THE CALL OF GOD SHOULD TRANSFORM OUR SENSE OF INADEQUACY INTO A MINDSET OF PEACE AND CONFIDENCE AS WE FOCUS ON THE LORD’S ENABLING PRESENCE
You might be familiar with a series of TV commercials where different well known personalities recount some challenges in their life and conclude with the pronouncement: “I am so-and-so and I am confident in my own skin.” The humanistic mindset of our culture wants to loudly proclaim personal sufficiency. I can do it. I can be comfortable with who I am. I can be successful because of my innate abilities and personality. I can handle whatever the world might throw at me. No challenge can defeat me. I am comfortable in my own skin.
As we begin a series of messages on the role of Gideon as one of the most prominent in the line of judges in this chaotic time period of Israel’s up and down struggles with idolatry and apostasy, we see that God wants His leaders to have a totally different mindset. As God calls Gideon to a supremely challenging task of rescuing the Jews from the oppressive Midianites, He wants Gideon to recognize his own inadequacy, but put his confidence in God’s presence and enablement. He wants Gideon to be comfortable in living in the divine presence where God’s favor can accomplish the impossible. This requires a process. It doesn’t happen all at once. We are going to see that it is a struggle for Gideon to take on this new leadership role.
But the dominant attribute of God that will help Gideon make this transition in mindset and confidence is that the Lord is Peace. We know from other passages that the Lord is everything to us. He is our Savior; He is Love; He is Holy; He is Just; He is Compassionate. But to be comfortable in the divine presence we must know God as our Peace.
THE CALL OF GOD SHOULD TRANSFORM OUR SENSE OF INADEQUACY INTO A MINDSET OF PEACE AND CONFIDENCE AS WE FOCUS ON THE LORD’S ENABLING PRESENCE
We start this new cycle in Israel’s history where the Book of Judges starts each cycle, with the recurring sin of God’s people. What a sad commentary on man’s wandering heart and conflicting loyalties – yet the Lord remains faithful.
I. (:1a) SIN – FORGETTING THE SOURCE OF BLESSING
“Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD;”
This is not making reference to just one or two dramatic occurrences of rebellion. It is a characterization of overall apostasy and idolatry. We are going to see that the family of the hero in this passage has actually set up a center of Baal worship – an altar that the Lord will require be torn down. There has been a major departure from covenant obedience, despite the previous deliverances which the people have experienced; despite the forty years of peace and prosperity after the success of Deborah and Barak over Jabin and Sisera and the Canaanite forces.
II. (:1b-6a) SUFFERING – BEING BROUGHT LOW BY ENEMY OPPRESSION
“and the LORD gave them into the hands of Midian seven years. And the power of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of Midian the sons of Israel made for themselves the dens which were in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. For it was when Israel had sown, that the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites and the sons of the east and go against them. So they would camp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locusts for number, both they and their camels were innumerable; and they came into the land to devastate it. So Israel was brought very low because of Midian,”
The Midianites had a history of tripping up the Israelites in the past and continued to be a constant source of aggravation.
Remember back in Numbers 25 – God warned His people about the Midianites.
Numbers 31:1-18 – God had Moses take full vengeance on the Midianites – but they were not utterly destroyed;
Here they become the toughest enemy which Israel has faced yet and they repeatedly ravage their villages and crops for a seven year period that must have seemed like an eternity.
Once again the sovereignty of God is emphasized – He was using the Midianites to wake His people up from their spiritual backsliding and rebellion.
Inrig: This time God used a group of desert people, led by the people of Midian. The Midianites had discovered a devastating new military weapon – the camel! Their main benefit was in giving the Midianites a mobile, long-range, swift, attack-capability against the Hebrews, who were entirely dependent on foot soldiers. A camel can travel for three or four days, with a heavy load on its back, and cover about 300 miles, without food or water.
Motyer: What is stressed is how many times they invaded (note the word “whenever”, and the tenses of the verbs: they would come, they would attack, they would destroy, whenever the Israelites had crops to be plundered); how many miles they covered (as far as Gaza, in the deep south, having presumably crossed Jordan a very long way to the north of that, to judge by 6:33); and above all, how many men their host comprised (they were “like locusts” not just for destructiveness, which is what locusts usually mean, but here specifically “for number; . . . they . . . could not be counted”). Too many! Too many! And it is into the hand of this “too-many” enemy that the Lord has given His people.
