Key Verse – Colossians 1:9-10, “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God”
Our text – Judges 6
Theme – God Clearly Reveals His Will
The Bible portrays God as omnipotent, all powerful, able to create all things from nothing (Hebrews 11:3). Whereas, an individual is portrayed as totally insufficient to do anything but fail. Yet, the Bible also teaches that God often accomplishes great and powerful things through a few weak people. In that way He is glorified and we are humbled and the victories won can only be credited through the power and wisdom of God. It should be noted that during the time Noah was building the ark, he was only one, but he won. When Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, he was only one, but he won. When Gideon and his 300 followers with their broken pitchers and lamps put the Midianites to flight, they were only a few, but they won.
In the study of the book of Judges, you will find a very clear pattern that is evident concerning the children of Israel. Israel would serve the Lord as long as they had a strong leader. However, when that leader passed from the scene, they fell back into their old habits of sin. When they sinned, God used the pagan enemy nations living around them to punish, afflict and oppress them. In this study we are introduced to a man named Gideon, which means “he who cuts down”.
When Gideon appears on the scene, he is a very unlikely choice to be a deliverer of the people. He is hiding out of fear from Israel’s enemies (v. 11). Gideon was guilty of fear and unfaithfulness, but he was God’s choice to be the next judge of Israel, and God used him in a very mighty way. Before we look into the life of Gideon, we should consider (verses 1 through 10), which will set the stage for the ministry of Gideon. These verses should hold some distinct lessons for us today as well. For one they should teach us this truth – that disobedience to the will of the Lord in our life will carry a price higher than we would ever want to pay.
I. God Answers Israel’s Cry – (Judges 6:1-10).
A. The Sin Israel Embraced
The Bible simply says in Judges 6:1 that “the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord.” This verse doesn’t tell us what their sin was; however, we can assume it was the same sin they had been guilty of in the past by:
(1) Marrying the daughters of the inhabitants of Canaan;
(2) Giving their daughters to their sons, and
(3) Serving and bowing down to their gods (Judges 2:19; 3:5-7).
With certainty we could say they were very prone to walk in the same foolish pathway and guilty of falling into the same sin as before. Israel was surrounded by pagan nations who worshiped false gods, and by people who were continually trying to draw them away from God and into their own wicked way of life. As long as Israel had strong leadership, they were able to live clean lives. However, when that leadership failed, they wandered away from the Lord and returned to their old habits. Israel’s people were weak, wavering and had trouble staying on course with the Lord.
Should we be hard on them? Yes, we should! We all deal with certain areas of weakness in our lives that we seem to be in a constant struggle with such as language, stubbornness, submission, alcohol, drugs and gossip to name only a few. I’m quite sure you could add your own! The book of Hebrews refers to these areas as “the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Hebrews 12:1). The words “easily beset” could mean “to skillfully surround”. Our flesh loves sin because we still have the old sin nature residing within us. Our enemy, Satan, is a very cunning enemy, for he knows our weaknesses and how to entice and draw us away from the Lord and into sin (2 Timothy 2:25, 26).
Every person who has accepted Christ as Savior struggle in many different areas where they are weak and given the right circumstances will have trouble overcoming temptation. To be successful in the fight with sin, we must determine in our heart to serve God and only Him (Romans 6:13; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20). Sin is and will always be an ever constant problem for every believer who has been saved by the blood of Christ; but sin doesn’t have to dominate and control our lives. We can have the victory through our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ – Romans 6:7, 14, “For he that is dead is freed from sin. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace”.
B. Israel’s Suffering
Judges 6:1-6, chronicle the terrible price Israel paid for their foolishness in sinning against God. What they suffered also serves as a reminder to us that we don’t get away with sin! We might think we can hide it. We might think no one will find out. However, the truth is, God knows, and in His time, He will expose it for what it is (Numbers 32:23, “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out”; Luke 12:1-3). Because of their willful sin, Israel’s suffering included being invaded, imprisoned, and deprived.
(1) Israel was oppressed by the Midianites who were the descendants of Abraham just like the Israelites were. They descended from a man named Midian. Midian was the son of Abraham and Keturah (Genesis 25:1-6). Abraham married Keturah after Sarah died. The word “Midian” means “strife”. The Midianites are a clear picture of the conflict the world around us has with the truth of God we are to believe and obey. They are a picture of a corrupt world and its desire to draw the people of God away from Him and the purpose for which we have been called.
The only reason the Midianites had power over the people of God was because the people of God were unfaithful and disobedient to the Lord. Their sin lowered the wall of separation between them and the world. Israel got in trouble because they refused to walk with the Lord. When we refuse to stay close to the Lord and live according to His Word, we also open the door of pain and suffering in our own lives. Often, our troubles arise directly from our foolish decisions. Our sin translates into weakness and our weakness invites the enemies of unrighteousness (Satan) to attack us. Thus, our weakness often results in our being invaded, attacked, and overrun by the world and its evil influences.
