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JUDGES 6:1-40
Series:  Heroes of Faith - Part Three

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 26, 2005

Please turn with me to Judges 6 - starting at verse 1.  We’ve been going through the Book of Judges - looking at Heroes of Faith.  Not all of whom we would look at on the surface and say, “That’s a spiritual hero.  I want to be like him or her.”  But these are people - remarkably like us -  that God used - often despite themselves.  God’s put their lives here in Judges for us to look at as an example and an inspiration for our own lives.

As you’re turning to Judges 6 - let me put this passage in the context of where it fits in Judges.  Then, as we’ve been doing - we’re going to go through the passage - make some observations - look at 5 truths to grab on to - and then share two thoughts of application.

But first - where this passage fits in Judges.  You’ll remember that in the Book of Judges there are 7 complete cycles of sin.  The cycle looks like what?  What comes first?  First, Israel would sin.  Second, God would send punishment - something to get His people to turn back to Him.  Third, Israel would cry out to God.  Fourth, God would send a Judge - someone to deliver them.  Fifth, Israel would enter a time of peace and rest.

We saw the cycle with Ehud.  Last Sunday we saw the cycle through the account of Deborah.  After Deborah there was 40 years - a whole generation that lived in obedience to God - in His peace.  Judges 6 and Gideon is the fourth time through the cycle.

Judges 6:1: 
Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord - sin - and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years - again - punishment designed to bring God’s people back to God - The power of Midian prevailed against Israel.  Because of Midian the sons of Israel made for themselves the dens which were in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds.  For it was when Israel had sown, that the Midianites would come up; with the Amalekites and the sons of the east and go against them.  So they would camp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no substance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey.  For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locusts for number, both they and their camels were innumerable; and they came into the land to devastate it.  So Israel was brought very low because of Midian...

Do you remember those Capital One commercials - with the vandals sweeping in to plunder and destroy? 
“What’s in your wallet?”  That’s the Midianites and Amalekites.

The Midianites were descendants of Abraham.  The Amalekites are descendants of Esau - haters of God and God’s people.  In the time of Gideon they lived in the southeast as a loose knit band of warriors.  They’re nomads - marauders.  All of them - the men - the women - even the children. 

They were known for their camels.  By camel they could travel swiftly  across the desert - devastate people - and leave.  They did this to God’s people.  Just sweep in at harvest - innumerable like locusts - plundering - destroying - devastating whatever lay in their path.

For seven years God’s people have been vulnerable - living in terror of these pirates of the desert.  God’s people are raising their crops - tending their sheep and goats - thinking that maybe this year will be different.    But the whole time they’re looking back over their shoulders.  They’re living in fear that the next attack and defeat is coming.

Verse 2 tells us that God’s people are living up in the mountains - in caves - in fear - hiding out.  Verse 6 says that God’s people were brought very low.

We don’t have to stretch too far to see ourselves here.  Living in caves of - fear - depression - anxiety - despair - hopelessness.   Going from one defeat to another defeat.  What kind of meaning is there to my life?  Where is the way out?

Been there?  We all have.

Verse 6 goes on: 
So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord.  That’s the third part of the cycle - God’s people crying out to God.

Verse 7: 
Now it came about when the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of Midian, that the Lord sent a prophet to the sons of Israel, and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘It was I who brought you up from Egypt and brought you out from the house of slavery.  I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land, and I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live.  But you have not obeyed Me.” ’ ”

God sends a prophet with a history lesson of hope.  God speaking to His people in their need. 
“I’m God.  I delivered you.  I’m still God.”  But you’re worshipping at the altars of the Amorites gods.

God is letting their enemies come - over and over - so His people will wake up.  So they’ll turn from their sin.  Turn back to Him.

Grab this truth:  God’s people are never meant to live in fear - defeated - despairing.  Say this with me,
“We’re not meant to live in fear.”

Verse 11: 
Then the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites.

That introduction to Gideon is important. 
“beating wheat in the wine press.”  Wheat is threshed in the open - an exposed area - where the wind blows the chaff away.  A wine press is a small enclosed area.  He’s hiding the wheat from the Midianites.  There’s fear here in Gideon’s heart.

Verse 12: 
The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.”  Then Gideon said to Him, “O my Lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?  And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’  But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

Can you see Gideon there - fearfully beating wheat. 
“God?  Where is God in all this?  All that stuff we we’re told about God - that hopeful history lesson - why isn’t God doing any of that ‘parting of the Red Sea’ stuff now?  God’s abandoned us.  Man, you got the wrong wine press.” 

