CONSECRATION IS THE PREREQUISITE TO EFFECTIVE SPIRITUAL SERVICE –
We have some strange new ideas that have taken root in the soil of American government. These are principles that are fundamentally opposed to those that our founding fathers would have advocated. One of those perversions that bothers me the most is articulated by William Bennett in his book: Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals:
“It is said that private character has virtually no impact on governing character”
Think about the ramifications of that statement. Look at how it has impacted the business world and all realms of leadership. This past week we had Arkansas University agonizing over whether they would be forced to fire their popular 51 year old head football coach Bobby Petrino after his motorcycle accident with a female passenger wrapped around his waist exposed his inappropriate sexual relationship with a 25 year old he had recently hired on as a $56,000 a year assistant to the football program. Was this really a difficult decision? Does nothing shock us anymore? At least the Athletic Director did the right thing. In many instances today, the discipline amounts to nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
That is certainly not the position of the Lord who maintains that consecration must precede effective ministry. We saw last week the Calling of Gideon. But before he can engage the enemy in battle, he must deal decisively with the moral and spiritual demons in his own family closet. It turns out his father had sponsored a very prominent center for idol worship. But victory over Israel’s oppressors would not be granted until repentance was evidenced by the purging of this sinful practice and the return to biblical worship of the one true God. Remember the good report the Apostle Paul rendered about the conversion of the believers at Thessalonica:
1 Thess. 1:9-10 “For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”
Consecration is probably an outdated sounding concept in our modern culture. Who uses such terminology anymore? Didn’t that type of vocabulary get forgotten along with the Puritans and the Reformers? Not talking about a leap to sinless perfection …
Definition: the setting apart for the service of God
Must first understand the nature of Idolatry:
An idol is an object, idea or relationship that shifts our focus from God.
What is it that has slowly crept into your life and your home, which takes the place of God?
CONSECRATION IS THE PREREQUISITE TO EFFECTIVE SPIRITUAL SERVICE
I. (:25-27) CONSECRATION DEMANDS A COMPLETE PURGING OF IDOLATRY
A. (:25a) The Urgency of Consecration – Revelation of the Divine Command
“Now the same night it came about that the LORD said to him,”
Gideon immediately was confronted with specific divine expectations – being assigned a task that must be carried out in the context of his own home before God would bless him in the larger public calling involving rescuing the nation from the Midianites
Privilege of revelation – how quickly God spoke to him again; yet revelation brings accountability
When God is ready to act things happen quickly
B. (:25b) The Cost of Consecration
“Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old,”
Some confusion over whether one or two bulls were involved … seems that the event focuses on the second bull = a choice bull [or possibly viewed in apposition and translated “full grown”]; some think that this second bull was more of a community possession – certainly they did not have large flocks … just the few animals they could conceal from the marauding attacks every year by the Midianites; sacred animal of the fertility cult
Seven years – for the seven years of oppression by the Midianites
Jordan: The Levitical law required that a national sin be atoned for by a bull (Lev. 4:13-21).
Remember they were in the midst of a famine; it had been a sacrifice just to prepare a good meal; then the angel of the Lord went and poured out the gravy!
C. (:25c) The Finality of Consecration — No Turning Back – You step over the line and you are committed
The Break From One’s Sinful Past Involved in Consecration
“and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it;”
Requires some extreme measures – not playing around with sin here
The altar of God cannot co-exist with altars to idols
Gideon had worshipped at this sanctuary
a pagan altar unearthed at Megiddo not far from Ophrah was 26′ square & 4.5′ high made with stones cemented by mud. Joash’s altar was likely of similar size
Block: Pagan gods may tolerate the simultaneous worship of more than one deity, but Yahweh will brook no rivals. A fundamental tenet of covenant relationship in orthodox Yahwism is “You shall have no other gods besides me.”
Inriq: In Gideon’s backyard was a vivid example of the reason God had allowed Midian to overwhelm and enslave Israel. Joash, Gideon’s father, had apparently built an altar to Bal on his own property and with it an Asherah, a wooden pillar representing the Canaanite goddess of fertility. However, it was not only a personal idol, for the family’s private use. Obviously it served as the village shrine, with Joash probably acting as the supervisor of pagan worship in the area.
Brensinger: In addition to the standard altar, Canaanite shrines typically include a standing stone symbolizing the male deity as well as a pole symbolizing the female deity. The law of Moses specifically commanded that the Israelites should destroy these things (Exod. 34:13; Deut. 7:5).
Example from ministry in Ephesus – Acts 19:18-19
D. (:26) The New Expression of Genuine Worship Involved in Consecration
“and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.”
Baptism is important step of consecration – can’t go back; you have identified publicly with the Lord Jesus and committed yourself to a life of discipleship
Like drawing a line in the sand and stepping over it in total commitment
J. R. Miller: In His Steps: Consecration –
It is not enough to cut loose from the old life: the young Christian must enter the new life. Leaving the service of one master, he must enlist in that of another. Withdrawing his heart’s affections from one class of objects, he must fix them upon another class. Ceasing to do evil, he must also learn to do well. No longer a servant of sin, he must become a servant of righteousness. Mere repentance is not enough: giving up one’s wicked ways is but half of conversion: there must also be a devotement of the life to Christ. The heart cannot be left empty.
“When St. Boniface had hewn down the sacred oak worshiped by the savages in the tangled forests of Germany, he did not stop with destroying it, but when it was felled built out of its fallen and splintered fragments the chapel of St. Peter, and in the room of the worship of Thor the Thunderer left the worship of Christ the crucified. ‘To replace is to conquer;’ and the theology of the forests fled back abashed before the theology of the cross.”