(2)The oppression of Israel by the Midianites resulted in Israel losing its will to fight. They ran away and hid in the mountains while the enemy overran their land. Their sin made them weak and caused them to lose their will to fight, which left them utterly defeated! When we allow sin to reign in our lives, we will find the same thing is true. Sin robs us of our character and leaves us unwilling and unable to fight. When we allow sin to rule in our hearts, we become lethargic and unresponsive in our Christian life. Sin causes us to hide in fear while the enemy takes everything we value! There are countless people (even believers in Christ) who have been imprisoned by their sins. They have allowed certain actions and ways of living dominate them for so long that they have lost their will and ability to fight against them. They are a prisoner in their own life and they hide in fear from actions they think they cannot control. The fact is, Jesus Christ, has the power to set them free (John 8:36, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed”).
(3) Judges 1:6 indicate that Israel was “impoverished”. This word means “to make slack or feeble”. It’s a picture of helplessness and hopelessness of a people at the very end of themselves. Israel had everything they loved taken away from them. They planted their fields and their enemies came and took away their crops. They saw all the livestock taken away and were left with “no sustenance”. They were plainly made “weak” and “at the end of their rope”. Everything they valued was taken from them. Everything they needed to sustain life was gone. They were left with nothing! That’s what sin does! It strips us of everything we value and everything we live for. It leaves us slack, weak, and at the very end of our rope. If you choose to live your life under the control of sin, don’t be surprised when you look around and see the things you value the most have been taken from you, such as your spouse, children and material things.
I don’t know what you’re investing in today, but I do know that investing in anything other than Jesus Christ pays dividends you don’t want to reap. Galatians 6:7, 8 says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting”. However, I do know that investing in Jesus Christ pays off in dividends that are out of this world. Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. The question remains where are we investing? Is it in the temporal or the eternal?
C. Israel Calls on the LORD
When the oppression of Israel became too great, they called on the Lord once again. God heard their cry. By the way, if you don’t realize it, God is so gracious to us? No matter how many times we fail Him; no matter how many times we turn away into sin, He is always there to forgive, receive and restore us, when we repent and turn back to Him in faith. That is His promise to His people (1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”). We should thank God for His grace, faithfulness and mercy!
God heard their cry, but He didn’t give them a deliverer immediately. God sent them an unnamed prophet instead. He sent them a man of God with a word from Heaven. This prophet’s message was designed to remind them of who they were. It was a message designed to confront their failure in light of God’s faithfulness. The prophet’s message was designed to remind them of how good the Lord had been to them. It was designed to remind them how they should have been living because of their relationship with the Lord. In Judges 6:8-10 they are reminded the Prophets message is a reminder of God’s deliverance, His actions and His demands.
(1) God’s Deliverance
God had moved in supernatural power to deliver Israel from their bondage in Egypt. God gave them a deliverer named Moses. God demonstrated His power of the Egyptian gods through the plagues that fell on the land. God brought them out in great power, parting the Red Sea, and allowing them to walk over on dry ground. If for nothing else, they should have been faithful to God because of His grace and salvation in their lives.
My beloved, God’s grace has been even more real in our lives! He may never have parted a sea or sent plagues for us; however, He did give us His Son to die in our place and He loved us unconditionally in spite of our sin and saved us when we weren’t even looking for Him. He changed our life because we called on Him by faith and for that reason alone, He deserves our faithfulness, love, devotion and obedience.
We shouldn’t be upset when we don’t get our way all the time, and we shouldn’t whine, gripe or complain about our lot in life. Above all us, we shouldn’t have to be prodded to serve the Lord. We were on our way to hell when He saved us by His grace and because of that He should have our absolute and undivided attention! For a moment, think back to how the Lord saved your soul! My brethren, that fact alone should mean everything to you?
(2) God’s Actions
Not only did God deliver them from Egypt, He went with them every step of the way into the Promised Land. He drove out their enemies. He led them, fed them. and never failed them, even when they failed Him. He gave them a good land and blessed them far beyond what they deserved. They should have been faithful to Him because of His blessings on their lives! I would suggest we look around and within to see the evidence of God’s blessings on our lives. God has been faithful even when we were unfaithful and given to us the best! With hearts of thanksgiving we ought to be faithful to Him out of gratitude for all that He has done for us. I don’t know about you; but every good thing in my life has come to me through His hand as stated in James 1:16-17, “Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” He has blessed us materially, physically, financially, and best of all, spiritually. Look at your blessings you have and name them one by one! Hasn’t the Lord been good to you? Doesn’t He deserve your best in return? What if He took it all away today? If so, I would still have to say that I am blessed because He has been good to me!
(3) God’s Demands
God reminds them that He, not the gods of the pagans, is their God. His words here remind us that He is a “jealous” God (Exodus 20:5; 34:14), who will not allow those He has redeemed to go after other gods. Israel is made to see that they are suffering because they failed to keep God in first place. They have allowed other things to come ahead of Him and they are paying a very high price for their low living. My brethren, God hasn’t changed! He is still a jealous God. If He has chosen you in Jesus, saved you by grace, He expects you to live for Him alone. He doesn’t expect that you will live for yourself or expect that you will live for your things. He expects that you will walk with Him, love Him and live according to His will. When you do this, He will bless you greatly. When you don’t there is a price you will have to pay. If you belong to the Lord, you can expect to pay a high price when you live below His standards (Revelation 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent”; Hebrews 12:6-12).
