The Weakness of a Rescuer (2)

The Gospel Project® for Adults  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  52:20
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Leader Guide ESV, Unit 9, Session 3
© 2018 LifeWay Christian Resources, Permission granted to reproduce and distribute within the license agreement with purchaser. Edited by Rev. Lex DeLong, M.A., June 2022.
Summary and Goal
God had used Deborah, Barak, and Jael to give the Israelites victory over the Canaanites and peace and rest in the land for forty years. But once more, the Israelites would do what was evil in the sight of the Lord. This time God would hand His people over to the Midianites, who would oppress them for seven years to such a degree that they would resort to hiding in caves. In this session, we will see God’s patient lovingkindness once more as He responded to the desperate cries of His people. He would provide Gideon, another unlikely judge, to rescue His people and turn them back to Him. Through Gideon, we will see that God uses our weaknesses to shine the light of His glory.
Session Outline
++1. Strength comes from the God who is present (Judg. 6:11-16).
++2. Assurance comes from the God who is patient (Judg. 6:36-40).
++3. Victory comes from the God who is powerful (Judg. 7:2-7).
Session in a Sentence
God loves and works through the weak so that His glory can be clearly seen by all the world.
Christ Connection
God used an unexpected leader in Gideon and a small army of three hundred to rescue Israel from their enemies so that everyone would know that the victory belonged to Him alone.
Even in today’s Christian life, salvation came through a single Savior sent by our Heavenly Father, which also shows the world that salvation belongs to God alone.
Missional Application
In the same way he did through Gideon, God can still do amazing things through small numbers.
DDG (p. 103)
Ask the following question.
What are some times when a lot of power is not a good thing?
(when elected or dictatorial leaders of a country take advantage of their people without recourse; when one is not capable of handling the power safely and respectfully that they have been given; with a tool that over torques a bolt or strips a screw)
When it comes to following God, our own power and strength is often not a good thing since it can get in His way or distract us from what really does matter—God and His strength. There is a thread running throughout the Bible that shows us God is not impressed by the things that often impress us.
God often uses men and women who don’t impress us to wow us.
We don’t cheer for them just because they are nobodies; we cheer for them because of the greatness of their God. And that gives us hope.
In these passages, God’s patient lovingkindness will be seen once more as He responded to the desperate cries of His people. He provided Gideon, another unlikely judge, to rescue His people and turn them back to Him. Through Gideon, it can be seen that...
God uses our weaknesses to shine the light of His glory.

Point 1: Strength comes from the God who is present (Judg. 6:11-16).

In Judges 6, the Israelites had once again committed evil acts against God, so He raised up another people—the Midianites—to discipline His own. After seven years of oppression that forced the Israelites to hide in the mountains, in caves, and in strongholds, God’s people cried out in desperate need of deliverance.
Read Judges 6:11-16 (DDG p. 104).
11 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress 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, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”
DDG (p. 104)
When the angel of the Lord first came to Gideon, he was not acting like a warrior but was hiding from the Midianites, and God told Gideon to go in strength and liberate Israel from her oppressors. Far from being valiant, Gideon considered himself weak, and that was exactly how God saw him: weak and afraid. Yet God looked past who Gideon was to see what He would do through him. Gideon was a weak “jar of clay,” the perfect vessel for the task God was giving him, the perfect container to reveal the extraordinary power of God (2 Cor. 4:7).
2 Corinthians 4:7 NASB
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;
One ordinarily threshed wheat in the open. The wheat would be beaten and then tossed in the air so the wind could help separate the grain from the chaff. But Gideon was not threshing wheat in the open; he was in a winepress, out of sight, hiding from the Midianites and hoping they would not come and destroy his harvest. Not very valiant.
Ask the following question.
What are some ways God shines through our weaknesses?
(we are tempted to sin, but in this God provides strength to resist and flee so that our victory over temptation brings praise to Him; we succumb to sin, but when we turn once again to Jesus, God’s grace for our forgiveness shines forth and we can get up and walk; we are weak to obey and succeed in our calling, but God’s strength is more than sufficient for us)
DDG (p. 104) God’s presence and power alone help us to fulfill our mission.
The angel said the Lord was with Gideon, but Gideon had felt abandoned by God. The Midianites’ oppression had left the Israelites wondering what had happened to the God who had given their ancestors victories in Egypt and beyond. God had brought the fury of the Midianites upon His people, but God was still listening to His people even though they did not listen and obey (Judg. 6:1-10). He would raise up Gideon to deliver them. Gideon was a nobody, but God’s presence with him would change everything. In the same way, Jesus encouraged His disciples for their mission with these same words: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). That is the nature of God; He is always with His people, at all times and in every place. God has demonstrated throughout history, His desire to dwell with His people. God is with us, especially now, through Jesus Christ.
· God’s second statement about His presence with Gideon came as an answer to a question: “Who am I; how can I deliver Israel?” (v. 15). We cannot discount how reasonable that question was. Gideon was right: He was no one. He could not deliver Israel. Without God, Gideon would never triumph, but God’s presence changes everything. God would give Gideon the victory. His power would bring the Midianites to their knees.
Commentary: God spoke the phrase “I will be with you” to His people many times throughout the Old Testament.
He said it to Isaac (Gen. 26:3),
Jacob (Gen. 31:3),
and Joshua (Deut. 31:23; Josh. 1:5; 3:7).
He said it to His people through Isaiah (Isa. 43:2)
and Jeremiah (Jer. 30:11).
And this phrase was used to encourage others who followed God, such as when Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die, but God will be with you” (Gen. 48:21).
Scripture promises that God is with His people, yet it is easy to feel afraid and weak. We want to believe God will be our strength, yet we waver. God’s words—“I will be with you”—meant Gideon was ready for the task at hand because God was ready. But even this assurance was not enough to make Gideon brave.
Point 1 restated: Strength comes from the God who is present.

