By Faith Gideon... Hebrews 11:32
Hebrews 11:32, “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets…”.
I have wondered how I should approach this section of Hebrews 11. Should we look at each of these individuals or should begin to go faster through this chapter as we approach Hebrews 12? The author of Hebrews admits that time would fail him if he attempted to expound on all of the Old Testament saints and their faith. If I try to address the faith of these men would time fail us too?
Because of some of the good feedback that I have received from many of you I have decided that we will take the time to look at these individuals and the faith that they are commended for having. This morning we are going to consider Gideon and his story which is found in Judges 6-8. We cannot consider everything that is contained in these three chapters, but we will try to focus more on the part of the story that we might know so well in Judges 6.
However, before we do this, I would like to take a moment and recap the story briefly.
God used Gideon to overcome Israel’s enemy. The enemy of Israel was a large group of people who each year would come into their land and plunder the people (6:1-10). They were made up of the Midianites, the Amalakites, and the people of the East (6:3).
After God’s people had been oppressed for seven years the LORD began to raise up Gideon as a judge who would deliver His people (6:1-24). Therefore, when Gideon heard that the Midians had crossed the Jordan he was clothed with the Spirit of the LORD and he sounded the trumpet. Soon the Abiezrites, and the people of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali went up to fight with Gideon (6:33-34).
As the people were being gathered together the LORD performed two signs that would prove to Gideon that the LORD was with him in this battle and that they would have the victory (6:35-40). Then, after all of the Israelites had arrived, 32,000 men in all, the Israelites moved their camp to face their enemy (7:1).
I am sure Gideon was glad that 32,000 men had arrived to fight with him, but I bet he would have wished for even more men to fight against their enemies. Surprisingly, the LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” (7:2)
The LORD knows the propensity of our sinful natures to not give Him glory for what He alone has done! Because of this the LORD began to dismiss the army until only 300 people remained. Then the LORD said to Gideon, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand.” (7:3-7)
Can you imagine the faith that Gideon had to have to obey this command with only 300 soldiers? Even the LORD knew that Gideon might be afraid to go out to battle with just 300 men so He gives Gideon another sign (7:9-15). After Gideon is given this sign, he worshiped the LORD and says to his 300 soldiers, “Arise, for the LORD has given the host of Midian into your hand.” (7:15)
That day the LORD fought for His people and their enemies were defeated. After this great victory the people did NOT immediately worship the LORD as Gideon had done when God had given him the sign before the battle (7:15). No, their first action after their deliverance was to try to make Gideon and his sons their king (8:22). This is a sign of the things that were to come in the future.
However, in this moment Gideon did not allow this to happen but responded wisely by saying, “I will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.” (8:23) But Gideon did ask the people to have all of the gold earrings that they had received as spoil, 1,700 shekels of gold, and he made an ephod of it and placed it in the city. This ephod became a snare to Israel who began to worship it and they devoted themselves to this idolatry fully after Gideon’s death and they did not remember the LORD their God (8:22-35). This is a wonderful story with a sad ending.
This morning I would like to concentrate on the first part of the story that is recorded in Judges 6. If I were to ask you what the theme of Judge is what would you say? Most of you would say that it is summed up in the words, “The people did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 17:6) This book ends with these very words, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (21:25)
Our sin natures will always have a tendency to do what is right in our own eyes. The scriptures testify to this in other places throughout the scriptures. For example, Proverbs 21:2 says, “Every way of a man seems right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.” Proverbs 21:2 shows us that doing what is right in our own eyes is just one half of the equation. Proverbs 21:2 also says that the LORD weighs the heart. The LORD determines what is good, righteous and just. The LORD can see what a man thinks, what his motives are, and He sees if there is faith in the heart of a man which pleases the LORD.
When we turn to the book of Judges, we see that both of these themes are present. Judges testifies that the people “did what was right in their own eyes”. It also testifies that, “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD…” (2:11; 3:7,12; 4:11; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1). This is such a cornerstone sin for us that the Scriptures testify to this sin on virtually every page.
