Part Two: Gideon
Israel has successfully fulfilled her mission of conquering the land of Canaan. The Lord has given her specific instructions to kill ALL the Canaanites, Amorites, etc. who inhabit the land. It was to be total annihilation. Why? Because the presence of any idolators in Canaan would function like leaven. Even though you put a little bit of leaven into a lump of dough, it will eventually work its way throughout the entire loaf. In the same way sin if left unattended will work its way throughout the entire nation and eventually destroy it.
The same thing is happening in America today. Homosexuality was first condemned in the United States. Later they became the funny people in movies, even the heroes (the gay friend in My Best Friend's Wedding), and now even objects of honor (Brokeback Mountain). God will not tolerate societies which honor acts He calls abominable.
Did the Israelites fulfill God's instructions to destroy all the Canaanites (Judges 2:1-5)? What resulted from this?
For the next several hundred years Israel is going to compromise in her relationship to the Lord. She will turn to idols; God will then send judges or deliverers to rescue her. The judge would first deliver Israel and then rule over at least the portion of Israel he delivered until the time of his death. What cycle follows after God sends Israel judges to deliver her (Judges 2:16-19)?
In this lesson we want to look at one of the greatest judges God sent Israel, Gideon. He like the other great men of the OT lived by faith (Hebrews 11:32). We would stop right here and move on; however, Paul articulates another principle about the OT (1 Cor. 10:6, 11) when he states that the OT stories were written for our instruction, to show us how to live and how not to live. Gideon is probably one of the best and most positive examples of this principle in the OT.
THE JUDGES ACCOUNT
The Calling of Gideon (Judges 6:1-40)
The Israelites have turned to the worship of Baal and Asherah (the Canaanite god of heaven and the Canaanite goddess of the earth) and have incurred God's wrath. Why would Israel turn from God after all He had done for her in Egypt and in the wilderness? Baal and Asherah were fertility gods. The Canaanites believed that these 2 gods controlled the amount of rainfall needed for vegetation. Since Canaan was indeed a land flowing with milk and honey, these 2 gods just possibly knew what they were doing. On the other hand, their experience with God had been only in the wilderness. Was God now going to be able to handle the important cycles of rain and harvest? (They should have realized though that if their God defeated the Canaanites, then He was surely more powerful than their gods.) Moreover, sexual promiscuity played a prominent role in Canaanite worship. This naturally would have enticed many of the Israelites.
Because of their idolatry, God punishes the Israelites by sending upon them the Arabs, Midianites, or Gibeonites (Judges 6:1)? (Circle one)
This people lived on the western shores of the Arabian peninsula to the southeast of Israel. How did this people persecute the Israelites (6:2-6)?
The Israelites cry out to God for deliverance. He raises up for them the judge, Gideon.
The angel of the Lord appears to Gideon beneath an oak tree in Ophrah in the land of Manasseh (one of the 12 tribes of Israel) and informs him that the Lord is with him. (Gideon has been threshing wheat on the sly to hide it from the Midianites.) What is Gideon's response when the angel of the Lord informs him that he is to deliver Israel (6:15)?
This becomes a recurring principle throughout the Bible. God does not always choose the person we think should be the leader or the person who fulfills all the qualities we think a leader should have. We look on the exterior, while God looks at the heart. I met with a person God has used in a wonderful way in the life of the church where he is pastor. This person does not impress people the first time they meet with him; however, the more you get to know this person, the more and more you are impressed with the person God has made him into. Over a period 12 years his church has more than tripled in size. That alone does not prove him to be God's man; the quality of the church though does confirm that God is really with him. That is the true mark of spiritual leadership, God being with that person.
Gideon asks for a sign from the angel of the Lord to show him that this is truly from God. What happens which shows that these instructions are truly from God (6:17-22)?
Gideon then willingly takes up the mantle of leadership over Israel. In verse 24 what name does Gideon give the place where the angel met him?
