Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 Gideon; From Despondency to Defiance
 Judges 6:1-7:23
 


Hebrews 11 is often called God’s “HALL OF FAME.”

In this chapter we find a character with whom we can identify.

His name is GIDEON.

Gideon’s name is found in verse 32.

A phrase in verse 34 especially describes Gideon: “OUT OF WEAKNESS WERE MADE STRONG.”

Gideon was weak, but God made him strong.

Sermon Text: Judges 6 & 7

Judges 6 begins by telling us that for seven years the Midiantes had been tormenting and terrorizing the Israelites.

During every harvest season the Midianites would rush in like swarms of locusts covering the land and devouring everything in their path.

This oppression became so severe that it caused the Israelites to hide in mountains and caves.

God’s people became beaten down and filled with depression.

The enemy tries to do the same with us today.

Today’s message will focus on three aspects of Gideon’s character: GIDEON’S DESPONDENCY, GIDEON’S DEPENDENCY, and GIDEON’S DEFIANCE

First, there is GIDEON’S DESPONDENCY (6:11-13)

Gideon is a good example of despondency.

He was so terrorized by the Midianites that he threshed wheat in a winepress—the worst place for that task.

In the Middle East to this day, you will see them threshing wheat by harvesting it, then taking it out on a big flat slab or rock where they beat the wheat and throw it in the air, so that the chaff is blown away and the wheat falls to the ground.

The last place you would do this would be in a winepress for the rather obvious reason that a winepress is exactly the opposite of an open threshing floor.

A winepress is a carved-out stone, in which you put the grapes, and the maidens come and dance around on them, and the juice comes out.

Within the confines of a wine press, only a small amount of wheat could be threshed at a time.

Gideon was trying to thresh his wheat in a winepress because he had lost heart and was in despair.

He was afraid that the Midianites might see him threshing wheat and steal it from him, so he hid in a winepress.

So in this opening scene we find Gideon AFRAID and HIDING from the enemy.

Verse11 says—“there came an angel of the Lord” to Gideon.

The phrase “an angel of the Lord” should have been translated “THE angel of the Lord.”

The angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is Christ Himself.

We call this a theophany, a preincarnate appearance of God in human form.

Verse 14 tells us—“And THE LORD looked upon him. . . .”

This proves to us that the angel of the Lord who spoke to him was the Lord Himself!

The angel of the Lord said to Gideon, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour” (v. 11).

The truth was, though, that Gideon wasn’t a mighty warrior at all, but a SCARED FARMER.

He must have looked around and asked, “Are you talking to me? Mighty man of valor? This is me, Gideon, hiding in a winepress! You’ve got the wrong guy. The mighty man of valor lives down the road.”

Gideon took issue with the Angel’s statement, “The Lord is with thee.”

He replied, “IF,"  [One of Gideon’s favorite words was “if”] if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of. . . .”

In other words, Gideon was QUESTIONING GOD’S PRESENCE WITH HIS PEOPLE.

The power of Israel’s enemies seemed to show that God was not with His people.

Jewish theology taught that God lived among His people, but Gideon’s people had begun to LOOK AT THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES INSTEAD OF THEIR THEOLOGY.

When you begin looking at your theology through your circumstances, you soon find your theology shifting.

Gideon needed to be reminded that whatever his circumstance, the Lord was with him.

Some of you may live in very difficult circumstances, but you must see your circumstances in the light of your theology, not vice versa.

THE LORD HAD NOT REALLY FORSAKEN THEM; THEY HAD FORSAKEN THE LORD.

We have seen Gideon’s despondency, and now let’s take a look at GIDEON’S DEPENDENCY (6:14-24)

The PROMISE of God’s PRESENCE IS GIVEN IN VERSES 14-16.

6:14-16“And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. And the Lord said unto him, SURELY I WILL BE WITH THEE, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.”

The Angel said, “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have I not sent thee?”

However, Gideon immediately began to make EXCUSES for himself.