II. The Call & Circumstances of Gideon was during a time of poverty, oppression and defenselessness.
We know that Israel didn’t have a lot during these dark and desperate days, which is clearly pointed out to us in verses 4 through 6. Evidently, Gideon and his family had been able to hide away a small amount of wheat, and he was threshing the wheat behind a wine press to hide it from the Midianites. The fact that Gideon is threshing grain by hand should indicate to us that he had very little grain to work with because it was a time of poverty.
Gideon was hiding while he threshed the grain because he knew the Midianites would take the small amount of grain he had if they knew about it. Verses 3-5 speak` about the persecution, “Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern people invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and do 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 destroy it.”
This can be seen in the fact Gideon is hiding from the enemy. He is just as defeated and frightened as the rest of the nation. It was a most difficult time for God’s people. Like Israel, we are also living in difficult times. We are living in days when economic uncertainty has many people fearing that they will be forced into poverty. We are living in days when the government and society in general, are growing increasingly hostile to the things of the Lord. We are living in days when it seems that there is little spiritual power among God’s people. In some ways, we are living through times that strongly resemble those that Gideon and Israel faced in their day.
D. Gideon’s Commission
While Gideon was hiding from the enemy, the Lord knew exactly where he was. Verse 12 says, “The angel of the Lord appeared unto”. This was no ordinary angel because in verse 13, the angel is called “Lord”. When the Lord speaks to Gideon, He comes with words of hope and assurance, in that we will see God’s:
The “angel of the Lord” appears to Gideon and says, “The Lord is with thee”. This is an appearance of God in a visible form to man and is one of many occasions in the Old Testament when Jesus appeared to individuals before He was born in Bethlehem. He also made appearances to Adam in Eden (Genesis 3:8); to Abraham at his tent door (Genesis 18); to Hagar in the wilderness (Genesis 16); to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3); and to Joshua at Jericho (Joshua 5:13-15).
We must notice that the Midianites didn’t know where Gideon was hiding, but the Lord did! He had His eye on Gideon the whole time. Even when Gideon was unaware of it, God was with Him, watching him and planning for his future. That precious truth should comfort our hearts as well. We have the same promise in Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” and in Matthew 28:20, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”.
However, we have an even better promise in John 14:16-18, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you”. The Lord is with us in every situation, through every valley and across every mountain. When the Lord says, “The Lord is with thee”, it means, “His power is on you.” Gideon couldn’t see it, nor could he sense it, and it sure didn’t look like it, but he was about to be used of the Lord in a very powerful way. The same is true in our lives. If we ever grasp the truth that we are indwelt by the Spirit of God and that His limitless power is available to use, it would change our walk and it would certainly change our lives.
Then the Lord says something that is truly amazing. He looks at Gideon and calls him “a mighty man of valor”. Here is a man who is so afraid of the enemy that he is hiding behind a winepress threshing wheat. He is full of fear, but the Lord saw what Gideon would be when he got though with him. God intended to take Gideon and use him in a very great way.
And did you know that the Lord knows you? Yes, He knows you far better than you even know yourself (Psalm 139; Hebrews 4:13, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do”). If you’re like me, you often look at your life and see mistakes, failures and problems. You see a person who consistently fails to live up to God’s high calling in your life. So, what does God see?
When Jesse looked at David, he saw his youngest son. He saw a mere boy who was not worthy to be called to a family meeting with Samuel. However, when God looked at David, He saw a king (1 Samuel 16:12). When Gideon’s family looked at him, they saw a weakling. When the Lord looked at him, He saw a warrior. For you see, the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He knows what we will be when He gets through with us. The best thing you can ever do is to take your life, with all its problems, its failures and its shortcomings and place all that in the hand of the Lord. He is able to take us like we are and transform us into something powerful and amazing by His power!
E. Gideon’s Hesitation
When Gideon hears the words of the Lord, he is amazed by what he hears. He cannot see how the Lord can possible be talking to him. So, he reacts to what the Lord says by questions. He wanted to know where the proof of God’s presence can be found. If God was really with His people, shouldn’t they be experiencing victory instead of defeat? Gideon wanted to know where all the miracles have gone. It had been 250 years since God delivered Israel from Egypt through the devastating plagues. It had been 200 years since Jordan parted and Israel crossed over on dry ground into the Promised Land. Gideon wanted to know where the God who performed all those miracles had gone. When the Lord hears Gideon’s questions, he responds by telling him that he will indeed save Israel. God has sent him and he will be successful in his quest to defeat the enemies of Israel. Gideon’s response is to question the Lord’s omniscience. Gideon tells the Lord He can’t be a deliverer because:
(1) His father’s house is poor, thus no one will; follow him, and
(2) No one in his father’s house respects him.
We will so learn that Gideon’s father was an idolater (v. 25). It may be that Gideon was an outcast within his own family because he refused to worship their false god’s with them. A lot of us are just like Gideon! We know the Lord wants us to serve Him and we might even understand He wants to use us for His glory, but we are so filled with fear and a sense of our own inability that we refuse to trust Him. Remember Moses, Gideon did exactly what he did when the Lord called him from the burning bush. Both of these men came up with excuses as to why they couldn’t do what the Lord said they could do! Both men felt like the job was over their heads and they were inadequate to the task at hand.