Point 2: Assurance comes from the God who is patient (Judg. 6:36-40).

Say: Judges 6:34 says that “the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon.” Clothed with the Holy Spirit, Gideon rallied people behind him to fight off their oppressors, the Midianites. The stage seemed set for Gideon to step forward and rescue God’s people through His divine power. But that is not what we see happen next.
Read: Judges 6:36-40 (DDG p. 105).
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.
DDG (p. 105)
Gideon asked God for a sign, and then a second sign, even after the angel of the Lord had already validated his message with a sign of fire from a rock (vv. 20-21).
We need to see Gideon’s requests for what they were: doubt. God had been quite clear in His instructions and promises to Gideon.
There was no confusion or misunderstanding, but Gideon struggled with disbelief and distrust. He just couldn’t take God’s word for it. So, laying out a fleece is far from a commendable example to follow; it’s a sign of one’s doubt in God’s calling.
We might be able to excuse Gideon’s request for a sign—at least the first one. But even after the first fleece turned up exactly as he had prayed, Gideon still wasn’t sure. Perhaps Gideon rationalized the result: Only the fleece was wet this morning simply because it had soaked up all the water around it.
Anxiety can choke out faith (resting in trust of God), but embraced faith always chokes out anxiety.
Gideon’s anxiety about the daunting battle he faced, was choking out his faith. And so, once again he gave in to his doubt and faithlessness and asked for yet another sign, which God would give.
· Laying Out a Fleece: Anyone who has been called by God to do something that strikes fear within them or causes one to feel anxious or overwhelmed can surely relate with Gideon, wanting assurances of future steps. It’s possible that we too have laid out a figurative fleece, or even multiple ones, before God. Thus, we shouldn’t condemn Gideon, but we should learn from his negative example and do rightly. We must remind ourselves that God’s Word given to us is perfect.
We may not always be comfortable with what God calls us to do—we might not even like it—but trusting Him in faith at all times, even through our weaknesses, is what spiritual maturity looks like and is one of the most powerful tools against anxiety and doubt.
Ask the following question:
What are some reasons we are tempted to “lay out a fleece” instead of take God at His Word?
(we are afraid of what obedience may require; God’s calling may seem beyond our own abilities and we don’t like to be in over our heads with anything; we struggle to rest in God’s power and presence to accomplish what He has called us to do; we are hoping for a way out of God’s calling)
DDG (p. 105)
Gideon’s fear and doubt were not met with rebuke but rather with grace. God was in no way required to grant Gideon’s request for a wet—and then a dry—fleece. If God were human, He’d likely have thrown up His hands and given up on Gideon, but thankfully, God is no man. Instead, God extended patient grace to Gideon, and He does that for us as well.
Voices from Church History
“Longsuffering, forbearing patience is to be the Christian’s reflection of the character of God. It is part of God’s character to be slow to anger and quick to be merciful.” 1 –R. C. Sproul (1939-2017)
· One of the simplest definitions of grace is “an undeserved gift.” Though Gideon did not merit the signs he asked for out of his doubt, God graciously gave them anyway. God shows us His grace when He saves us, forgives us, loves us, and helps us, but also when He patiently walks with us through our fears.
Though we shouldn’t be afraid, sometimes we are.
Though we should believe, sometimes we struggle.
Though we should obediently walk on the path set before us, sometimes we’re too anxious to take the next step, and sometimes we trip and fall.
God responds to these doubts and fears with grace, not wrath.
· God lovingly and patiently meets His children where they are to take them to where they need to be.
This is what spiritual growth and maturity looks like: God changing us, slowly but surely, moment by moment, to trust Him more and live more like Him.
Ask the following question:
How has God shown you patient grace when you were afraid of what His call or life itself was asking of you?
(be prepared to give an answer of your own to jump-start the conversation)
Point 1 restated: Strength comes from the God who is present.
Point 2: Assurance comes from the God who is patient (Judg. 6:36-40).