He gives three excuses in verse 15:

  1. HIS FAMILY WAS POOR.
  2. HE BELONGED TO THE TRIBE OF MANASSEH—a tribe not known for its military strength.
  3. HE WAS THE LEAST IN HIS FATHER’S HOUSE, meaning that he was the youngest son of his family.

When the angel said to Gideon, “Go in this thy might,” Gideon must have been thinking, “WHAT MIGHT?”

He said, “I’m the youngest son of an insignificant family from a militarily impoverished tribe.”

In essence, he was saying that he was NOT QUALIFIED for this task, neither was his family, and neither was his tribe.

He was telling God, “You’ve got the wrong guy.”

Friends, GOD KNOWS OUR WEAKNESSES BEFORE HE CALLS US; THEREFORE, OUR EXCUSES HAVE NO EFFECT ON HIM.

When Gideon gave the excuse, “I am the least in my Father’s house,” God didn’t say, “Oh, is that right? Maybe I’ll get in touch with your older brother.”

He used the phrase, “Wherewith shall I?” which to us means “HOW CAN I?”

MOSES asked, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11).

JEREMIAH said, “Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child” (Jeremiah 1:6).

Notice their emphasis on “I.”

Gideon wondered, “HOW CAN I?”

Moses asked, “WHO AM I?”

 Jeremiah responded, “I CANNOT SPEAK.”

And they were right.

ON THEIR OWN they could not do the will of God.

But what did God say?

God gave Moses and Jeremiah a special promise—the same promise He gave to Gideon: “SURELY I WILL BE WITH THEE.”

To Moses God said, “CERTAINLY I WILL BE WITH THEE”(Exodus 3:12).

To Jeremiah God said, “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I AM WITH THEE TO DELIVER THEE” (Jeremiah 1:7-8).

This promise to believers is repeated over and over again in the Bible?

 To JACOB God said: “Behold, I AM WITH THEE, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into the land; for I WILL NOT LEAVE THEE, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Genesis 28:15).

 To JOSEPH God said: “And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian .... But THE LORD WAS WITH JOSEPH, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (Genesis 39:2, 21).

 To ISRAEL God said: “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, HE IT IS THAT DOTH GO WITH THEE; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. . . . then my anger shall be kindled in that day [when the people will turn to false gods], and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? [Doesn’t that sound like Gideon’s complaint?]” (Deuteronomy 31:6, 17).

 To JOSHUA God said: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for THE LORD THY GOD IS WITH THEE WITHERSOEVER THOU GOEST” (Joshua 1:9).

 DAVID’S TESTIMONY was: “God is our refuge and strength, A VERY PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE. . . . THE LORD OF HOSTS IS WITH US; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:1, 7). And he also said, “I have been young, and now am old; yet HAVE I NOT SEEN THE RIGHTEOUS FORSAKEN. . . .” (Psalm 37:25).

 Of SOLOMON it is said: “And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it [build the temple of God]: fear not, nor be dismayed: for THE LORD GOD, EVEN MY GOD, WILL BE WITH THEE: he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou has finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 28:20).

 To THE APOSTLES God said: “Lo, I AM WITH YOU ALWAY, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).

 To PAUL God said: “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I AM WITH THEE. . . .” (Acts 18:9-10).

 To US God has this to say: “. . . I WILL NEVER LEAVE THEE NOR FORSAKE THEE. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

In Paul’s letter to the Romans Paul said, “IF GOD BE FOR US, WHO CAN BE AGAINST US?” (Romans 8:31).

Paul told the Philippians, “I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHICH STRENGTHENETH ME” (Philippians 4:13).

God’s promise to Gideon was, “Surely I will be with you.”

That meant, “BE COURAGEOUS. If I am for you who can be against you? Not the Midiaite army. You will smite them as one man. You can do all things through My strength. I will be with you.”

God gives the same promise to every one of His children.

Whatever circumstance you find yourself in today, He says to you, “I am with you. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be depressed. Don’t be despondent. Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry. I am for you; it doesn’t matter who or what is against you. I will always be with you. I will never leave you.”

WHEN GOD IS WITH YOU, THE SIZE OF THE ENEMY IS OF NO GREAT CONCERN.

