Gideon – Judges 7

A faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted. Too often, what people think is faith is really only a “warm fuzzy feeling” about faith or perhaps just “faith in faith

J.G. Stipe said that faith is like a toothbrush: Everybody should have one and use it regularly, but it isn’t safe to use somebody else’s. We can sing loudly about the “Faith of Our Fathers,” but we can’t exercise the faith of our fathers. We can follow men and women of faith and share in their exploits, but we can’t succeed in our own personal lives by depending on somebody else’s faith.

God tests our faith for at least two reasons: first, to show us whether our faith is real or counterfeit, and second, to strengthen our faith for the tasks He’s set before us. I’ve noticed in my own life and ministry that God has often put us through the valley of testing before allowing us to reach the mountain peak of victory. Spurgeon was right when he said that the promises of God shine brightest in the furnace of affliction, and it is in claiming those promises that we gain the victory.

  1. God tests our faith (Judg. 7:1-8)

The first sifting (vv. 1-3). God tested Gideon’s faith by sifting his army of 32,000 volunteers until only 300 men were left. If Gideon’s faith had been in the size of his army, then his faith would have been very weak by the time God was through with them! Less than 1 percent of the original 32,000 ended up following Gideon to the battlefield. The words of Winston Churchill concerning the RAF in World War II certainly applies to Gideon’s 300: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed to so few by so many.”

God told Gideon why He was decreasing the size of the army: He didn’t want the soldiers to boast that they had won the victory over the Midianites. Victories won because of faith bring glory to God because nobody can explain how they happened.

People who live by faith know their own weakness more and more as they depend on God’s strength. “For when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

In telling the fearful soldiers to return home, Gideon was simply obeying the law Moses originally gave: “What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart” (Deut. 20:8, nkjv). “The fearful and trembling man God cannot use,” said G. Campbell Morgan. “The trouble today is that the fearful and trembling man insists upon remaining in the army. A decrease that sifts the ranks of the church of men who fear and tremble is a great, a gracious and a glorious gain”

Pride after the battle robs God of glory, and fear during the battle robs God’s soldiers of courage and power. Fear has a way of spreading, and one timid soldier can do more damage than a whole company of enemy soldiers. Fear and faith can’t live together very long in the same heart. Either fear will conquer faith and we’ll quit, or faith will conquer fear and we’ll triumph. John Wesley may have been thinking of Gideon’s army when he said, “Give me a hundred men who fear nothing but sin and love nothing but God, and I will shake the gates of hell!”

The second sifting (vv. 4-8). God put Gideon’s surviving 10,000 men through a second test by asking them all to take a drink down at the river. We never know when God is testing us in some ordinary experience of life. I heard about one minister who always took a drive with a prospective pastoral staff member in the other man’s car, just to see if the car was neat and if the man drove carefully. Whether or not neatness and careful driving habits are always a guarantee of ministerial success is debatable, but the lesson is worth considering. More than one prospective employee has ruined his or her chances for a job while having lunch with the boss, not realizing they were being evaluated. “Make every occasion a great occasion, for you can never tell when somebody may be taking your measure for a larger place.” That was said by a man named Marsden; and I’ve had the quotation, now yellow with age, under the glass on my desk for many years. Pondering it from time to time has done me good.

What significance was there in the two different ways the men drank from the river? Since the Scriptures don’t tell us, we’d be wise not to read into the text some weighty spiritual lesson that God never put there. Most expositors say the men who bowed down to drink were making themselves vulnerable to the enemy, while the 300 who lapped water from their hands stayed alert. But the enemy was four miles away (v. 1), waiting to see what the Jews would do; and Gideon wouldn’t have led his men into a dangerous situation like that.

My assumption is that God chose this method of sifting the army because it was simple, unassuming (no soldier knew he was being tested), and easy to apply. We shouldn’t think that all 10,000 drank at one time, because that would have stretched the army out along the water for a couple of miles. Since the men undoubtedly came to the water by groups, Gideon was able to watch them and identify the 300. It wasn’t until after the event that the men discovered they had been tested.

There is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few (1 Sam. 14:6). Some churches today are mesmerized by statistics and think they’re strong because they’re big and wealthy, but numbers are no guarantee of God’s blessing. Moses assured the Jews that if they would obey the Lord, one soldier could chase a thousand and two would “put ten thousand to flight” (Deut. 32:30).

It is clear from 7:14 that the Midianites knew who Gideon was, and no doubt they were watching what he was doing. I’ve often wondered what the enemy spies thought when they saw the Jewish army seemingly fall apart. Did it make the Midianites overconfident and therefore less careful? Or did their leaders become even more alert, wondering whether Gideon was setting them up for a tricky piece of strategy?

