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THE CHALLENGE OF GIDEON
Intro: God is in the process of training Gideon to be the next deliverer of Israel. As part of his training, 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. The people in his village were not pleased by Gideonís actions. They wanted to kill him for what he had done. Gideonís father stepped in and defended his sonís actions. It would appear that Gideonís father was challenged by his sonís courage and convicted by his own compromise.
After that very public test 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. Someone has said that, ďwho you are in private is who you really areĒ. I suppose there is some truth to that statement.
Sometimes it is easier to put on a public face and appear to be one person when we are someone totally different in private. There have been times when that has been true ion my life. In this passage, we will see that it is true in Gideonís life as well.
When Gideon destroyed that altar to Baal, it was a step of great faith. And, even though Gideon did want 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 text today we will see the courageous public persona of Gideon, and we will see the fearful private persona 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 Gideon.
Letís watch Gideon as he wavers between faith and fear. I want to preach on The Challenge of Gideon. I want to share a few observations from this text that speak to us today. I want you to see, from this snapshot from the life of Gideon, that humble obedience honors the Lord more than questioning His call on our lives.
I. v. 33-34b GIDEON AND
(Ill. As this scene opens, 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 Gideon for the task of delivering Godís people, v. 12. Letís consider this Gideon for a moment.)
A. v. 33 Gideonís Enemy – It is harvest time in Israel, v. 11. The crops are being gathered in. For the past seven years, v. 1, the Midianites and their allies have used Israel as their own private pantry. 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 this verse. The invaders were significant in number. Judges 7:12 gives us some idea of the size of this vast army. 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 ďValley of JezreelĒ. 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.
Just as a side note, the Valley of Jezreel is also know and the Valley of Megiddo. Many great battles have been fought on that piece of ground. It is here that the final battle will be waged. It is here, on this same battleground, that the Lord Jesus will defeat the Antichrist and his armies at the end of the Tribulation Period.
B. v. 34b Gideonís Engagement – 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.
C. v. 34a Gideonís Energy – Where did get this kind of courage? We are told that ďthe Spirit of the Lord came upon GideonĒ. God took control of Gideon and caused him to sound the war call.
This man blowing the trumpet, calling Israel to war is not that same men we met back in Judges 6:11-24. That man was defeated, disillusioned, discouraged and filled with doubt. This man is 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 personís life, they will not be the same. Gideon met God and his life changed.
(Ill. 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 Cor. 6:19; 3:16; Eph. 2:21-22. We are to yield control of our lives to His will, Eph. 5:18.
While the Spirit of God still empowers people for service in these days, the way He operates is different now than the way He operated then.
∑ In the Old Testament the Spirit of God did not indwell every believer.
∑ The Holy Spirit anointed people for special tasks.
∑ The Spirit of God did not dwell on people permanently in those days. We are told that the Spirit departed from Saul, 1 Sam. 16:14 and from Samson, Judges 16:20.
∑ When the Spirit did move on a person in those days, they were given great strength and courage to accomplish God-sized feats through the power of the Spirit.
It is worth taking a few moments to consider the contrast between how to Spirit of God operated in Old Testament times and how He operates in our lives today.
∑ In our day, every believer is indwelt by the Spirit of God, Rom. 8:9; 2 Cor. 12:13.
∑ He does not merely anoint us for specific tasks; He gives us His help for daily living, Gal. 5:16-25; Rom. 8:14.
∑ The Holy Spirit does not depart from Godís children, but He takes up permanent residence in our hearts, John 14:16-17. His presence guarantees our eternal security in Jesus, Eph. 1:13.
∑ When the Spirit of God is in control of our lives, we are changed inwardly first. This inward change manifests itself outwardly in godly living and good works, Gal. 5:16-25; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10; James 2:18.)
I. Gideon And His Faith
II. v. 34c-35 GIDEON AND
(Ill. When Gideon sounds the war trumpet the people begin to rally around him. Letís take a moment to consider the people who responded to Gideonís call.)
A. v. 34c A Close Following – We are told that ďAbi-ezerĒ came to stand with Gideon. This is a reference to Gideonís own clan. These are the very people who wanted to kill him in verse 30. There had been a change in their attitude toward Gideon.
