GIDEON: LEARNING HOW TO TRUST

Don’t judge me but I grew up reading and thoroughly enjoying superhero comics. I liked Superman, Batman, The Hulk, The Green Hornet, and Spiderman. I dreamed about being a superhero and would often run through house and garden wearing a cape. One day, after watching Batman on telly, where The Penguin would make an entrance by flying in, holding his umbrella, I grabbed my dad’s golf umbrella and jumped out a second story window, and was surprised when the umbrella … inverted! Needless to say, my dad was unimpressed, and fortunately, I was not hurt.

Superheroes are still popular today. Let’s see how you do with this superhero quiz.

Q: Why do the Hulk’s roses look so healthy?

A: Because he has a green thumb.

Q: Why won’t Captain America use the metric system?

A: He refuses to support a foreign ruler.

Q: Why was Aquaman angry with Aqualad?

A: His exam results were below “C” level.

Q: Where does Spiderman go for information?

A: The web.

This morning we look at Gideon – I suppose if we met him today we’d call him a geek, but in a short length of time he changes a lot, his life is transformed by an encounter with God.

In Hebrews 11, we find the “Hall of Faith,” a list of great spiritual superheroes. Gideon’s name is there, along with Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Samuel, Samson, and David. God used these individuals greatly, not because they were strong and faultless, but because their “weakness was turned to strength”.

God loves empowering ordinary people (like Gideon) to accomplish extraordinary things. Like you and me. We’re looking at Judges 6–8 today, so let’s dive into a number of ways that Gideon Trusted God.” First:

God uses tough times to get our attention (Judges 6:1–10).

In Judges 6, Israel has, typically, turned her back on God again. Things have gone well for a while: bills paid, obedient kids, healthy camels and fat sheep – self-sufficiency – so they pushed God away. Soon an enemy shows up, gives them a hiding, returns the tough times, and they are quickly crying ‘God help us’.

6:1 says they did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lord let the Midianites bash them so hard they ran to the hills to hide in caves. The Midianites were nomadic and didn’t care, so they let the Israelites plant and reap crops, to sweep in like locusts at harvest time and ravage the land. Ruthless, they’d destroy what they could not carry away.

Seven years of this, and the penny dropped, so the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help. Seven years!They seemed to hang in there until they knew they could take no more.

Actually, we do the same thing. We know God is trying to get our attention but we hold out, try to handle it on our own. Even if God permits bad things to afflict us to get our attention, we often refuse to repent and return to Him. Charles Spurgeon said: The Lord does not permit His children to sin successfully.

Verse 7–10 says clearly: when we cry out to God, He will respond. In this story, He sends an unnamed prophet to remind them of their history and heritage, and that God expects total surrender and full devotion — “I am the Lord your God” — anything less is rebellion, which bring consequences.

When tough times come, see God’s grace instead of concluding God must be punishing you. Proverbs 3:11–12: My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

He loves you too much to let you keep living the wrong way. He longs to be centre of your life and when He sees you heading down a path of destruction He tries to get your attention. Don’t tune Him out. C.S. Lewis has said: God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it’s His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

God always sees more than we do (6:11–12).

Gideon is threshing wheat in a winepress. The Hebrew here expresses the idea of hiding. A winepress was made out of stone and built underground. Two cisterns would be carved, one slightly below the other. The upper area was used to tread out the grapes. The liquid would drain into the lower vat. Gideon was probably down in this lower area.

Usually wheat is threshed out in the open so wind can blow away the chaff. But Gideon is afraid of the Midianites and so he’s whacking the wheat with a stick. Maybe he is hiding underneath some vine branches? Gideon is defeated and discouraged, filled with doubts and fears.

Verse 12 say the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. Gideon looks behind — he is no mighty warrior — but all he sees is an angel. Me?

There’s tremendous truth here: God always sees more than we see. When He looks at you, He sees a hero in hiding. When God looks at Gideon, He sees a strong soldier. In once sense, God is speaking prophetically because He knows what Gideon is about to accomplish. But on the other hand, God is speaking positional truth. Right now, at this moment, because the Lord is with him, he is a mighty warrior.

Gideon did not see himself as a mighty warrior, and we don’t fully understand who we are. Maybe you have an image of yourself that unhealthy and unbiblical. Reframe your understanding and let the truth of God’s Word impact your identity. If you are a born again believe —

  • You’re God’s child (John 1:12)
  • You’re God’s friend (John 15:15)
  • You’ve been chosen to bear fruit (John 15:16)
  • You’ve been justified (Romans 5:1)
  • You’re forever free from condemnation (Romans 8:1)
  • You’ll never be separated from God’s love (Romans 8:35)
  • You belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)
  • You’re a saint (Ephesians 1:1)
  • You’ve been adopted as God’s child (Ephesians 1:5)
  • You’re God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
  • You’re a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
  • You’ve been redeemed and forgiven (Colossians 1:14)
  • You’re complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10)

God knows who you are even if you don’t. It is a lie to think God only uses the special people. They’re only special because He uses them. Thirdly —

God confirms His priorities with His presence (6:13–24).

