Sermon September 16, 2006 : Gideon

Posted in Sermons
  • Presenter: Gregory Bishop
  • Date: September 16, 2006
  • Location: Congregation Lion of Judah, Boston MA

The ‘Book of Judges’ is about a time in the people of Israel when they were living in the land, but they were surrounded by pagan nations who worshiped idols and demons, and on a regular basis they would adopt the idols of their neighbors and worship them, and stray from the living God and to God would then bring their enemies to oppress them intentionally, God would make it happen until they got good and sick of their sin. And then they would say ‘God, help us!’.

Then God would send a deliverer called the judge and he would raise up an army and then God would deliver them. And so that was a pattern, but then sure enough after a while they would go through the cycle again. And they would back slide again, they would get into messes again, they’d call out to God again and God would save them again and then they’d be good for a while and it was a cycle that kept going and going and going.

And so, a lot of times, I can identify with that because I feel that our lives are often cyclical. Sometimes we get complacent, we let our guard down and God allows us to go through struggles in order to bring us back to him. And so, one of the things God did is he would bring judges to save them during those times, to be great leaders.

Now, often I would think, these judges, when I picture a judge, I don’t know about you guys, but I picture the guy in the robe, sitting behind a big, you know, some people can really picture a judge…. Robes, sitting behind the big desk, you know, with the hammer, you know, I don’t know he hits it. These judges were military leaders, they were conquerors. They were warriors and they were called judges because they weren’t normal warriors, they were warriors who were raised up to execute the justice of God on earth, to punish God’s enemies and to vindicate his people. So, they were warriors who had a divine purpose, a purpose to execute God’s judgment in the world.

Now, this was a time when things were particularly bad for them, ok. The Israelites had been worshiping idols and God sends the nation of Midian to oppress them and every year the Israelites would grow their crops and every year the Midianites would just come marching in and set up a camp on the front yard and make a point of trampling on the corn and the wheat and whatever it is they grow over there, olives, I don’t know. The pastor would know better than I do. But, they would trample on all of it and they would destroy and they got so bad that the people of Israel had to hide in little caves and to just hide out. They were absolutely reduced to a state of weakness and of fear and of anxiety. It was a terrible time. And that’s the scene in which God appears and he raises up a man name Gideon.

I know we know that name from Sunday school, I hope. But we’re going to look at Gideon through some different eyes today. We’re going to see that he’s much more human than often we think of him. So, let’s see, in Judges chapter 6, starting in verse 1. You notice the word it starts with:

“…. Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, again –you ever felt like that? Not again- …. Again they did evil in the eyes of the Lord and for 7 years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites, because the power of Midian was so oppressive the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain cliffs, caves, and strongholds. And whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other Eastern people invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep, nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts and it was impossible to count the men and their camels. They invaded the land to ravish it.

Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help. And when the Israelites cried to the Lord because of Midian, he sent them a prophet who said, ‘this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: I brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors, I drove them from before you and gave you their land. I said to you, I am the Lord your God, do not worship the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not listened to me’.

Then the angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah –I certainly hope we’re not talking about the same Ophrah here.- that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a wine press to keep it from the Midianites. And when the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘the Lord is with you, mighty warrior’, ‘but sir,’ Gideon replied ‘if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the wonders that our fathers told us about when they said did not the Lord bring us out of the land of Egypt? But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hands of Midian.’

The Lord turned to him and said ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of the Midian’s hands. Am I not sending you?’ ‘But Lord,’ Gideon asked, ‘how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in the family.’ The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you and you will strike down all the Midianites together.’ Gideon replied ‘If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it’s really you talking to me. Please don’t 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’.

And Gideon went in, prepared a young goat, a flour he had made without yeast, put in the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak and the angel of God said ‘Take the meat, the unleavened bread, place them on this rock and pour out the broth.’ Gideon did so and with the tip of the staff that was in his hand the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread and fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread, and the angel of the Lord disappeared.

When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord he exclaimed, ‘oh, sovereign Lord, I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Peace, do not be afraid, you are not going to die.’ And so Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it ‘the Lord is peace’. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrite”.

Father, I thank you that you are peace and I thank you that you still show up and you still call us, so Lord I pray that your spirit would speak through me today and speak in our hearts, and speak through your word. We open ourselves to you and we welcome your revelation in this time. And we thank you that you desire to reveal your heart to us tonight. In Jesus' name. Amen.