Dale Ralph Davis: covenant breakers should expect this type of scourge from Yahweh – Deut. 28:29, 31
Block: The narrator highlights the intensity of their fright by citing a triad of refuges: minharot, “mountain clefts”; mearot, “caves”; and mesadot, “strongholds.” . . . “Israel became small”
Result: Israel was brought very low
III. (:6b-10) SUPPLICATION – GETTING THE LORD’S ATTENTION
“and the sons of Israel cried to the LORD. Now it came about when the sons of Israel cried to the LORD on account of Midian, that the LORD sent a prophet to the sons of Israel, and he said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, It was I who brought you up from Egypt, and brought you out from the house of slavery. And I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land, and I said to you, I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not obeyed Me.’”
Interesting how when you read a number of commentators you see the same illustration repeated … you never know its origin; it just takes on a life of its own and becomes wedded to the particular passage; I will adapt it some based on my current business experience
Illustration: At Johnson and Towers, we repair trucks and buses that break down. Our special expertise has been in Detroit engines and Allison transmissions; but we have expanded our services to work on everything on the truck. Imagine the reaction of a customer – say MTA or Greyhound – who has a bus broken down on the Baltimore Beltway. They call for our road service and we send out a philosopher to lecture them on proper preventive maintenance practices. They would not be too pleased. They want a mechanic dispatched to fix their bus and want it fixed NOW!
Dale Ralph Davis: Israel cries for relief, and Yahweh “sent a prophet to the sons of Israel” (v. 8). That would be like a stranded motorist calling a garage for assistance and the garage sending a philosopher instead of a mechanic. Israel needs deliverance and Yahweh sends a prophet; Israel asks for an act of God’s power and he sends them a proclaimer of his word who rehearses Yahweh’s grace (vv. 8b-9), repeats Yahweh’s demand (v. 10a), and levels Yahweh’s accusation (v. 10b). Hence Yahweh sends a prophet because Israel needs more than immediate relief; they need to understand why they are oppressed.
The guts of the story relate to this all important stage in the cycle – the stage of salvation and deliverance – we will be focusing today on the Call of Gideon
III. (:11-24) SALVATION – THE CALLING OF GIDEON – THE VALIANT WARRIOR
8 Aspects of This Divine Calling:
A. (:11) The Circumstances of the Calling — Called by the Angel of the Lord while in Hiding
“Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites.”
Inrig: The name Gideon means “hewer,” so he was apparently a man of physical strength. [hewer of wood or of rock]. . His father owned land in Ophrah, which normally was a very fertile part of the country. But when we meet Gideon, he was threshing wheat by beating it with a stick in a winepress. Normally, a man would thresh wheat on a wooden threshing floor, using a threshing sledge pulled by oxen. The floor would be by a wheat field, in an exposed place, so that the wind would carry away the chaff.
Brensinger: A winepress, typically a large vat carved out of the rock and connected to a lower, smaller vat by a channel, could be located almost anyplace grapes were available. The grapes were simply placed in the large vat and trampled underfoot until the juice flowed into the lower vat.
Dale Ralph Davis: I have called this section “the grace that holds us.” How like the God of the Bible whose covenant love is so “mighty” over us (Ps. 103:11, in the Hebrew)! When he “ought” to destroy he delivers yet again; when he has every right to shatter he nevertheless prepares to save. How “slow to anger” (Exod. 34:6) indeed! How loath he is to strike his people (Lam. 3:33) even when justice begs for it. That is why Ephesians 2:4 grips us so.
Block: grain was threshed by first beating the heads of the cut stalks with a flail, discarding the straw, and then tossing the mixture of chaff and grain in the air, allowing the wind to blow away the chaff while the heavier kernels of grain fell to the floor.
B. (:12) The Celebration of the Calling to be a Valiant Warrior because of God’s Presence and Favor
“And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, ‘The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.’”