Called a mighty warrior, Gideon questions God, wondering why so many bad things have happened to his people. Verse 14 tells us God “turned to him,” literally meaning He turned, looked at Gideon and said, Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?

Gideon responds by saying his CV isn’t that impressive. He’s from the weakest link in his clan, plus being the youngest in his family, he has no authority to call out the warriors from his own tribe and family, let alone any other tribes.

God’s answer is in verse 16, I will be with you. When we receive a commission from God, we are also promised His companionship.

Gideon wants the first of several signs (just to be sure) and asks the Lord to wait for a few minutes while he runs off to bakes some bread and throw a goat on the BBQ. The amount of flour he used would make ten flat loaves ten inches each in diameter – a lot of flour considering how hard it was to thresh the wheat. The meal is placed on a rock for the angel and then wham, is vaporised by fire. Gideon then knows He is in the presence of the Almighty, and yells in verse 22: Ah, Sovereign Lord! and then he builds an altar to the Lord.

He needed to understand who he was, but more importantly, He needed a personal encounter with God. Napoleon’s soldiers used to say, “When Napoleon takes our hands and looks at us, we feel like conquerors.” When the Lord turned and looked at Gideon, he must have had an overwhelming sense of the peace only possible from the presence of God. It is so important to get to know God, take his hand and look “full into His marvellous face.” Once we do, we’ll sense His presence, we’ll understand His priorities, and in the process, we’ll be motivated to do what He’s calling us to do.

Private faithfulness is a prerequisite to public usefulness (6:25–32).

Before Gideon could be used publicly, he had to take care of some things at home, to cleanup on some of the bad habits and things he wad doing. God tells him to get his dad’s special seven-year-old bull and tear down his father’s altar to Baal. Any livestock farmer knows you only need a few good bulls to sustain a large herd, so to kill the best bull would have been a huge financial loss, and put Gideon at personal risk. Are we surprised Gideon chooses to do this at night? He knew his dad!

God’s people had allowed their worship to become polluted and Gideon was chosen to confront the breaking of the first and second commandments in his own family. If you want to learn how to trust God you must first set the affairs of your own house in order. Before God can use you mightily, He must be magnified in your home. Is He? If you are holding on to any ungodly practise, clinging to any sin, let it go. Confess it, and knock down any altars where you worship anything other than God Himself.

God is patient with our faith process (6:33–40).

By the time we reach verse 33, the Midianites and some other “ites” are starting their annual raid. Verse 34 tells us, Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. Gideon had stepped out with private faithfulness, now God’s Spirit empowers Him publicly. People and clans rally behind him, his faith grows, and 32,000 men show up to take on the ‘ites.

Let’s get this all out there: Gideon has an encounter with the Creator of the universe, he obediently cleans up the sin at home, and now the Holy Spirit is empowering him … But he still has doubts. Sounds like us, doesn’t it?

God told Gideon what to do but he wanted to make sure. Verse 36: If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised. I am so happy because of how loving, tender, and patient God is with us. Gideon says to God, ‘let’s make a deal’ — he knows God has promised to save Israel through him but he wants to set up a little test, and that of course is what Gideon is most famous for.

First, he places a wool fleece on the threshing floor and says, “If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” He’s admitting God said He would do this. The next morning, the fleece was full of moisture and the ground was dry.

Good enough for Gideon? Not a chance, He knew wool tends to absorb water so maybe this was a natural things. Verse 39: Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew. This would be a miracle because if the ground was wet and the fleece was on the ground, then the wool would be wet as well. The next morning, the ground was soaked and the fleece was dry. God was gracious with Gideon’s growing faith.

Success is determined by God’s power, not ours (7:1–8).

Gideon’s now ready to fight the ’ites, but God has other plans. In 7:2, the Lord said to Gideon: You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her.

Gideon says, ‘what? I mean what, Lord?’ He knew they were outnumbered but his men were itching to fight, and they thought maybe they could defeat the ’ites. God tells anyone who is “trembling with fear” to go home. Amazingly, 22,000 men ran away, and only 10,000 remained. I think the 10,000 were also scared, too. Gideon readies for battle, but God tells him there are still too many men. He tells Gideon to take them down to the water and let them drink.

Gideon was to watch how the men drank from the river, then divide them. 300 men made cups out of their hands and filled them with water and lapped it with their tongues. And 9,700 kneeled on the shore and stuck their faces right into the water.