Don’t we do the same thing? The real problem with both Gideon and Moses and with us as well, is that we tend to focus on what we are and not on Who He is! Without the Lord, we are weak, frail, and tend to failures. However, with Him, we are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. (Psalm 127:1; John 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing”; Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 13:5). We must learn to be God-conscious!
I know I can’t do anything in myself, but I must believe that He can use me. If we can come to the place where we understand that He is able, even if we aren’t, we can be use of the Lord! My brethren, God specializes in using those who can’t to accomplish His work in the world today as He did in the Old and New Testament (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). If you’re not convinced look at the evidence recorded for us in God’s Eternal Word, when He used:
(1) Abraham a pagan from Ur of the Chaldeans to be the father of the faithful.
(2) Jacob a liar to be the father of the nation of Israel.
(3) Joseph a slave to save the world.
(4) Moses, a shepherd and a murderer to deliver His people.
(5) Esther, a slave to deliver Israel.
(6) Matthew, a tax collector to write about Jesus, King of the Jews.
(7) Saul of Tarsus to write over one-half the New Testament.
(8) Israel was crying out for a deliverer and God’s answer was Gideon!
God used all these people and countless others down through the centuries, because they were available to Him for His purpose and use. We need to stop making excuses about why we can’t do what the Lord wants us to do, and just get busy doing it. There are individuals in your own church and in mine who should be teaching Sunday school, singing in the choir, and serving within the church in various areas of ministry, but they aren’t.
F. Gideon’s Endorsement
In Judges 6:16, “The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” He reaffirms His call of Gideon and tells him he will be able to destroy the Midianites as if they were just a single person. In other words, the Lord is going to use Gideon in a powerful, wonderful, and amazing fashion. All he has to do is to go with God. However, Gideon isn’t ready to simply follow the Lord. He wants some proof that it is really God who he is talking with. Gideon then asks for a sign. This will not be the last time he does so! Thank God we serve a patient Lord. Gideon should have just done what the Lord told him to do, and so should we! God graciously gave Gideon the sign he requested. Judges 6:18-21 talks about this. Thus, Gideon is confirmed by a:
Gideon wants to make an offering to the Lord, which is what the word “present” means. The Lord promises to wait until Gideon returns. So, Gideon prepares a goat, cakes made from many pounds of flour, and a pot of broth. This was a sacrificial offering from a man whose family lived in poverty. It’s amazing to see such a transformation in Gideon. When the angel of the Lord first found him, he was hiding, trying to protect a small amount of grain, now he is willing to give away a huge meal! He has at least reached a place where he is willing to yield the things he cherishes.
When Gideon presents his offering, he is instructed to place it on a rock. He does so, and when he does, the Lord touches the offering with the end of His staff. When he does, fire rises out of the rock and consumes the sacrifice. In receiving the sacrifice as He did, the Lord was teaching Gideon that everything was going to be all right. Thus, the Lord used a staff to work this miracle. A staff was an instrument used by a shepherd to comfort, control, protect and lead the sheep. The Lord is simply telling Gideon that He will be with him to comfort, control, protect and lead him as well. It was a way of teaching Gideon that he need not fear where the Lord would lead him, for where ever God guides, God provides!
This was also a sign that the Lord had accepted Gideon. God had come to Gideon, called him, commissioned him and accepted his sacrifice. All of this was the Lord’s way of telling Gideon that he was going to use him in a great way! I we want to be used of the Lord, we must present ourselves to Him and He will use us. His will is that we make an offering like Gideon did. God isn’t interested in our goats, our cakes and our broth. God is interested in us. He wants us to place everything we are on the altar. He wants us to yield ourselves totally to His will, and when we do that, He will use us in ways we can only imagine (Romans 12:1-2).
Gideon now recognizes just who he is dealing with. When he does, he is filled with fear and he cries out to the Lord. God responds by speaking peace to Gideon’s heart and promises Gideon that he will not die! Gideon then builds an altar and worships the Lord and calls the altar “Jehovah-Shalom”, or “The Lord Our Peace”. Here Gideon found peace in submission and worship. When he submitted to the Lord’s will for his life and when he fell before the Lord in humble worship, Gideon found a place of comfort. My brethren that will still work today! If you want turmoil in your heart and soul, just walk a different path than the one God has planned for your life. If you want sleepless nights and dreary days, just refuse to do what He wants you to do. However, if you want peace, joy and true happiness, you will only find it in surrounding your life to the will of God. Until you do what the Lord wants you to do, you will never know true peace, and will never experience genuine worship.
III. Gideon’s Development (Judges 6:25-32)
As we continue to look at the story of Gideon, we will watch as the Lord prepares him for the mission that lies ahead. God brings Gideon along in a series of small, specific steps that will lead to Gideon achieving big things for the glory of God. In this passage we will watch Gideon take his first step of faith. We will watch him take a stand against the false religion that held his village and his family in spiritual bondage.
