THE PATIENCE OF GOD TRANSFORMS THE HESITANCY OF OUR WEAK FAITH INTO BOLD ACTION EMPOWERED BY HIS SPIRIT
Contrary to how this text is commonly preached, it has nothing to do with how God’s people should discern God’s will; it is not intended to give insights into the decision making process for those major life choices that confront each of us. Gideon knew what God wanted him to do. He was just struggling to believe that God’s Promises and God’s Power were sufficient for the challenge ahead of him. That is why I love studying Gideon. We are so much like him. Think how the Lord Jesus had to constantly review the same lessons with His disciples and reprimand them for their hesitancy to fully trust Him. Yet He remained patient and kind in moving them along through the process of discipleship.
Look at all of the information that Gideon already had to help him take action on his divine commission. We looked previously at the Calling of Gideon and then the Consecration of Gideon. He received a personal visitation from the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Himself, the angel of the Lord. He had been addressed as “valiant warrior” in anticipation of how God would work through him. He experienced the miracle of his sacrificial meal being devoured by fire sent from heaven as well as the miracle of the disappearance of the angel of the Lord. He heard God’s voice reassuring him that Jehovah shalom (the Lord is Peace) meant that Gideon should not be afraid. He had seen how the Lord had enabled him to take the risk of tearing down the altar of Baal while protecting him from his angry neighbors. In fact his name had been changed to indicate the Lord’s superiority over Baal and the invincibility of Gideon. Yet when called to act at the moment of crisis, he still hesitated. His request for signs is not a sign of faith but of hesitation. But the Lord is abundantly patient so that today we will study the Confirmation of Gideon’s Calling.
Block: Despite being clear about the will of God, being empowered by the Spirit of God, and being confirmed as a divinely chosen leader by the overwhelming response of his countrymen to his own summons to battle, he uses every means available to try to get out of the mission to which he has been called.
Look at all of the revelation we have of God’s promises and God’s instructions. We have 66 books full of God’s Word – bearing the same authority and weight as if we heard the voice of God from heaven or had the angel of the Lord sitting across from us at our kitchen table instructing us personally. Look at all of the miracles we have access to. Can there be any doubt about God’s faithfulness to His promises or the sufficiency of His power to work on our behalf? Yet we hesitate. Our faith is often weak and we seek assurances from God.
THE PATIENCE OF GOD TRANSFORMS THE HESITANCY OF OUR WEAK FAITH INTO BOLD ACTION EMPOWERED BY HIS SPIRIT
(:33) SETTING: THE TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW
“Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the sons of the east assembled themselves; and they crossed over and camped in the valley of Jezreel.”
Enemies have crossed the Jordan River and are preparing to attack
More than 135,000 men (8:10; 7:12) Why did they bring so many? Not because they were needed for the success of the military mission but because they wanted to participate in bringing home all of the loot. They anticipated this would be another simple mission of taking whatever they felt like carrying home. Easy to get men to sign up for this cakewalk.
This would be the 8th annual invasion during time of wheat harvest in May or June
Brensinger: This valley, separating the central region of Samaria from the northern tribal territories, provides both fertile soil and great maneuverability for travel and assaults.
When the time comes for action there can be no delay. We don’t pick the time when our faith needs to engage and step out with boldness. That is why we must always be on the alert and growing in our faith. We can’t hit the pause button and say, let me go take a seminar on faith and get back to you.
2 CONTRASTING RESPONSES TO GOD’S CALL FOR ACTION:
I. (:34-35) SPIRIT POWERED LEADERSHIP GALVANIZES A LOYAL, UNITED FOLLOWING – BOLDLY BLOW THE TRUMPET
A. (:34a) Spirit Powered Leadership Depends on God’s Initiative
“So the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon”
Inrig: The word is used elsewhere to describe a man putting on his clothes (Gen. 28:20), or a warrior putting on a suit of armor (Isa. 59:17). What a delightful picture! The Holy Spirit wore Gideon the way a man puts on a suit of clothes. It is a vivid way of saying that God the Holy Spirit took possession of Gideon, indwelling and controlling him. Two other times we have this phrase in the Old Testament. In 1 Chronicles 12:18 we read of Amasai, one of David’s brave soldiers, being so empowered, and in 2 Chronicles 24:20 the phrase is used of Zechariah the priest who, with great boldness, charged a sinful people with apostasy, and as a result lay down his life as a martyr.