God graciously gave Gideon one more promise of victory:

“By the 300 men that lapped will I save you” (v. 7). By claiming this promise and obeying the Lord’s directions, Gideon defeated the enemy and brought peace to the land for forty years (8:28).

The soldiers who departed left some of their equipment with the 300 men thus each man could have a torch, a trumpet, and a jar—strange weapons indeed for fighting a war.

  1. God encourages our faith (Judg. 7:9-15)

The Lord wanted Gideon and his 300 men to attack the camp of Midian that night, but first He had to deal with the fear that still persisted in Gideon’s heart. God had already told Gideon three times that He would give Israel victory (6:14, 16; 7:7), and He had reassured him by giving him three special signs: fire from the rock (6:19-21), the wet fleece (6:36-38), and the dry fleece (6:39-40). After all this divine help, Gideon should have been strong in his faith, but such was not the case.

How grateful we should be that God understands us and doesn’t condemn us because we have doubts and fears! He keeps giving us wisdom and doesn’t scold us when we keep asking (James 1:5). Our great High Priest in heaven sympathizes with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:14-16) and keeps giving us more grace (James 4:6). God remembers that we’re only dust (Ps. 103:14) and flesh (78:39).

God encouraged Gideon’s faith in two ways.

God gave Gideon another promise (v. 9). The Lord told Gideon for the fourth time that He had delivered the Midianite host into his hand. (Note the tense of the verb, and see Josh. 6:2.) Although the battle must be fought, Israel had already won! The 300 men could attack the enemy host confident that Israel was the victor.

Some people have the idea that confident, courageous faith is a kind of religious arrogance, but just the opposite is true.

Christians who believe God’s promises and see Him do great things are humbled to know that the God of the universe cares about them and is on their side. They claim no merit in their faith or honor from their victories. All the glory goes to the Lord because He did it all! It’s the unbelieving child of God who grieves the Lord and makes Him a liar (1 John 5:10).

Hope and love are important Christian virtues, but the Holy Spirit devoted an entire chapter in the New Testament—Hebrews 11—to the victories of faith won by ordinary people who dared to believe God and act upon His promises. It may be a cliche to some people, but the old formula is still true: “God says it—I believe it—that settles it!”

God gave Gideon another sign (vv. 10-14). It took courage for Gideon and his servant to move into enemy territory and get close enough to the Midianite camp to overhear the conversation of two soldiers. God had given one of the soldiers a dream, and that dream told Gideon that God would deliver the Midianites into his hand. The Lord had already told Gideon this fact, but now Gideon heard it from the lips of the enemy!

It’s significant that Gideon paused to worship the Lord before he did anything else. He was so overwhelmed by the Lord’s goodness and mercy that he fell on his face in submission and gratitude. Joshua did the same thing before taking the city of Jericho (Josh. 5:13-15), and it’s a good practice for us to follow today. Before we can be successful warriors, we must first become sincere worshipers.

  1. God honors our faith. (Judg. 7:15-25)

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6, nkjv). Faith means more than simply trusting God; it also means seeking God and wanting to please Him. We don’t trust God just to get Him to do things for us. We trust Him because it brings joy to His heart when His children rely on Him, seek Him, and please Him.

How did God reward Gideon’s faith?

God gave him wisdom to prepare the army (7:15-18). Gideon was a new man when he and his servant returned to the Israelite camp. His fears and doubts were gone as he mobilized his small army and infused courage into their hearts by what he said and did. “The Lord has delivered the camp of Midian into your hand,” he announced to the men (v. 15, nkjv). As Vance Havner said, faith sees the invisible (victory in a battle not yet fought) and does the impossible (wins the battle with few men and peculiar weapons).

Gideon’s plan was simple but effective. He gave each of his men a trumpet to blow, a jar to break, and a torch to burn. They would encircle the enemy camp, the torches inside the jars and their trumpets in their hands. The trumpets were rams’ horns (the shofar) such as Joshua used at Jericho, and perhaps this connection with that great victory helped encourage Gideon and his men as they faced the battle. At Gideon’s signal, the men would blow the trumpets, break the pitchers, reveal the lights, and then shout, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” God would do the rest.

Gideon was the example for them to follow. “Watch me…. Follow my lead…. Do exactly as I do” (v. 17, niv). Gideon had come a long way since the day God had found him hiding in the winepress! No longer do we hear him asking “If—why—where?” (6:13) No longer does he seek for a sign. Instead, he confidently gave orders to his men, knowing that the Lord would give them the victory.

It has been well said that the Good News of the Gospel is we don’t have to stay the way we are. Through faith in Jesus Christ, anybody can be changed. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17, nkjv).

Jesus said to Andrew’s brother, “You are Simon [“a hearer”]…. You shall be called Cephas [“a stone”]” (John 1:42, nkjv). “You are—you shall be!” That’s good news for anybody who wants a new start in life. God can take a weak piece of clay like Simon and make a rock out of him! God can take a doubter like Gideon and make a general out of him!