As we consider how God develops Gideon, we need to take a moment to consider our own lives. The Lord is in the business of developing us as well. In fact, the Lord’s intention in our lives is to transform us from lost sinners into the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. So, let’s join Gideon as he enters boot camp. What we learn from observing him can help us successfully navigate our own times of spiritual development. Let’s look at the thoughts revealed in these verses and that God’s Commands to Gideon were:
(1) Very Specific
When God speaks to Gideon, it is in the same night that He called him. When God’s puts His hand on a life, He doesn’t waste valuable time. He calls people for specific tasks at specific times. When God calls, He commissions and He sends the called ones out to do His will. The Lord’s command to Gideon is very specific. He is told to take his father’s “second bullock” and to tear down the altar.
Baal was the Canaanite god of fertility and they believed that Baal was responsible for the success or failure of their crops and herds. They did everything in their power to worship Baal and ensure his blessings on them. Gideon was to build an altar to Jehovah and he was to offer the young bull as a burnt offering to the Lord. Since altars to Baal were built on top of prominent hills, this was an act that could not be hidden. Everyone would know what Gideon had done. If they didn’t miss the altar to Baal, they would definitely see the smoke from the altar on top of the rock.
By the way, God’s commands for our lives are not hidden in mystery. His commands for us are just as specific as the commands He gave to Abraham, Moses, Noah, Jonah and now Gideon. To find His will, we simply need to read His Word, abide with Him in prayer and walk humbly with Him. (Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”).
In fact, knowing the will of God is as simple as stated in Micah 6:8, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Gideon was to build his altar and make his sacrifice on top of a hill, because God didn’t want what He was about to do to be hidden away. In the same way, God wants our worship of Him and our service to Him to be done out in the open for all to see. We must never be ashamed of Him and of what He calls us to do. However, many are in our day, and very few are vocal and visible in the worship and work for the Lord. We all should be! May He help us to honor Him by the way we worship and the way we work?
God had two purposes in issuing this command to Gideon. First, God intended to demonstrate His superiority over Baal. Gideon would topple Baal’s altar and Baal would be powerless to stop it from happening. Second, God wanted Gideon to know that God would be with him, regardless of the opposition he faced. This was a small step for Gideon, but it proved to him that God would never forsake him when he was doing the Lord’s will.
God is still accomplishing those same two objectives in our lives. Every time He gives us a command to obey, and we carry it out, He shows a lost world that He is God and that He is worthy to be worshiped. And, every time He uses us to accomplish His will, He reminds us afresh that we are not alone. He reminds us that His hand is on our lives! That is what makes serving Him so special. I don’t have to know what I am doing I just have to do what He tells me and He takes care of the rest. When that happens, He is glorified and I am encouraged!)
I believe the main reason the altar had to be torn down was that it was a hindrance to God’s work being done in Gideon’s family, in his community and in his life. Until that pagan altar was destroyed and the people delivered from the power of Baal, God could not and would not move in power and glory. The same is true in our lives. Until we take the initiative to rid ourselves of the things that hinder our walk with the Lord we will never see God use us like He wants to, (Hebrews 12:1). By extension, that same principle holds true for the church. If we want God’s blessing and power to be upon us and what we do here, we must be clean and free from evil influences.)
This was a command for Gideon to do something that he could do. This was a baby step to prepare him for what he could not do. Gideon had everything he needed for what God was telling him to do; he merely had to do it. All he had to do was follow God by faith. God was using this simple command to prepare Gideon for something far more difficult. God was preparing Gideon to do things that were impossible. Gideon would have never believed God for the impossible, had he not seen the Lord first work in the possible. My brethren, God uses the same strategy with us. When we are first saved, God gives us small tasks that we can accomplish. Before David was called on to face Goliath, he first faced a lion and a bear (1 Samuel 17:32-27). Abraham was taught obedience by first leaving home to follow God. After a while, he was ready to believe God for a baby when he was 100 (Genesis 21:1-3). In just a few more years, Abraham would believe God for a miracle when he was commanded to offer Isaac as a burnt offering, (Genesis 22:5; Hebrews 11:17-19).
Peter denied the Lord the first time he was tested, but he learned to stand in faith and preach the Gospel. (Acts 2). Years later when it came time for Peter to die, he was ready to be crucified upside down. As we prove faithful in the small things, God assigns us greater tasks. When we do those things by His grace, He leads us to do even greater things. That is how He works in each of our lives. Luke 16:10 says, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” Our problem is often that we don’t do the small things He asks us to do, so we are never used by the Lord to do the greater things. When we fail to pray, read the Bible, go to church faithfully, tithe, witness or serve God in all the many areas that are available. My beloved, if we don’t do these things why should we expect God to use us in great ways for His glory? I believe He will never use us in great ways, until we first prove to be trustworthy in the small things of life.
Judges 6:27, “So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.