Evidently, his family and those who lived around him adopted Gideonís reforms. They are a changed people. Instead of wanting him dead, they are ready to follow his leadership.
(Ill. You never know what a step of obedient faith in your life will accomplish in the lives of those who live around you. It is my conviction that you cannot live for God without positively impacting your family and other close associates. It is my conviction that when you demonstrate a bold commitment to follow Godís will for your life, others will be challenged to follow suit. We should never underestimate how God can use our lives to touch others for His glory. Ill. Matt. 15:31; Ill. Asa – 2 Chron. 15:1-15. Even your enemies will have to acknowledge that God is with you, Ill. Acts 4:13.
We ought to thank God for the people around us who possess a bold faith. God is still using that kind of individual to change the world for His glory. We should all pray that God will make us into that kind of people for His glory!)
B. v. 35 A Committed Following – Gideon calls the other tribes living around them to come to the battle. Several of the tribes respond to Gideonís 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 later, God doesnít even need that many to defeat the enemies of His people. Before the dust settles and the enemy is defeated, God will use just 300 men to rout the vast army of the Midianites.
(Ill. We are living in a time when it appears that the enemies outnumber the people of God. It seems that way because it is true. Satan has far more servants at his disposal that the Lord does. We should not be disturbed by that fact. We simply need to remember that when Godís Spirit is in control of Godís people, He enables them to accomplish amazing victories, Ill. Samson – Judges 15:14-15. We must not fear the power of the enemy.
We must rest in the power of our Great God! Ill. The many ways He has proven His power – 3 Hebrews, Daniel, Widow of Zarephath, stilling storms, multiplying loaves and fish, walking on water, rising from the dead, etc. 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. Ill. The attitude of Caleb and Joshua – Num. 14:6-9. Donít fear the enemies we face in this world! Rest in the power of Almighty God, Luke 1:38; Job 42:2; Jer. 32:17, 27; Eph. 3:20.)
I. Gideon And His Faith
II. Gideon And His Following
III. v. 36-40 GIDEON AND
(Ill. Gideon has displayed great courage in calling the people to war and gathering together his army. That was the public Gideon. In private, Gideon is still filled with doubts concerning what the Lord is calling him to do. In these verses we will see the doubt of Gideon on display. Letís look at what he did and learn why we need to avoid doing the same.)
A. v. 36 Gideonís Doubts – The key word in this verse is the word ďifĒ. God had already told Gideon repeatedly what He wanted him to do, vv. 12, 14, 16. Gideon is not content to simply trust the Lord and take him at his word. Gideon wants some kind of tangible proof that he can see with his own eyes that this is Godís will. In other words, Gideon is not willing to walk by faith; he wants to walk by sight too.
B. v. 37, 39 Gideonís Demand – Gideon comes up with a test to determine Godís 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.
C. v. 38 Gideonís Disobedience – 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 is still not convinced. 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.
D. v. 40 Gideonís Direction – Apparently, this satisfies Gideon because he does not question Godís 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.
(Ill. I think it would be worth our time to talk about this matter of ďputting out a fleeceĒ. I am sure that many people in this room have done just that. You have set up a test to prove the Lord. You have dictated your terms to Him and you have expected Him to do exactly what you have told Him to do. I want you to see that our practice of ďputting out a fleeceĒ is not something that pleases the Lord. Let me show you the problems with the fleece. We will use Gideon as our example.
∑ 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, Rom. 1:17. When we seek a tangible sign to determine Godís will, instead of taking Him at His Word, it displeases God, Heb. 11:6, and it causes us to fall into sin, Rom. 14:23. We can trust His Word because He has promised to lead us, Psa. 32:8; 37:23-24.
∑ Another problem I see in Gideonís fleece is that Gideon dictated the terms to God. Gideonís responsibility was not to tell the Lord how things would be. His responsibility was to simply obey the will of God for his life.
Our duty is the same. We are not called to tell the Lord how He should answer our prayers. We are commanded to obey His Word and His will for our lives without question, Rom. 12:1-2.