God gave him courage to lead the army (vv. 19-22). Gideon led his small army from the Spring of Harod (“trembling”) to the Valley of Jezreel, where they all took their places around the camp. At Gideon’s signal, they all blew their rams’ horns, broke the jars, and shouted, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” Finding themselves surrounded by sudden light and loud noises, the Midianites assumed that they were being attacked by a large army, and the result was panic. The Lord intervened and put a spirit of confusion in the camp, and the Midianites began to kill each other. Then they realized that the safest thing to do was flee. Thus they took off on the caravan route to the southeast with the Israelite army pursuing.

God gave him opportunity to enlarge the army (vv. 23-25). It was obvious that 300 men couldn’t pursue thousands of enemy soldiers, so Gideon sent out a call for more volunteers. I’m sure that many of the men from the original army of 32,000 responded to Gideon’s call, and even the proud tribe of Ephraim came to his aid. To them was given the honor of capturing and slaying Oreb (“raven”) and Zeeb (“wolf”), the two princes of Midian. The story of Gideon began with a man hiding in a winepress (6:11), but it ended with the enemy prince being slain at a winepress.

Gideon’s great victory over the Midianites became a landmark event in the history of Israel, not unlike the Battle of Waterloo for Great Britain, for it reminded the Jews of God’s power to deliver them from their enemies. The day of Midian was a great day that Israel would never forget (Ps. 83:11; Isa. 9:4; 10:26).

The church today can also learn from this event and be encouraged by it. God doesn’t need large numbers to accomplish His purposes, nor does He need especially gifted leaders. Gideon and his 300 men were available for God to use, and He enabled them to conquer the enemy and bring peace to the land. When the church starts to depend on “bigness”—big buildings, big crowds, big budgets—then faith becomes misplaced, and God can’t give His blessing. When leaders depend on their education, skill, and experience rather than in God, then God abandons them and looks for a Gideon.

The important thing is for us to be available for God to use just as He sees fit. We may not fully understand His plans but we can fully trust His promises; and it’s faith in Him that gives the victory.

To view other posts, about Gideon, see: How to Fight Against Fear, God Will Test You or We Can Be Transformed By God.


Message Audio/Video and Outline:

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

Sources: Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – History.

Life Application Bible Study Notes

Posted in Judges | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gideon – Judges 6


What if you have a garden, and you work hard all spring and summer to make that garden produce abundantly. But every year, just about the time you’re ready to gather in the harvest, your neighbors swoop down and take your produce away from you by force. This goes on year after year, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

If you can imagine that scenario, then you’ll have some idea of the suffering the Jews experienced every harvest when the Midianites made their annual raids. For seven years, God allowed the Midianites and their allies to ravage “the land of milk and honey,” leaving the people in the deepest poverty.

About the time of the eighth Midianite invasion, God called a farmer in Manasseh named Gideon to become the deliverer of His people. Gideon started his career as somewhat of a coward (Judg. 6), then became a conqueror (7:1-8:21). But more space is devoted to Gideon in the Book of Judges (100 verses) than to any other judge; and Gideon is the only judge whose personal struggles with his faith are recorded. Gideon is a great encouragement to people who have a hard time accepting themselves and believing that God can make anything out of them or do anything with them.

Before the Lord could use Gideon in His service, He had to deal with four doubts that plagued him and were obstacles to his faith. These doubts can be expressed in four questions.

  1. “Does God really care about us?” (Judg. 6:1-13)

The Lord has forsaken us!” was Gideon’s response to the Lord’s message (v. 13, nkjv); and yet the Lord had given Israel proof of His personal concern.

He had disciplined them (vv. 1-6).My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:11-12, nkjv; and see Heb. 12:5-11). Charles Spurgeon said, “The Lord does not permit His children to sin successfully.” God is not a “permissive parent” who allows His children to do as they please, for His ultimate purpose is that they might be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). The Father wants to be able to look at each member of His spiritual family and say, “This is My beloved child, in whom I am well pleased” (see Matt. 3:17; 12:18; 17:5).

Discipline is evidence of God’s sorrow for sin and His love for His people. Obedience to the Lord builds character, but sin destroys character; and God cannot sit idly by and watch His children destroy themselves.

Israel had already experienced forty-three years of suffering under the harsh rule of the neighboring nations, but they hadn’t yet learned their lesson and turned away from the heathen idols. Unless our suffering leads to repentance, it accomplishes no lasting good; and unless our repentance is evidence of a holy desire to turn from sin, not just escape from pain, repentance is only remorse. Discipline assures us that we are truly God’s children, that our Father loves us, and that we can’t get away with rebellion.

The Midianites organized a coalition of nations to invade the land (Judg. 6:3), and all that Israel could do was flee to the hills and hide from the enemy. When the Jews returned to their homes, they found only devastation; and they had to face another year without adequate food.

