Judges 6:1-16 (NIV) 1 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help. 7 When the Israelites cried to the LORD because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.” 11 The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” 13 “But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.” 14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” 15 “But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” 16 The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”
So the guy in our story, Gideon, was raised up to be a judge, not a judge like we would picture today in a courtroom or like Judge Judy on TV, but a deliverer or sorts, a rescuer, a leader in Israel during a difficult time. A group of people called the Midianites who were numerous and powerful were oppressing the Israelites. Before the Israelites could harvest their crops the Midianites would come in and ruin their crops, leaving the Israelites impoverished. This word “impoverished” in verse 6 is similar to our expression “at the end of my rope.” The Israelites were at the end of their rope. That is a hopeless place to be.
Who wants to be appointed by God to lead a nation when the situation is dire? Not only was food scarce, but people were living in hiding. Verse 2 says they had to live in caves and cracks in the mountains. When we find Gideon in this story he is in hiding threshing his little amount of wheat that he was able to glean rather than thresh it outdoors like was supposed to have been done so that he could keep it out of the eyesight of the Midianites who would destroy it. So Gideon was at the end of his rope and was in hiding because he couldn’t do anything to change his situation. He was literally living in poverty and in fear.
What I would like to highlight first this morning is that God sees you where you are. God knew all about the situation and condition of Gideon and the Israelite people. When you are feeling squeezed and oppressed and like you are at the end of your rope it can be easy to think that God is unconcerned with your situation, that He isn’t aware of it or that He is unmoved by it. Nothing could be further from the truth, but it can be tempting to conclude God doesn’t care about what we are going through. Why can we be quick to adopt the attitude that God doesn’t care?
First, it is human nature to want to be delivered from suffering. It isn’t fun to suffer. We don’t like to suffer. Suffering is the part of life we think we could do without. The problem isn’t God’s lack of concern for us when we suffer, but it is the wrong perspective we have about times of suffering. God works in and through suffering to accomplish things in us that we won’t possess any other way. Don’t believe me? Read James chapter 1. There the writer talks about learning to be grateful for difficult times because they develop perseverance in us; something we need in order to run this spiritual race we are in. During this time period in Israel’s life as a nation, it was only during times of suffering and oppression that they would turn to God and draw close to Him. Suffering became a tool God used to get the attention of His people.
But suffering is more than an attention getter. The Bible tells us that times of suffering aren’t random; that they aren’t the result of some cruel joke God is playing on anyone. They are part of the human experience because of sin, but they are instrumental, pivotal moments in the lives of believers who will allow God to do a deep work in them.
It is during times of suffering that we become broken, humble, and dependent upon God.
Marine Corps recruiter Randy Norfleet survived the Oklahoma City bombing despite losing 40 percent of his blood and needing 250 stitches to close his wounds. He never lost consciousness in the ambulance because he was too busy praying prayers of thanksgiving for his survival. When doctors said he would probably lose the sight in his right eye, Mr. Norfleet said, “Losing an eye is a small thing. Whatever brings you closer to God is a blessing. Through all this I’ve been brought closer to God. I’ve become more dependent on Him and less on myself.” (https://bible.org/article/value-suffering)
We experience the power of God often more profoundly during times of suffering. The Apostle Paul testified to this in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10-8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul testified that he was able to experience Christ’s strength during times of personal weakness and that the power of Christ was perfected in his life during times of difficulty. That is a different perspective than the perspective that says, “If God loved me He wouldn’t ever let me suffer.” If suffering is the way to Christ’s power being perfected in us, our trial becomes a blessing to us that exceeds the difficulty of the trial. What is more important than the personal strength that we receive is the fact that the power of Christ, the strength of Christ is on display for others to see as we walk through our trial.
It is also during times of suffering that we become compassionate and understanding of what others are going through. We become more Christ-like towards others when we can empathize with their pain.
Sometimes we pray about something, and we don’t get a quick answer or the answer that we desire. When that happens we may falsely conclude that God doesn’t love us or doesn’t care about what we are going through. Parents, we know in those moments when we can’t bless what our children ask of us that sometimes they might conclude that we don’t really love them or don’t understand. It is part of human nature to think that love and concern always mean rescue or blessing, however they don’t. If you love someone you will do what is best for them, and that may contradict their desire. God’s answers for His people flow from His relationship with them and His will for them and not their personal desires and dreams. We need to be thankful that God doesn’t always answer every prayer we pray! We could be in a world of hurt if God answered every prayer we prayed because when we pray we are asking for what we think is best which will only at best be second best to what God desires and given the flawed nature of humanity it could be disastrous!
