Sunday, September 24, 2006

Go Gideon...!

While preaching this morning, I mentioned in passing six things God did for Gideon in Judges chapter six. Each one corresponds to something God says to us as we respond to His call upon our lives...

1. I will be with you.

    "11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”" (Judges 6:11-12, NIV)

    Gideon had a hard time believing this because of the very difficult circumstances he found himself in. He responded to the angel's greeting by asking,

    "13 "But sir," Gideon replied, "if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian."" (Judges 6:13, NIV)

    And, yet, the Lord was already with him. Sometimes, God takes us through a difficulty instead of around a difficulty. Jesus made us the promise that He would always be with us, no matter what would come our way.

    "20 ... I am with you always, to the very end of the age."" (Matthew 28:20, NIV)

2. I will send you.

    "14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”" (Judges 6:14, NIV)

    The angelic visitor turned out to be the Lord Himself, something theologians call a “pre-incarnation Christophany,” i.e., God showing up in the flesh before He was born in a manger at Bethlehem. Rather than agreeing with Gideon’s self-assessment that he had been abandoned by God and was incapable of delivering Israel from the hand of the Midianites, the Lord commanded Gideon to go anyway. Jesus wants to send each of us somewhere to do something for someone in His name.

    "21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”" (John 20:21, NIV)

3. I will help you.

    "15 “But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” 16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”" (Judges 6:15-16, NIV)

    "34 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him." (Judges 6:34, NIV)

    What God promised, He delivered. The Spirit of the Lord “came upon” Gideon, giving him supernatural power. Jesus promised each one of us the help of the Holy Spirit when we respond to His call.

    "8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”" (Acts 1:8, NIV)

4. I will show you.

    "17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.” And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.” 19 Gideon went in, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak. 20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. 21 With the tip of the staff that was in his hand, the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared." (Judges 6:17-21, NIV)

    Gideon asked God for a supernatural confirmation of His promise, and God graciously granted his request. Later (verses 36-40), Gideon “put out a fleece” before the Lord, but it is interesting to note that his faith continued to grow until he recognized the voice of God so distinctly, and was so entirely persuaded of the Lord’s faithfulness, that he stopped asking for signs.

    Sometimes God grants our requests for confirmation when we are unsure of His direction. After all, He wants us to be sure of His will, but we should never “put out fleeces” before the Lord when we already know what God wants us to do. Practices such as opening the Bible at random and taking whatever verse the eye falls upon, etc., are very unwise and can lead us astray. Rather, we should seek to walk so closely with God that we are able to clearly discern His voice.

5. I will speak to you.

    "25 That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”" (Judges 6:25-26, NIV)

    That very night, after the angel had disappeared, God spoke directly into Gideon’s spirit. He no longer needed the angel to tell him what God was saying. Supernatural experiences and encounters with God are always intended to draw us into a deeper, ongoing relationship with Him. The word God gave Gideon was a very specific plan of action. He was to take a particular bull (the second one), do a particular thing (tear down his father’s altar and Asherah pole, a occultish fetish meant to resemble a human phallus), and offer a sacrifice in a particular way (use the wood from the altar and the pole to provide the flame that would consume the flesh of the bull.) In a similar way, when God showed Moses on the mount the pattern for the tabernacle, He gave him very detailed instructions.

    Sometimes, God initially gives us only general direction, but other times when He speaks a word to us it is very specific. He told Elijah, for instance, first to go to a particular brook, and then to a particular widow’s house in 1 Kings 17. If we feel called by God to a particular thing and are carrying a word from Him in our hearts, but all we have is a dream and not a plan, then we may just be a dreamer and not a leader!

6. I will protect you.

    "27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime. 28 In the morning when the men of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar! 29 They asked each other, “Who did this?” When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.” 30 The men of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.” 31 But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.” 32 So that day they called Gideon “Jerub-Baal,” saying, “Let Baal contend with him,” because he broke down Baal’s altar." (Judges 6:27-32, NIV)

    When Gideon stepped out to obey God, he knew he was undertaking a very dangerous assignment. His faith was not yet strong, but he acted upon a very important principle enunciated by the angel, “Go in the strength you have.” (verse 14) Gideon was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to confront the forces of darkness in broad daylight, as Elijah would do in 1 Kings 18, so he did it under cover of darkness.

    When an angry mob surrounded his home demanding retaliation, it was his own father who protected him by speaking a word of wisdom! Because Gideon obeyed the Lord’s command with what faith he had, God protected him through granting him favor with his father, the owner of the altar and pole he had destroyed! It does not matter how few friends or allies we may feel that we have in a given circumstance, when God commands us to do something, He will take care of us as we do it.

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