He had rebuked them (vv. 7-10). Previous to this, an angel of the Lord, probably the Son of God, had come to Bochim to reprove Israel for her sins (2:1-5); and now an unnamed prophet came to repeat the message. Often in the Old Testament, when the Lord denounced His people for their disobedience, He reminded them of the wonderful way He had delivered them from Egypt. He also reminded them of His generosity in giving them the land and helping them overcome their enemies. If the Jews were suffering from Gentile bondage, it wasn’t God’s fault! He had given them everything they needed.

When you read the New Testament epistles, you can’t help but notice that the apostles took the same approach when they admonished the believers to whom they wrote. The apostles repeatedly reminded the Christians that God had saved them so that they might live obediently and serve the Lord faithfully. As God’s children, they were to walk worthy of their high and heavenly calling (Eph. 4:1) and live like people who were seated with Christ in glory (Col. 3:lff). The motive for Christian living is not that we might gain something we don’t have but that we might live up to what we already have in Christ.

The purpose of chastening is to make God’s children willing to listen to God’s Word. Often after spanking a child, parents will reassure the child of their love and then gently admonish the child to listen to what they say and obey it. God speaks to His children, either through the loving voice of Scripture or the heavy hand of chastening; and if we ignore the first, we must endure the second. One way or another, the Lord is going to get our attention and deal with us.

Now He came down to help them (vv. 11-13). The people were crying out to the Lord for help (6:7), as people usually do when they’re in trouble. The Israelites gave no evidence of real repentance, but their affliction moved God’s loving heart. “In all their affliction He was afflicted” (Isa. 63:9). “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Ps. 103:10, niv). God in His mercy doesn’t give us what we do deserve; and in His grace, He gives us what we don’t deserve.

When you consider the kind of man Gideon was at this time, you wonder why God selected him; but God often chooses the “weak things of this world” to accomplish great things for His glory (1 Cor. 1:26-29). Gideon’s family worshiped Baal (Judg. 6:25-32), although we have no reason to believe that Gideon joined them. When Gideon called himself “the least in my father’s house” (v. 15), he may have been suggesting that his family treated him like an outcast because he didn’t worship Baal. Gideon wasn’t a man of strong faith or courage, and God had to patiently work with him to prepare him for leadership. God is always ready to make us what we ought to be if we’re willing to submit to His will (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:12-13).

Gideon’s negative response to the Lord’s words indicates his lack of faith and spiritual perception. Here was Almighty God telling him that He was with him and would make him a conqueror, and Gideon replied by denying everything God said! God would have to spend time with Gideon turning his question marks into exclamation points. Gideon was living by sight, not by faith, and had he remained that way he would never have been named among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11.

  1. “Does God know what He’s doing?” (Judg. 6:14-24)

Gideon’s first response was to question God’s concern for His people, but then he questioned God’s wisdom in choosing him to be the nation’s deliverer. The Lord’s statements recorded in verses 12 and 14 should have given Gideon all the assurance he needed, but he wouldn’t believe God’s Word. In this he was like Moses (Ex. 3:7-12), whose story Gideon surely knew since he was acquainted with Hebrew history (Judg. 6:13).

It has often been said that “God’s commandments are God’s enablements.” Once God has called and commissioned us, all we have to do is obey Him by faith, and He will do the rest. God cannot lie and God never fails. Faith means obeying God in spite of what we see, how we feel, or what the consequences might be. Our modern “practical” world laughs at faith without realizing that people live by faith all day long. “If there was no faith, there would be no living in this world,” wrote humorist John Billings nearly a century ago. “We couldn’t even eat hash with safety.”

Gideon’s statement about the poverty of his family is a bit perplexing in light of the fact that he had ten servants who assisted him (v. 27). It may be that the clan of Abiezer, to which Gideon’s family belonged, was not an important clan in Manasseh; or perhaps Gideon’s statement was simply the standard way to respond to a compliment, as when people used to sign their letters “Your Obedient Servant.” In any event, Gideon seemed to think that God could do nothing because he and his family were nothing.

Once God has revealed His will to us, we must never question His wisdom or argue with His plans. “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?” (Rom. 11:34, niv; see Isa. 40:13 and 1 Cor. 2:16) “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?” (Job 11:7, nkjv) A.W. Tozer wrote, “All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time.” That being true, who are we to question Him?

When you review God’s gracious promises to Gideon, you wonder why this young man wavered in his faith. God promised to be with him. God called him a “mighty man of valor” and promised that he would save Israel from the Midianites and smite them “as one man.” God’s Word is “the word of faith” (Rom. 10:8), and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). But Gideon didn’t receive that Word and needed assurance beyond the character of Almighty God.