God shows up to Gideon. The angel of the Lord shows up to him. …. In the Bible this figure, the angel of the Lord shows up a lot. How do you picture an angel? I don’t know what you imagine when you think up as an angel? With all the weird TV shows we have a lot of very strange images of angels. Sometimes we picture a being glowing with light, and sometimes they would show up like that and people would follow their face and try to worship them and the angel would say, ‘no, don’t worship me, I’m just an angel.’ Ok.

This angel apparently looks like a normal person, because Gideon is treating him kind of like he’s a normal guy that he’s talking to. So, it seems to be an angel appearing in human form, and it is a little different from other angels, because in the end when he realizes who he’s dealing with, he’s actually afraid he’s going to die because of having seen this angel. And it one point it even refers to the angel as the Lord. It says ‘I have seen the Lord face to face’, and I believe that the angel that shows up to Gideon here is none other than the very son of God who’s coming in a pre-incarnational form, revealing himself to people, kind of sneaking into human history.

Now, theologians differ about that. But that’s what I think. I think it’s the same appearance of Jesus when he shows up, when Joshua is about to go into Jericho and there’s this angel waiting for him before the city with a sword. And at first, Joshua just thinks he is a guy, and wants to pull out his sword. He says ‘no, I have come as the Lord of the host of God, the armies of God’, and that’s another appearance of the angel of God. And Joshua falls down and worships him and the angel doesn’t tell him to get up, because it’s ok for him to worship him. It’s a divine figure here.

So, this is who we’re dealing with but he’s in disguise. He shows up to Gideon in disguise. Now, when we think of Gideon, often you picture your Sunday school things, you picture a guy, a warrior, a great warrior. He’s almost equivalent with the name warrior. And in fact, Midian are defeated, Midian their enemy, when Gideon defeated them later in the story, that became so famous in the history of Israel, that if you just wanted to think of an amazing story of God defeating his enemies, you would just refer to Midian’s defeat.

In fact, you know the story of Christmas time that says to us a son is given? To us a son is born, a little later on it says, and it’ll be when he comes as it was in the days of Midian’s defeat, the God will beat his enemies. And it was something that was so amazing…. Gideon as a warrior and he really …. He really won some battles.

And so, Gideon, we picture that when we think of Gideon, but the reality of Gideon, and I wanted to play a little word game. I’m going to date myself a little here. But, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of letterman from back when you used to watch a kids show. I don’t know if it was Sesame street or something, but he was a guy who would come and he would change one letter in a word and he would change the word. Ok.

Now, Gideon doesn’t start out as a warrior with an ‘a’ after the ‘w’. He starts out as a worrier with an ‘o’ after the ‘w’. Ok? There’s a saying in Spanish, Gideon no comienza como un guerrero, comienza como un hombre ansioso. In English the word is a worry wart. And God comes along and he says, ‘you know, I think I’m going to take that ‘o’ out and I’m going to stick an ‘a’ in here. Because if you look at Gideon’s response, he doesn’t respond as some warrior. He doesn’t respond as a really confident person. Look at how he responds to the angel of the Lord.

Well, first of all, look at what he’s doing. The Bible says that he’s threshing wheat, ok? Now, I grew up in the suburbs in Connecticut and then I’ve been in Boston since college, right? so, I don’t now much about threshing wheat, ok, but what I’ve heard and some people here might know about this, is that the way you thresh wheat; you got the wheat, you got the chaff, you got the stock, you need to somehow separate the cornel of wheat, the grain that you can use to make bread and things like that, and you’ve got to separate that from all the chaff and all the useless parts of the plant.

And apparently what they would do is it would take the wheat to a place called the threshing floor which hopefully was an open space, that would have breezes blowing through and they would take the wheat and they would throw it up in the air and they would have a stick, I guess, I’m sure it has a fancier name than that, a thresher, I don’t know, a stick that they would whack the wheat with it. And it would separate, the breeze would come through and it would blow away the chaff that was lighter and easier to blow away and the cornel of wheat would settle on the ground and they would collect the cornels and they would save that, and that’s the wheat. And you’ve separated the wheat from the chaff. And so to do that, generally, apparently you want an open space that’s breezy and the Bible says what Gideon was threshing wheat but he was threshing in a wine press to keep it from the Midians.

