Let’s open our bibles to the book of Gideon. Or if you don’t have a book of Gideon, let’s open our Gideon bibles.
We’re going to look today at a warrior named Gideon in the book of Judges chapter 6, so let’s turn there. Your bible should have a book of Judges. It’s just after the book of jury selection.
The year is probably between 1045 and 1000 BC, and the book of Judges does not name the author, though the prophet Samuel is the likely author. The book begins with the Israelites defeating the Canaanites and ends with the Israelites defeating the Philistines and the death of Samson. We can summarize the entire book of Judges with these three verses,
Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands.
But the Israelites said to the Lord, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.”
And Judges 21:25,
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.
The Lord has never failed to rescue His people when the repent of their ways, but Israel has fallen into a destructive pattern. Obedience led to disobedience. Disobedience led to destruction. Destruction led to repentance. Repentance led to rescue. Rescue led to obedience.
But enough about Israel. Let’s talk about us. Well, actually, maybe I already am talking about us. We want to be good Christians, but when the Lord cares for us, it’s easy to get complacent and take the Lord’s blessings for granted. We fool ourselves into thinking that a little misbehaving is ok, but then our misbehaving leads to trouble that we get ourselves into. Then we cry out to the Lord, please save me, I’m in trouble. And this time I’ll promise I’ll be good.
II. Gideon’s Condition
There’s got to be a better way than falling in the steps of the Israelites. We’re going to focus on Gideon in Judges chapter 6, and this is what the land of Israel was like in those days, Judges 6:1-6,
The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.
The Midianites had oppressed the Israelites, and that doesn’t really describe how bad things are. The people of Israel were vastly outnumbered, forced to live in caves, and anytime the enemy showed up, the enemy killed the Israelite’s sheep and cattle and donkeys.
When it appeared that life in Israel was completely hopeless, then Israel turned to the Lord. Not as their first response, but only after they had tried everything else and lost. Not that we would ever do such a thing, take things into our own hands until we’ve made a complete and utter mess of things, and then finally turn to the Lord and say, “Lord, where are you?” No, of course we would never do that.
When we are discouraged or in pain, of course we cry out to the Lord for help. And God in His great mercy and love for us often helps us, but we have to acknowledge that sometimes we create the problem ourselves, and the solution begins with obedience, finding the path the Lord has set before us and walking that path. God does not appear like a magic genie and pluck us out of our difficulties; our spiritual growth and discipline comes first and then the relief comes later.
And it’s not enough for Israel to be sad and upset with their condition. But if the only thing Israel is sorry for is that they are living in caves, then they do not yet understand what the problem is. If we spend all our money on clothing or boats or travel or eating out and the credit card collectors begin harassing us, can we go to God and ask for financial blessings to rescue us? Are we sorry we are broke, or are we sorry we were not good stewards of God’s blessings?
2 Corinthians 7:10 puts it this way,
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
God’s response to Israel was to send a prophet and clarify to Israel what the problem was, Judges 6:7-10,
When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”
God has rescued them before and will rescue them again, but God again asks Israel to repent of their ungodly ways.
III. Gideon’s Complaint
So the Lord sent a message to Gideon who was hiding in a basement somewhere so the Midianites couldn’t find him. Verse 11-12,
The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
Usually wheat or corn is threshed on a threshing floor to remove the husks and straw, a flat surface is best. But Gideon was hiding from the Midianites in a winepress, a hole or a pit. So when the angel of the Lord calls Gideon “mighty warrior,” Gideon probably looked around to see who the angel was talking to. And it didn’t take very long to look around, because, well, Gideon is in a hole in the ground.
Gideon’s response to the Angel of the Lord is to complain, Judges 6:13,
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
So we know the answer to Gideon’s question – Israel is in this mess because they turned their backs on the Lord and worshipped false idols and other gods. Gideon though is questioning the Lord – if the Lord is really with us, why do all these bad things keep happening? Seriously, Lord, I’m in a hole in the ground trying to thresh wheat, so where are you?
But you know, it’s ok to bring our complaints to the Lord. If we are in prayer with the Lord, we should be as honest with the Lord as we possibly can. We do not need to feel we have to pray a certain way or pray only how we think the Lord wants us to pray. We don’t need to be phony and pray the way we think Christians should pray. Scripture is consistent that the Lord wants us to approach Him in pray with honesty, open our hearts completely, even if it is a complaint.
Remember David, a man after God’s own heart? Here is his Psalm 10,
Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Be honest with the Lord. If you have a complaint, bring it to the Lord. Question the Lord and see if He will answer. That’s what Job did – Job lost his health and his family and his friends and his livestock. It must have been a mystery to him since he was a righteous man, and he took his complaint to God. Job told God he wished he had never been born, that he has no peace and no rest and he has unending troubles. And the Lord answered Job.
