GIDEON IS CALLED BY GOD
- Have you ever received a lovely surprise?
- A present… a gift… a party… an award… first prize!
- How wonderful to see the expression on a person’s face when he or she receives something unexpected …
- Genuine amazement… a mixture of shock, delight and wonder
- Speechless… overwhelmed… emotional
I went to a surprise celebration last year and the person concerned had absolutely no idea what had been organised on his behalf… He was speechless… perhaps for the first time in his life!
WHAT IF YOU WERE TO RECEIVE A VISITOR THIS EVENING informing you that the national athletics team needed another member and you had been selected for the final?
- It must be a hoax… someone’s obviously playing a trick on you!
BUT NO, IT’S GENUINE… What’s more, not only are you invited to join the squad, you are to be the captain…!
If you think that’s crazy, our Bible reading will “blow your mind”
READING: Judges 6: 1-16 …
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 them or 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 out 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 rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out 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 ‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, “Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?” But now the Lord has abandoned us and given 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 ‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but 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, leaving none alive.’
Have you ever been in a situation where you haven’t known where to turn or what to do?
- Did you ask: ‘Why is this happening to me?’
- Perhaps you cried out to God…and He answered…but not as you expected
Christians throughout the world, notably in certain Islamic countries and those ruled by tyrannical bullies, are suffering terribly
- Bullied and victimised… threatened and imprisoned
- Their property confiscated… or demolished… their goods stolen and money extorted
- Why is this happening!
The Israelites were in just such a position…
- Only their situation was self-inflicted
- And Gideon was about to be used by God in a way that he and those who knew him could never have imagined.
In verse 13, Gideon asked a question that is often on our hearts:
Sir, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?
I was speaking to a lady recently, who told me about a father, who had brought up his four children single-handed and been a marvellous dad, dying suddenly in his mid-50s. She was perplexed as to why he should be taken and others, far less responsible or devoted, should be spared.
Job also grappled with this apparent injustice… Thus, in Job 21: 7-8:
Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes.
Similarly, King David in Psalm 44 v 23 cries out to God…
Awake, O Lord; why do you sleep?
- And the Psalmist was upset about the apparent prosperity of the wicked… until he understood their fate! (Psalm 73 v 17)
Gideon initially failed to appreciate that suffering had come to the nation because so many Israelites had turned away from God
- The fault lay with each person’s lack of personal responsibility for his or her actions, which affected the nation as a whole.
SOMETHING SIMILAR IS HAPPENING IN OUR NATIONAL LIFE…
- There is a lack of personal responsibility… E.g. fathers who walk away from family responsibilities and leave the woman to cope alone
- There is worship of idols (possessions, entertainment, celebrities)
We should therefore be fearful because God’s favour that we have enjoyed for so long will be turned to anger if the situation doesn’t change soon
Israel did not worship the true God…they worshipped a statue called Baal and put up posts with pictures of a sea goddess called Asherah
- As a result, when Midianites and Amalekites and other eastern peoples kept attacking them and stealing all their crops…year after year… God allowed the enemy to succeed
- And the righteous suffered along with the unrighteous… they felt just as hungry and were just as vulnerable to attack!
Eventually, so many enemies came that they looked like swarms of locusts covering the countryside!
- A prophet is sent by God to warn the people but his words seem to fall on deaf ears, though He is, in fact, God’s means of saving Israel
Note that in response to Israel’s cry… God sends a man!
- He doesn’t wave a magic wand and make everything better!
- He gives them opportunity to hear and then to obey His word
- And in the same way, the Father’s response to the sins of the world was to send a Man… not just any man… but the Man, Christ Jesus.
Then we find Gideon, son of a farmer called Joash, hiding in a cellartrying to save some of the crops from the marauding hordes… and threshing wheat to make bread
GIDEON MUST HAVE FELT HELPLESS AND HOPELESS
- Angry and frustrated… skulking away like a rat in a sewer
- Confused about what was going on and where it was leading
- And asking himself “Is there really a God?”
- What sort of a God allows this to happen?
AND IT’S A QUESTION THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE ASK
- What should our response be?
- Someone has said that when we ask Jesus why terrible things happen on earth, He asks us the same question!
- Why do we allow suffering, injustice and wickedness to abound?
Then in the midst of Gideon’s anguish, an angel comes to him and says, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior”
- Who, me? Mighty warrior! I’m just a farmer’s son!
BUT GOD SEES OUR POTENTIAL when we allow Him to take control… not just our present situation, limitations, weaknesses or circumstances
And notice God’s comment when Gideon protests that the Lord had abandoned Israel… He ignores it! Instead, He commands…
Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?
- Truly, God makes an oak tree out of an acorn… a tree for birds to nest in out of a tiny mustard seed of faith
The angel tells Gideon to prepare a meal …and to lay it out on a flat stone… Then supernatural fire comes and burns it up
Gideon was afraid because he realised that this person was an angel sent by God … The good news was that God accepted the sacrifice … Gideon had been given THE GREEN LIGHT!
Like Gideon, we may feel weak, angry, helpless…
- But Christ’s sacrifice is accepted by the Father… so that we, like Gideon, can face the future with confidence
- And though the enemies of God look strong, they have no defence against men and women who dare to take God at His word and step out in faith… which is the catalyst for action!
HAVE YOU EVER ASKED YOURSELF…
- Is it God… or is it my wishful thinking?
- Is it God… or has someone planted the idea in my mind?
- Is it God… or is Satan trying to deceive me?
Well, Gideon wanted to make sure, so he put out a fleece…and asked God to keep it dry even when the ground was wet…and to make it wet even when the ground was dry…
And God did precisely those things
FLEECES HAVE THEIR PLACE but note 4 things:
The process does not begin with a fleece… it is placed out on the eve of battle as a final confirmation and faith-enhancer.
A fleece should not be used as a delaying tactic…Some people say that they are waiting for confirmation about whether or not they should do this or that years after receiving God’s green light!
A fleece is only needed when uncertainty remains about the means of accomplishing the goal … Gideon had accepted God’s word but was doubtful about the means to achieve it
God often uses wise spiritual friends as a fleece… but we need to be wary of choosing someone who will give us the answer that we want to hear!
THE IMPLICATIONS FOR US
- God can use any of us, just as we are… warts and all… He looks only for a submissive heart and a willingness to exercise faith.
- He will only use us if we are willing to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness’… We must always seek His glory
- We must walk in step with the Spirit of God each moment of the way … staying alert and expectant …
… For we never know when an angel of the Lord will call on us and declare: The Lord is with you, mighty warrior! This is what I want you to do…