G. Gideon’s Compliance Displayed His (1) Faith and (2) Fear.
(1) Without hesitation, Gideon did just as he was told to do. He got ten of his servants to help him and he tore down the altar to Baal and he cut down the grove. It was swift and complete obedience to the command of the Lord. So, would we be that willing and ready to do the Lord’s will? Would we jump when He calls and do exactly what He tells us to do? Usually that isn’t how we typically respond is it? Usually, like Moses, we make excuses why we can’t do it. Or, also like Moses, we will suggest that the Lord find someone else to do it. Or, like Jonah, we run from the call of God, knowing full well that our disobedience dishonors Him, and that He will have His way in the end. May the Lord help us to develop a heart like Isaiah’s? When the Lord issued His call in Isaiah’s hearing, Isaiah responded by saying, “Here am I; send me,” Isaiah 6:8. I can’t testify for you, but that is where I want to be!
(2) While Gideon demonstrated faith in doing what the Lord commanded; he demonstrated fear in that he did what he did at night. He tried to hide his obedience to the Lord under the cover of darkness. Verse 26 says “he could do it by day”. Gideon knew that his father, his brothers and the rest of the village would be angry with him for tearing down the altar to Baal. He knew they would probably try to kill him for it. Gideon had faith, but it was small. He allowed fear to control his actions.
I am sure that most of us would be honest enough to say that we serve the Lord out of fear too. Oh, we have the faith to believe Him for what He wants us to do, but we fear our own failures. We fear the consequences of our decisions. We fear the people who know us and live around us. We fear our own inabilities. It is good that we have a realistic opinion of our own abilities, but we must never forget that success in the Lord’s work is not our responsibility. Like David told Goliath, “the battle is the Lord’s”, 1 Samuel 17:47. Success in the Lord’s work is the Lord’s business. Our duty is to submit to Him, allow Him to work through us, and He will accomplish His purposes, (John 15:5; Philippians 4:13) through us.
I’ve been teaching for approximately 25 years and I still get butterflies in my stomach when it comes time to teach. However, I have reached the place where I think I understand my own limitations. I am not capable of doing this thing He has called me to do; however, if I will yield to Him, rest in His power, and allow Him to live through me; the task of teaching is accomplished. I think this was what Paul was talking about in Galatians 2:20, when he said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” That is the ultimate secret to success in spiritual service!
H. Gideon’s Consequences
Gideon’s actions caused uproar in the community. God was pleased by what Gideon did, but He was the only one! We need to be aware that there will be consequences for our actions. When we serve the Lord faithfully and obediently, He will be glorified, but those around us, who have not received the same call we have received, will not understand what we are doing. Let’s take a brief look at the consequences Gideon faced, knowing that we may well face similar consequences when we faithfully serve God.
When the men of the village saw that the altar had been destroyed, they demanded to know who had done it. It wasn’t long until they knew that Gideon had destroyed the altar and the grove. When they found out that Gideon had done this, they went to Gideon’s father and demanded that Gideon be put to death for daring to defy Baal. We are deceiving ourselves if we think that everyone is pleased when we obediently serve the Lord. There will be people all around us who will not understand. Family will feel left out. Unspiritual people will feel threatened. Lost people will accuse us promoting ourselves.
David faced opposition, 1 Samuel 17:28, 33. Jesus faced opposition, John 7:3-5. Paul faced this kind of opposition, Acts 9:26. It stands to reason that we can expect it too. Instead of giving in to those who oppose us, we must obediently follow the Lord in spite of all that some would do to stop us. Let us determine that we will be found faithful, regardless of what others do!
Gideon’s father responds to the attack against his son. I love his response to these men. He basically says, “Will you intercede for Baal? Will you be his savior? If you are still foolish enough to serve Baal, you should be stoned to death as the Law commands! If Baal is really a god, let him come to his own defense. If Baal is real, he shouldn’t need you to help him.” When Gideon took his obedient stand and honored the Lord’s will in his life, God used it to touch his family. The altar of Baal was on Gideon’s father’s land. It was his idol! When Joash saw the faith of his own son, and the inability of Baal to protect himself, he was converted. He was done with idolatry and he was ready to follow the true and living God. In other words, Gideon’s faith was used to deliver his family from spiritual bondage!
The results of our obedience may not be so dramatic, but will use our obedient life to get glory. He could use our obedience to change our family, our church, or our community. As He has in the past, He might use the obedience of a single individual to change the world! I have seen the salvation of one soul in a family change that entire family. I have witnessed as one after another of the members in that family came to faith in Jesus. I have seen God take small acts of obedience, like an offering or some act of kindness, and use it to change someone’s life. Who knows what He might do if we were totally obedient to His will for our lives!
(3) Gideon’s Lack of Experience
One of the greatest benefits of this entire event was in the life of Gideon. All Gideon knew was that the Lord was calling him to do a great work. He was afraid and he was unsure how things would work out. Aren’t we like that many times also!? As Gideon followed the Lord in this matter, he learned that God would walk with him, protect him and give him victory. That information would serve him well as the tasks he would be called to do grew larger. Gideon learned on that day his God and Creator was more than able and more powerful than the false gods of the pagans. He also learned that his God was greater than the enemy, and that his God would keep His Word and protect His servants. My beloved that was valuable information for a future deliverer like Gideon.