Now, again, I haven’t s stumped on wine, some of you may have, maybe you’ve gone to friends and done something funky over there, but apparently that is an enclosed space. It’s not an open… it’s an enclosed space most likely based on the story, in a little cave where he’s hiding. So, there’s no wind and he’s trying to thresh wheat in an enclosed closet-like space. Kind of like trying to take a sailboard out in your bath tub. It’s not going to happen, there’s not wind, it’s not meant for that. It’s a pathetic scene of him hiding out and being very uncomfortable and miserable on what he’s doing, because his enemies are oppressing him.

Now, the angel of the Lord shows up and finds Gideon doing this. And he greets him with this amazing greeting. And I want us to look at it together again, in verse 12: “….the angel of the Lord shows up and says, the Lord is with you, mighty warrior”. The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.

Now, I want you to look at how Gideon answers that. He doesn’t say ‘amen, mighty warrior? You found him, that’s my house. I’m the mighty warrior.’ He doesn’t say that. Look what he says: “…. But sir, if the Lord is with us why has all this happened to us?”

Have you ever found yourself thinking that if God is with me, then why am I going through what I’m going through? If God is on my side, then why is life so difficult for me? Have you ever found yourself saying that? And if you have, you’re in good company.

He says, “…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 the Midianites.”

He said, I’ve heard about your miracles in Egypt, God. I’ve heard about how you sent plagues on your enemies. I heard about how you opened the waters and sent the people through. Where is that God now? I don’t see you anywhere. Supposedly you’re the God of the exodus. Here I am in a little closet covered with wheat, dust and dirt because there’s no wind and you’re calling me a mighty warrior and telling me, God is with me. I don’t feel like God is with me.

And then, I love it, the angel looks at him, and look at what he says then. He looks at him a little more and in verse 14 it says: “….the Lord turned to him –he looked at him in a penetrating way and said- Go in the strength that you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand, am I not sending you?”

He’s saying, go in the strength you have. So, he’s saying, you have strength in you and I want you to use that, I put it there and I’m going to use you. Look at what Gideon says to that.

He says, “…but Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family.”

I’ve met men and I’ve had conversations and I’ll never forget with one guy right here on the ……….. he said, Greg, I’m from a family of drug addicts and I’m the black sheep of my family, my first memory was my dad smoking a joint when I was four. Are you telling me that God wants to use me? And that’s what Gideon felt like.

He says, I don’t feel like God is with me and I don’t feel all that strong and mighty. You know, in Spanish, I love it in Spanish. It says: “Jehová está contigo, varón esforzado y valiente”, and he’s saying I don’t feel all that esforzado today, God. I don’t feel very valiente. Here I am hiding out in a little cave, covered with dirt and you’re showing up and saying all this to me.

And look at this, and then he says, ‘if the Lord is really doing this, Gideon does something, he asks for a sign’. He says ‘show me a sign.’ He doesn’t…. and that’s going to be a theme throughout this text.

He says, ‘if this is really you, then I need to see a sign. And so the angel of the Lord almost conceding says, ok, he says, this guy is going to be a tuff nut to crack. You know, he’s going to be, he really doesn’t buy it. I’m telling him he’s a mighty warrior, he’s going to save the people, and he just doesn’t buy it. He says, ok, I’ll wait for you.

So, Gideon goes and prepares his lunch or whatever it is, brings it out and says, ok, but if I’m going to do my trick, you’ve got to put it on this rock over here. Ok, and if you really want to see what I’m going to do, you’ve got to pour the broth all over it and then pam! He touches it with his staff, fire flares up and the whole thing gets burnt up. And it’s sort of like Elijah with the pouring water on the sacrifice… ok, I’m really going to show you that not just doing some weird trick here. I’m going to show you that I have power. And so God gives him the sign that he asked for.

And here’s where Gideon starts to freak out and he realizes, God is really calling me. And so, he says, “…. I’ve seen the face of …. And the angel disappears.” Then he really know something’s up. You know, sort of like in Star Trek, zac. He’s disappeared.

And he says “….I’ve seen the Lord face to face. And the Lord says, peace, do not be afraid, you’re not going to die, and Gideon built an altar and he named the altar, ‘the Lord is peace’.”