Zech. 4:6 “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit”
We should desire to function as the Lord’s mouthpiece, the Lord’s arms, the Lord’s feet so that He can carry out His will.
Inrig: The Holy Spirit does not destroy our individuality . . . We see an obvious illustration of this every day. In my kitchen, I have all kinds of electrical appliances. I can take an electric light, or a radio, or an electric can opener, or an electric dishwasher, or a toaster and plug them one by one into exactly the same outlet. But they do not all do the same function. In fact, that power enables them to function individualistically. Until they are plugged in, they are all the same, none of this is doing anything. . .
One of my seminary professors, Howard Hendricks, was fond of telling us, “Men, every morning I pray, ‘Lord, here I am. I want to by Your suit of clothes today. I want You to take me and use me. Lord, just walk around in me today.’” I have not forgotten that.
Wiersbe: When a group of British pastors was discussing the advisability of inviting evangelist D.L. Moody to their city for a crusade, one man asked, “Why must it be Moody? Does D.I. Moody have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?” Quietly one of the other pastors replied, “No, but it’s evident that the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on D.I. Moody.”
Midianites are going to discover to their surprise that they are not fighting against a mere man, Gideon, but against the all powerful God of the universe
At this beginning of the confrontation, the emphasis is not on the faith of Gideon but on the sovereign initiative of the Lord in working through Gideon.
Ministry of the Holy Spirit is different today. We have the permanent indwelling of the Spirit so that at all times we should be yielding to His control. We have the permanent blessing of spiritual gifts that we need to exercise for the evangelization of the lost and the edification of the church.
B. (:34b) The Response to the Spirit’s Initiative Should be to Boldly Blow the Trumpet
“and he blew a trumpet,”
A ram’s horn; a call to arms
This was the call to his countrymen to take up arms. Nothing done in secret here. This was out in the open, from the mountaintop – calling upon the Israelites to step up to the plate and defend their land and the their people and their possessions;
It was a call to take a stand for the name of the Lord God against the pagan forces that had been mocking their God. It was a call to faith in their privileged position as the circumcised of God who should never be defeated by the uncircumcised enemies of God.
The issues of idolatry and rebellion had been dealt with. They had repented and turned back to the Lord. Now they needed to trust once again in His covenant faithfulness.
The question for us is Are we going to cower in fear or boldly step out in faith and blow the trumpet of joining in the Christian warfare? Are we going to function as soldiers of Jesus Christ or sit on the sidelines? Last week where did you have the opportunity to blow the trumpet of faith and dependence upon the power of the resurrected Lord Jesus? Remember we studied over Easter how the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us today.
Blow the trumpet!
C. (:34c-35) Faithful Followers Respond to God’s Sovereign Call
“and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him. And he sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him; and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they came up to meet them.”
Calls his fellow Abiezrites (just the other day they had been Baal worshippers) and then the northern tribes surrounding the Jezreel Valley; 7:3 suggests that 32,000 men assemble
Response based more on the moving of the Holy Spirit then on people being impressed with Gideon?? Some mixture of both. That is why God had put his stamp of approval on Gideon and his leadership in the incident of the destruction of the altar of Baal.
This was an impressive response.
Herbert Wolf: Ephraim was not invited, perhaps because Gideon feared that this powerful brother tribe would not accept his leadership (cf. 1:22; 8:1-3).
Transition: We would expect to immediately see the battle joined. The enemy is prepared and waiting. God’s troops have shown up and are looking to Gideon for leadership. How surprising is it to find that Gideon is still not ready himself.
II. (:36-40) HESITANT LEADERSHIP STRUGGLES WITH BELIEVING THE POWER AND PROMISES OF GOD – TIMIDLY TEST GOD’S PATIENCE
A. (:36-38) Fleece Test #1
“Then Gideon said to God, ‘If Thou wilt deliver Israel through me, as Thou hast spoken, behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that Thou wilt deliver Israel through me, as Thou hast spoken.’ And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water.”
