Good morning church,
Well this morning we are continuing our series in Judges. I don’t know about you but it’s been really interesting getting to learn about all these various judges that were sent to free the Israelite people time and time again from people who were oppressing and holding them down. And in similar rhythm we’re going to look at another Judge who did just that this morning.
Before we jump right in I want to know who would consider themselves someone who is inquisitive? I know that’s a weird question, because deep down we all want to know stuff. But I also think there is bucket of people who are always looking for information. I’m saying any of that to knock anyone cause I fall into that bucket. I love to just take in information. I love to know more. And in order to do that you have to ask questions.
My first job out of university, I was an auditor, and this was essentially a job where you would ask people questions on what they did to make sure that they were getting the finances of the company right. I loved it but I found that many people really don’t like when people ask them questions. I remember I once was at a clients office and I needed to ask them questions and to get information from them. And we had to make sure that we would be independent and we’d be able to find out where the company went wrong so that they could fix it. Well this guy who I was asking questions asked me to give him a list of things that I needed ahead of time so that they could fix anything before getting me the information that I needed. This was totally against what we were supposed to do for the job so I nervously laughed at him. Well he lost it on me and that was a huge lesson for me and a reminder that people really don’t like to be questioned especially if they don’t have the right answer for you immediately.
Well this morning we’re going to spend time looking at new Judge in our series, Gideon. And we’re going to look at 2 questions that Gideon asks of God. Cause I think there are some awesome things that we can take away with us from these questions. I hope what we learn from all of this is that we can ask the tough questions of God. We as people can’t always answer the tough questions, but I’m going to tell you that God can. He can handle anything that we can send his way, and you know what he wants us to do it. Cause you know what, as Tim Ellis puts it, God is not going anywhere. He’s there to stand in the gap for each one of us.
So let’s jump into our story this morning. Starting in verse 1 of Judges chapter 6. It’ll be on the screen behind me. It says, “The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. So the Lord handed them over to the Midianites for seven years. 2 The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves, and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel, 4 camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza. They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys. 5 These enemy hordes, coming with their livestock and tents, were as thick as locusts; they arrived on droves of camels too numerous to count. And they stayed until the land was stripped bare. 6 So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help.”
So right away we learn that the Israelites have found themselves back in this rhythm where God had delivered them from people that were oppressing them and then after some time they forget and fall back into doing evil things. And in this new scenario they were being oppressed by people who were essentially starving them out.
What we learn about the Midianites and the people from the east is that they had pushed the Israelites into the dens and caves in the mountains and weren’t just coming and taking the Israelites food; they weren’t just taking what they were growing but all of their livestock too. You see you’d think that a group that was oppressing another would take lots but leave enough so that the people group could rebound and then they could come back again do it all over. But no they were leaving them with nothing, not even the leftovers that animals would eat.
It was at this point that the Israelites came to their senses. What we find from people, what I know of myself, is that unfortunately I come to God when things are so bad that there isn’t anywhere else to go. And we see the Israelites here again in verses 6 and 7.
And you know what we don’t find. We never see God say to them you know what, “you deserve to be in this place, so tough, go and be tortured by the Midianites”. No, what we actually see is God respond to them and send them a prophet and like the amazing father that he is he reminds them of all that he’s done for them and he’s tells them that he’s been faithful to them and that they shouldn’t turn to their evil desires. And that they’ve not listened to the Lord their God.
And God raises up for them another judge. Here, we are introduced to Gideon. And the first thing that we learn about Gideon is that he is hiding in the bottom of a winepress preparing food, actually threshing wheat. I had no idea what that meant, but its the process of separating the edible part of the wheat from the stuff you can’t eat, I’m still not 100% sure what that means but there it is. And then an angel of the Lord appears to him and says, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”.
Now I want to stop here quickly because this statement caught Gideon off guard. Here he was hiding from his enemies and this angel of the Lord is calling him a mighty warrior. And I really think Gideon’s response was “yeah right”. You see we don’t often see what God sees. God actually sees the real us. More importantly he sees the people that he’s called us to be. Not the people that we actually see in the mirror. There is actually a difference. Just like in Gideon’s life he sees him as the guy who is going to be a catalyst for the people of Israel to be released from this time of oppression. He sees Gideon as the person that he’s going to use to bring change too many many lives. He sees Gideon as the brave, the mighty warrior who will lead his army into battle to defeat this enemy. This simple guy who was hiding from the enemy making food. And you know what God see you and me in that same way. He sees us as the people that he’s called us to be. He sees us as the people who he wants to use to change our world, to change our town. To lead and be apart of the change that he wants for our Sicamous and world. Don’t discount yourself, you might think why would God use me. Look at all the people that he uses in the bible, ordinary flawed, broken people. That’s who he uses to do extraordinary things for His glory in our world.