In Hebrew it’s ‘jahweh shalom’, because the name ‘jahweh’, the name Jehovah, Jehová, the Lord literally means in Hebrew, I am, it’s almost an incomplete sentence and he says to Moses, I am that I am. And I am absolutely, complete in myself but you can plug in whatever you need and I can be that for you. You need healing? Jehová rafa. I am your healer. The Lord is my healer.

You need provision? Jehovah jaira. The Lord provides for you. and if you need peace I am iajue shalom. I am the Lord your peace. And that is the theme of this whole text.

If you look at Gideon, you see the whole story is laced with fear and anxiety. Now, he had fear and anxiety for a lot of very good reason. I don’t know of anyone here, ever has to struggle with fear or anxiety in your life. I’m sure no one. No one, fear and anxiety. No one ever has anything that stress you out, well, God is speaking to you through Gideon. And it’s interesting because I see 3 different types of fear in this story.

One is fear of an overwhelming enemy. Midian seemed like just an amazing enemy, just hundreds and thousands of warriors. They had them absolutely dominated. It seemed unbeatable and it was a fear that just left him feeling that there’s no way we’re ever going to overcome this enemy. Not just that, it was an enemy that was in his own household. Gideon’s dad had an idol to Baal, some of the gods of Midian, right in the house. So, God I can’t even go into my living-room without bumping into the demons that are behind this nation that’s oppressing us. It seemed overwhelming. It seemed invincible and it produced fear in Gideon, and it’s a fear that is laced throughout the story, not just in him but also in his soldiers and even in his son at the end of the story. And that’s why they were living in caves.

In fact, one of the nations that was against them was Amalek, Amalekites and that’s a nation that is classically a type of demonic nation that sought to actually do genocide against Israel and destroy everybody: men, women and children. They represented the evil one.

And a lot of times in our lives the obstacles we face seem insurmountable, not just in an individual level, but also in a national level. Some of the problems in the world and in society just seem like it’s never going to change. It seems like everybody is going one way and I feel completely outnumbered. For those of you that have been college students, and you’re surrounded… and you’re in a classroom where they’re talking about certain types of life style as if this is ok, and if you dare to call something a sinful life style you’re considered… you’re branded and beget, something like that. And we feel completely outnumbered. We feel how is this ever going to change. I feel absolutely dominated by the enemy. When that happens, when we see the enemy as a giant, we tend to see ourselves as smaller and smaller and smaller.

I think of the story of the spies who checked out the promised land. They were spying it out and they saw the inhabitants of the land who were giants, and they said, they were ten feet tall. I doubt they were ten feet tall. But they said, they were ten feet tall, they were big. They were these giants superman, evil monster creatures that lived in the promised land. And we look like grasshoppers in our own eyes. And we look the same to them.

See, when we feel small, we start to project that to people. And we feel like the enemy is big and I’m nothing, I’m the black sheep of the worst family in town. God can’t use me.

And another element of fear that we see in Gideon is a fear that’s based on an insecurity about the fact that God is behind you. You’ll notice that Gideon said, if God is with me, then why is all this happening. Gideon basically said, I don’t believe I’m very mighty and I certainly don’t believe that you’re with me, God. And that is a recipe for anxiety and failure. And so the Lord takes Gideon and walks him through a process to teach him how to view the world in different ways.

And so I just want to look a little bit at Gideon’s process and compare it to our own. The first is the greeting that God gives him. Why is it that God looks right at him? And it says, the Lord is with you, mighty warrior, when he didn’t feel like a mighty, when he wasn’t a warrior at that point, he was a worrier at that point. And God says, no, no, no, you’re …. I’m taking the ‘o’ out. You’re a warrior and God looks at him and sees him in a certain way. He sees through prophetic eyes. God sees who he’s made you to be. God sees who he’s going to help you fully become, but he already sees it, as if it’s already a fact. And he looks at you, and he says: ‘man of God, prophet to the nations, evangelist, prophet, powerful person. I see greatness in you.’

I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of somebody who believes in you. No?, and the effect that has on you: a teacher maybe? At one point in your life who believed in you, who believed you had potential; or a coach on a baseball team; or a spouse or Lord willing or hopefully a parent, you know, but very rarely, you know, that’s not always the case, but a parent or an uncle or an aunt, or a friend or a sibling who believes that you have the potential for great things.

You know, you’ll often find the greatest generals in American history at least, usually had mothers who really believed that their little boy could conquer the world. They really did. You look at general Macarthur. He was this great, powerful general World War II and … and his mom boy, she was sure, my boy’s going to conquer the world. And he just grew up expecting to conquer the world, because his mom saw him that way and he internalized that vision of his own life.