Gideon asked for a sign to assure him that it was really the Lord who was speaking to him (1 Cor. 1:22), and the Lord was gracious to accommodate Himself to Gideon’s unbelief. Gideon prepared a sacrifice, which was a costly thing to do at a time when food was scarce. An ephah of flour was about a half a bushel, enough to make bread for a family for several days. It probably took him an hour to dress the meat and prepare the unleavened cakes, but God waited for him to return and then consumed the offering by bringing fire from the rock.

The sudden appearance of the fire and disappearance of the visitor convinced Gideon that indeed he had seen God and spoken to Him, and this frightened him even more. Since the Jews believed it was fatal for sinful man to look upon God, Gideon was sure he would die. The human heart is indeed deceitful: Gideon asked to see a sign, and after seeing it, he was sure that the God who gave him the sign would now kill him! There is always “joy and peace in believing” (Rom. 15:13), but unbelief brings fear and worry.

God had to give Gideon a message of peace to prepare him for fighting a war. Unless we’re at peace with God, we can’t face the enemy with confidence and fight the Lord’s battles. It was customary for the Jews to identify special events and places by putting up monuments, so Gideon built an altar and called it “The Lord is peace.” The Hebrew word for “peace” (shalom) means much more than a cessation of hostilities but carries with it the ideas of well-being, health, and prosperity. Gideon now believed the Lord was able to use him, not because of who he was, but because of who God was.

Whenever God calls us to a task that we think is beyond us, we must be careful to look to God and not to ourselves. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” God asked Abraham (Gen. 18:14); and the answer comes, “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). Job discovered that God could do everything (Job 42:2), and Jeremiah admitted that there was nothing too hard for God (Jer. 32:17). Jesus told His disciples, “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26); and Paul testified, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13, nkjv).

  1. “Will God take care of me?” (Judg. 6:25-32)

What kind of a day did Gideon have after his dramatic meeting with the Lord? Remember, he belonged to a family that worshiped Baal; and if he challenged the Midianites in the name of the Lord, it meant defying his father, his family, his neighbors, and the multitudes of people in Israel who were worshiping Baal. My guess is that Gideon had his emotional ups and downs that day, rejoicing that God was planning to deliver Israel, but trembling at the thought of being named the leader of the army.

Knowing that Gideon was still afraid, God assigned him a task right at home to show him that He would see him through. After all, if we don’t practice our faith at home, how can we practice it sincerely anyplace else? Gideon had to take his stand in his own village before he dared to face the enemy on the battlefield.

Before God gives His servants great victories in public, He sometimes prepares them by giving them smaller victories at home. Before David killed the giant Goliath in the sight of two armies, he learned to trust God by killing a lion and a bear in the field where nobody saw it but God (1 Sam. 17:32-37). When we prove that we’re faithful with a few things, God will trust us with greater things (Matt. 25:21).

The assignment wasn’t an easy one. God told him to destroy the altar dedicated to Baal, build an altar to the Lord, and sacrifice one of his father’s valuable bullocks, using the wood of the Asherah pole for fuel. Jewish altars were made of uncut stones and were simple, but Baal’s altars were elaborate and next to them was a wooden pillar (“grove,” Judg. 6:26; “Asherah pole,” niv) dedicated to the goddess Asherah, whose worship involved unspeakably vile practices. Since altars to Baal were built on high places, it would have been difficult to obey God’s orders without attracting attention.

Gideon had every right to destroy Baal worship because this is what God had commanded in His Law (Ex. 34:12-13; Deut. 7:5). For that matter, he had the right to stone everybody who was involved in Baal worship (Deut. 13), but God didn’t include that in His instructions.

Gideon decided to obey the Lord at night when the village was asleep. This showed his fear (Judg. 6:27); he wasn’t sure God could or would see him through. “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:40, nkjv) “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid” (Isa. 12:2, nkjv). After all the encouragements God had given him, Gideon’s faith should have been strong; but before we judge him, we’d better look at ourselves and see how much we trust the Lord.

It’s worth noting that true believers can’t build an altar to the Lord unless first they tear down the altars they’ve built to the false gods they worship. Our God is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5) and will not share His glory or our love with another. Gideon had privately built his own altar to the Lord (Jud 6:24), but now he had to take his public stand; and he had to do it without compromise. Before he could declare war on Midian, he had to declare war on Baal.

When ten other men are involved, it’s not easy to keep your plans a secret; so it wasn’t long before the whole town knew that Gideon was the one who had destroyed his father’s idols. The men of the city considered this a capital offense and wanted to kill Gideon. (According to God’s law, it was the idol-worshipers who should have been slain! See Deut. 13:6-9.) Gideon was no doubt wondering what would happen to him, but God proved Himself well able to handle the situation.