Ever feel like that?

Verse 14: 
The Lord looked at him and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian.  Have I not sent you?”

That’s a command: 
“Go.  Deliver.  I’m with you.”

Verse 15:  [Gideon]
said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel?  Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.”

“Aren’t you listening.  I’m from a small unimportant family in a second rate tribe.  And I’m the youngest.  I’m no deliverer.  I’m no valiant warrior.”

Verse 16: 
But the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.”

Grab this truth:  God is not bound by our fears.  He’s moving forward - orchestrating time and history - according to His purposes.  Whatever fears we may have - whatever we may bind ourselves up with - God is not bound by those fears - not limited by them.  Gideon is fearful.  He’s protesting.  God is still unfolding His plan.  Say this with me,
“God is not bound by our fears.”

Verse 17: 
So Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me.  Please do not depart from here, until I come back to You, and bring out my offering and lay it before You.”  And He said, “I will remain until you return.”  Then Gideon went in and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour; he put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, and brought them out to him under the oak and presented them.  The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.”  And he did so.  Then the angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in His hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread.  Then the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight.

That’s powerful.  Burning up offerings is a God thing.  When Aaron is giving a sin offering before God - on behalf of the people - God sends down fire and consumes the offering.  (Leviticus 9:24).  When Elijah is up on Mount Carmel - the contest with the prophets of Baal - God sends down fire and consumes the offering and the altar.  (1 Kings 18:38) 

Verse 22: 
When Gideon saw that He was the angel of the Lord, he said, “Alas, O Lord God!  For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.”  The Lord said to him, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.”  Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and named it The Lord is Peace.  To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites

Holiness is a God thing.  When Gideon recognizes that the angel is God he fears for his life.  To see God face to face is to die.  God is too holy.  (Genesis 32:30; Judges 13:22)

To be worshipped is a God thing.  Only God is to be worshiped.  (Deuteronomy 6:13)  Gideon says,
“O Lord God!”  Calls the angel, God.    Builds an altar for worship.  The angel doesn’t refuse the worship.  The angel is God.

Throughout His ministry Jesus accepted worship as rightfully belonging to Him. (John 20:27-29)  Its Jesus - God - who reveals God to us (John 1:18).  Jesus who is our peace.  From here and numerous other places in Scripture we know that this angel is the preincarnate Jesus in angelic form. 

Jesus - God - comes to Gideon.  Gideon who’s fearfully beating out wheat in a wine press - wondering where God is.  Jesus comes - commissions Gideon as a deliverer - repeatedly tells Gideon,
“I am with you.”

Grab this truth:  God is with His people.  In our fears we often crave for Him to reveal Himself to us.  But He’s right there.  Has been all the time.  He’s there with His strength - His power - all that we need.  Say this with me,
“God is with us.” 

Verse 25: 
Now on the same night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it; and build and 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.”  Then Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had spoken to him; and because he was too afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city to do it by day, he did it by night.

A few years ago I was in Lebanon and I visited a place called Baalbek.  Baalbek is an ancient - maybe 5,000 year old - sprawling complex of massive temples and platforms - dedicated to the various gods of those that have ruled there.  But the base god is Baal.  The Asherah is the female version of these gods of stone and wood.  In Baalbek even the architecture is perverse - reflecting the immorality of the worship - worship that is about as far from God as a person could go.

God tells Gideon,
“Destroy them.”  Replace their worship with the worship of the true God.

Verse 28: 
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.  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.”  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.”  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.”  Therefore on that day he named him Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he had torn down his altar.

When Moses and Joshua were around - as God’s people were being led into the land God promised them - God’s people were commanded to destroy the very people that are now holding them in bondage.  But they didn’t do it.  Warned not to worship their gods.

This is the depth of where sin takes us.  God’s people - fearfully hiding in caves - ready to kill someone of their own flesh and blood because - in obedience to the God they should have been worshiping - Gideon has  torn down the stone and wood false gods of the people who are keeping God’s people in bondage.

Does it make sense to worship and cry out for deliverance to the gods of our enemies?  The problem isn’t the Midianites.  Its not the Amalekites.  Its sin. They’re living in bondage - in fear - despairing because of their own sin.

Grab this truth:  The importance of cutting off sin.  At some point we have to make a choice.  Who are we going to serve?  The false gods or our own self-destruction or the One true God - who leads us out of Egypt and will remain with us always?  Say this with me,
“We need to cut off sin.”