Throughout the Old Testament God’s people continually and stubbornly followed after their own evil heart which led them away from the LORD (Jeremiah 3:17). Yet, God always promised that if they would return to Him and obey His voice that He would heal their faithlessness (Jeremiah 3:12,14, 22,25). We cannot heal ourselves; we need the Great Physician who can heal us from our waywardness.
Today’s Main Point: The means through which the LORD overcomes our propensity to stubbornly follow after the things that seem right in our own eyes is the Scriptures. The Word of God must remain central to all we do, and we must respond to the Word of God with faithful obedience.
Warning: The moment that we put our faith in anything else we will become idolatrous, faithless and immediately become ensnared (8:27).
Therefore: Remember Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
As we turn to Judges 6, we are immediately confronted with the fact that God’s people had done what was right in their own eyes. Let me say that again, “In Judges 6 we are immediately confronted with the fact that God’s people have done what is right in their own eyes”.
Those words ought to strike fear and trembling into the heart of all of us. And yet, it probably does not do that because it is normal for us to live our life according to the way we think and feel. If we were spiritually healthy and maturing in the faith, we would be terrified of living by our own wisdom and understanding.
Because we would not be terrified to read those words, we discover that Judges 6:1 begins with the words that ought to make us tremble in fear, “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” (6:1a) These words are meant to make us confront the seriousness of living according to what seems right to us. What seems right to us is always wrong and evil in the sight of the LORD.
Because God’s people did what was evil in the eyes of the LORD, He gave them into the hands of another nation, and they suffered greatly. Sin always brings destruction. But in Judges 6:1 we discover that God is not passively letting sin slowly bring about the consequences of our sins. No, the LORD is bringing upon His people great suffering and hardship through means of the Midianites so that they will be brought low. He does this so that they will call out to Him for help. This process only takes seven years because the burden that is brought upon them is so severe.
The LORD is disciplining His people (Hebrews 12:7-11). They are being disciplined so that they will learn that the service that is given to others is always difficult, discouraging, and deadening. But service that is given to the LORD is always full of grace and brings us rest, peace, and fulfillment (2 Chronicles 12:8- They shall be servants to him [the king of Egypt], that they may know my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.).
In Judges 6 we see that there is a specific narrative that is followed by the author. For example, in Judges 1:1-10 we are given the immediate cultural context of the days in which Gideon lived. Then in Judges 6:11-24 we read about the time when the LORD gave Gideon his particular calling. Because of our limited time this is as far into the text as we can go this morning.
The first ten verses (6:1-10) are dedicated to explaining why the LORD’s people are suffering. The people have disobeyed the LORD and have worshiped the gods of the Amorites. Therefore, God is giving them over to their enemies as He had promised that He would do if they committed idolatry.
Because of the ‘evil’ that the people have done they are overpowered by Midian, and they are forced to take shelter in the mountains and in caves. Every year the Midianites would come into the land and plunder them by taking all of their crops, their sheep, their oxen and their donkeys. Each time the land was laid waste and Israel was brought ‘very low’.
Eventually this caused the people to begin to cry out to the LORD for help (6). How would you pray to the LORD under these conditions?
Would you pray that the LORD would raise up a great military leader to conquer your enemies?
Would you pray for God to raise up a great king to rule and dominate over your adversaries?
Would you pray for a political leader who could lead you into a time of prosperity?
Would you pray that the LORD would raise up an ambassador to negotiate a deliverance?
Would you pray that the LORD would act quickly to make this happen?
Knowing that this is how we would probably pray we may be shocked to discover that God did not immediately raise up Gideon to be a military general. He did not act quickly to provide for His people a king. He did not bring forward an ambassador to save His people from this heavy affliction.
What did God do for the people when they began to pray to Him? We see how the LORD responds in Judges 6:7-8a, “When the people of Israel cried out to the LORD on account of the Midianites, the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel.”
If you lived at that time would you be happy that you had cried out to the LORD for help and he sent a prophet, a preacher, a teacher of the Word of God? There is part of me that considers this and says, "Seriously, a prophet is given to us while we are under these conditions?!"
Honestly, there would only be one type of person who would be happy with the fact that the LORD has sent this prophet under these conditions. The person who would be happy about this would be the person of faith who took Judges 6:1 seriously, “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD gave them into the hand of Midian for seven years.”
