Faithlife Sermons

Coalitions & Ambition

Treaties, Compromise & Deliverance  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  37:16
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Personal pride and ambition obscure the beauty of godly unity.


How many of us have every made a decision that we later regretted? Have you ever had buyer’s remorse over a purchase? Have you ever agonized over a purchase because you just knew that the moment after you decide, the new model will come out and the model you choose will go on sale for 30% less?
Currently one political party is going through the primary process that the other party went through 4 years ago. This process is tricky because each candidate wants to expose the weaknesses of the other candidates, but not in a way that will harm their party against the other party in the general election.
I spoke this week with a colleague in a denomination that is going through a separation/split. I asked how his congregation might align in the division and was told, “I don’t know, because we don’t know what the main group will become after the remnant leaves.”
I understand that hunters early in the season have to ask themselves, “Am I going to use my tag to harvest the beast in my sights or might there be a better opportunity if I wait until later in the season?”
Today’s text reveals to us a scene in which God is at work to accomplish His promises, but people choose to maintain status quo and align with the existing opposing power. Just to find out that they chose the wrong side of history and paid a dear price for that choice.
Today’s text is a lesson in relationships as we see those who wish to ally, those asked to ally and those who remain enemies to the end.
Transition: Most commentaries group last week’s text and this week as one long story with 3 scenes. I chose to break it up into 2 shorter sermons rather than 1 long one. Last week we saw the miraculous event that sent the Midianites running. This week we pick up the chase and find how it concludes.

Gideon Contends with the Ephraimites (7:23-8:3)

Political Spin (8:1)

1. The tone of the men of Ephraim can be found in the description at the end of 8:1
· “The NIV’s rendering of רִיב [ryb] as ‘criticized’ is much too mild. This legal term, which appeared earlier in 6:32, means ‘to contest, to challenge, to conduct a legal case.’”[i]
It is like the scene in the movie A Few Good Men when the Judge says, “Colonel Jessup you’re out of order” and he agrily responds, “No! You’re out of order! This whole court is out of order.”
2. Gideon Politically handles them:
· The tribe feels like they were entitled to some fame from the rout of Midian.
3. To understand Gideon’s analogy (v.2) we must remember that he is from the clan of Abiezer (6:11). Gideon basically says that their contribution in securing the inlets of the Jordan was a greater contribution than his role in bringing confusion into the camp at night.
· Gideon plays to their ego and says, “this operation was below you. You needn’t get your hands dirty with such a small task. After all, you got the two biggest trophies of the conflict—Oreb & Zeeb”
· Gideon diffuses their anger (v.3b)
4. Gideon is using psychology to calm down the Ephraimites rather than theology— Gideon fundamentally says, “I didn’t want to bother you with my troubles” rather than “God didn’t need you to accomplish His plan.”

A Problem with Pride (12:1-6)

1. Later under Jephthah this “Why didn’t you call us?” by the tribe of Ephraim will come back to haunt the people of God.
2. The “one people” who left Egypt, and eventually defeated Jericho, are now splintered into competing tribes.
While I haven’t seen it at FHCC, I have seen in other churches where an individual or family begins to see itself as the “church boss”. Since I have not noticed it here, I hope you will hear this as a good warning to heed, rather than a rant directed at any one person or ministry!
Sunday School curriculum can’t be changed until Mrs. Gertrude is consulted even though she hasn’t taught for 10 years; walls can’t be painted until Mr. Elmer is involved because he chose the color 15 years ago when it was last painted; a particular summer camp can’t be taken off the missions budget because Billy Bob was called into ministry at that camp. Billy Bob is now retired.
I have a friend in ministry who was eventually run out of the church he was pastoring because he suggested that 2 pieces of art in the Sanctuary be moved. He quickly learned that these 2 pictures were given in Memorial by a family that had moved out of town 10 years earlier.
Shortly after my friend left, the church imploded because of the prideful church bosses.


1. The local church is a portrayed in Scripture as a body where each part has a part to contribute if the church is to be what God intends.
2. But when one part of the body over-compensates for another part of the body it creates debilitating disfigurement and crippling pain.
Transition: Immediately after we see Ephraim over-emphasize their role in the people of God, we find 2 villages who neglect their contribution to the cause.

Gideon Entreats Succoth & Penuel (8:4-9; 13-17)


1. About half-way between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, Gideon crosses the Jordan to encounter these 2 towns a few miles apart.
2. The fearful, sign-seeking private citizen of ch.6 has been emboldened by the dream in 7:13 and the miracle in 7:21-22 so that he now seems to have read his own press releases and is storming forward as a brutal aggressor.
3. The description of Gideon in this chapter is part of the decline from the noble Judges to those who compromise as the cycles of disobedience and deliverance spiral downward reminding the Hebrews of their need for the ultimate deliverer, Messiah Jesus.
4. The rout of Midian has only been a few days, a few weeks at the most, but Midian has been oppressing Israel for 7 years (6:1). Succoth (v.5) and Penuel (v.8) must decide if they are going to take a risk against the status quo, even if it could be an improvement.
5. Both cities decide that the enemy that they know is better than the potential friend that they don’t know. Gideon (and his 300) had eliminated 120,000 of the 135,000, but they are still outnumbered 50:1.
Just like a politician seeking donors and endorsements, the only thing that Gideon has to offer is a promise that he will remember their choice if/when he gains power.
6. When the citizens ask, “Are their hands in your control?” Gideon forgets to mention what YHWH said in 7:7 - I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand. Perhaps the villagers would have responded differently if they had this little bit of information BEFORE making a choice, but they are left to think that Gideon is doing this with his own military prowess. It isn’t until after he is rejected that he mentions YHWH in 8:7.
7. Notice how the 4 northern tribes aligned with Gideon with over 100 times the number of soldiers needed when Gideon is clothed in the Spirit of the Lord and men are called to align with God’s purpose, but when Gideon goes on (what we see in v.19 is) a personal crusade, he cannot marshal the needed resources. This change from God’s work to Gideon’s mission is the flip that the narrator is trying to bring to your attention.
8. Unlike many modern politicians, In vv.13-17 Gideon returns and does he promised in vv.7-9. Whipping elders with thorny branches and killing men of Penuel seem quite extreme (considering these are fellow Hebrews) and show Gideon as a man who has lost control.
Hudson Taylor, a 19th century missionary to China, is known to have said “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply”.
Taylor is credited as one of the founders of the faith support model of funding modern missions.
The missions society founded by Taylor was ultimately responsible for bringing more than 800 missionaries to China. They began 125 schools, directly resulted in some 18,000 Christian conversions, as well as more than 300 stations of work with more than 500 national helpers in all 18 provinces of China.