God has rescued them before and will rescue them again, but God again asks Israel to repent of their ungodly ways.
IV. Gideon’s Reluctance
In answer to Gideon, the Lord didn’t bother to recap Israel History 101. The Lord tells Gideon in verse 14,
The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
If we have a single scripture to remember today, it’s this verse from Judges 6:14, “Go in the strength you have.” Gideon was a timid man, hiding in that hole in the ground so his enemies wouldn’t find him, and the angel of the Lord called him, “mighty warrior.” Gideon’s response shows that Gideon didn’t feel he was the right man for this job. Verse 15,
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
Gideon feels inadequate because he is the runt of the litter. Gideon’s error is that Gideon seems to think he has something to do with the Lord’s victory. The Lord doesn’t need our help, but He desires our heart, our willingness, our obedience. God wants us to step out on His behalf, to be His ambassador, but the victory is the Lord’s, not ours. The Lord’s response in verse 16,
The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
God calls us to lead a godly life of repentance, obedience, love and joy and peace and sometimes it seems like it’s just too hard to do everything we are supposed to do. It’s just too much. It’s too stressful, I can’t be sure I’m doing it right, I don’t see it working, we find a myriad of excuses. Gideon’s excuse is that he was too little. He’s little enough to hide in a hole. He’s the runt of the litter. He’s the smallest of the small. Other people are better suited.
But that completely misses the point of what God is asking of us. He’s not asking us to be victorious, he’s asking us to be obedient and then God will be victorious. Go in the strength you have.
Remember when God asked Moses to lead His people out of Egypt? In Exodus 3, God appears to Moses as a burning bush and says to Moses, “Go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Moses’ first response is, “Who am I to do these things you ask?” And God says, “Just go.” And Moses says, “What if they don’t listen to me?” And God says, “Just go.” And then in Exodus 4:10-13,
Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
One thing I know about each and every believer: God has a plan for each one of us, a plan to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future. And I cannot fulfill the plan God has for you, and you cannot fulfill the plan God has for me. The plan God has for you can only be fulfilled by the one person God created to fulfill that plan. Moses finally recognized that God had a plan for him and became obedient. When Moses finally appeared to Pharaoh and began to lead the Lord’s people out of Egypt, there was quite a few obstacles, including that inconvenient Red Sea obstacle. But when it came time to overcome that obstacle, who parted the waters? Was it Moses? Or was it God?
When Peter walked on water, was He enabled by Jesus, or did he walk on water on his own power?
God doesn’t ask us to be victorious, He doesn’t ask us to move mountains, He doesn’t ask us to perform miracles. He just asks us to be obedient. Use the mouth the Lord gave you to speak and do not be concerned whether you speak well. Use what the good Lord gave you, and that’s more than enough. The Lord has already equipped you for the work He has given you. It’s not about us, it’s about the Lord, and the victory is already His.
In the next chapter of Judges, Gideon finds out he is massively outnumbered before the battle with the Midianites. Gideon has 32,000 men, the Midianites have 135,000 men. The Midianites outnumbered him four to one. And the Lord says to Gideon, “You have too many men,” and Gideon’s army was reduced to only 10,000, or 13:1. And the Lord says, “You still have too many men.” And Gideon’s army was reduced to 300 men. He’s now outnumbered 450 to 1.
Why does God drastically reduce the size of Gideon’s army? If Gideon is outnumbered 4:1 or even 13:1, Israel might boast of their victory. But when they are outnumbered 450:1… Israel would not boast. It is apparent that with such overwhelming odds there was no way Israel could win. The victory belonged to the Lord. It could only have been victorious because of the Lord.
That’s why it doesn’t matter what you think about your abilities. If you speak well, or you’re unable to speak. If you can lift 1000 pounds or 10 pounds. God created you for the task He gave you and you are already perfectly equipped to fulfil that task. Just be obedient to the call you hear.
Ephesians 2:8-10 puts it like this to the body of Christ. You do not save yourselves, there is nothing you can add to or take away from your salvation, it is a gift and all of the glory belongs to the Lord.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
I’ve got a snippet of a video that sort of illustrates this point, and I hope you’ll bear with me. It’s not exactly the best illustration of today’s lesson, but I baked my brain in the sun this week and I was a little incoherent. But I went with the strength I had and the victory belongs to the Lord. Here’s the setup:
When Barney sings under his own power, the result is, shall we say, acoustically challenged. Andy comes up with a plan but it requires Barney getting out of the way:
So the day of the performance arrives, and here’s the result:
God wants us to open our mouths, then get out of the way and let Him sing through us.
Judges 6:14 –
Go in the strength you have.
And the victory belongs to the Lord.
To God be the glory. Amen.