At the root of all of these things that were happening to the people was a spiritual problem. God’s people had neglected His Word and they had become faithless and did what was evil in His sight. Therefore, the LORD sends a preacher to His people. We may think this is crazy, that it is absurd, and it makes no sense to us. However, it makes perfect sense to the person who believes the LORD and His Word and whose heart is ready to respond to these things in faith.
I wonder if God did this in our day how we would respond? Do you think that there are many in our culture who believes that our problems can be addressed by the declaration of the Word of God and responding to it in faith?
No, most want a political leader; not a prophet, they want a military leader; not a minister, they want a president; not the LORD who is King. Many are looking for deliverance through science, by the professional class, the educated class, through the resources of the government, through the wisdom and philosophies of this world. They are not praying to the LORD and looking to hear and respond to the Word of God.
I find it interesting that we are told that the LORD only raised up one prophet during this time. We read these words, “...the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel.” And I find it interesting that this prophet had only one simple message. He said, ““Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you, their land. And I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.” (8-10)
God’s priority was to bring His Word to the people. They probably wanted immediate relief from the Midianites, but they got a sermon. The sermon that the prophet delivered did not promise the people immediate relief; rather, this sermon confronted their sin and faithlessness. The people needed to repent and forsake their sin if they were to have any relief at all. This type of sermon through a faithful minister, when received by faith, brings the grace of God which can be sufficient for us in any situation that we find ourselves in (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
The LORD answered the prayers of His people by raising up one prophet who spoke a faithful message and if the people would receive and respond to His word it will spread quickly throughout the land and bring forth appropriate fruit. But if they reject it the message then it will not be as fruitful, and it would spread throughout the land only travel as fast as this one prophet could get around.
Take courage my friends, if this were to happen it would not be because God’s word had failed. “It is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are His offspring, but ‘through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’” (Romans 9:6-7)
It is only after the LORD sends this prophet that we are then introduced to Gideon in Judges 6:11-24. I find it interesting that Gideon does not receive his calling from this prophet that God had sent. No, it is the LORD who comes and speaks to Gideon. We read in Judges 6:11-12, “Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him…”. This is not how this happens these days.
Hardly a week goes by when I do not hear someone say that they wish they could see the LORD like Gideon does here. This is especially true when someone is experiencing something as difficult as God’s people are experiencing here.
Could God have used the prophet to call Gideon? Yes. Would the call have been any less significant if the LORD had used the prophet to do this? No.
Normally the LORD uses other people to do these things. For example, the call of salvation goes out through ministers, but it is still the LORD who makes that gospel efficacious in the hearts of people. If you have heard the Gospel and responded in repentance and faith, then you have been visited by the LORD in a very real way and special way that you should not discount or look down upon.
We are told in Judges 6:12 that the angel of the LORD comes to Gideon and says, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.” (12) What makes the LORD say that Gideon is a mighty man of valor? I would think it is because he has been one of those faithful people who have cried out to Him and received His word from the prophet that the LORD has sent. This may not be the world’s definition of a mighty man or of valor, but it is the LORD's. Such a person will be empowered by the grace of God.
Gideon does not know that he is having a conversation with the LORD (21-24). The LORD is literally speaking face to face with Gideon, and he does not realize it. The problem is not with his physical eyes, the problem is that Gideon needs to have the eyes of his spirit opened so that he can see Jesus by faith.
I would like to point out that one of the main points of Judges 6-8 is that the LORD will encourage and strengthen Gideon’s faith so that Gideon will know that the LORD is with Him even though He is not seen by him because that is normal life. (6:36-40, 7:9-11) The LORD does this in Gideon as He speaks to Him and tells him that He will be with him as he responds in faith to this calling (6:12, 16). The LORD also does this by giving Gideon proof that He is with Him even when He cannot be seen (6:17-18, 36-40, 7:10).
We all have longed to see the LORD and to know that He is with us as we go throughout this life. By faith we know that it is a blessing to believe upon the LORD even when we cannot see Him. For example, John 20:2 9 says, “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”. We know that the LORD is with us at all times because of the promises that are recorded in places like Hebrews 13:5-6 says, “He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” Like Paul, we know that even if all others abandon us the LORD will never leave us alone (2 Timothy 4:16-17). According to Proverbs 18:24 we know that there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
In Judges 6:13 Gideon responds to the greeting of the LORD by saying, “Please, my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of the Midian.”