When we break with the world, we must straightway bow before Christ; indeed, we can be freed from the dominion of the old master only by the coming into our hearts of the new. The only way we can turn from sin is by turning to Christ. He then becomes first, Deliverer and Saviour; afterwards, King and Lord. As such he must be accepted, and the whole allegiance of the life should instantly be transferred to him.
E. (:27) The Trembling Obedience of Consecration
“Then Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the LORD had spoken to him; and it came about, because he was too afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city to do it by day, that he did it by night.”
Hardest battle to fight is to identify with Jesus Christ before your family and closest friends
Open Identification with godliness
You can’t always be fearless – even though the angel of the Lord had just commanded Gideon not to fear; but you can simply obey by faith even in the midst of fear
Davis: Obedience was essential and heroism optional
Don Jones: Many Medal of Honor winners, those still alive, have been interviewed about their feats of courage. Most say they were just doing their job they were trained to do. Almost to a man they admit to being scared, fearful during the combat situation. They go so far as to say if someone says they were not afraid they are either a liar or crazy. Faith overcomes fear.
Jordan: We see God continuing to encourage Gideon’s weak faith. What an encouragement to see his father Joash, an old Baal follower, coming around to the side of the Lord! God makes Gideon’s fearful yet faithful action gloriously successful.
Why didn’t people hear the sounds of this destructive activity”?
II. (:28-30) CONSECRATION INFURIATES GOD’S ENEMIES WHO SEEK RETRIBUTION
A. (:28) Discovery of the Dastardly Deed
“When the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was torn down, and the Asherah which was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar which had been built.’
Pagans have no problem rising early to worship their worthless idols
Shocking discovery – someone had violated their sacred sanctuary – this could anger the gods and cause the village great harm – of course things had not been going that well for them anyway
If that second bull had belonged to the group, they would have been especially angered
B. (:29) Detection of the Perpetrator
“And they said to one another, ‘Who did this thing?’ And when they searched about and inquired, they said, ‘Gideon the son of Joash did this thing.’”
They use their best detective abilities to track down who did the deed;
Conjecture is that one of Gideon’s ten servants must have turned him in; hard to keep a secret with that large of a group
C. (:30) Demand for Retribution
“Then the men of the city said to Joash, ‘Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has torn down the altar of Baal, and indeed, he has cut down the Asherah which was beside it.’”
Gideon living under the roof of his father – they held Joash responsible; required him to deliver up his son; how ironic that God had instructed that such idolaters should be put to death and they were trying to execute God’s servant
Cf. Gen. 19:8 and response of Lot to the men of Sodom
III. (:31-32) CONSECRATION REFUSES TO BACK DOWN BECAUSE FALSE RELIGION PROVES TO BE POWERLESS
A. (:31) Bold Stand by Joash in Defense of His Son – Exposing the Impotency of Idolatry
“But Joash said to all who stood against him, ‘Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him? Whoever will plead for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar.’’
Looks like the conscience of Joash has been awakened and he is now ready to take a stand – certainly his motivation is to protect his son; but it looks like he no longer fears the wrath of Baal or the need to appease him; Repentance has kicked in and Gideon’s family has returned to the one true God
B. (:32) New Name for Gideon – Exposing the Impotency of Idolatry
“Therefore on that day he named him Jerubbaal, that is to say, ‘Let Baal contend against him,’ because he had torn down his altar.”
Cf. 1 Kings 18:27 incident
Let’s just step back and observe; give Baal space to operate; the fact that he is a phony will show itself quickly
Inriq: Jerubbaal literally means “Let Baal contend,” based on Joash’s challenge. It came to mean “Baal-fighter” or “Baal-conqueror.” Every time men looked at Gideon, they had visible proof of the weakness of Baal and the power of God. . .
There was a strikingly similar event in the life of John Knox, the great Scottish Reformer. In 1548, he was a prisoner on a French slave ship, chained to a rowing bench and lashed constantly by the guards. He was there because of his preaching of the Word of God and his refusal to submit to Catholicism. One day the lieutenant brought aboard a wooden image of the virgin Mary and demanded that the slaves kiss it. Knox refused, and they pushed it violently against his face. He grabbed it and threw it overboard, shouting, “Let our Lady now save herself; she is light enough; let her learn to swim.”
When no divine judgment fell on Knox, two things happened. Never again were believers required to engage in Catholic exercises against their wishes, and men began to look to Knox as their leader. Eventually, the Scottish Reformation was the result.
Brensinger: the name is an invitation, no doubt sarcastic in tone, for Baal to right the wrong committed by Gideon
Living for Jesus a life that is true, Striving to please Him in all that I do;
Yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free, This is the pathway of blessing for me.
O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to Thee,
For Thou, in Thy atonenment, Didst give Thyself for me;
I own no other Master, My heart shall be Thy throne;
My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for Thee alone.
Unknown Quote: The mark of a saint is not perfection, but consecration. A saint is not a man without faults, but a man who has given himself without reserve to God.
J. C. Ryle: Gradual growth in grace, growth in knowledge, growth in faith, growth in love, growth in holiness, growth in humility, growth in spiritual-mindedness – all this I see clearly taught and urged in Scripture, and clearly exemplified in the lives of many of God’s saints. But sudden, instantaneous leaps from conversion to consecration I fail to see in the Bible.