Did not look like there was much to celebrate, given the circumstances … but the Lord talks in language of ultimate victory and celebration
Not mocking Gideon – but viewing him in light of the possibilities due to God’s transforming power and enablement – just like the Savior came to Simon and noted “You are Simon, the son of Jonah. You shall be called a Rock – Peter.”
Promise of the presence of the Lord should be all that we need; should answer all of our questions and objections – but God is patient with us – understands that it is a process as we grow in our maturity and our ability to live in light of God’s presence with us
C. (:13) The Climate of Discouragement and Defeat Despite the Calling
“Then Gideon said to him, ‘O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.’”
Inrig: A little girl was listening to her mother tell some Bible stories about great people like Moses, Joshua, Samson, and Daniel. Finally, she turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, you know, God was much more exciting back then.”
D. (:14) The Commissioning of the Calling — Called by the Power of God to Deliver Israel
“And the LORD looked at him and said, ‘Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?’”
go in the strength associated with confidence in the Lord’s enabling presence with you; the divine commissioning brings with it implied strength for the task at hand
Inrig: Hudson Taylor once said, “All of God’s great men have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them; they counted on His faithfulness.” That is the divine solution to discouragement – the truth of the omnipresence and adequacy of God.
E. (:15) The Criticism of the Calling — Excuses and Objections
“And he said to Him, ‘O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.’”
Certain degree of humility is appropriate
Gideon had to come to an end of himself where he saw himself as bankrupt and unable to accomplish anything for God; but too often we take that mindset and transfer it over to God as if He cannot use us to accomplish anything
Important Principle: God’s Power is best seen through accomplishing the impossible through the transformed weakness of men – He likes working with a few rather than many – we will see God instructing Gideon to cut down the number of his forces – it will be obvious that the Lord gives the victory
F. (:16) The Comforting Words of Reassurance to Support the Calling
“But the LORD said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.’”
Lord keeps coming back to this fundamental theme of the Enabling Presence of the Lord
Does this mean defeat Midian as if it were only one man rather than a multitude?
Ritchie: He says very clearly that he can’t do it,” but the Lord says to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” It is the whole principle of “I in you and you in me.” There is a beautiful principle here: We were never meant to live our lives hopelessly, for ourselves We are meant to die to ourselves so that Christ can live’ his life in and through us. That is how we get meaning out of life. We are meant to have Christ live through us, as Lord and Savior. Then our life takes on beautiful meaning.
G. (:17-21) The Confirmation of the Calling by a Miraculous Sign
“So Gideon said to Him, ‘If now I have found favor in Thy sight, then show me a sign that it is Thou who speakest with me. Please do not depart from here, until I come back to Thee, and bring out my offering and lay it before Thee.’ And He said, ‘I will remain until you return.’ Then Gideon went in and prepared a kid and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour; he put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, and brought them out to him under the oak, and presented them. And the angel of God said to him, ‘Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.’ And he did so. Then the angel of the LORD put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight.’”
Preparing a feast in time of famine; a feast that became a sacrifice
Wiersbe: Gideon prepared a sacrifice, which was a costly thing to do at a time when food was scarce. An ephah of flour was about a half a bushel, enough to make bread for a family for several days. It probably took him an hour to dress the meat and prepare the unleavened cakes, but God waited for him to return and then consume the offering by bringing fire from the rock.
H. (:22-24) The Conclusion of the Calling – Mindset of Peace and Confidence Rather Than Fear
“When Gideon saw that he was the angel of the LORD, he said, ‘Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face And the LORD said to him, ‘Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.’ Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and named it The LORD is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.”
Dale Ralph Davis: He must have assurance but there is a problem with the assurance. This assurance does not settle but alarms him.
Wiersbe: The Hebrew word for “peace” (shalom) means much more than a cessation of hostilities but carries with it the ideas of well-being, health, and prosperity.
– Fear of Death – of God’s Destructive Power and Judgment
– Fear of the Enemy
– Fear of the Future
– Fear of My Own Inadequacies
– Fear of Failure
– Fear of What Others Will Think or Say or Do
Combat Fear with Worship and Thanksgiving and Service
Ultimately we are not comfortable in our own skin but in the Lord.
Gal. 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”