Point 3: Victory comes from the God who is powerful (Judg. 7:2-7).

Most of us would never worry about having too much money, time, or ability. Similarly, the leader of a rebel army likely would never worry about having too many troops; in warfare, the more troops the better.
But unbeknownst to Gideon, having too many troops was precisely his problem.
Read Judges 7:2-7 (DDG p. 106).
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.”
DDG (p. 106)
The Midianite army was at least 120,000 strong (Judg. 8:10). Gideon had rallied 32,000 men to his cause. They were still outnumbered, but it was possible the battle could break in their favor. So God called on Gideon to pare down his forces. The reason? To combat the people’s pride and secure the praise for Himself, to whom it rightfully belongs.
It was also an opportunity for God to give Gideon and Israel a more clear view of who God is and what He would do. Gideon struggled with his faith and God was about to strengthen it.
· Pride is disregard for God and focus on self. Pride makes us believe we know better than God, can handle our problems apart from God, and deserve the credit instead of God. Pride is ready to consume us, often a willing target, at every turn in life. Just consider Adam and Eve, Cain, the tower of Babel, and Pharaoh.
· God wanted Gideon to feel helplessness, and trust, as his forces were pared down. He did not want Israel believing they had won the victory over Midian. He did not want Gideon elevated as a great war hero. God wanted His people to celebrate and depend upon Him, to worship and praise Him alone, so He took away any confidence they could have in human strength.
God is the same today; He is still jealous for His glory, but also...
God wants us to learn that we can trust Him, so He is willing to take away our sources of strength in order to deepen our faith.
DDG (p. 106).
God cut Gideon’s force from 32,000 to 10,000 to 300 in order to defeat 120,000 Midianites. What could 300 do against such an army? Nothing, except that God would fight and deliver Israel through His power. That is what He wanted Gideon, Israel, and the surrounding nations to know.
The problem with the interpretation of this passage is that readers too often focus on the fleeces rather than what God wanted to do to and for Gideon and Israel.
Instead of this story encouraging the use of fleeces, God’s wants us to believe that He always fights for His people in power, and wins.
Fill in the blanks: DDG (p. 106).
God Is Omnipotent: God is all-powerful: there is nothing God cannot do so long as it does not contradict His own nature or law. God has power and authority over the universe He created. As Christians, we rest in the belief that the God who has all power is good, and we gain great comfort by knowing that an all-powerful God is working for our good and joy.
Essential Doctrine “God Is Omnipotent”: God is all-powerful: there is nothing God cannot do so long as it does not contradict His own nature or law. God has power and authority over the universe He created, from the largest solar system to the smallest particle. Affirming that God is all-powerful does not mean that God can sin—since that would go against His perfect moral nature.
As Christians, we rest in the Bible’s teaching that the God who has all power is good, and we gain great comfort by knowing that an all-powerful God is working for our good and joy.
My Mission
God took Gideon, a fearful man who took one small step of faith at a time, and through him gave His people victory over the Midianites. But God used Gideon and his army of three hundred for much more than that; He used them to show the Israelites and the nations His power and grace.
Sound familiar? Jesus was a nobody from a throwaway town. He was not a trained religious, political, or military leader, but using a small ragtag group of men, Jesus turned the world upside down, or perhaps more accurately, right-side up. Jesus’ message was one of victory, not over the Romans but over sin and death through faith in Him.
Just as God wanted the Israelites to see that victory over the Midianites was by His power alone, Jesus showed that there is only one way to experience victory over sin: Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life.
And now it’s our turn. We are the Gideons of this generation. We must be willing to turn to the only One who can march us to victory and enable us to proclaim loudly, “God is the champion!” Admit your weaknesses, trust in His power, and give Him the praise.
DDG (p. 107)
Because we have been rescued from our sin through Jesus, we answer His call to service, trusting that He is with us and will empower us to win the victory for His glory.
· How is God calling you to trust Him and take your next step of faith, perhaps even into an overwhelming situation?
· What are some ways you can step out in faith in the omnipotent God?
· Whom do you know who might be living in fear right now? How can you encourage them with the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Close in prayer:
1. R. C. Sproul, “The Fruit of Patience,” Ligonier Ministries, September 9, 2018,
2. Tokunboh Adeyemo, “Judges,” in Africa Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Tokunboh Adeyemo (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 302.
3. Iain M. Duguid, “Judges,” in CSB Study Bible (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2017), 372, n. 6:11-12.
4. Havilah Dharamraj, “Judges,” in South Asia Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Brian Wintle (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 309.
5. David M. Howard Jr., “Judges,” in ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 450, n. 6:36-40.
6. K. Lawson Younger Jr., Judges and Ruth, in The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015) [Wordsearch].
7. Daniel I. Block, Judges, Ruth, vol. 6 in The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2003) [Wordsearch].
8. David M. Howard Jr., “Judges,” in ESV Study Bible, 451, n. 7:2.
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