Change the World – Gideon
Judges 6:1-16, 25-26
Who wants to know how to catch a monkey?! Who thinks it would be the coolest thing in the world to walk around with a monkey chilling on your shoulder? Well, you’re in luck! You will learn how to catch your very own monkey! But you will have to wait until the end of the message to find out how!
Have you ever read or heard something that just straight up scared you? Maybe you viewed your life in one way, but then— all of a sudden—your whole perception changed. Perhaps, you read or heard about someone who upset or angered you or someone who you have looked down on, and then you realize that you are a lot more like that person than you would like to think.
Reading the book of Judges can do this to you.
I know that we are sinful and constantly turn our backs on God, for God’s Word tells us that, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 ESV) However, when I read about how the Israelites constantly turned their backs on God, I most likely and purposefully have not been relating to them personally. I would like to think that I wouldn’t have turned my back on God like they did, even though I know I am no better than they were. I pray you see the same thing that I have from Judges 6.
We are going to conclude this series by seeing ourselves in the person we are studying tonight. We are going to see that God sees something in us even when we don’t see it, and we are going to see actions we must take in order to be used by God to change the world.
Please turn with me to Judges chapter 6 as we take a look at Gideon and how God used him to lead God’s people to victory over their enemies.
[PREFACE TO SCRIPTURE READING]
Up until this point in Scripture, there had been a constant pattern with the Israelites. God would provide for them, then they would turn their backs. God would provide for them again, then they would turn their backs again. A common phrase found throughout this whole ordeal was, “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” Time and time again this happened—just like it happens for us time and time again. Out of this pattern came the period of the judges.
And so begins our story…
Judges 6:1-16 – 1 The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. 3 For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. 4 They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. 5 For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in. 6 And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.
7 When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites, 8 the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. 9 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. 10 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.”
11 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. 12 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “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 Midian.” 14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”
Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of the Midianites (vs. 1). The Midianites came into Israel and devoured all of their food. They confiscated their produce, their wheat, their hamburgers, their Hot Pockets, everything!
The Israelites had all of their produce, crops, sheep and donkeys taken away. They laid in ruins, at the pit of despair, having lost everything. THEN, they cried out to God. See Judges 6:6-7 again, which says,“And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord. 7 When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites…” You know, often it takes us losing everything before realizing what we truly need. And God continued His normal cycle: The Israelites turned their backs on God, God allowed them to be conquered by the Midianites, the Israelites cried out to God, and God will send a judge. Now comes Gideon.
Judges 6:11 – 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.
Now, after a baby gets its candy taken away several times, it’s going to start to smarten up, right? Gideon was hiding away, in a winepress, beating out wheat. Now, last time I checked, winepresses were for…wine. They were a pit, carved into a rock, where grapes were crushed. Wheat was usually threshed, or separated, on open threshing floors where the wind could carry away the chaff. Gideon had a threshing floor. It says, in verse 37, that Gideon was hiding out in fear of the Midianites. He was cowering in fear. Then, God showed up with a strange pronouncement.
Judges 6:12 – And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”
He is called by the angel of the Lord, “O mighty man of valor.” I’m sure Gideon looked around the room like, “Is he talking to me? He knows I’m hiding out, right?” Gideon knew he was the little kid hiding behind the chair so that he doesn’t get another piece of candy stolen and the angel of the Lord is calling him “O mighty man of valor?!” How does this apply to us?
First off, you must submit to God’s calling on your life. God often sees in people what they can’t see in themselves. Gideon didn’t know, at that time he was hiding in fear of the Midianites, that God was appointing Gideon to deliver His people from the Midianites. God knew that Gideon was a mighty man of valor. God knew the potential inside of Gideon that only God could develop. Gideon didn’t know it, but God did. We must be willing to submit to God, even when we don’t see it in ourselves. God’s better is always better than our better.
Then, Gideon questioned God, like most of us do when prompted by God to do something and like many of the prophets did when prompted by God to do something.
Judges 6:13 – And Gideon said to him, “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 Midian.”