1. The astute observer sees a subtle shift from God calling men to partner with Him (ch.6) and Gideon threatening men to participate with him (ch.8).
2. Too frequently good leaders with noble purposes get their heads turned. Some even use faith or religious words to disguise their own legacy building.
3. Just as all that glitters is not gold, all that sounds pious is not righteous.
4. The stories of Succoth and Penuel serve as reminders for both leaders and donors to consider the difference between Godly partnership and human manipulation.
Transition: From strife with 2 villages, Gideon turns to the next enemy

Gideon Contends with Zebah & Zalmunna (8:10-12; 18-19)

Explanation (reference)

1. There is a town in FAR South named Karkor. It is unlikely Zebah and Zalmunna have time to get that far south.
2. “The site of Karkor likely should not even be translated as a place name. …the word means “level ground.” It should almost certainly be identified as the Beqa’a basin. This is a broad, flat depression about five miles long…about seven miles northwest of modern Amman”[ii]
3. On this level ground, contrasted to the Jezreel valley where the nighttime raid occurred in ch. 7, Gideon’s 300 take on the remaining Midian 15,000 and end up capturing 2 tribal kings. With these 2 captured, the rest of the army falls into panic.
4. v.18 brings up an incident from some time in the previous 7 years that is unknown to the reader and very personal to Gideon.
5. Similar to the way Joseph questions his brothers in Egypt at the end of Genesis, Gideon interrogates these two. Clearly Gideon knows more than he lets on. He asks about some execution at Tabor. These men respectfully describe their victims as nobility. With some credulity, they (kings) say to Gideon that they were like him (princes). Gideon then reveals that these executions were his brothers, which is why he has been so relentless in their pursuit.
Transition: Gideon’s humiliation of these two is not done yet. In the next 2 verses…

Gideon Ends Zebah & Zalmunna (8:20-21)


1. The two Midianites disrespected Gideon by referring to him and his brothers as princes while they were kings.
2. Gideon taunts them with a hypothetical “if you had not killed my brothers, then I would not kill you.” But since you not only killed them, but now you disrespect them, I’m going to have my son carry out your execution.
As a young man who is unsure of where to stab to get a clean kill and how hard to thrust the sword, he is like the first-time hunter who freezes with the game in his sites.
3. The kings would much prefer a quick, precise execution so they implore Gideon to do it quickly with less pain than they would experience from botched attempts.
4. From the humble farmer threshing in secrecy, Gideon was called by God and earned the majestic nickname of the one who contends with Baal. At the end he is a pathetic hacker carrying out spiteful revenge.


1. The story concludes with Gideon claiming the hood ornament off the Kings’ ride. We will see next week as we finish out the chapter that Gideon becomes more concerned with wealth than righteousness.
2. Wealth becomes a snare for Gideon.
3. From a Mighty commander who saw victory over 120,000 Midianites to a spiteful tyrant who mistreats his own countrymen and degrades himself to inconsequential revenge. Gideon reminds us of what could have been.
Transition: I never want preaching to be just an intellectual experience, so let me review the calls to action from this text


1. Avoid the error of the Ephraimites, do not think too highly of yourself! Choose to serve humbly.
2. The stories of Succoth and Penuel serve as reminders for both leaders and donors to consider the difference between Godly partnership and human manipulation. Wisely consider your stewardship of giving and devotion.
3. The end of Zebah and Zalmunna teach that God’s great plan can be forfeited for petty pleasures. Do not allow yourself to be consumed by revenge or riches.
From Cowardly to Courageous to Contentious, Gideon is a lesson in the collapse of a person who disregards the whole people of God. God had called Gideon to provide deliverance of all the nation from the oppression of the Mideanites, and Gideon settles for “I’m going to get mine”
In contrast, we look to the Lord Jesus who never settled for petty personal revenge. The one who surrendered Himself to the will of the Father, even to the point of death, death on a cross. To take upon himself the curse of sin for the benefit of all those who would place their trust in Him.
Jesus never sought revenge for our rebellion against the Godhead, but as Romans 5:8 states.
Romans 5:8 ESV:2016
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
It is this love and this sacrifice that we remember every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
Song of Response #282.... “The Family of God
Benediction: 2 Corinthians 13:14 (ESV) — The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
[i] Daniel Isaac Block, Judges, Ruth, vol. 6, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999).
[ii] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Jdg 8:10.
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