Think back when you first became a child of God, we were a lot like Gideon as we followed the Lord by faith. Weren’t you filled with doubts and fears? As God led us along, step by step, and as He gave us victory after victory, our faith was increased and we started trusting Him in even greater things within our lives. As His child He still has work for you to do and a plan that you’re a part of. Those things that God has allowed into your life are a teaching experience. He will use these experiences to teach us about His power, His Mercy, His Grace and His Love for us. He will use the valleys and the mountain tops to train us for greater things in ways we could ever imagine.
God worked in Gideon’s life to train him for a huge task. God cultivated him so that He could use Gideon for His glory. Did you know that He is working in your life also? Did you know that everything that comes your way is part of the training process? So, how are you handling your training? Is there some idol in your life that needs to be torn down before God can use you like He wants to? Is there some fear that holds you back? Are you willing and available to the Lord for His use? Is He speaking to you about His plan for your life? If He is, come to Him today. Place your life, and your all on this altar and watch God use you in a great and wonderful way!
IV. God Accepts Gideon’s Request – (Judges 6:33-40)
In the process of training Gideon to be the next deliverer of Israel God commanded Gideon to destroy an altar to Baal and to build an altar to Jehovah in its place. Gideon passed that test with flying colors. However, the people in his village weren’t very pleased by his actions. They wanted to kill him for what he had done. Gideon’s father stepped in and defended his son’s actions. It would appear that Gideon’s father was challenged by his son’s courage and convicted by his own compromise.
However, after that very public test also came a time of private testing. This second test was not instigated by God, but by Gideon. He had demonstrated great bravery in his public testing, but he sows a clear lack of faith in this time of private testing. Sometimes it is easier to put on a public face and appear to be one person when we are someone totally different in private. When Gideon destroyed that altar to Baal, it was a step of great faith. And, even though Gideon did what he did at night because he feared his family and the members of his village, v. 27, he still did what the Lord told him to do.
In this passage, removed from the public eye, we will see that Gideon is still afraid and unsure. His family and those living in his village have witnessed his courage in public; God will witness his fear in private. In our verses before us we will see the courageous public character of Gideon, and we will also see the fearful private character of Gideon. We will see him challenge the people to follow him into battle, and then we will see him challenge the call of God in private. Before we are finished, we will see ourselves in the person and character of Gideon.
I. Gideon’s Faith
As this scene is opened before our eyes, we see a young Gideon energized and excited from his recent victory, calling Israel to prepare for war. This is the Gideon the Lord saw when He first commissioned him for the task of delivering God’s people (v. 12). So, my beloved, for a brief moment let’s consider the enemies, engagement and energy of Gideon.
It is harvest time in Israel (v. 11). The crops are being gathered in and for the past seven years (v. 1); the Midianites and their allies have used Israel as their own private pantry or grocery store, if you will. They would come in and take the harvest for themselves, leaving the people of Israel destitute and broken (vv. 3-7). This is what is taking place in the verse. The invaders were significant in number. Judges 7:12 gives us some idea of the size of this vast army and according to Judges 8:10 their army numbered around 135,000 men. We are told that the enemies of Israel made their camp in the Valley of Jezrell. This valley was the largest and most fertile valley in all of Israel. Many of the crops that sustained the nation were produced there. So, having the enemy invade and take the harvest from that area would have been a serious blow to the food supplies of the nation.
When the enemy comes, Gideon has the courage to do what no man has done in over seven years. From that period of time, the war trumpets of Israel had been silent. No one in the land had possessed the courage to pick up that trumpet and call the people to war. Gideon appears ready for the task he has been assigned. He places his hand on the trumpet, licks his lips and calls Israel to gather for battle.
Where did he get this kind of courage? We are told that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon”. God took control of Gideon and caused him to sound the war call. This man blowing the trumpet, calling Israel to war is not the same man we met back in Judges 6:11-24. That man was defeated, disillusioned, discouraged and filled with doubt. This man is now decisive, daring, defiant and determined. Something has happened to Gideon and that something is the power of the Spirit of God.
Gideon had a personal encounter with God in verses 11-24. He made a decisive commitment to obey the Lord in verses 25-32. Now, he has come under the control of the Spirit of God (v. 34). When those things take place in a person’s life, they will not be the same. Gideon met God and his life changed. The same principle holds true in our lives today. If we want power to serve the Lord, that power comes only through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are His temple (1 Corinthians 6:19; 3:16; Ephesians 2:21-22). We are to yield control of our lives to His will (Ephesians 5:18).
J. Gideon’s Followers
Let’s take a moment to consider the people who responded to Gideon’s call. We are told that Abi-ezer came to stand with Gideon. This is a reference to Gideon’s own clan. These are the very people who wanted to kill him in v. 30. There had been a change in their attitude toward Gideon. Evidently, his family and those who lived around him adopted Gideon’s reforms. They are a changed people and instead of wanting him dead, they are ready to follow his leadership.
Gideon calls the other tribes living around them to come to the battle. Several of the tribes respond to Gideon’s call. Judges 7:3 tells us that Gideon now has an army of 32,000 men. This seems like a small number when it is compared to the 135,000 man army of their enemies, but as we will see, God doesn’t even need that many to defeat the enemies of His people. Before the dust settles and the enemy is defeated, God will us just 300 men to destroy the vast army of the Midianites.
