his altar has been torn down!” 32 Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, “Let Baal plead against him, because he has torn down his altar.”
Before Gideon can be used publicly, he must first clean up his own backyard. His family was breaking the 1st and 2nd commandments, with idols to Baal on their property. So the first assignment from the Lord was to take his dad's special seven-year-old bull and tear down the idols. Then, Gideon was to sacrifice that prized bull using the wood from the destroyed idol.
What's the point in telling us this? If you want to learn how to trust God, you must first set your own house in order. Before God can use you mightily, He must be magnified in your own life, in your own home. Private worship prepares us for public power from God. There are no short cuts
. So is there anything you've been holding on to? Is there any sin that you're clinging to? Knock down your idols. Confess you sin. Deal with it and return to full obedience to God.
Will it stir things up to do this? Sure it will, but God will honor those who honor Him! It happened for Gideon. Evidently, this bull was community breeding stock owned by Gideon's family. Verse 30 reports that the men of the city said to Joash, "Bring out your son. He must die." But Gideon's act was already affecting change. His father, Joash, awoke to the truth and stood up to the men, asking in v. 31, "Would you plead Baal's case for him? . . . If he is a god, let him plead his own case."

V. God is patient with our faith process (6:33-40)

Judges 6:33–40 NKJV
33 Then all the Midianites and Amalekites, the people of the East, gathered together; and they crossed over and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon; then he blew the trumpet, and the Abiezrites gathered behind him. 35 And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, who also gathered behind him. He also sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali; and they came up to meet them. 36 So Gideon said to God, “If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said—37 look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, but there was dew on all the ground.
If this were a movie, when we got to v. 33, ominous music would be playing. It says the Midianites and their partners are getting ready to make their annual raid. But instead of cringing in a cave, v. 34 says the Spirit of the LORD enveloped Gideon, and he blew the ram's horn and the Abiezrites rallied behind him. Gideon had taken a huge step of faith in his private faithfulness and now God's Spirit was drawing people from far and wide. Thirty-two thousand men men show up, ready to fight!
But watch this. Even after his encounter with Almighty God, even though he had been obedient to clean shop at home, and even though the Holy Spirit was empowering him, Gideon still struggled with doubts. He knows that God has promised to save Israel through him, but he's looking in the mirror and the reflection he sees doesn't look encouraging.
Notice vs. 36-37. Gideon says to the Lord, If You will deliver Israel by my hand, as You said, 37 I will put a fleece of wool here on the threshing floor. If dew is only on the fleece, and all the ground is dry, I will know that You will deliver Israel by my strength, as You said." I love how loving, tender, and patient God is with us. Gideon is making a deal with God. He wants a confirming sign. And the Bible says the next morning, God gave it to him: the fleece was wet and the ground was dry. Even when this "Doubting Thomas" of the OT reverses the test in v. 39, asking that the fleece be dry and the ground covered with dew, God graciously confirmed His power to Gideon. Our Lord was developing this man into a fully convinced servant, matching each doubt with kind reassurance. God will show you the same patience as well as you seek His face, allaying your fears to grow you into a powerful man or woman of God.

VI. Success is determined by God's power, not ours (7:1-8)

Judges 7:1–8 NKJV
1 Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the well of Harod, so that the camp of the Midianites was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley. 2 And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ 3 Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.’ ” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained. 4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. Then it will be, that of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ the same shall go with you; and of whomever I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ the same shall not go.” 5 So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Everyone who laps from the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set apart by himself; likewise everyone who gets down on his knees to drink.” 6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people got down on their knees to drink water. 7 Then the Lord said to Gideon, “By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people go, every man to his place.” 8 So the people took provisions and their trumpets in their hands. And he sent away all the rest of Israel, every man to his tent, and retained those three hundred men. Now the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.
Gideon's now ready to rumble but God has other plans. In Judges 7:2, the Lord said to Gideon, The LORD said to Gideon, "You have too many people for Me to hand the Midianites over to you,[1] or else Israel might brag: 'I did it myself.'" God proceeds to give Gideon a couple of tests to whittle the number down. The first test culled 22,000 men out of the army, leaving 10,000. Still too many, said God.
So in v. 4, a second test was given. God tells Gideon to take his men down to the water and let them drink. Weed out any men who stick their face down into the water to drink; keep the ones who ladle the water to their mouths with their hands. Gideon must have gulped hard when he counted how many were disqualified: 9700 were out, leaving only 300 men.
Can you imagine how Gideon felt? Chapter 8 tells us that the Midianite army numbered 135,000 men. That's 450 Midianites to every one Israeli soldier. God wants Gideon's army to face this horde with a mere 300 men who know how to drink politely!
God created an impossible situation of human weakness to exalt His own strength. This is His specialty! What did Jesus say in Luke 18:27? "What is impossible with men is possible with God." Here's a good lesson for us: Accomplishing God's purposes is not determined by the bottom line on a finance sheet, or the size of our congregation, or the efficiency of our plans. We need to attend to all those things, sure. But the truth is, God is looking to glorify Himself on earth through people who are fully dependent on Him, who believe He is with them and are ready to charge the hill in the name of the Lord! God doesn't need a majority vote from us on this. He doesn't need us at all. But He invites us to join Him in doing His will. When we do, we reap the benefits and He gets the glory. The saying is often attributed to D. L Moody: "Give me ten men who fear nothing but sin and love nothing but God, and I shall change the world."
It happened in Israel. In one of the strangest battle strategies in history, the 300 went out with trumpets, torches, and jars to meet the marauding Midianites. God sent confusion into the ranks of the enemy so that they began attacking each other. When it was over, 120,000 Midianites had killed one another and the other 15,000 fled. It was over. God had answered Israel's prayers. He used a common man who believed God.


God uses tough times to get our attention. Is He getting your attention today?
God always sees more than we do. Do you see yourself as He does?
God confirms His priorities with His presence. Can you sense His presence with you now, urging you to trust Him? Private faithfulness is a prerequisite to public usefulness. Are there things in your life, in your home, that need to go so God can move in power in your life?
God is patient with our faith process. He meets you right where you are with what you need.
Success is determined by God's power, not ours. Will you trust Him today - with your life, with your children, your finances, your decisions, your husband or wife?
Do you know this God?
Do you know Him who is calling you?
He is telling you today trust in me, surrender to me have faith and watch the impossible become the possible watch the amazing work of God transform your life and the world around you wont you answer the call today?
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