From 32,000 to 10,000 to 300 men, and we know in chapter 8 the enemy had 135,000 human fighting machines. Each Israelite had just 450 Gideon Midianites. That is being outnumbered!

God loves to show Himself strong when we feel weak. He delights in the difficult, but He specializes in the impossible. In Luke 18:27, Jesus said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” We should attempt something so big for God that unless He is in it, it will fail. I’m reckon that’s how Gideon felt.

God doesn’t need us to accomplish His purposes. Have you noticed how much He can do through just a few people? We get so caught up in what we’ve done we forget to give God credit. When our numbers are reduced, then we know its God who is doing the work. 2 Corinthians 12: 9:“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Seventh:

God gives us assurance when we do things His way (7:9–25).

After whittling down the troops, God knows Gideon is nervous, quite unlike a superhero at this point. He sends Gideon down to where the Midianites are camped so he hears someone relate a dream they had. Gideon realizes the dream was about a Midianite defeat at the hand of the Israelites, and verse 15 tells us that he worshiped God.

God gives us assurance when we do things His way. Doubt evaporates. If we put our faith in Jesus Christ we have assurance of salvation, of answered prayer, of victory, of forgiveness, and of guidance.

Gideon divides the three hundred men into three companies and arms them to the teeth with trumpet and clay pots with torches inside them, and a battle plan to follow his lead. In the middle of the night, they quietly approached and surrounded the camp, blew their trumpets and broke the jars so their light would shine.

Normally, just a few soldiers carried trumpets for signalling because hands were needed for weapons and shields, and only a small number would be assigned torches to illuminate the battlefield during the night. When the Midianites heard 300 trumpets blast and saw myriad torches, they assumed a massive army was about to ransack them. They retreated so fast and so haphazardly, they killed many of their own number. Those who ran away were chased by Gideon in hot pursuit. Eighth:

Expect criticism and deal with it gracefully (8:1–3).

Whenever you’re involved in the Lord’s work, criticism will come. For Gideon, it was the Ephraimites, were one of the chief tribes of Israel, who were angry Gideon hadn’t given them a bigger role in the battle. 8:1: Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian? And they criticized him sharply. Sour grapes that they would not get so many spoils as other tribes who were more involved. Gideon is learning fast and avoids civil war and soothes their wounded pride: verse 3: he thanked them for the role they did play in capturing two of the Midianite leaders. When you’re criticized, answer people with kindness. Proverbs 15:1: A gentle answer turns away wrath. Ninth:

Finish strong even when you feel like giving up (8:4–21).

Allow verse 4 to encourage you: Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted, yet keeping up the pursuit. Gideon was weary but still Midianites to track down. The task wasn’t complete. God is looking for “finishers” today, those who will not only start strong but also finish strong. And tenth:

Be careful to give God the credit (8:22–23).

The Mighty Midianites, Gideon is enjoying his victory parade, and in basking in the glory of a victory parade (verse 22) the Israelites say: Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian, but Gideon knew it was all about God, not about him and he directed their focus back to the Lord in verse 23: “The Lord will rule over you.”

There’s a lot of good news about Gideon in these three chapters. We can learn to trust God by following his list of learning:

  • God uses tough times to get our attention
  • God always sees more than we do
  • God confirms His priorities with His presence
  • Private faithfulness is a prerequisite to public usefulness
  • God is patient with our faith process
  • Success is determined by God’s power, not ours
  • God gives us assurance when we do things His way
  • Expect criticism and deal with it gracefully
  • Finish strong even when you feel like giving up
  • Be careful to give God the credit

Land of Hope and Glory

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Spitfire and Union Flag over Blenheim Palace, during The Battle Proms 2016

Gideon learned how to trust God, but his story doesn’t end well. He refused to be made king, but he developed a taste for the gold earrings of the killed Midianites. Once collected, he wanted to use it to make himself an ephod, reserved for only the high priest. Gideon wanted a special connection with God, without having to travel to Shiloh to worship. Unfortunately, this object became a stumbling block for the entire nation. When Gideon eventually dies, the Israelites once again prostituted themselves to Baal, right back to where they started. Gideon’s compromise led to their downfall. One of his sons became king but killed 70 of his brothers in the process.

Yesterday, Rosie and I experienced the amazing Battle Proms at Bleinheim Palace, with our old friends, Derek and Anne Jones, and as luck would have it, I snapped a great photo on my phone of a Spitfire and the Union flag waving in the wind. Got me thinking about today’s message.

We can never coast spiritually. Individually and as a nation. We have lived through some of crazy weeks as a nation, recently, but let’s never forget that this land of hope and glory must serve the one, true God, if we are to stay the course. We pray that each of our lives will contribute to a country undivided under God, for our sakes and for our children’s children. Amen.