Verse 33: 
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.  So the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him.  He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him; and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Napthtali and they came up to meet them.  Then Gideon said to God, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have 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 You will deliver Israel through me, as You have 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.  Then Gideon said to God, “Do not let Your anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let make me 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.”  God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and the dew was on all the ground.

Last week I enjoyed listening to Doug and Kim share this scene with the kids at VBS.  It’s a familiar scene.  One we can all relate to.  We find ourselves throwing out fleeces to God.  Don’t we?  Wanting God to show us clearly - or reassure us - of His will for us.

The one truth I’d like to not pass by here is the patience of God.  Grab on to that:  God’s patience.  God has personally visited Gideon - face to face. God has burned lunch.  He’s taken care of Gideon when Gideon obeyed Him.  That’s more than most of us have experienced.

Now Gideon has the Almighty God of creation doing parlor tricks - playing wet fleece - dry fleece.  And God is going along with this.  God honors Gideon because He understands Gideon’s fear.

God understands our fear.  He is patient with us.  Say this with me,
“God is patient towards us.”

Five truths to grab on to:  We are not meant to live in fear - defeated - despairing.  God is not bound by our fears.  God is with us.  We need to cut off sin and turn to God - the God who is patient with us - calling us to His purposes for our lives.

Two thoughts of application.

The Importance Of Perspective.

A girl - away at college - wrote the following letter to her parents:

Dear Mom & Dad,

Just thought I’d drop you a note to clue you in on my plans.  I’ve fallen in love with a guy called Jim.  He quit school after grade eleven to get married.  About a year ago he got a divorce.  We’ve been going steady for two months and we plan to get married in the fall. Until then, I’ve decided to move into his apartment (I think I might be pregnant).  At any rate, I dropped out of school last week, although I’d like to finish college sometime in the future.

On the next page the letter continued,

Mom & Dad,

I just want you to know that everything I’ve written so far in this letter is false. None of it is true.  But, Mom & Dad, it is true that I got a C- in French and flunked Math…  It is true that I’m going to need a lot more money for my tuition payments.

Bad news sounds good given the right perspective.  Is the glass half empty or what?  Half full?  How do we view ourselves?

God comes to Gideon and calls him,
“O Valiant Warrior.”  That wasn’t the perspective Gideon had of himself.  But it was God’s perspective.

We live in caves - in fear.  While God may be patient with what concerns us - God is not bound by our fears.  He sees our circumstances - sees us - from a totally different perspective.  God comes to us and says,
“I’m with you O Valiant Warrior.”   We need to see ourselves from God’s perspective.

God has eternal designs on our lives - great purposes for us.  Not bondage.  But great victory.  Usefulness in His Kingdom and His work of bringing humankind to Himself.  We’re servants of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  We live lives in touch with the Living God of Creation and - in Jesus - His Spirit is within us.

Turn to the person next to you and tell them this: 
“You are God’s Valiant Warrior.”  That’s what we’re meant to be.  If you ever feel like hiding in a cave - or compromising with sin - remind yourself of this truth, “I am God’s Valiant Warrior.”

Second thought of application: 
The Importance Of Trusting God.

During the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln often found refuge at a Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.  He would go with an aide - sit with his stovepipe hat in his lap - and never interrupt the meeting because the congregation would all be in a dither if they knew the president had come to sit in that midweek meeting.  He sat off to the side, near the pastor’s study, as the pastor would open the Scriptures and teach God’s word and would lead the congregation in worship.

The war was tearing the nation apart and tearing Lincoln’s soul.  Having just lost his son - Lincoln was at the bottom.  He needed solace and sustenance.

As the pastor finished his message and the people began to leave - the president stood quietly - straightened his coat - took his hat in hand - and began to leave.  The aide stopped him and said,
“What did you think of the sermon, Mr. President.”  Lincoln said, “I thought the sermon was carefully thought through, eloquently delivered.”  The aide said, “So, you thought it was a great sermon?”

Lincoln said,
“No, I thought he failed.”

“He failed?  How?  Why?”

“Because he did not ask of us something great.”

God calls each of us to a life of greatness.  A life that goes beyond anything we can imagine.   What He asks of us - as He asked Gideon - what He asks of us is to place our trust in Him.



1. Erwin Lutzer, Failure:  The Backdoor to Success
2. Bruce Larson, What God Wants To Know

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.