I’ve shared the story, there’s a pastor of a church I love, a really good church in …., I won’t name the church, but a friend of mine who when he was from seminary trying to figure out what to do with his life, his mother, who’s not really a strong Christian, she heard that Billy Graham was sick with Parkinson, I think it was, and she said, well, you know, son, Billy Graham, this Billy Graham fellow is getting old and decrepit, maybe he needs a replacement. You know, why don’t you do his job?. He said, mom, that’s Billy Graham, mom, you know, I can’t take his job. But she just simply expected, my son’s going to do great things. It was taken for granted and you know, he does, that guy does do great things. Now, he also grew a bit cocky and God had to humble him in something but that’s another story.

But you grow up with that confidence that instilled in you. God wants to do that for each of us. He wants to look at you and say, I see that you are going to do great things, and I expect it from you. So, that’s a prophetic statement. So, that was the first way that God begins taking him through having that kind of peace. And you know, Gideon receives it in a way. At first he fights it, fights it, but by building that altar that says ‘the Lord is peace’, he said ‘God I’m willing to receive the confidence that you want to give me.’ He said yes to the Lord.

So, God says, ok, we’re going to have your first project. Ok? This can be a baby step, right? Have you ever seen, you know, the baby step. Tonight, or not tonight, God said ‘I want you to go to your father’s idol, Baal idol, which was probably a cow of some sort or a bull, I want you to take that, I want you to destroy it and he’s got a big pole next to it, called an Asherah pole, which was a demonic pagan symbol.

I want you to take that, I want you to cut it up. I want you to make wood out of it. I want you to build an altar, take one of its valuable bulls that he believe are virtually sacred, and I want you to sacrifice it on the altar burning the wood from the Asherah pole. And Gideon said, ok, I’ll do that at 3 am, you know, when nobody’s watching. So he did it but he did it in the middle of the night. In the morning, people all find what happened to the idol. What’s going on? and there’s no idol and things happen that they look into it, they find out who did this…. Gideon, what’s getting into Gideon?

And then, something very interesting happens. They say, well, we’re going to kill him, and they ask his dad, send your kid out here because we’re going to punish him for this. And look at what his father says, and this is one of the first lessons that God wants Gideon to get. In verse, we’re looking at 6:31, Judges 6:31, I want you to look at this with me.

“His father named Joash, replies to the hostile crowd around him that had gathered at the door, and he says, ‘are you going to plead Baal’s case? 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 somebody breaks down his altar.”

God wanted to say ‘teach Gideon’. There’s a difference between a little god and a big God, ok? And Gideon view God as a little God, and God wanted to make a point. I’m not a little God, that Baal character who seems so invincible, he’s a little god. And even Joash, Gideon’s father who was the owner of the idol, who apparently did love his son enough to defend him, he says ‘if Baal’s really a god, he can stick up for himself.’ And so Gideon’s starting to get it into his head. God isn’t a little God. God is a big God. He doesn’t need people to fight for him, but he does look for people that he can use.

Going down a little bit further, something very special happens after this experience, and in the Hebrew it’s absolutely unique. In verse 34 it says “…. Then the spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and he blew the trumpets summoning the Abiezrites to follow him”.

It says the spirit came upon him. But in the Book of Judges, the wording used for how the spirit comes upon people every time it’s done in a different way. It’s absolutely fascinating, if you ever look into it. It says that the spirit sometimes disturbs a person, sometimes the spirit pushes a person, in this particular case the literal Hebrew is ‘the Holy Spirit clothed himself with Gideon’. It’s not used anywhere else in the Bible, it’s just here. It says, the Holy Spirit clothed himself with Gideon. And Gideon took his shofar and blew it and people gathered.

Now, that’s… why would it say it that way? And I’ve been thinking about it and I don’t know for sure, but I think what God is trying to say, ‘I don’t need anyone to fight for me, but I am looking for someone that I can put on and use as if I’m clothing myself with that person’. I would almost use the word incarnation but I don’t want to use that, because that’s not the case. We already know that that’s Jesus. But there’s a sense of him, just … you know, I’m going to do it in this guy. And he clothes himself with that person and he does need and use a conduit to express his power on earth.