Joash, Gideon’s father, had every reason to be angry with his son. Gideon had smashed his father’s altar to Baal and replaced it with an altar to Jehovah. He had sacrificed his father’s prize bull to the Lord and had used the sacred Asherah pole for fuel. (See Isa. 44:13-20.) But God so worked in Joash’s heart that he defended Gideon before the town mob and even insulted Baal! “What kind of a god is Baal that he can’t even defend himself?” asked Joash. (Elijah would take a similar approach years later. See 1 Kings 18:27.) “What kind of a god is Baal that he can’t even plead his own cause?” Joash asked.’ Because of this, the men of the town gave Gideon the nickname “Jerubbaal,” which means “let Baal contend” or “Baal’s antagonist.”

Often the unbelieving world gives demeaning nicknames to faithful servants of God. D.L. Moody was known as “Crazy Moody” when he was building his famous Sunday school in Chicago, but nobody would call him that today; and Charles Spurgeon was frequently lampooned and caricatured in the British press. If we are given nicknames because we honor the name of Jesus, then let’s wear them like medals and keep on glorifying Him!

Gideon learned a valuable lesson that day: If he obeyed the Lord, even with fear in his heart, the Lord would protect him and receive the glory. Gideon needed to remember this as he mustered his army and prepared to attack the enemy.

  1. “Does God keep His promises?” (Judg. 6:33-40)

The Midianites and their allies made their annual invasion about that time as more than 135,000 men (8:10; 7:12) moved into the Valley of Jezreel. It was time for Gideon to act, and the Spirit of God gave him the wisdom and power that he needed. (See Judg. 3:10; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14.) As we seek to do God’s will, His Word to us is always, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit” (Zech. 4:6).

Gideon blew the trumpet first in his own hometown, and the men of Abiezer rallied behind him. Gideon’s reformation in the town had actually accomplished something! Then he sent messengers throughout his own tribe of Manasseh as well as the neighboring tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. These four tribes were near the Valley of Jezreel, and therefore the invading army affected them most. Thus at Gideon’s call, 32,000 men responded.

But what chance did 32,000 men have against an army of 135,000 men plus numberless camels? (Judg. 7:12) This is the first mention in the Bible of camels being used in warfare, and certainly they would have given their riders speed and mobility on the battlefield. The Jews were outnumbered and would certainly be out-maneuvered, except for one thing: Jehovah God was on their side, and He had promised them victory.

Nevertheless, Gideon doubted God’s promise. Did God really want him to lead the Jewish army? What did he know about warfare? After all, he was only an ordinary farmer; and there were others in the tribes who could do a much better job. So, before he led the attack, he asked God to give him two more signs.

The phrase “putting out the fleece” is a familiar one in religious circles. It means asking God to guide us in a decision by fulfilling some condition that we lay down. In my pastoral ministry, I’ve met all kinds of people who have gotten themselves into trouble by “putting out the fleece.” If they received a phone call at a certain hour from a certain person, God was telling them to do this; or if the weather changed at a certain time, God was telling them to do something else.

“Putting out the fleece” is not a biblical method for determining the will of God. Rather, it’s an approach used by people like Gideon who lack the faith to trust God to do what He said He would do. Twice Gideon reminded God of what He had said (6:36-37), and twice Gideon asked God to reaffirm His promises with a miracle. The fact that God stooped to Gideon’s weakness only proves that He’s a gracious God who understands how we’re made (Ps. 103:14). Who are we to tell God what conditions He must meet, especially when He has already spoken to us in His Word? “Putting out the fleece” is not only an evidence of our unbelief, but it’s also an evidence of our pride. God has to do what I tell Him to do before I’ll do what He tells me to do!

Gideon spent two days playing the fleece game with God at the threshing floor. The first night, he asked God to make the fleece wet but keep the ground dry (in this incident the Bible uses “floor” and “ground” interchangeably) and God did it. The second night, the test was much harder; for he wanted the threshing floor to be wet but the fleece dry. The ground of a threshing floor is ordinarily very hard and normally would not be greatly affected by the dew. But the next morning, Gideon found dry fleece but wet ground.

There was nothing for Gideon to do but to confront the enemy and trust God for the victory. “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4, nkjv).

In the next post, we’ll continue Gideon’s story in Judges chapter 7.

To view other posts, about Gideon, see: How to Fight Against Fear, God Will Test You or We Can Be Transformed By God.



Message Audio/Video and Outline:

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

Sources: Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – History.
Life Application Study Bible.

Posted in Judges | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deborah – Part 2 – Judges 5

Gaining the victory, triumphing over, conquering some problem or difficulty is a great motivating factor in life. Once a conquest has been made, the human heart is aroused to rejoice in the victory achieved. This is the experience described in the present passage of Scripture. The great judge of Israel, Deborah, and the commander of the armed forces, Barak, had just led the Israelites in an impossible victory over the mighty army of the Canaanites. For eighteen long years, the Canaanites had held the Israelites in the bondage of slavery and brutal oppression. But God had raised up Deborah and Barak to break the back of the enemy and set the Israelites free from the cruel oppression. A great victory had been achieved over a far, far superior force.