We are living in a time when our enemies outnumber the people of God. Satan has far more servants at his disposal than the Lord does. However, we shouldn’t be disturbed by that fact. We must remember that when God’s Spirit is in control of God’s people, He enables them to accomplish amazing victories. In Judges 14:14-15 we read about Sampson; thus we must not fear the power of the enemy. We must rest in the power of our Great and Sovereign God who has proven His power in Daniel, stilling storms, multiplying loaves and fish, walking on water and rising from the dead. With a God of such great power leading us and living in us, we are well able to do everything He calls on us to do. We need the attitude of Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:6-9). We need not fear the enemies we face in this world!
K. Gideon’s Fleece
Gideon has displayed great courage in calling the people to war and gathering together his army. That was in public; however, in private, Gideon is still filled with doubts concerning what the Lord is calling him to do. In verses 36 to 40, we will see Gideon’s doubts (v. 36), demands (vs. 37, 39), disobedience (v. 38), and then direction (v. 40).
The key in verse 36 is the word “if”. God had already told Gideon repeatedly what He wanted him to do, (vv. 12, 14, 16). And isn’t that the way it is with us? Over and over, He keeps telling us what we need to do for Him. Gideon isn’t content to simply trust the Lord and take him at his word. He wants some kind of tangible proof that he can see with his own eyes that this is God’s will. In other words, Gideon isn’t willing to walk by faith; he wants to walk by sight too. So he comes up with a test to determine God’s will. In verse 37, he places a piece of sheepskin on the ground and asks the Lord to make the fleece wet and the ground around it dry. God does exactly what Gideon asks him to do (v. 38).
However, this does not satisfy the mind of Gideon, because he knows that a piece of sheepskin is like a sponge. It will soak up all the available moisture in the air around it. So, even though he was able to wring a bowl full of water from the fleece, he still isn’t convinced. So the next night he asks God to reverse the conditions of the test. Make the ground wet and the fleece dry. God does this too. Apparently, this satisfies Gideon because he doesn’t question God’s call again. Of course, he could have just taken God at His Word and he would have arrived at the same place two days earlier. Gideon wasted two precious days playing this fleece game with the Lord.
Gideon faced the same problem we all face in life. He simply lacked the faith to take God at His Word. God told Gideon what He wanted him to do (vv. 12, 14, 16), but Gideon was not willing to simply trust the Lord by faith. God expects His people to walk with Him in humble faith in His Word and His promises (Romans 1:17). When we seek a tangible sign (like Gideon) to determine God’s will, instead of taking Him at His Word, it displeases God (Hebrews 11:6), and causes us to fall into sin (Romans 14:23). We can trust His Word because He has promised to lead us (Psalm 32:8; Psalm 37:23-24).
Another problem is that Gideon’s fleece dictated the terms of God. It wasn’t Gideon’s responsibility to tell the Lord how things would be; but isn’t that how we approach God many times? His responsibility was to simply obey the will of God for his life (like we are to do). Gideon learned that seeking a sign does not solve the problem. He got a wet fleece the first time, but he still wasn’t sure it was the Lord’s work. Did God cause the fleece to be wet, or did the fleece simply draw moisture from the air? Gideon was not better off after the first fleece than he was before. He still had the same promises from the Lord, but he still also possessed the same problem of doubt. When we throw out our fleece before the Lord, and we set the conditions, we are setting ourselves up for doubt.
Just by looking from the outside, it doesn’t look like Gideon will amount to much in the Lord’s work. He is fearful, timid, filled with self-doubt and has more questions than he has answers. However, Gideon is being brought to a place of service. The Lord is willing to take Gideon just like he is and shape and mold him into what He wants him to be (the same applies to us also). God’s Spirit, His Word and His Peace will give you a desire to do what He is leading you to do. And those around you will see the hand of God in your decision. You don’t need a fleece to determine God’s will for your life. You merely need to listen to the Lord. He will speak to you through His Word and by His Spirit, giving you a desire for His will and He will provide you the peace in doing it. Remember that Christ condemned those who was always looking for a sign (Matthew 12:39). So, my beloved where does this study find you?
(1) Are you doing what the Lord wants you to do?
(2) Are you holding back out of a lack of faith in Him?
(3) Are you content to just stand back and watch while others do all the work?
(4) Are you guilty of looking for signs instead of simply taking God at His Word?
(5) Are you making excuses as to why you can’t do what He wants?
Maybe this is day when you’ll throw up the white flag of surrender and trust the Lord to do His most perfect will in your life. My brethren, if He is drawing you to do something, you need to let Him have His way. Hosea 11:4 says, “I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love.” Thank God that He chooses to lead us with “bands of love.” The road we are traveling is often difficult for us, but His leading is gentle. As we trust the quiet voice of His Spirit and apply God’s Eternal Word to our hearts and mind, we will be satisfied.
God holds the future in His hands
With grace sufficient day by day;
Through good or ill He gently leads,
If we but let Him have His way. – Rohrs
God does not ask you to go where He does not lead and He never leads you where His grace will not keep you.