He doesn’t just do it out of the blue, he looks for a person that he can clothe himself with. But then he wants to make a point, but it’s not the person, it’s me. That person just has to be in the right place, at the right time and I’ll do it through him or her. And so that’s where we’re going. God is making that lesson.

Now, Gideon, I’m thinking: the Holy Spirit just clothed himself with Gideon. He must now…. He blew the trumpet, people gathered. He must be feeling kind of good now, right? He must be feeling kind of confident, that God’s with him, but it’s not the case. You know what Gideon does now?

He says, Lord, if you’re really with me, just a few more signs, just a few more…. I just need to do… remember the food trick where you …. I just need a couple more of those. What’s going on here! The spirit just clothes himself with you and here you’re needing more tricks to… , but he’s human. He’s not just human, he’s still kind of a worrier. He still needs to, you know, move along a little bit.

But you know, God gives it to him. God, you know the fleece’s miracles. A fleece’s kind of like the fleece you were, a wool blanket. He says, ok, you put the fleece on the grass in a field, and in the morning you’re going to find that….. oh, no Gideon gives him this. In the morning I want the fleece to be completely wet and all the grass dry. So, in the morning he wakes up, he goes out and sure enough he rings out that fleece, it fills up a whole bowl full of water.

You’ll think, ok, that’s good enough. Aren’t you going…. Could you just one more now. If you’re really with me, just one more sign. Ok, now, let’s turn it around. Let’s have all the grass be wet and the fleece…..

Does anyone here ask for signs? Sometimes. You know, the need for signs is not a good sign. The need for signs is a sign that you’re not trusting the Lord, it’s a sign that you’re not really convinced that he’s with you. But because we are human he gives us signs. I know in my own life, the times when God has given me the biggest signs, are usually situations where he knew I would have the biggest doubts, and I would need those to hand on. but I shouldn’t need them. I should just know he’s with me. But he knows….

So, usually the signs aren’t given when you’re in a good place. Usually they’re given when you’re pretty dense and you need some convincing that he’s with you. But he does do that. Thank God and he did it for Gideon and that’s a wonderful thing.

So, he got these wonderful signs and God says, ok, now’s the big test. We’re going to work: you passed a little battle in your house but it always starts like that, doesn’t it? Before you conquer the world you’ve got to conquer your living room, you know.

So, how are you going to go to defeat this nation of 135 thousand soldiers when you can’t even take care of your own living room, you’ve got an idol set up there. And God said, you’ve got to start there.

And believe or not sometimes it’s easier to fight a thousand people than to take care of something that is right in front of your nose, with someone you live with maybe. And so Gideon passed that test. Now, it’s time to go to war.

Ok, we’ve got to sift down your army because God’s like, I want to show everybody that this is not you, but this is me clothing myself with you, so we’ve got to make a smaller army here. Ok? So, is anybody scared? Of course, just about everybody is scared. How many people went home? 120 thousand people, 22 thousand men. He said, if anyone is scared, you can go home. We’re talking about an army. Well, if you admit you’re scared, you’re humiliated. 22 thousand guys said, yeah, I’m scared, I’m out of here. And they left.

And so he’s left with 10 thousand. It’s still too many, still too many. We’ve got to get a smaller group of people to really make the point. So, then there’s the whole thing, remember the story where we’re going to go to the river and we’re going to let everybody drink and see how they drink and the people who get down on their hands and knees and just stick their face in the water, and then there are some people who kind of kneel down and they just lap up the water. And it turned out that almost everybody just stuck their face in the water. I don’t know if it’s kind of weird, but apparently the majority of the people did that, and only 3 hundred of them were picking up the water with their hands.

Now, there’s a lot of different things people think about this. Some people think that that said something special about those soldiers and that’s why they were chosen, but it could be just that, you know, think about it: if out of ten thousand people, everybody does it one way and three hundred of them do it differently, you know, maybe they’re just corky people. They’re just weirdoes. Maybe God said, look I want you to pick three hundred weirdoes who’re just a little different from everyone else, the people that you know, they wear the stripes and spots and .. and they don’t, I want to show that this is me, this isn’t…. this is my power. And so, he picked goofy people and I’m going to do something amazing through them. I don’t know, that could be the case.

Or it could be something much more wonderfully profound, you know, and that hopefully would be the case. But, whatever the case, he picked three hundred of them, ok?, just a small group. And then he says, ok, with three hundred we’re going to take on the enemy. The enemy counted a hundred and thirty five thousand people, ok.