To continue with our story. We see Gideon’s response to the angel of the Lord and the first of 2 questions that we’re going to focus on today.
In verse 13 we read Gideon’s response, he says, “13 “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.””
We don’t see God answer this question because I think he’s already answered that for Gideon. I think when God doesn’t answer questions right off the bat that the answer was already given and he’s allowing us to work through whatever it is to get to the answer. We see this before when Jesus asks God on the cross why
Gideon and all of Israel thought that God has left them. You see they thought that the reason for why they were in the position that they were in was because of God. They didn’t see the predicament that they’ve put themselves in. They had a short memory. Do you remember what the learned in verse 1? They did whatever THEY desired for 7 years. They had the “me” syndrome for 7 years where they focused on themselves and their own wants and needs and did evil in the eyes of the Lord. And they were blinded again to all that they were doing.
You see our sin often blinds us. It tells us that we are justified in doing whatever we want to do. It tells us that it’s ok. Or that we deserve it. Or that it’s just a little its ok. You know what. What I’ve seen and experienced is that whenever we start having these discussions in our head we need to run. Because it becomes a slippery slope. In no time we can find ourselves 7 years down the road, just like the Israelites, mad at God for leaving us, because we chose to do what we wanted to do.
When he was always there, waiting for us to run into his arms. You see God has already reminded the Israelites before that he was there for them. In Deuteronomy 31:6 is says, “6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” He’s promised them that before when they had faced different enemies. God’s always there. Just like the Israelites he’s waiting for us to chose him instead of what we want.
Even in the New Testament we read in Hebrews 13:8, “8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them.” The writer of Hebrews is encouraging these people not to get caught up in their head. Their own rules and ideas. But to remember the Grace of God manifested in Jesus for us, who is always there. He doesn’t change, he’s the same today, tomorrow and the days after that.
And I think we need to be reminded of that time and time again. God is waiting for us. He’s always there. He isn’t waiting for us to get right before coming to him. He’s just looking for us to make that turn toward him. To run into his arms and to be accepted by Him.
Then we get into our second and last question for today. We see God telling Gideon right after this that he is sending him to rescue Israel from the Midianites. Then in verse 15 we read Gideon’s response, he says, “15 “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”
You see Gideon again falls into this trap. You see he didn’t seem himself as significant enough to do anything for God, least of all this great thing of defeating these enemies. He thought of himself as weak and ineffective, he was the smallest in his entire family. His response was you know what I can’t do this. He again sees himself based on his limitations. What he can bring to the table.
And God’s response to this is so amazing, and I think this is a calling for all of us. He responds to Gideon in verse 16. The passage says, “16 The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”
God response to him is so amazing because he reassures him that he’s not alone. This great God who Gideon has heard stories of him saving and leading the Israelites through these incredible battles and situations would be with him. And I love what a commentary says about this part of our passage it says, “God’s assurance to Gideon was not to build up his self confidence, but to assure him that God was indeed with him.” These words weren’t for Gideon to be built up to know that he could defeat his enemies, but that God was going to be at work in his situation.
And I believe Jesus gives a similar assurance in Matthew 28:20. After commanding his disciples to go into all the world to baptize and make disciples he encourages them with these words, “20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” He’s calling them to be obedient and to declare the good news that he came to give to those around them. And that it wouldn’t be them working alone in this. But he will be working in them and through them for his glory. And I think we should embrace that message. As we go out into our work places and into our families that God’s given us this message, this word in the bible. In Ephesians he calls it the sword of the spirit which we are to use, because we know God’s word as we read hits us to our core. These words reveals to us God’s desires for us, his love for us, his want for us to turn our lives toward him.
As we finish our time together with the rest of the story in this chapter. Cause I think these 2 questions frame what then takes place. We see Gideon figure things out with God. Then he’s obedient to this calling and he does as God commands. He’s faithful to this calling of God on his life and we’ll catch up on the battle next week.
But I just like Gideon we need to be faithful to God’s calling on our lives. I love what Andy Stanley says about being faithful to this calling. He says, “You have no idea the numbers of people that God may want to influence through you.” We have no idea the impact that we can have on the lives of the people. All God is calling for us is to turn to him and to be obedient and to let him work through us. To be alongside us and to use us for his glory in our world.