The rest of the story is going to illustrate the truth of this name. God is going to ask Gideon to do things which on the surface should lead to unrest and great anxiety; however, circumstances should never be the source of our peace. The Lord Himself in our lives and nothing else should be the basis for our peace.
Gideon is not quite yet at peace with what God has called him to do. He asks God to do 2 things to confirm for him that these instructions are truly from God. What 2 miracles does Gideon ask God to perform for confirmation (Judges 6:36-40)?
Do you feel like it was wrong for Gideon to put out the fleece? why or why not?
I don't believe that asking for confirmation is wrong. We may have misunderstood what God was saying, especially if it is something WE wanted to do all along. What is wrong is whenever we refuse to obey God AFTER He has confirmed for us His instructions. This became Moses' sin when he encountered the angel of the Lord at the burning bush. After God had demonstrated time after time that He was going to be with Moses, Moses nevertheless rejected the commission God was giving him. Now that infuriated God so much that Moses relented. Asking for confirmation is not a sin; rejecting God's instructions after you KNOW they are from Him is a sin.
Gideon is now at peace with his situation and is ready to do battle.
To War (Judges 7:1-25)
Gideon has assembled an army of 32,000 from the tribes of Mannasseh, Asher, Naphtali, and Zebulun (6:35). God says though that there is a problem with the size of Gideon's army. What is the problem and why is it a problem (Judges 7:2)?
In order to reduce the size of the army, what does God instruct Gideon to do (7:3)?
What results after Gideon gives out these instructions (7:3)? How many men does Gideon now have in his army?
Is God pleased with the size of the army now (7:4)?
What does God instruct Gideon to do in order to reduce the size of his army (7:4-8)?
How many men are NOW in Gideon's army (7:7-8)?
One of my favorites lines in the movie The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe occurs whenever Peter is told that the army of the White Witch far outnumbers his army. When his aide says that numbers don't matter in times of battle, Peter responds: "I bet it doesn't hurt though!" That's probably the way Gideon felt at this moment.
In order to assure Gideon that He is going to give him the victory, what does God instruct Gideon to do and what does Gideon learn (7:9-15)?
Throughout this story we are seeing the way that the Lord is peace. He confirms to Gideon His instructions by the miracle with the fleece. God dismisses 99% of Gideon's army. He then sends him down to hear what the Midianites themselves are thinking about the approaching battle. God does not want us to live in a state of anxiety and fear; He wants us to experience peace.
What follows next is truly amazing. According to Judges the Midianites numbered like locusts, whereas Gideon had only 300 men. Although God has assured Gideon that he is going to win the battle, from a human perspective it looks like Gideon's army is going to have to do a lot of fighting. Maybe God is going to let each Israelite kill 100 men. Not impossible. God though has a better way. What does God instruct Gideon to do and what happens after Gideon obeys (7:16-23)?
Our problem is that we think too much inside the box. We think that if Gideon is going to win the battle, then he must have either a huge force or else an elite fighting force. Judges doesn't tell us that either of these is true. We think that if event C is to occur, then events A and B must precede them. From a human standpoint that may be true. God though is not working from a HUMAN standpoint but from a DIVINE standpoint. Gideon never saw it coming, that the numerous Midianites themselves would turn on each other and destroy themselves. In the same way we needed to obey God even if we don't see "it" coming. What we have to do is respond positively to God in each situation we find ourselves in and then let God do His "thing."
I used to be a little sensitive, even more than I am now. A certain person used to give me a really hard time. I was getting tired of it and started punching back until the Lord convicted me. I felt like the Lord was telling me to let HIM defend me. That was HIS job, not mine. Well, the next time this certain person started giving me a hard time, somebody else walked up at that exact moment. Oh my goodness, it was a sight to behold. That other person just lit into the first person. It was almost punishment most cruel and unusual. That person tucked his tail between his legs and went home. It was really funny. When I gave this over to the Lord, I didn't realize He was going to bring that other person up. I didn't see it coming. I didn't have to though. All I should have to do is trust the Lord and let Him take care of the rest.
