Gideon: The Man God Chooses - Judge 6-8
B. Charles, Consett
The opening verses of chapter 6 paint the background to Gideon's Spirit-inspired exploits. Here we see the victorious people of God under Joshua reduced to a fearful, impoverished people oppressed by their enemies, and their endeavours coming to nothing, 6. 3-4.
I've root cause was sin. On 7 occasions in this book we read of God delivering them into the hands of their enemies, 2. 14; 3. 7-8; 3. 12; 4. 1-2; 10. 6-7; 13. 1; and here in verse 1. The particular sin is compromise: living side by side with the people of the land, they had eventually married with them. No longer was Israel a people separated to the Lord.
1. A man whose faith is expressed in action.
God chooses a man to serve Him and deliver His people, and the first thing He looks for is faith. A faith expressing itself in action. We see in verse lla man doing something, however small: a man not prepared to let the enemy have what belongs to God and His people: a man making a stand. He is told to 'Go in this thy might', 6. 14. What is it that overcomes the world? 'Our faith', 1 John 5. 4. Gideon believed die miracles that God had performed in the nation's history, and saw what the root cause of Israel's impotence was, 6. 13; 6. 1.
2. A man who confesses his weakness.
We see this in 6. 15-16. He is the least in his father's house. Judges shows us again and again a servant of God characterized by weakness; yet a servant who relied on God's strength. Barak, Shamgar and Samson come readily to mind.
3. A man who has right priorities.
Gideon faces a tremendous task, but before he lifts even a finger against the enemy, he worships, 6. 24. He builds an altar. 'Worship before service', is a principle seen throughout the bible. In verses 25-32 we see Gideon obeying the Lord in a little tiling, in his home situation. He may well have thought, 'What will my father think?' But he is now going forward with God, and what matters most to him is what God thinks. So he tears down his father's altar. Again, Gideon makes a stand. Gideon has still to fight the Midianites, but he has a strong sense of priorities, so by some means or other he seeks to make absolutely sure that he is in the will of God. He does this by seeking a sign from God, verses 36-40, the sign of the fleece. He asks for a sign twice, wanting to be doubly sure. Why was this such a burden to him? Is it not that the lives of more than 30,000 others were at risk in the conflict? Should anything go wrong, therefore, it would not be his life alone that was in jeopardy. How careful we need to be, when involving others in our actions, to ensure we are in the will of God.
4. A man of total commitment.
God reduces the number and 22,000 leave to return home. They were fearful; and then 9,700 fail the test set by God while 300 alone stand the test. The Lord wanted only those who were fully committed, whom He knew would be few. The lesson is simple: 'Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit', Zech. 4. 6. Whom do these groups represent today? The 22,000 perhaps represent those happy to benefit from the assembly, but with little exercise in maintaining it in times of difficulty. As for the 9,700 who lost sight of the objective before them in the action of drinking, they could easily have been caught off guard by the enemy. They are like the unwatchful. Would we have stood the test as the 300 did? Are we found among those who are 'meet for the master's use', 2 Tim. 2.21?
5. A man who influences others for God.
How important it was that Gideon should weld the 300 men into a unit. Accordingly, he leads them positively. He gives them personally the necessary equipment-trumpets, pitchers and torches. 'He put a trumpet in every man's hand', 7. 16. He ensured that when the time came to blow the trumpets, each had one to blow.
Likewise, if we expect younger believers to stand and fight for the Lord, we must equip them. We can hardly expect them to maintain scriptural principles if we have never taught them to them.
Then he gives them an example to follow. It was not a case of, 'Do as I say', but 'as I do, so shall ye do's 'Look on me and do likewise', 7. 17.
Is this our aim as we work amongst other believers, especially teenagers and younger believers, and our own children?
Then he knits them together as one man. We see this in 7. 19-25. They all blow at the same time, and they all shout the same thing. The result: the note is clear and the effect is irresistible.
There is, surely, a New Testament parallel where Paul wrote to the Corinthians, urging them all to 'speak the same thing, and that... ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement', 1 Cor. 1. 10.
Finally, in the battle, the pitchers are broken and the light shines out, Paul again supplies an application for us showing how our lives must be yielded to God, 2 Cor. 4. 6-10.
6. A man who faces difficulties wisely.
Dealing with the enemy, however, is not the end of the story, for as the enemy is being routed, problems emerge from within, 8. 1-17. First we have Ephraim's objection and chiding with Gideon on account of their self-importance, and secondly the towns of Penuel and Succoth, both of Israel, refuse to help Gideon's men by providing food. Here we see the very people Gideon should have been able to count on hindering in the one instance, and actually helping the enemy on the other. In the first case Gideon gives a soft answer; in the second he exercises severe judgement. Why the difference? One reason is that Ephraim's comments were personal to Gideon, whereas the men of the towns refused to help his men. Gideon stands up, not for himself, but for others. Wisdom is needed in spiritual matters so that leniency and severity are exercised appropriately: Gideon possessed it.
7. A man whose life is controlled by the Lord.
The men of Israel, almost incredibly, have not learned the lesson. 'Thou hast delivered us ... Rule thou over us!' 8. 22-23. Sadly, some believers never seem to learn the most obvious lessons. Gideon has the answer from his own experience, 'the Lord shall rule over you.' Oh, that this were the case in our own individual lives, and in God's assemblies!
Sadly, Gideon is tripped up in the very moment of triumph, 8. 24ff. Where did he go wrong? He asked for something for himself!
In everything else he is an example for those today who wish to be used by God in His service.