HOWEVER, In spite of the promise of God’s presence, Gideon still asked for a sign to confirm the angel’s message.

In fact, he asks for three signs in chapter 6.

Gideon found it very hard to believe that God could use him as Israel’s leader.

This again points to Gideon’s FEAR.

Gideon was a man with NO COURAGE and LITTLE STRENGTH.

Gideon felt completely INADEQUATE for God’s task.

But, THE MORE INADEQUATE WE ARE, THE GREATER THE LIKELIHOOD OF OUR BEING DEPENDANT.

Next, The PROCLAMATION of God’s PEACE IS GIVEN IN VERSES 22-24.

6:22-24“And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face. And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it JEHOVAH-SHALOM. . . .”

“Jehovah-shalom” which means “THE LORD IS PEACE.”

We usually think of peace as the END OF HOSTILITY or the ERADICATION OF STRESS, but the Hebrews thought of peace as THINGS BEING IN ORDER.

By naming his altar as he did, Gideon was saying, “I’m going to find myself in all kinds of hostilities; there will be incredible stress in my life; but one thing I know—in all my weakness I’ll abandon myself to the Lord who will be with me, and things will be in order.”

PEACE ISN’T THE ABSENCE OF TROUBLE, BUT THE DEEP-ROOTED TRANQUILITY OF ORDER IN THE MIDST OF TROUBLE.

Someone has said, “GOD HAS NOT PROMISED AN EASY WAY, BUT PEACE AT THE CENTER OF THE HARD WAY.”

For a man with a worried heart, “The Lord Is Peace” was just what he needed.

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have PEACE. In the world ye shall have TRIBULATION: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Now we have come to GIDEON’S DEFIANCE (6:25-7:25)

The PERFORMANCE of God’s PLAN IS NOTICEABLE IN VERSES 25-27.

6:25-27—“And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and THROW DOWN THE ALTAR OF BAAL that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: and BUILD AN ALTAR UNTO THE LORD THY GOD upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down. Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the Lord had said unto him: and so it was, because HE FEARED his father’s household, and the men of the city, that HE COULD NOT DO IT BY DAY, THAT HE DID IT BY NIGHT.”

Notice that Gideon still had not completely conquered his battle with fear.

However, he did obey.

Next, the PROVISION of God’s POWER IS OBVIOUS IN VERSES 33-34.

6:33-34—“Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel. But THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD CAME UPON GIDEON, and he blew a trumpet. . . .”

Blowing the trumpet was a call to battle.

How could fearful Gideon do such a courageous thing?

Well, “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD CAME UPON HIM.”

Literally, “The Spirit of the Lord CLOTHED HIMSELF with Gideon.”

The Holy Spirit empowered Gideon and acted through him.

If God gives you a PLAN, He will supply the POWER.

Ephesians 5:18 says, “. . . BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT.”

How can we be filled with the Spirit?

There are three keys:

1. “GRIEVE NOT the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30).

2. “QUENCH NOT the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

3. “WALK IN the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16).

Always remember, GOD’S POWER IS NOT LIMITED BY YOUR WEAKNESS.

NEXT, The PROOF of God’s POSSIBILITIES IS FOUND AT THE BEGINNING OF CHAPTER 7.

In verses 1-8 we are told that thirty-two thousand men volunteered, but the Lord said, in effect, “That’s too many. The men might get the idea they’re a pretty good army, that they achieved victory.”

So what did Gideon do to trim down the size of his army?

First, he asked whoever “is fearful and afraid” (v. 3) to return home; and twenty-two thousand left, leaving only ten thousand men.

Anyone who has ever been in battle will honestly admit that he was afraid.

Therefore, it would not be improper to suggest that those who went home were the wisest and the most honest of the entire group.

Of the ten thousand that remained, there were still too many.

Gideon, therefore, was instructed to bring them “down unto the water” where God would “try them” (v. 4).

There are two basic views on the water trial:

Most preachers assume that those who lapped the water were those who drank water while crouching or standing, lapping it from their cupped hands and readily watching for the enemy.

However, ancient Jewish interpretation prefers to interpret the passage in a directly opposite manner.