Gideon cannot take the credit for this victory. God devised this irrational plan, and therefore God gets the credit. The wonderful thing though was that Gideon got to participate in something wonderful. Whereas most of us haven't done anything worthy enough to be spoken of just a few weeks later, this event was so wonderful that we still talk about it 3000 years later. That's what God is wanting to do in our lives, perform such wonderful miracles by transforming lives that we will still talk about them in eternity before His throne.
The question almost becomes: "Since God achieved this victory practically without Gideon's help, why did God use Gideon at all?" This applies to nearly every situation we face. If God doesn't need us, then why does He insist we get involved? Why does He insist we put on the full armor God to fight the battle when He is going to be the One who wins it--many times even without our help?
This theme runs throughout The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. The animals in the movie keep insisting that the 4 children MUST lead them into battle if they are to achieve the victory. This seems strange though in light of the fact that at the end of the battle, Aslan (Christ) is the One who ultimately wins the battle by killing the White Witch. Why this insistence?
God has designed life so that He is going to give us the victory if we get involved positively in the struggle. God wants to make families successful; yet to a great degree that success is going to come ONLY IF DADS GET INVOLVED IN THE FRAY AND FIGHT FOR THEIR FAMILIES. God wants churches to be exciting and healthy but ONLY IF THE PASTOR GETS INVOLVED IN THE FRAY AND FIGHTS FOR HIS CHURCH. That's the way the system is set up. We just need to accept the system and then jump into the fray that has our name on it.
But again, why this system? Why do I have to get involved if Jesus is ultimately going to win the battle? Because we got ourselves INTO this mess, God holds us responsible to participate in helping us get OUT of this mess.
This system has some wonderful benefits to it. For example, this system actually develops and benefits the person who has to do the fighting. I am a better Christian because God has placed people in my life I am responsible for: my wife and 2 children. Only God knows how good a minister I am; however, I am a better minister than I would be because I know that my prayers and ministry affect the church to a good degree. This system results in lives being positively affected and me being changed.
THROUGH THE EYES OF THE APOSTLES
Throughout the Gideon story we saw the concept of peace working. For example, Gideon calls the place where God meets him, "The Lord is Peace," literally, "Yahweh Shalom." Then we saw God confirming His instructions to Gideon by means of the fleece and the dream given to the Midianite soldier. Then we saw God reduce the size of Gideon's army to almost negligible proportions. Then we saw God give Gideon a mighty victory over the Midianites even though Gideon barely lifted a finger.
The concept of peace though is not merely an OT concept; it is a major theme in the NT also. Whenever the angel appears to Zacharias (Luke 1:13), Mary (1:30), and the shepherds (2:10), the first thing he tells them is "Do not be _________________." This is not based upon a wish; it is based upon what has just happened: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a SAVIOR who is Christ the Lord!" Christ is the basis for real peace, peace between us and God, and peace between us and others. Paul highlights this in all his greetings to the churches of Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, and Thessalonica: "Grace to you and PEACE from God our Father and the ___________ __________ _________." The only peace that God gives comes to us on the basis of our relationship with Jesus Christ.
How does God give us peace through Jesus? Before the death and resurrection of Jesus we were in a hostile relationship with God. We were enemies in our relationship with Him. God though pours out all the wrath meant for you and me upon Jesus so that now there is no more wrath for us, just peace. God doesn't condemn us any more because all of that condemnation has been poured out upon Jesus.
Because of Jesus though we should now be at peace with each other. Jesus has bound us all together by placing us into His body. We now literally become the arms, legs, feet, hands, etc. of Jesus. Just like in a physical body the hand does not turn on the foot, the foot on the arm, or the arm on the leg, neither should we turn on others within the body of Christ. For all practical purposes, whenever I hurt you, I am hurting me. What is worse though is that whenever I hurt you, who else am I really harming (1 Cor. 8:12)?
Outside of Christ there is only dissension. According to Jesus what do you find in the world (John 16:33)?
Yet what do you find in Jesus (John 16:33)?