Church Camp 2019 1. Gideon: Learning How To Trust
Judges 6 - 8
We’re kicking off this weekend to focus on some heroes, who were actually common men and women who did uncommon things because they trusted in the character of God. This morning we’ll look at a guy named Gideon. God loves to use ordinary people like Gideon to accomplish extraordinary things. That means He wants to use people just like you and me.
Gideon’s Good News
We’re going to work our way through Judges 6 - 8, as we focus on 8 truths that will help us grow in our trust of God. We’ll only be able to hit some highlights, or lowlights, so I hope you’ll read these 3 chapters for yourself.
1. God uses adversity to get our attention 6: 1 - 10
This was a very tough time in the history of Israel. It was a hinge between the successes of Joshua and the establishment of the monarchy. Covering around 400 years, God’s people progressively drift away from the Lord.
The last phrase of this book gives us insight into why things were going south for them: “…everyone did what was right in his own eyes” 21: 25. Because of that, God’s people cycle through periods of rebellion, which led to punishment from God. After suffering for some time, they would eventually cry out to God and then be restored to a time of rest and peace. But then they’d begin the process all over again.
When we come to Judges 6, the nation of Israel has slipped into sin again. Because they did evil in the eyes of the Lord, God’s people were given into the hands of the mighty Midianites. They were extremely powerful and oppressed the Israelites. Because things were so bad, the Israelites had left their homes and were living in caves, fearing for their lives. Finally, after 7 long years, they cried out to the Lord for help.
It’s as if they waited until they couldn’t take it any longer. They probably had excuses and explanations. We do the same thing, don’t we? We know God is trying to get our attention but we hold out, thinking that we can handle it on our own.
v. 7, 8a - when we cry out to God, He responds. He loves you just the way you are but He loves you too much to let you keep living the way you are.
2. God always sees more than we do 6: 11, 12
When someone would thresh wheat they’d normally do it out in the open so that the wind could blow away the chaff. But Gideon is afraid of the Midianites and so he’s whacking the wheat with a stick. He’s defeated and discouraged, filled with doubts and fears.
When the angel speaks, Gideon immediately looks behind him for the mighty warrior. He was more wimp than warrior. But God always sees more than we see.
When God looks at you, He sees a hero in hiding. When God looks at Gideon, He sees a strong soldier. Because the Lord is with him, he is a mighty warrior.
Just as Gideon did not see himself as a mighty man of valour, many of us don’t fully understand who we are in Christ. Some of us have an image of ourselves that is not only unhealthy; it’s not biblical.
If you are a born again believer • You are God’s child • You have been justified • You are free from condemnation • You will never be separated from the love of God • You are a saint • You have been adopted as God’s child • You are God’s workmanship • You are a citizen of heaven • You have been redeemed and forgiven • You are complete in Christ. God knows who you are even if you don’t.
3. God confirms His priorities with His presence 6: 13 - 24
Instead of reporting for duty, Gideon questions God, wondering why a bunch of bad things have happened to his people. We often do the same, don’t we? When the bottom falls out, our faith becomes fractured.
God doesn’t answer his “why” questions – v. 14. Gideon responds that his CV isn’t very impressive. He’s from Manasseh, the lowest and weakest tribe and he’s the youngest in his family. He’s a small man from a little clan.
God confirms His priorities with His presence – v. 16. This is even more personal than what God said in v. 14. Gideon is given a commission but is also promised the personal companionship of the Lord Himself.
Gideon isn’t sure so he asks the angel to wait for a few minutes while he runs off and bakes some bread and throws a goat on the braai. The meal is placed on a rock and then is vapourised by fire from heaven. Gideon realizes that He is in the presence of the Almighty, he built an altar to the Lord and named it Jehovah Shalom, which means, “The Lord is Peace.” Gideon needed to understand who he was, but more importantly, he needed a personal encounter with God.
When the Lord turned and looked at him, Gideon must have had an overwhelming sense of the peace that can only come from being in the presence of God.
Likewise, the most important thing we can do is to get to know God, sense His presence, understand His priorities and in the process we’ll be fired up to live out our purpose.