The men selected by Gideon who lapped water out of their hands were fearfully looking around.

In reality, THE FINAL THREE HUNDRED WERE THE MOST AFRAID OF ALL!

When given the opportunity to go home, THEY WERE TOO AFRAID TO LEAVE!

When given the opportunity for a refreshing drink, THEY LAPPED IT UP IN FEAR.

Now God promised “by the three hundred men that lapped will I save you” (v. 7).

Gideon must have looked around at his army and thought, “I’ve got three hundred cowards, and we’re going to defeat the Midianites?”

The army was divided into three companies of one hundred each, and they were to carry trumpets and empty pitchers containing torches.

They were to conceal the torches within the pitchers until the last possible minute, when they would break the pitchers, wave the torches, and blow the trumpets, giving the enemy the impression that a great horde was attacking them.

Several factors regarding ancient Near Eastern warfare should be noted when interpreting this incident.

First, as a normal custom in those days, armies rarely fought at night.

When an army did engage in battle at night, only a minority of men carried torches in order to light up the battlefield.

In addition, only a certain number of men would carry and blow trumpets during a battle.

Therefore, when the Midianites awoke to the sight of three hundred torches and the sound of three hundred trumpets blaring at them from every conceivable direction, they could only assume that thousands upon thousands were attacking them.

The sound of the trumpets would signal the call to battle, and the breaking of the pitchers would simulate the clash of arms.

The awaking Midianites assumed that the battle had already begun and that they were outnumbered.

The battle cry, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon,” would strike fear in the minds of the confused Midianites and their allies.

Since the invaders were a combination of at least three language dialects, they began to attack one another in the confusion of the night.

The enemy literally defeated itself by attacking one another.

1 Samuel 14:6 says, “. . . there is no restraint to the Lord to save by MANY or by FEW.”

The Lord gave each man an earthen jar, a torch, and a sword.

They were told to break the jar, and then shout.

First think about the SHINING, then the SHOUTING.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7—“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 

Philippians 2:15 states, “. . . among whom YE SHINE AS LIGHTS IN THE WORLD.”

John Wesley said, “If I had three hundred men who feared nothing but God, hated nothing but sin, and determined to know nothing among men but Christ, and Him crucified, I would set the world on fire.”

While it cannot be denied that Gideon became a man of great faith who led the people to victory, it should also be noted that the idea of fear runs like a red thread throughout the story of Gideon’s life.

Yet we find Gideon’s name in Hebrews 11, where we find the heroes of the faith: there is says: “... Gedeon .... OUT OF WEAKNESS [WAS] MADE STRONG, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Hebrews 11:32, 34).

Gideon was a FEARFUL MAN in charge of a FEARFUL ARMY, yet God brought about a FEARSOME VICTORY.

CONCLUSION

The really dangerous enemy was within the heart of Gideon.

It was FEAR.

When God called Gideon, he was HIDING.

When God spoke to him, he RAISED PROBLEMS instead of TRUSTING PROMISES.

When Gideon did start to obey God, he WORKED AT NIGHT and had to have REPEATED ASSURANCE that the Lord was with him.

But God saw the POTENTIAL in Gideon and even called him a “MIGHTY MAN OF VALOUR.”

The Spirit of the Lord was able to turn a COWARD into a CONQUEROR!

God sees the potential in YOU and says to you as He did to Peter, “Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas” (John 1:42).

 “YOU ARE . . . YOU SHALL BE.”

What stage are you in now?

Are you despondent?

Or has the Lord come to you in your despondency, helping you learn dependency?

Or, being dependent on Him, are you beginning to discover He has specific things for you to do?

Are you going in His strength to shine and to shout and to put the enemies of the Lord to flight?

YOU CAN!

Just remember what you have going for you:

The PROMISE of God’s PRESENCE.

The PROCLAMATION of God’s PEACE.

The PERFORMANCE of God’s PLAN.

The PROVISION of God’s POWER.

The PROOF of God’s POSSIBILITIES.

Amen.

 

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http://theepistlesofpaul.yolasite.com

http://theperiodofthejudges.yolasite.com

 

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