Don’t assume that if you are suffering or if you aren’t seeing results from your prayers that God isn’t aware or doesn’t care. God sees you and knows what you are dealing with. He heard the prayers of the Israelites in their distress, and when the time was right, He went looking for Gideon as he was hiding in a cave, and He raised up Gideon to bring deliverance to His people.
God knows who you (really) are.
11 The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
Mighty what? Mighty who? Gideon looked like anything but a mighty warrior; Mighty Mouse (picture of Mighty Mouse HERE?!) maybe, but a mighty warrior? No way. Gideon was in hiding threshing his little bit of wheat. He was afraid. He was defeated. He wasn’t a mighty anything or so he thought. Look at his response in verse 15:
15 “But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
Gideon was quick to disqualify himself for the job. He didn’t think his family was well-off enough or well-known enough for him to be selected to do anything to help Israel. He wasn’t just being humbled. He truly didn’t feel up to the task.
Listen, when the call of God comes we can’t look at who we are, but we have to trust Who God is and what He can do. God said to Gideon, “Go in the strength you have. I am sending you (verse 14) and verse 16, “I will be with you.” Listen, when God calls you, who you are, where you have come from, and what you think of yourself is of no consequence when God says He is sending you and will be with you. God’s call and His presence trumps everything.
Listen, your weakness doesn’t matter to God. Your past doesn’t matter to God. Your upbringing doesn’t matter to God. What matters to God is your obedience and willingness to let Him use you and to prove it, God told Gideon to reduce the Israelite army that went with him in chapter 7 from 32,000 men down to 300! You’ll remember that the Israelites were already no match for the Midianites. If you already know before you go into battle that you are outnumbered that isn’t logically the time to reduce your army, right? That isn’t logically the time to thin out the ranks. But God wanted Gideon to understand that He was leading the battle and would miraculously deliver the Israelites; that it wasn’t about what Gideon could or couldn’t do, but it was about what God had purposed to do in and through his obedience.
Listen, God knows who you are. He knows your insecurities, failures, weaknesses and temptations. But He knows who you really are IN HIM! You are a Mighty Warrior, men! You are a Mighty Warriorus, women! J I believe one of the reasons God calls us to step up and step out on faith is because He wants to teach us about who we really are. I believe He wants us to find our identity in Christ and in His call on our lives and not on our earthly qualifications.
One lie Satan would want you to believe is that you aren’t qualified to be a Christian or qualified to be a world-changer for Jesus Christ. If you are born-again, you are God’s friend (John 15:15.) If you are born again, you are God’s masterpiece (Eph. 2:10). If you are born again, you belong to God (I Cor. 6:20) and you can never be separate from His love (Romans 8:35) and you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Phil. 4:13).
Perhaps the process of sanctification, which simply means we are being transformed to be like Jesus, is the process of helping us to understand who we really are in Christ. Why yes, I believe I do love that definition. J I love it because when we understand who we are in Christ, that His power is made perfect in our weakness and that His grace covers every flaw I can respond to Him when He calls me to perform a big task with confidence in Him and His ability to pull it off. If I didn’t believe God was going to provide the resources for our new building and make it happen, I would be tempted to find a cave myself to hide in. J I’m not a builder, and I don’t even play one on TV. What God is calling me to lead our church to do I am not capable of doing. But He has promised to be with us and has called us to the task, so I simply say, “Have at it God. I am along for the ride!”
No, Gideon wasn’t a Mighty Warrior in and of himself, but as he would rely on God’s presence and power, God was transforming him into the Mighty Warrior he could be with God’s help.
God works with you as you are.
I want to highlight verse 14 again when God told Gideon, “Go in the strength you have.” Notice that God didn’t ask Gideon to be like someone else or to try to be someone he wasn’t. So many people think they need to become something different before God can work with them and use them. Gideon is a great example that, that is b-o-l-o-g-n-a.
Gideon was still unsure. He needed reassurance. He needed God to give him some confirmation that it was really God Himself that had come to Gideon to tell him he had been selected to deliver the Israelites. Maybe God had knocked on the wrong door. Maybe this was somehow a mysterious imposter pretending to be God. Gideon needed some signs that he was hearing what he thought he was hearing.