Have you ever seen …. How many people have been to a Red Socks’ game? Anyone ever been to Fenway? Ok, more people need to go to Fenway. Not this year, next year when they’re winning, go to Fenway. 35.000 there, ok. So imagine that times, what? Imagine that 4 Fenway parks. Something like that.

I remember when I was in college, …. Used to attack my college and throw snowballs at us, the first snow fall. And I’ll never forget the first time they did that, and they were about two thousand people walking down Main Street towards our college. It was freaking out. The sound of their footsteps was like thunder. I’ll never forget it. It seems unreal, I looked out of the window and it looked like thunder they were coming to just deck our college with snow balls, you know, it’s kind of exciting. That’s just a couple thousand people. A hundred and thirty five people against three hundred, it’s unthinkable, absolutely unthinkable. Odd.

And so, as you can easily assume, our friend Gideon had a hard time getting to sleep that night. I don’t know if anyone has ever had that experience. You have a hard time getting to sleep the night before something, I don’t know, that happens to me sometimes. Not usually, but sometimes it does.

And so he couldn’t sleep that night and God appears to him. God is so good, he knows what Gideon needs. He says, ‘hey, you know what, Gideon,’ and let’s look at it because it’s a really good verse. Chapter 7, verse 8, look at what happens. It says,

“now the camp of Midian lay before in the valley and during that night the Lord came to Gideon and said, get up, go down against the camp because I am going to give it into your hands’, but look at what it says in verse ten “…. If you are afraid to attack”.

Look at this. God just says, I know you, Gideon, if you’re afraid to attack, which I assume you probably are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Phurah and listen to what they’re saying. Afterwards you will be encouraged to attack the camp.”

Encourage, I love that word. Encouraged, filled with courage.

“….So he and Phurah, his servant went down to the outpost of the camp and the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the other eastern people has settled in the valley thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the sea shore. And Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. I had a dream, he was saying, around the loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed. And his friend responded, this can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon, son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”

How about that? When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, what did he do? He worshiped God. Gideon finally gets it. Gideon finally is convinced that God is with me. He knew, God knew that he needed convincing, after convincing, after convincing, after convincing. It took a long time but finally Gideon accepted: God you’re really with me, aren’t you.

You know, I am pretty sure that there are some of us who still need to have that moment. When we finally, really are convinced. God you’re really with me, aren’t you.

There’s a number of reasons why we think God might not be with us. It could be mistakes we’ve made from the past. We feel like God could never really fully use me. It could be just a feeling of inferiority that we have. It could be a lack of faith, whatever the reason God wants you to get through that. He wants you to get to a point where you simply worship him and you say: you’re really with me. You’re really going to do this, aren’t you, Lord.

And so, guess what he does then? Gideon becomes, now he becomes Superman. Now he becomes the guy from Sunday school. And he gathers his 300 guys who drank funny, and he says, ‘ok, I want everyone to take a jar, and I want you to take a torch, I want you to take your shofar. I don’t know how they’re going to hold on for you those things at once, don’t try to picture it. Somehow they’re going to have all… maybe one’s going to be in the pack, I don’t know. But they got their shofar, somewhere it’s around their neck, maybe it’s hanging.

But they’ve got their shofar, they’ve got their torch and they’ve got their jar. And they said, ‘wait a minute, where are the swords, Gideon? Don’t worry about the swords, we’re not going to win with swords tonight, guys. We need a lot more than swords. Ok, bring these things we’re going to gather in a circle around the camp.

Now, why would it be those things? I want you to think back to a story, why a jar, why a torch, why the shofar. Because if we said, here’s the plan, what we’re going to do is we’re all going to blow the shofar for a long time and then we’re going to, all together, break the jar. And everyone’s like…. yeah, that’s the plan. That’s the plan. Ok, it’s kind of like the Jericho thing almost, right?

But get a look to this. if you think about it, after the exodus they get to mount Sinai and if you look at mount Sinai, where God reveals himself, you’ve got this cloud, you’ve got lightning and you’ve got the sound of a shofar. I don’t know who was… it must have been an angel playing it, because it doesn’t say any human was playing it. But the sound of the trumpet blowing in a loud, shrieking sound, you’ve got the thunder, thrashing, the deep thunder, and you’ve got the fire and the smoke and the shofar.