∑ Gideon learned that seeking a sign does not solve the problem. He got a wet fleece the first time, but he still wasnít sure it was the Lordís 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 set throw out our fleece before the Lord, and we set the conditions, we are setting ourselves up for doubt. For instance, you are trying to find Godís will in a matter so you pray something like this: ďLord, if this is your will let so and so call me by 7:00 PM today.Ē
Well, what if so and so calls at 7:01? Does that mean God is telling you no? Or, does it mean you clock is just a minute fast? What if so and so calls at 6:59? Does that mean God is saying yes. Or, does it mean that Satan is trying to make you doubt? Or does it mean that your clock is just a minute slow? Do you see the problem? (Ill. ďIf the next car I see is like the one I want, then I will know itís your will to trade.Ē) Even when things go almost like we ask for them to go, we are still prone to doubt. If you canít take God at His Word, you will not be able to trust a fleece either. Gideon learned that truth and so have many of you. There is no peace in the fleece!
∑ The real problem with ďputting out a fleeceĒ is that a fleece is always placed out of doubt and not faith. ďPutting out a fleeceĒ is not the biblical method for determining the will of God. It is a method used by people like Gideon who lack the faith to simply trust the Word of God.
How does God guide His people? The Bible tells us exactly how God leads us to know His will for our lives.
ō God guides through His Spirit – John 16:13
ō God guides through His Word – Psalm 119:105
ō God guides through His peace – Col. 3:15
ō God guides through the desires He gives us – Psalm 34:3-4
ō God also guides through the godly counsel of His people – Pro. 11:14
All of these will be in agreement. For example, God will never tell you to abandon your mate for another. I have heard people who have done that very thing say, ďWell, I have peace about it.Ē I have known preachers who left a church or took a church saying, ďI have peace about my decisionĒ. Then I have watched as God shelved them or allowed them to endure a time of terrible testing at the church they took. That peace did not come from God.
When God guides, the leadership of the Spirit will line up with the Word of God. These two assurances will produce peace in your heart. The Spirit of God, the Word of God and the Peace of God will combine to give you a desire to do what the Lord is leading you to do. Others around you will see that hand of God in your decision.
You do not need a fleece to determine Godís will for your life. You merely need to listen to the Lord. He will speak to you through His Word, by His Spirit, giving you a desire for His will and He will provide peace about doing it. Forget the fleece and just walk by faith!
∑ Some will surely argue that God honored Gideonís fleece. Some would even say that God has honored their fleece too. God did honor Gideonís fleece. He did it because He was still developing Gideonís faith in the Lord. He did it because He understands our human weaknesses, Psa. 78:38-39; Psa. 103:14.
While God honored Gideonís fleece, it is not His will that we should determine the direction of our lives by seeking signs from the Lord. Even Gideon knew that what he was doing was wrong, v. 39. We have something Gideon did not possess. We have the completed Word of God. Godís will is that we take His Word, saturate our lives with its truth and trust Him to take us where He will for His glory. In my opinion, God gets far more glory from one of His children simply obeying His Word than He does from someone who seeks a sign. If you will remember, Jesus condemned those who always had to have a sign, Matt. 12:39.
Conc: When a traveler in the early days of the west, came to the Mississippi, he discovered there was no bridge. Fortunately it was winter and the great river was sheeted over with ice. But the traveler was afraid to trust himself to it, not knowing how thick it was.
Finally with infinite caution, he crept on his hands and knees and managed to get halfway over. And then he heard--yes he heard singing from behind. Cautiously he turned, and there, out of the dusk, came another traveler, driving a four-horse load of coal over the ice, singing as he went!
Gideon, and us, are just like that traveler. We are afraid to take a step of faith and obediently serve the Lord. Have you ever stopped to think about what could be accomplished for the glory of God in this world if every believer simply did what God wanted him or her to do? There would be more power and glory in the church. There would be more souls saved. There would be more of the miraculous manifestations of Godís presence and power in the world. Far more would be accomplished than we could ever imagine, if Godís people would merely take Him at His Word and step out on faith!
Where does this message find you? Are you faithfully doing what the Lord has called you to do? Or, do you hold back out of a lack of faith in Him? Are you guilty of looking for signs instead of simply taking God at His Word? If He has spoken to you about your faith life, you need to get before Him and let Him have His way in you. Follow His will and you will never be sorry. Fail to do that and you will ever be sorry!