Gideon asks a series of questions that seem strange in light of the previous context (1-10). Judges 6:1-10 have answered all of these questions. Does this mean that Gideon did not hear the words of the prophet that God had sent? This seems unlikely.
I like Gideon’s questions because we have all asked these sorts of questions. You have probably heard someone say,
“If the LORD is love, then why would He allow all of this evil to happen?”
“If the LORD is sovereign, then wouldn’t He not have kept these things from happening to us? Wouldn’t He have stopped these things from continuing by now?”
“If the LORD is wise, then why would He allow these things to have come to pass?”
“If these things are happening to me then the LORD has forsaken me, and He has given my life over to these things.”
Gideon does not ask these questions because he does not know the answers to them. He does not ask them in such a way as to be disrespectful and accusative against the LORD. Gideon knows that it is his sins, and the sins of the people, that have brought these things upon them. Yet, over time Gideon may be wondering if anything more will happen than just the sending of this prophet. Will the Word of God be used to raise up God's person for this deliverance?
I believe that Gideon is one of those who has cried out to the LORD for deliverance and he for the LORD to do this. I think Gideon has heard the prophet and so he says to the LORD, “Please, my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of the Midian.” (6:13) He has heard the prophet’s message and the call to repentance, but he has not experienced the grace of knowing that he has been forgiven and that he is at peace with the LORD because he has responded to these things in faith.
This happens for Gideon in Judges 6:17-24. It is only after this happens that Gideon is able to obey the LORD and fulfill the calling that he has been given. In Judges 6:17-24 we read, “And Gideon said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay till you return.” So, Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the terebinth and presented them. And the angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” And he did so. Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.”
When the LORD accepted Gideon’s offering by consuming it with fire and then vanished from his sight. In this moment Gideon became aware for the first time what had been going on around him and in whose presence he had been. It was the LORD who was speaking to him, and he knew that he should die. But the LORD has received his offering and says to him, "Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die."
My friends, how much more significant is the table that has been prepared for you and I to partake in this morning as we celebrate communion? We do not come to a table prepared by us. No, it has been prepared by the LORD Himself. And the offering that we remember and celebrate was the LORD Jesus Christ Himself. The Father has accepted the Son's sacrifice and now says to all who are united to Him by faith, "Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die." Because Christ died, we can truly live.
Today, we have gathered here together to partake in communion. This ordinance was instituted by the LORD on the night that He was betrayed. He suffered on our behalf to remove our sins so that we could have peace with God. Jesus Christ took upon Himself the full penalty and judgment for our sins so that we might enjoy peace with God by having been united to Jesus by faith. The fire that consumed Gideon's offering reminds us of the burning wrath of God that was put upon Jesus so that it could be said to us, "Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die."
On the night that Jesus was betrayed He commanded that His disciples celebrate communion. We take ordinary bread and ordinary juice and consecrate it through thanksgiving and prayer for this holy use. This bread reminds us of the body of Jesus that was given up unto death on a cross for our sins. This juice reminds us of the precious blood of Jesus that was poured out for us for the forgiveness of our sins so that we might be redeemed, reconciled, adopted and given an inheritance by grace alone. Now it can be said to us, "Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die."
In Judges 6:24 we were told that after Gideon experienced all of these things, he built an altar and called it, ‘The LORD is Peace’. Today, as we celebrate communion we come to the foot of the cross and find our salvation and our peace with God in Christ.
As we celebrate this communion, we will receive the grace of God to keep our hearts and minds from wandering to other things and doing what is right in our own eyes. This happened to Gideon (8:27). We come to celebrate communion today, and we will return here again and again. We can find grace in no other person than in Jesus Christ. It would be folly for us, like Gideon, to create any other memorial. All such things will not lead us to Christ. They can only take us away from Him. By faith we come to communion and receive mercy and grace as we worship Christ our Great High Priest who intercedes for us before the Father.
May we hear through the Holy Spirit today speak to our hearts as we celebrate Christ, "Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die."