God called the army to assemble and victory would be assured but Barak said, “I will go if you go.”

How did Deborah command such respect? She was responsible for leading the people into battle, but more than that, she influenced them to live for God after the battle was over. Her personality drew people together and commanded the respect of even Barak, a military general. She was also a prophet, whose main role was to encourage the people to obey God. Those who lead must not forget about the spiritual condition of those being led. A true leader is concerned for persons, not just success.

In Chapter 5, after God’s victory,  Barak and Deborah sang praises to God. Songs of praise focus our attention on God, give us an outlet for spiritual celebration, and remind us of God’s faithfulness and character. Whether you are experiencing a great victory or a major dilemma, singing praises to God can have a positive effect on your attitude.

The song of Deborah is a rousing declaration of praise to God. The hearts of Deborah and Barak break forth spontaneously in an emotional outburst of praise and thanksgiving to God for the victory. It was God who had stirred the courage within the Israelites to stand against such a formidable enemy. And it was God who had used nature to burst forth in a thunderstorm, a downpour of rain that swelled the banks of the river and engulfed the enemy with its 900 chariots. It was God who had caused chaos and confusion among the enemy troops and stricken them with panic, causing them to flee from the pursuing Israelite soldiers. Praise and thanksgiving were to be lifted up to God. He was deserving. And the people’s hearts were filled with praise, in particular, the hearts of Deborah and Barak.

The song of Deborah is a magnificent song of victory. It is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving, a song that lifts up the name of the Lord God who gives His people victory over all their enemies.

Wise leaders are rare. They accomplish great amounts of work without direct involvement because they know how to work through other people. They are able to see the big picture that often escapes those directly involved, so they make good mediators, advisers, and planners. Deborah fit this description perfectly. She had all these leadership skills, and she had a remarkable relationship with God. The insight and confidence God gave this woman placed her in a unique position in the Old Testament. Deborah is among the outstanding women of history.

Her story shows that she was not power hungry. She wanted to serve God. Whenever praise came her way, she gave God the credit. She didn’t deny or resist her position in the culture as a woman and wife, but she never allowed herself to be hindered by it either. Her story shows that God can accomplish great things through people who are willing to be led by him.

Deborah’s life challenges us in several ways. She reminds us of the need to be available both to God and to others. She encourages us to spend our efforts on what we can do rather than on worrying about what we can’t do. Deborah challenges us to be wise leaders. She demonstrates what a person can accomplish when God is in control.



Message Audio/Video and Outline:

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

Posted in Judges | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deborah – A Remarkable Woman – Judges 4

Is there a woman in your life that you highly respect?  A woman that is dedicated, hardworking and faith filled?  For me it’s my mom and my wife Niki.  Today we will look at a remarkable woman who can teach us all some great truths about how to live.  Deborah is one of most interesting women in scripture.  She was a judge, a prophet, a wife, mother, a warrior and a poet.   As we continue in the book of Judges we will learn from her, her courage, faith and leadership.

Her story is told in Judges 4, and this is how she is introduced in Judges 4:4-5, “Deborah, the wife of Lapidoth, was a prophet who had become a judge in Israel.  She would hold court under the Palm of Deborah (which was obviously named after her). . .and the Israelites came to her to settle their disputes.”   Deborah lived in Israel in a time after Moses’ but a time before they had kings, so they would have a judge, someone who was very wise and was respected who would often sit out in front of the city at the city gate.  Deborah sat under a palm tree and people would come to her and they would bring their disputes and their settlements and she would make a decision and whatever she said, they would live by.”

Deborah is the very first and only female judge recorded in the Bible.  This is incredible because this was a male dominated society.  Women in those times didn’t have the rights and weren’t respected as much as men were.  So for her to become the judge, and to lead eventually the entire nation of Israel, she had to be a godly woman of great respect, of great wisdom and of great courage.

During Deborah’s time, the Israelites were being oppressed by a group of people called the Canaanites.  The Canaanites had a military general named Sisera who had 900 iron chariots to oppress God’s people.  God came to Deborah one day as she sat under her palm tree, judging the people.  He told her to send the army to go meet Sisera. God told her—“I will bring victory if you do that.”  So Deborah calls the commander of the Israelite army whose name was Barak.  She calls him over and says—“God has told me that he will give us victory if you will go and meet Sisera.”  And Barak, the military commander’s response to her was, “Yeah, that’s not a good idea!  I don’t necessarily want to go by myself, but I’ll go if you go.”  And Deborah says, “okay, I’ll go.”  But then she tells him—“if I go and I lead the army, you are not going to get any of the glory from this battle.  All the glory is going to be given to a woman.”  They agree and Deborah helps lead the army into battle.  Just as God said, He brought victory to the Israelite army and Deborah was held as a hero.  And she went down in history for helping remove the Canaanites from oppressing the Israelites.