Gideon’s father and the leaders in his life did exactly what God told them to do in Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 12. They were told to remind their children of the deliverance of God, of the wonders of God, of God’s faithfulness, His provision, how He led them out of the bondage of slavery and delivered them, how He led them by cloud and fire, and how He provided their necessities. God was faithful and they were commanded to remind their children of these things. It is clear that this is what happened. Gideon knew of God’s provision for the Israelites. His father had taught him, just as Deuteronomy 6 had commanded.
They knew the decrees of God. They knew the deliverance of God. They did what God commanded them to do – they passed the stories of God’s deliverance to their children. They knew the information and they even obeyed it to some extent. Yet, look at verse 25.
Judges 6:25 – That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it.
Gideon’s father passed the stories of God’s deliverance on to his son, yet he also worshiped false gods. This is not just Gideon’s father, but it shows how Israel as a whole was. This broke my heart and gave me a wakeup call, as it should you. The Israelites knew of God and even obeyed Him to some extent, yet they were blind to the idolatry and sin in their lives. They obeyed God and forsook God all at the same time.
A crucial lesson we must learn from this is that you must evaluate your life! Are you truly and fully living for God? If you don’t sense God’s presence in your life, evaluate yourself. Look inside yourself. Are you truly giving ALL to God? Gideon didn’t sense God’s presence. He didn’t see God’s deliverance. However, it’s not because God had left them, but because they had left God. They were blind to the idols in their lives. They obeyed God and forsook God all at the same time. We must evaluate our lives!
Then, most crucially, you must get rid of your idols!
Gideon was given God’s command about what to do.
Judges 6:14-16 – 14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”
Gideon was promised God’s presence, and what a promise that was! His first objective to be a mighty man of valor and deliver God’s people started where we all must start—at home. He needed to tear down the idols and build an altar to God at his home, in his own life.
This reminds me of how to catch a monkey. We’re finally to the point you have been waiting for! You can finally get rid of your monkey infestation at your house! Wait, your house isn’t overrun with monkeys? Well, in Africa, they do have that problem, and the way they catch these monkeys is actually quite easy. All you need to do is hollow out a spot in a solid dirt mound or dried out gourd, have an opening about the size of a wrist, and put some fruit inside. Then, you wait. The monkey then walks up to mound, reaches inside to grab the fruit, and then you have him. The monkey will scream and thrash and flail and pull and freak out! But it won’t let go of the fruit. Then, the person calmly walks up to the monkey, gently ties a leash around him, and he has caught the monkey. All the monkey has to do to get free is to let go of the fruit, but it won’t.
This is exactly like the Israelites in this story. This is exactly like us. Like you.
When we go through hard times in our lives, we flail and scream and freak out, yelling, “God, where are you?! Why is this happening to me?!” You don’t sense God’s presence. You’re going through the motions. Whereas, the enemy has you exactly where he wants you. However, all you have to do is let go. Take a deep look at your life. Let go of the idols of your life and submit to God’s calling on your life.
You can’t hold on to God with one hand while holding on to idols with the other. You must let go of your idols and grab tightly to God.
Maybe you see yourself in this story. You feel like your life is out of control. You feel like everything is falling apart. You’re scared. You’re hurt. You’re tired. You want to just give up. Let go of your idols and grab hold to God.
This was the beginning of God using Gideon to change the world…to bring God’s people to victory over their enemies. Because Gideon listened to God and followed Him right there in the nitty gritty of his everyday life, he trusted God and followed when the big moments came.
If you know the story, a huge army was attacking, and Gideon was leading. They had a decent sized army to attach the enemies, but God kept whittling down His own army before the attack ever happened…He got it down to only 300 soldiers to fight a huge army. And you know what happened? God brought the victory. He got them to make a bunch of noise and it discombobulated the enemies to the point that they started killing each other!
Because of Gideon’s faith, he is even briefly mentioned in Hebrews 11, which is the “Hall of Faith” for Bible heroes. Only a few chapters are devoted to his story in the Bible, but God used him in an incredible way to show God’s power and might. And it all started with him submitting to God’s call and doing the hard thing in his own life and home.