4. Private faithfulness is a prerequisite to public fruitfulness 6: 25 - 32
Before Gideon can be used publicly, he must first take care of some things in his personal life. The Lord told him to tear down the family altar to Baal.
Not too surprisingly, Gideon would rather do this demolition job at night because he knew how his dad would react. Not much of a hero, is he? Actually, heroism is optional but obedience is essential.
Friend, if we want to learn how to trust God then we must first get our own hearts and homes in order. Is there a sin you’re clinging to? Any idol you’ve been bowing to? Confess it and knock down any altars you find.
5. God is patient with our faith process 6: 33 – 40
v.34 - Gideon had taken a huge step of faith in his private faithfulness and now God’s Spirit is empowering Him publicly. People are rallying behind him and his faith is growing as he marvels when 32000 men show up.
Even though he had an encounter with the Almighty, even though he was obedient to purify his family, and even though the Holy Spirit was empowering him, he still had some doubts. Sounds like us, doesn’t it? God had told him what to do but Gideon wanted to make sure – v. 36.
I love how loving, tender and patient God is with us. He knows that God has promised to save Israel through him and yet he wants to set up a test.
This test is what Gideon is most famous for. First, he places a wool fleece on the threshing floor. When he got up the next morning, the fleece was wet and the ground was dry.
Apparently this wasn’t good enough for Gideon. He puts the fleece out again. The next morning, the ground was soaked and the fleece was dry.
God was gracious with Gideon’s growing faith. Let me just say that the practice of laying out a fleece can be dangerous. Gideon was already told 3 times what to do. The results of our so-called
“tests” can be difficult to interpret and easy to manipulate. Aren’t you glad God is patient with us?
6. Success is determined by God’s power, not ours 7: 1 – 8
Gideon’s now ready to rumble but God has other plans - v. 2. Gideon must have wondered what was going on. He already knew they were outnumbered but his guys were pumped. Gideon started out with 22000 men. After ferreting out the fearful and the foolish, God then tells Gideon that he will save Israel with 300 men. Gideon realised that for every 1 Israelite, there were 450 Midianites.
God loves to show Himself strong when we feel weak. He delights in the difficult, but He specialises in the impossible. God doesn’t need us to accomplish His purposes. Have you ever noticed how much He can do through just a few people? God works through a dedicated core, not through a divided crowd because He seeks followers, not fans. When our numbers are reduced, then we know its God who is doing the work.
7. God gives us assurance when we do things His way 7: 9 – 25
God knows that Gideon may be a bit nervous so he has him go down to where the Midianites are camped so that he can overhear someone tell about a dream that he had. When Gideon realizes that the dream was about the Midianites’ defeat at the hand of the Israelites – v. 15.
I love how God goes out of His way to give us assurance when we do things His way. I can think of at least 5 things we can be totally certain about if we have put our faith in Jesus Christ: • Assurance of salvation • Assurance of answered prayer • Assurance of victory • Assurance of forgiveness • Assurance of guidance.
When the Midianites heard the blast of 300 trumpets, the sound of clay pots crashing and saw the myriad of torches, they naturally assumed there was a massive army ready to pounce on them. They got spooked and started running around like crazy, killing one another.
8. Be careful to give God the credit 8: 22, 23
After defeating the Mighty Midianites, Gideon is basking in the glory of a victory parade and the “high-fives” of the people. “You go, Gideon! You the man!” Gideon knew it was all about God, not about him and so he directed their focus back to the Lord.
There’s a lot of good news about Gideon in these 3 chapters but his story doesn’t end on a very good note. As we’ll see with Samson, who started out with so much potential, a fatal flaw tripped him up in the end. While he refused to be made king, he did ask for the golden earrings of the massacred Midianites.
He used this gold to make an ephod, which was like ornamented body armour, reserved for the high priest. This object became a stumbling block for the nation – 8: 27.
Sadly, when Gideon eventually dies, the Israelites were right back to where they started. Gideon’s compromise led to their downfall.
This serves as a warning to us. We can never coast spiritually. Don’t ever think that you’ve arrived, because you haven’t.