God could have upbraided Gideon here. Are not my instructions clear? Crystal clear (Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men)
Brensinger: Testing (nasah) God in the OT is prohibited (Deut. 6:16), both because it calls into question God’s faithfulness and because it reflects great disdain on the part of the one testing; it is normally an attempt to force God to do something (Exod. 17:7; Num. 14:22; Ps. 78:18). Here, however, the Lord accepts the idea, no doubt because it grows out of Gideon’s fluctuating sense of security ad his continuing need for assurance. God’s patience and mercy, therefore, pierce legal expectations and allow for honest searching. . . But wool absorbs more dew than stone …
A bowl full of water – no doubt involved in the outcome of this test – graciousness of God
B. (:39-40) Fleece Test #2
“Then Gideon said to God, ‘Do not let Thine anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground.’ And God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground.”
Look at the apologetic tone of Gideon here – he knows he is on thin ice; look at Job debating with the Lord until finally the Lord tells him to shut up; cf. David pouring out his heart in the Psalms; difficult to judge when you have crossed over the line and the Lord just responds, that is enough
Garry Friesen – Decision Making and the Will of God – The Fleece that wasn’t a Fleece
At a number of points, this event fails to authenticate the contemporary practice of “putting out a fleece.” In the first place, Gideon’s fleece was not simply a circumstantial sign, but rather a miraculous display of supernatural power. Gideon’s request for the fleece sign would hardly be less than an insistence on a miracle since he had already received several supernatural demonstrations: the angel claimed to be God (6:21); his offering was consumed by fire from the rock (6:21); God spoke to him (6:23-26); and the Spirit of God came upon him giving him enablement (6:34). After such supernatural manifestations, it is inconceivable that Gideon would ask for a sign that was merely “circumstantial.” The reversal of the fleece sign completely precludes such a possibility.
Second, Gideon was not employing the fleece to ascertain guidance, but to gain confirmation of guidance already given. And the guidance already given came by means of supernatural revelation. So Gideon was not seeking the right decision, but enough faith to believe that God’s deliverance would come through him. . .
Third, rather than being an example of a proper approach to receiving guidance, Gideon’s demand for further signs was really an expression of doubt and unbelief. God’s instructions to Gideon were clear, as he himself indicated (6:37). Apparently, God graciously acceded to Gideon’s lack of faith because of the severe circumstances which tested him. As understandable as his fears might have been, Gideon’s perpetual testing of the Lord was not appropriate. For God’s attitude toward those who demand signs in unbelief is expressed in Christ’s rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 12:38-39) and demonstrated in the silencing of the priest, Zacharias (Luke 1:11-20). Gideon’s apologetic tone in asking for the second fleece sign shows that even to him “it looked so like a peevish humorsome distrust of God and dissatisfaction with the many assurances he had already given him. . .
There is, however, a practical question that needs to be answered, If the practice of putting out a fleece is improper, why does it sometimes bring good results? The answer, quite simply, is that on some occasions the fleece that is chosen is really wisdom in disguise.
[Illustration: purchase of yellow Volkswagen Rabbit – setting a price that would be our upper limit]
How to Grow in Faith – 7 Practical Suggestions:
1) Immerse yourself in the Word of God – Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Look at the Promises and Power of God
2) See Answers to Prayer in your own experience – Share those with others – Blow the Trumpet
3) Exercise your spiritual muscles – take little steps of faith – Book of James gives practical tests to show that your faith is genuine
4) Spend time with people who are good examples of strong faith; read biographies of men and women of faith
5) Focus on eternal, immaterial, unseen realm – avoid materialism trap – 1 Peter
6) Increase your Giving – causes you to depend on the Lord
7) Be honest with God – knowing He is patient and long-suffering; like Job and David; this is transition to points made in the conclusion
This story is more important for what it reveals to us about God then what it teaches us about Gideon:
Ex. 34:6-7 Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished”
Doubt sees the obstacles,
Faith sees the way.
Doubt sees the darksome night,
Faith sees the day.
Doubt dreads to take the step,
Faith soars on high.
Doubt whispers, “Who believes?”
Faith answers – “I.”
“Lord I believe; help my unbelief!”