Flawed Saviors (Judges 6-8)

MOTIVATE

Most people love a good underdog story. Some of my favorites

  • Rudy is the 1993 movie account of the life of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, who harbored dreams of playing football a Univ of Notre Dame despite his short stature and significant obstacles.
  • Karate Kid Daniel LaRusso who was a high school weakling bullied by peers, but  turned karate champion.
  • Rocky Balboa is the famed Philly ordinary man who turns to boxing for confidence. He’s a nobody turned champion not bc he’s a powerful lefty fighter but bc he has stubborn persistence.
  • 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team was composed of amateur players and youngest team in the tournament who eventually faced the gold champion of 5 of last 6 winter Olympics in the Soviet Union. The miracle on ice of the US victory became an iconic underdog story.
  • Today’s message is another great underdog story: Judges 6-8 in life of Gideon.
  • Gideon’s life shows there are 3 movements to God’s great workings: impossible, difficult, done (Hudson Taylor).

EXAMINE      Judges 6-8  Faithless

God allows us to go low, so we look up.

Judges 6:1-6 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. 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. For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. 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. 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. And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.

Once again, Israel relapsed into spiritual drift and sin against God.[1] We noted last week that we should not look in shame upon Israel, for we are all addicts to sin with life dominating sins and/or ordinary struggles. In this case, God raises up an enemy nation of Midian to overpower Israel. They ravage the land of food and resources so that Israel is left to suffer. Essentially, after seven years of suffering at the hands of Midian, Israel cries out to the Lord for help.

The subject of personal suffering can be scarier than a sermon on Halloween (Happy 10/31). The age-old mystery of God’s perfect will vs permissible will is complex and makes us question. The summation we want to know is if God really cares and when will he correct the wrongs or burdens we face?

Paul says, “we experienced significant affliction – we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Cor 1:8-9)

“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:28-29).

The idea is that the spiritually saved life is not suffering free. Yet, every struggle is used to shape us to look more like Jesus and fulfill God’s purpose for us. God wants us not to rely on self-wisdom and strength but His.  

  • Have you considered that your problems are meant to increase your prayer life? God wants to hear from you more than ordinary, and perhaps, if we are drifting in prayer then He provides us opportunities to grow deeper in understanding why we should pray more frequently.

God sends what we need, not what we want.

Judges 6:7 When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites, the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel.

So, when Israel cried for help, they wanted deliverance. Instead, God gave them a discipleship lesson. The Lord sent a prophet to remind them of God’s past salvation from Egypt and not to follow the false gods of the land.

Imagine if you were stranded on the side of the road and called AAA for help. And instead of sending a tow truck they emailed you a pamphlet about car maintenance. Would you be confused or upset?

The point was that Israel wanted immediate rescue but what they really needed was a meaningful relationship with their God. And that is the case for all of us today.

  • Most people just want to be consoled in their hurts, but never confronted about their hang-ups that cause the hurt.
  • Many people want the handout of relief while dismissing resources of rehabilitation.
  • And maybe that’s similar to your circumstance:
    • You need to overcome some challenges or fears and so you come to God. Yet, you don’t realize that overcoming life’s hardship has less to do with immediate miracle power and more to do with long-term posture and faith relationship with God.
  • I’m not saying God allows struggles or suffering to pay us back for sin, but rather He uses them to bring us back from ourselves. God does not want us to endlessly spiral into disobedience, so He uses all of our circumstances to teach and remind us of our need for Him.
  • What is something in your life that you would choose not to experience but could be God’s means to gain your attention and draw you closer to Him?

God equips the called more than calling the equipped.

Judges 6:11-16 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.”

While we might wander how Israel responded to the prophet, we can know that God was working salvation without their input. It’s a reminder that the only thing we add to God’s salvation is the sin; He does all the work!

So, the angel of the Lord appears to a man named Gideon; this is a Christophany![2] The angel calls Gideon a “mighty man of valor,” yet who is he and what is he doing?