What made Deborah truly amazing was her faith, courage and her leadership.  She was the first female judge in Israel.  Even though she had no military training whatsoever, she was able to rally the general into battle.  I believe, that she was fearful as she was out of our comfort zone and very uncertain, but she believed God and she stepped out anyway.

We may not be ruling a country.  We might not be leading an army, but we face decisions, we face circumstances and things that happen every day, every week of our lives that require courage.  They require us to step out, even though we are afraid and uncertain.  By looking at Deborah’s example, we can learn what made her remarkable in the face of fear and difficulties.

Willingly believe God

 6 One day she sent for Barak…. She said to him, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: Call out 10,000 warriors from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun at Mount Tabor. 7 And I will call out Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, along with his chariots and warriors, to the Kishon River. There I will give you victory over him.” Judges 4:4-7

God comes to Deborah and tells her to send the army into battle to face her oppressors who are stronger than her people.  God tells Deborah this in Judges 4:7.  “I will give you victory.”  Before Deborah could obey, before she could move forward, she had to believe what God told her.  Notice this.  The source of Deborah’s courage, it wasn’t her own ability, it wasn’t her own strength.  The source of her courage was the belief that God would do what He said.  It was the belief that God would bring victory.  There was no doubt in my mind that Deborah was afraid of this oppressive enemy of 20 years but she moved forward anyway, because she believed God.  What if Deborah hadn’t believed God?  What if she hadn’t stepped forward and obeyed God?   The Israelites had been in captivity for 20 years to the Canaanites.  So if she hadn’t stepped forward, Barak, the army commander, he obviously wasn’t going to step forward, so the Israelites would have remained oppressed for many more years?  Not only that, but we never would have heard of Deborah.  If she hadn’t obeyed God in this instance, she might not have ever become famous, she might not ever have been written about in the Old Testament. But she did believe.

Do you believe God?  Do you believe his Word? When we open God’s Word, God opens his mouth.  God speaks through our conscience and Godly friends. Do you trust God with your life?  So where is God asking you to believe Him?  Is it in your job?  Is in a relationship?  Is it with your finances?  Is it to forgive someone? To have a tough conversation?  To share your faith with someone at work or someone in your family?

Wherever God is asking you to step out of your comfort zone and follow Him, your first step is to have to believe Him.  The second step is:

 Walk forward in spite of Fear 

When you and I are in our comfort zone and God asks us to take a step out it is our fears that stop us.   Our fears keep us from experiencing God’s best for our life because they keep us from following God and obeying Him.  We may think that God may not want us to take the next step in our spiritual life because God doesn’t want us to experience stress or fear, so we avoid it.  We think God doesn’t want us to serve because we don’t have time.   “God may not want me to be baptized, that’s too much attention on me.  And I’m sure that God doesn’t want me to tithe because I can’t afford it.  And I don’t think God wants me to be in a Connect group or to even lead a Connect group.”  Most of the time it isn’t God who is holding us back.  It’s our own fears telling us that we aren’t good enough or that we aren’t ready or that it’s not worth the effort.   We have to be able to distinguish the difference between God and our own fears.  If you are waiting to do something, if you are hesitating to move forward because of the fear, that’s not God.  But why doesn’t God make it easier and remove my fears for me?  God is never going to remove our fears  in order to make our life easy.   Why?  Because God wants to grow our faith.  If we don’t have those fears that we have to confront and go through, then we are not going to grow our character.  We are never going to have courage if we are never afraid.  We are never going to get stronger if we don’t have to overcome difficulties in our lives.  So God is going to use those to develop us.   Deborah and Israel had their own intimidating fears.  They were the Canaanites.  In Judges 4:3, it says,

13 Sisera, who had 900 iron chariots, ruthlessly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help. Judges 4:1-3

  We all have fears.  And they differ depending on what God is asking us to do.  One of the things that we get in trouble with is we will look at someone else’s life and their life looks perfect from the outside and we will think—“I wish I had their life and not my life, because I have all these problems.”  That’s not true, because, when someone looks perfect on the outside, that just means they are putting up a wall, they are not being honest, because everyone has problems, everyone has hurts, everyone has things that they are ashamed of.  We wouldn’t want to trade with anybody, because if we traded with someone we couldn’t handle their problems.  God created us to have enough strength to handle the problems and the difficulties and the trials that come into our life. When we give our lives to Jesus we are given the strength and courage to defeat our own fears because He walks with us!  So Believe God and Move Forward Despite our Fears.  In the next post we will see two more characteristics that Deborah had that we can learn from.



Message Audio/Video and Outline:

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

Posted in Judges | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment