When Doubts Arise - Judges 6:26-7:25
What is the nature of faith? I’m not necessarily talking about saving faith, what you must receive by faith for salvation. I’m talking about every day trusting God with every detail of your life.
Trust when things are going well.
Trust when things go poorly.
What is the nature of that faith? What are the core components of faith?
I don’t know if you’ve ever read anything by Jerry Bridges, but he is one of my favorite authors on the Christian life. His approach to Christian living is fueled by grace, informed by the Scriptures, and focused on Christlikeness.
In one of his books, he writes about the nature of faith. Some have compared it to a three legged stool. In order to stand by faith, we must accept that all three components are true. If you remove one leg, it all falls apart. What are the three legs?
God is perfect in his love: He wants what is best for you. He loves you and desires good things for you. This required faith because God’s definition of what is good may be different than ours, which is why we have to trust the second leg:
God is perfect in his knowledge: he knows what is best for you. He not only wants what is best, but he knows it as well! Even when things don’t feel like it, God always works for the good of His children.
God is infinite in power: He is able to bring it about. He wants what is best, he knows what is best, and he can actually accomplish it!
If we struggle with any of those three legs, we will have a difficult time trusting our God. For or faith to stand, it must rest upon all three legs. God loves. God knows. God is able.
This is true not only when we encounter things in life that we wish were different, but it is also true when we consider the things that God has commanded us.
Do we trust him when he gives commands about how we ought to live life? Do we trust that he knows what is best for our lives?
I’m not talking about the subjective will of God in that we are to be obedient to his leading when making life decisions. I’m talking about the very clearly revealed commands of God that we find in the pages of Scripture. When God speaks, do we believe? Believe that he loves and commands this out of his care? Believe that he knows, and commands this out of his knowledge? Believe that he is able, and command these things out of his ability to work out His good purposes through our obedience?
Often we are tempted to doubt the Word of God, just as Gideon did in our text today. If you aren’t already there, turn to Judges 6. Gideon was a man of little faith, and much fear. God had revealed to Gideon that He intended to accomplish incredible things through Gideon. But Gideon hasn’t exactly been a model figure of faith. From the very beginning we see him as a man of little faith. He doubts the word of God. When he acts in obedience he does so in secret for fear of others. Last week we got a small glimpse of the “mighty man of valor” as He summoned the troops to himself, but even then it was only because the Spirit of God came upon him.
The question of faith really comes down to this: Do you believe what God has said? Or will you seek after signs?
Let’s look at our text for today where we are warned that
Sign-Seeking is evidence of Doubt
Sign-Seeking is evidence of Doubt
36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, 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 next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.
Sadly, before we begin working through what is happening here, we have to take a moment to discuss what is not happening.
Some people have taken this passage as a model for us to follow. Are you not sur about the will of God in your life? Are you uncertain if you should take path A or path B? Here’s what you should do: lay out your fleece!
What does this look like? “I don’t know if God wants me to move to this other place or stay here. I’ll just put my home on the market and if it sells quickly that will tell me it was God’s will to move”
Or we might take a page out of Abraham’s servant’s book: “Lord, i don’t know if I should marry this girl. If she is wearing a green shirt today, I’ll ask her to marry me.”
Just lay out your fleece and God will tell you what to do through whatever means you’ve predetermined.
This is not not a healthy way to seek God’s will. I believe that God calls us to pursue wisdom as we make decisions, and that we ought not look to our subjective experiences as the final arbitrator of what we think God wants. He gives us His word, and we are to obey that. He gives us freedom and wisdom to handle everything else.
That is also not what is happening in this text. Gideon is not trying to figure out God’s will by laying out the fleece. He already knows God’s will, because God clearly revealed it to him when he spoke directly with him.
So what was Gideon doing?
Gideon, in an act of fear and faithlessness, was seeking a way out of what God had commanded him to do.
God has spoken directly to Gideon and told him what he would do through him. Gideon asked for a sign at that time, and God graciously gave it to him. God told him to chop down the false idols, and he does so, but at night because he is afraid. The Spirit clothes Gideon as he rallies the troops....and yet, here he is. Asking for yet another sign, and then another sign on top of that!
Daniel Block writes concerning this:
“Despite being clear about the will of God, being empowered by the Spirit of God, and being confirmed as a divinely chosen leader by the overwhelming response of his countrymen to his own summons to battle, he uses every means available to try to get out of the mission to which he has been called”
Some people want to use Gideon laying out the fleece as an example of how to live by faith…but this story shows us the exact opposite. The story ought to have progressed from the rallying of the troops to the battle itself. But it doesn’t.
Gideon decides to test God, not once, but twice.
Gideon himself knows that he was treading on dangerous ground. Not what he says in verse 39:
Don’t be angry! Let me test you once more!
You get the sense that he was disappointed with the first result. Have you ever done that?
If its heads we’ll eat at taco bell and if its tales we eat at mcdonalds. It’s tails.....well.....let’s do two out of three.....
Seems like that’s happening here. He was not acting in faith, but was being true to his nature and character as a man of fear and doubt.
If ever find ourselves tempted to test God in this way, we ought to consider the words Jesus in the NT when he says that a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.
There is a fundamental difference in heart posture between those who seek or demand a sign....and those who come to the Lord in humility crying out “I believe, Lord! Help my unbelief!
Gideon was a man of little faith. He doubted the word of God. He tried to get out of his task by asking for not one sign but two. And yet....God, in his mercy and grace, chose not to incarcerate Gideon on the spot, but grant him the miraculous signs! Why?
Because God had a plan for Gideon, and he was going to accomplish His purposes no matter what.
As we come into chapter seven, it almost seems as though God now has a test for Gideon. It’s almost like God says “you tested me…now here’s a test for you”
The Testing of Faith Produces Steadfastness
The Testing of Faith Produces Steadfastness
1 Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ 3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’ ” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. 4 And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” 5 So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” 6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. 7 And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” 8 So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.
Some people want to make a big deal out of the difference between who knelt down to drink and who lapped water out of their hand… What is special about the lappers? Absolutely nothing!
The key to this is verse two:
2 The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’
God will not let rebellious, idolatrous Israel receive glory for what God is going to mercifully do in their lives! God knows the heart of man. If they fought and won the day, they would simply add to their sin with pride.
The whole point about this whole exercise is the ridiculousness of it all.
Remember how big Midian is. They come into the land like locust and leave nothing left. We’re not talking about a small army. Later in chapter eight we are going to learn that Midian’s army was at least 135,000 men. All Gideon gathered was 32,000, and the first thing that God told him to do was reduce it 10,000. 22k, you can just go on home.
Then he further reduces the army down to 300 men. It’s a ridiculous thing. 300 against 135,000. That’s a ratio of 450 to 1!
Will Gideon still obey?
Again....the point is found in verse 2. God wants Israel to know without a doubt that it was GOD who won the day. God wanted the faith of the people to be wholly upon HIM!
We get so tempted by all the things of the world to look away at all these other things or look to our own strength, and God says, HEY! I’M STILL YAHWEH! Always have been.
And so he tests us to produce within us the faith the perseveres.
But he doesn’t just test us and walk away. He is always faithful to give his Word.
Revelation Strengthens Faith
Revelation Strengthens Faith
9 That same night the Lord said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. 10 But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. 11 And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outposts of the armed men who were in the camp. 12 And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance. 13 When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” 14 And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.” 15 As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the host of Midian into your hand.” 16 And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars. 17 And he said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18 When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’ ”
I love how God speaks to Gideon in verse 10. If you are afraid.....If? I mean his name is Gideon, right? That’s all this man has ever been is afraid!
Scared of the midianites, scare of his own countrymen, scared to do what God has said....Of course he is afraid.
Again, the this whole story is just overflowing with the mercy of God!
God gives Gideon Another sign! Gideon didn’t ask for this one, but God gave it to strengthen his faith.
So many remarkable details. A gentile receives a prophetic dream, another gentile accurately interprets it, and all this is overheard by Gideon, who worships God and returns to camp to rally the 300 troops.
God was gracious to give the revelation that was necessary for Gideon, and Gideon responds in faith.
Notice what he says in verse 15: Arise, for the LORD has given the host of Midian into your hand!
He speaks like its already a done deal! Finally! This man of valor has come!
Armed with this newfound faith, they make their move.
Faith Moves Us to Action
Faith Moves Us to Action
19 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. 20 Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. 22 When they blew the 300 trumpets, the Lord set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. 23 And the men of Israel were called out from Naphtali and from Asher and from all Manasseh, and they pursued after Midian. 24 Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and capture the waters against them, as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out, and they captured the waters as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan. 25 And they captured the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb. Then they pursued Midian, and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon across the Jordan.
Through faith, God granted the victory.
So much of Gideon’s life up to this moment would leave us scratching our heads.
This is no man of valor. This is no man. He acts like a child.
And yet, when push comes to shove....and there seemed to be quite a bit of pushing and shoving needed from God’s … he acted in faith, and delivered Israel.
And so, despite all his many faults…he is included in the hal of Faith in Hebrews 11!
32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.