  • Gideon’s name means “hacker” as in chopping down, an action which he will be called upon to destroy the altar of Baal.[3]
  • He’s beating out wheat in a winepress. Thrashing wheat is normally done in open air for wind to blow chaff and solid grain to fall. Instead, Gideon is working in hiding from the Midianites. Not so much a brave warrior like Ehud or Deborah.
  • Gideon is from the weakest tribe Manasseh (one of the tribes that stayed out of battle with Deborah; 5:14).  
  • Gideon’s faith is in the past without impact for the future. Often Israel would complain to God for not working in their midst when He was faithful but their faith waivered.  
    • Sending spies to take land but 10 of 12 returned skeptical (Nu 13).
    • Ps 77:7-9 “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious and shut up his compassion?”
    • Amos 5:4-5 “For thus says the LORD, ‘Seek me and live; but do not seek Bethel, and do not enter Gilgal or cross over to Beersheba.” Bethel was the place God promised blessing to Jacob and changed name to Israel; Gilgal was beginning victory place in Promised Land; and Beersheba another place of spiritual heritage for Abraham and Isaac. The point God was saying through the prophet was for Israel not to idolize the past and ignore the present opportunity to seek God and serve Him.
    • The same was true for Gideon. The Lord was calling Gideon to stop reminiscing and start accomplishing something in the present.
      How about you?


  • God’s aim was not just to remove Israel’s problem but equip them/Gideon to be part of the solution.
  • Gideon lacked courage, seemed void of competency, and yet God called him to rescue Israel. God has a habit of saving in surprising ways. God chooses “what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong… so that no one might boast in self but in the Lord” (1Cor 3:26-31).

God starts His greatest work in our heart and home.

Judges 6:25-27 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 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” 27 So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night.

Israel’s problem was they were enslaved to Midian. Yet, the first order of business God commanded Gideon was to remove/hack the altar of Baal in his own home. We can’t do battle against the enemies outside us until we face the enemies within. Before we can serve God in public we must be serving Him privately. Sometimes a person’s public platform exceeds their private integrity, and we often see the tragic implosion in that person’s life. God was positioning Gideon for impact but starting in his own heart and home.

Further, for Gideon’s family these altars of Baal were not idols instead of God but in addition to God. They had never dismissed God but simply diluted Him by adding false idols and superstitions in their worship (farming, fertility, rabbit foot luck type).

We do the same. We try to keep our relationship with God while retaining heart idols.

  • We watch church online for “health reasons” but are not consistent with the places we go for eating out, entertainment, and social interaction.
  • We go to church but won’t commit to membership, serving in a ministry, or participating in a small group because deep down we resist being known and vulnerable.
  • We serve in part, but when the work gets heavy, then we step back because we prefer convenience over challenges.   
  • We pray at meals or on occasion when there’s misfortune, but we do not take serious meaningful prayer for God’s will in every area of our life.
  • We withhold giving to God because we think God is appeased with a tip rather than a tithe.
  • We worry about our kids’ future prospects or relationships with them so we compromise our convictions to meet all their passions, but we lack foresight for how that’s shaping their worldview and faith.
  • We give of our time and affection to people that we have no business or moral principle to do so because we fear loneliness more than we fear the Lord.
  • What is the heart and home target that God wants to chop down / drive the gospel peg of grace?

God will not settle for glitter when His glory is at stake.

Judges 6:33-7:8 33 Now all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East came together, and they crossed the Jordan and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him. 35 And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, and they too were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they went up to meet them. 36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.

1Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’ ” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.

After Gideon chops down the altars of Baal the community is upset but they change his name to Jerubbal (Baal contends, or Baal butt-whooper!). Gideon gains a legion of fighters, but his ultimate gain is the Lord fighting for Him. 6:34 is unique among all the judges that the Lord does not just raise up a judge but clothes and consumes him.

Despite the God’s command and the Lord’s presence with Gideon, he still doubts. Gideon is not seeking a sign to determine God’s will but rather assurances for why he should not disobey. Even though God is calling Gideon forward into the light of victory, he wants to hide under a fleece of darkness.