And I believe what God is doing here, and some people think that he’s what Gideon’s doing, he’s replicating Sinai. He’s saying, remember God how originally I said where are you, where’s the God of the Exodus, where’s the great God who appeared on mount Sinai? Now, I know, he’s right here. And we’ve got our own shofars we’re going to blow, and we’re going to break that thing together and it’s going to sound like thunder and they’re going to look, and they’re going to see fire and it’s all a symbol of the fact that the God of the Exodus, he’s right here, right now and he’s come to kick some butts of people who are his enemies, and he’s going to use us to conquer his enemies. The God of the Exodus is with us today. Gideon is saying, I believe you’re with me and I believe it’s your power that’s going to do it.

So they do it. They blow the shofars, they break the jars and they have the torches and the people of Amalek and of the Midianites start killing each other, they flee and Gideon and his 300 men pursue them a hundred and twenty thousand kill each other and Gideon finds them and there’s only 15 thousand left and these 300 men, manage to defeat the last 15000 and finally Gideon is left with the two kings and he says, and he’s about to put them to judgment too. And he says ‘what kind of men did you kill when you visited my home town?’

And I just want to look at this verse, and we’ll close with this, in 8:18. “….Gideon asked Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings, he said, what kind of men did you kill at Tabor?, and they said, men like you, each one with the bearing of a prince. Gideon changed from being a fearful man who was hiding and cowering in a cave, to be a man who walked like a prince.”

And I want us to live like that. I want us to know that God is with us. That he knows you by name, that he sees your enemies, your obstacles look insurmountable, but they’re not. God is way bigger than the evil one. God is way stronger, he’s way tougher, and he’s able to win the battle. And you may be weak. You may say, I am weak, but when I am weak, I am strong and I’ll boast about my weaknesses because in my weaknesses the power of God will be perfected. And God will use me.

And it’s his power. I will just go where I’m supposed to go and do what I’m supposed to do and trust that God’s spirit will clothe himself with me and do amazing things. God is calling us and at this point in the history of this service, and we are going to close so I’d like the worship team to come on up. At this point in the history of this service, we’re just beginning. This is the seed, this is the beginning. This is the 300 of Gideon, and it is important for us to recognize that God doesn’t call us to pretend like we’re something we’re not. He just calls us to be faithful, to go where we’re supposed to go, to do what we’re supposed to do, to show up there and then say, now, God do your thing. And he will do it, guys.

And we are part of that. You are part of that. And I really mean that, each one of you and there’s a few here that are part of the core that aren’t able to be here tonight for some very good reasons, but this is the core. This is the small group that God has called. And he’s looking at you and he says: I see great things. I see a vehicle that I can use to bring down strongholds in the region.

And we look around, like, you must be looking at someone else, Lord, because I feel like…. I’ve got a lot of empty seats next to me right now. And God says, don’t look at that. You look at me because I’m looking you in the eye and say, I see a mighty warrior who’s valiant, who is going to do damage to the kingdom of darkness, who’s going to inflict violence on the evil one, spiritually speaking. And I see one who’s going to do that. I see warriors, but it is important for us to repent of worrier, with an ‘o’, and say, ‘God, I’m willing to become who you want me to be.’

So, I’ll invite Nicky and Harry. We’re going to wrap up this time. I invite you to stand up and we’re going to pray and I really feel that the Lord wants us to build that altar before him that says, ‘Jehovah shalom’, ‘the Lord is my peace’.

Father, in Jesus name we come before you tonight. We thank you that you are Jehovah shalom, that you are our peace, that you are the one who stoops down to make us great.

God I thank you for the potential you see in us and for the calling that you have for us. But, God I would say most of us, we have not come to the point of really being convinced that you’re with us. Father, bring us to that point when we can stop and worship and say: God really I’m convinced that you’re with me. I’m convinced that you, the God of the Exodus, that the God who raised Jesus from the dead is here with me today; the God who raised Lazarus, who healed the blind and healed the death, that you are the same God today, yesterday, tomorrow, forever, and you are here in this place and you have called me, I’m called to be part of this Lord.

We worship you tonight. So we close. I invite you to lift your eyes to the Lord.


Sermon delivered by Gregory Bishop taped September 16, 2006 at Congregation Lion of Judah Listen | View (100K) | View (400K)

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