Now, let me say, as we grow in our faith, we shouldn’t need God to confirm things over and over again, but as we see in this story of Gideon’s life, God was willing to work with him where his faith was; and it was weak. Gideon went and prepared an offering to set before the Lord. That was a pretty sacrificial thing to do because remember, food was scarce. He killed a young goat and brought some bread to the Lord as well for an offering, and notice what God said to him in verse 18: “I will wait until you return.” God waited on Gideon. I love that. God was so patient with Gideon. God is patient with us, too. He works with us to help us along in our journey with Him. Even though He isn’t restricted by time, He works in time with us because He understands how we are wired and how it takes time for us to adopt certain ideas and behaviors.
God instructed him to put the goat’s meat and the bread on a rock and pour out some of the broth, and when Gideon did, God took a staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the bread. Fire came up from the rock and consumed the meat and the bread. When Gideon realized it was truly God who was speaking to him, the text says he built an altar (verse 24) and called it “The Lord is Peace.”
How cool is that? Before God sent Gideon to war, He brought Him a message of peace. Peace with God precedes every victory you or I will ever achieve. Remember, I said God works with us where we are. Before He sent Gideon to face the Midianites He gave him some homework. He gave Gideon an assignment in his home territory to help him grow into the Mighty Warrior he was creating him to be. Listen, before Gideon could face the enemy on the battlefield, he had to take care of some enemies at home.
In verses 25-32 God told him to destroy the altars dedicated to Baal, a pagan god, and to build an altar to the Lord, and the wood for the sacrifice would be the Asherah pole that people had worshipped. Well, remember, Gideon was taking baby steps into becoming the Mighty Warrior. He obeyed God, but he did it at night under the cover of dark because he was afraid of the people’s response.
As he predicted the people went ballistic and wanted Gideon dead! They considered his actions a capital offense when really according to God’s law it was the idol worshipper who should have be executed. God worked on Gideon’s dad, Joash, and softened his heart. That was a miracle because it was Joash’s elaborate altar to Baal that Gideon had smashed. Joash defended his son before the town mob and even insulted Baal! He basically said, “What kind of god is Baal anyway if he can’t even defend himself?” (Verse 31)
What happened next was incredible. Judges 6:34-35 34 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. 35 He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them.
The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon. Do you suppose he started to feel like a Mighty Warrior or at least a Mini Warrior? He wasn’t hiding in a cave anymore. He wasn’t hiding under the cloak of darkness anymore. He was blowing a trumpet and calling all kinds of attention to himself! And what happened? People started to support him and join him! God gave him influence. People were drawn to his leadership! How did that happen? Just a few verses earlier he was hiding in a cave by himself doubting he could do anything to help anyone, and now he is out in the open commanding groups of people!
That is what happens when you respond to the call of God, when God is patient with you, when you make peace with God, and when you start to obey God in the direction of your calling. Hallelujah! You start to become what God says you are, a Mighty Warrior!
You would think Gideon would be good to go by now, but he needed a bit more confirmation of the Lord’s plan. Gideon asked God for a sign in verse 36. He said to God that he would put a piece of wool on the threshing floor and that if the fleece was wet the next morning, but the ground was dry, Gideon would accept God’s plan to use Gideon to save Israel. Well, sure enough, Gideon got up the next morning and picked up that piece of wool and wrung it out and he obtained a bowl full of water from it while the ground all around was dry.
Alright, Gideon, you got your sign, so let’s Giddey-Up Gideon and go get the Midianites! Nope. Gideon asked God one more time for another sign. He asked God to allow the fleece to be dry and the ground to be covered with dew. Here again we see the patience of God to work with Gideon where he was. He granted his request. The next morning the fleece was dry, but the ground was wet.
Here is the point. Following God is a step by step process. Sometimes we will question. Sometimes we will doubt. Sometimes we will take two steps forward and one step back, but if it is in our heart to obey God, He will work with us where we are and move us on in Him as He creates in us Mighty Warriors for His Kingdom. Isn’t that good news?
In fact, I have shared three good news facts with you this morning. You ought to be encouraged today after listening to this message! God sees you where you are. That is good news! He knows what you are going through. He is listening to your prayers. He is with you in your struggle. God sees you as you really are. That is great news! He knows your fears and how you doubt yourself. He knows what has taken you into hiding from making the impact He can make through you if you will accept His power and move out in faith. God works with you as you are in order to help you become all He intends. That is incredible news! He knows transformation is a process, and He is patient to work with us little by little.
The call of Gideon is simply a call to take God by the hand and choose to live life as He leads you, one step at a time. It isn’t about being perfect now. It is about being willing now. If you are willing, God will create in you a Mighty Warrior for His glory and for the deliverance of those who are being oppressed by the enemy of their souls.