  • The famous fleece to make it wet/dry was testing God, which was somewhat faith-building but also a bit foolish (cf Dt 6:16; Prov 19:2-3; Mt 4:5-7; Lk 11:29).
  • Today, our faith is not in signs/signals but in the Savior. We look to the cross for reassurance of God’s love; we look to God’s means of grace through community and communion (elements) to exhort us to follow the Lord. If we don’t believe the cross/resurrection, then not much else will convince us.

God continues to instill in Gideon that it would be His power granting victory not Gideon’s own faith or forte. God notes Gideon’s army is too big! I don’t know about you, but if I’m going into battle the army cannot be too big. Further, if the enemy army is greater in number, then I still want every willing soldier. But that’s precisely the Lord’s point: our strength is not in sight but faith. Therefore, the army is thinned out by those afraid and those who have courage, and 22K depart in fear (7:3).
While 10K remained, God still thought the army was too big. So God tells Gideon – you like tests, let’s create another test: go to the river’s edge and the soldiers who lap water like a dog, let them depart, and the soldiers who kneel and cup water to their mouth, then keep them in the army. Gideon’s army shrinks from 32K to 10K to 300; almost a 99% decrease for those calculating. This small army would face a multitude as sand on the seashore (7:12), yet God’s ocean wave power would wash the enemy away.  

  • Our weakness matched with faith highlights God’s power. We do not come to God with merits but by His mercy. We do not accomplish greatness with our charisma but His cherished grace. Therefore, our only boast is in His glory not our strength. The glory is God’s the pleasure is ours.   

  • Sometimes to receive God’s glory He has to reduce our army. 
    • Illus[4]: There’s a story about a little red bird flying south for the winter. But on its journey it got so cold that it froze and fell to the ground in a large field. While it was lying there, a cow walked by and dropped dung on it. As it lay there in the pile of poop, it began to realize how warm it was. The manure was actually thawing him out! As the bird lay warm and grateful, he began to loudly sing. A passing cat heard the bird loudly singing and pranced over to investigate the sound. The cat discovered the bird and ate him. In this story are at least three lessons:
      1) Not everyone who drops manure on you is your enemy.
      2) Not everyone who digs you out of manure is your friend.
      3) When you’re in manure, keep silent.
      Sometimes God allows manure to bring us to maturity. He will reduce our army, humble our pride, shrink our resources, weaken our strengths, and do whatever it takes for us to stop trying to give God pieces of glitter when He deserves glory.

Gideon wins the battle of adversity but loses the battle of prosperity.

Judges 8:27 27 And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.

After victory, the people want to make him Israel’s ruler with a royal lineage (Ju 8:22). Gideon refuses and instead asks the people to donate jewels and gems so He can make an Infinity Gauntlet (ode to Marvel fans). In a sense, it was a competing idol of worship for the people to seek wisdom and blessing. Gideon essentially sets up his home town as a rival place of worship and Israel cheats on the true God.[5]

  •  Be slow to feeling entitled and quick to exercising gratitude.  

APPLY/THINK

We are Gideon. We are cowards and ill-equipped to battle in life. And we hear the whisper of our enemy, “You’re guilty. Hide yourself.” But God speaks a better word. The devil knows your name but calls you by your sin. God knows your sin but calls you by your name. The Lord Jesus declares over us, “You’re my child. You were dead in sin but now you’re alive in Christ. You were guilty but now you’re forgiven. You were a sinner but now you are being made new. You don’t have to walk in your own strength but the salvation that I will supply. Come to Me.”

———-


[1] Cycle of rebellion, rebuke, repentance, renewal. See Judges 2:11; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1; also 17:6, 18:1; 19:1; 21:25

[2] The angel of the LORD appears several times in Judges (2:1–3; 6:25; 13:3–21), and throughout the Old Testament (Gen 18; Ex 3; 34; Josh 5:13–15). God in heaven and also as His Messenger on earth seeking to extend grace and salvation for others is an early hint God the Son, in the Trinity.

[3] Block, D. I. (1999). Judges, Ruth (Vol. 6, pp. 257–258). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] https://bible.org/illustration/morals-story

[5] Keller, T. (2013). Judges for You (p. 98). Purcellville, VA: The Good Book Company.

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