SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 7 March 2021
Sermon Text: Judges 6:11-24
Sermon Series: “Judges” (#9)
Click to Watch Sermon Video: https://youtu.be/ji8S8SAgu2o
I. God visits the hopeless
II. God calls the hopeless as His mighty ones of valour
III. God’s beloved worship the LORD who is Peace
We’re following Israel’s judges in this book and the most important lesson we’ve learned so far from these chapters is that man is sinful while God is faithful, there’s no hope with man but with God, joy of freedom overflows. The more we read the chapters of Judges, the clearer it becomes to our eyes and heart that we must trust God, not man; we must always doubt man’s reasoning, but believe the word of God and live according to what He has said in the word. The story of Gideon, the fifth judge, reemphasises the same lesson to us.
The passage we’ve just read is the first part of the introduction to Gideon. Especially, this section is about God’s visit to Gideon and Gideon’s initial response to the Lord.
It’s a simple passage; God’s angel appears to Gideon and calls him to a specific task, that is, to deliver Israel from the hands of Midian. Gideon responds to God’s messenger and witnesses a sign of God which certifies his calling. Then, Gideon worships God and calls Him ‘the LORD of Peace’ – in other word, ‘Jehovah-Shalom.’
It’s a simple passage but its message is significant. This is the gospel of God and Jesus Christ in a story form; it presents to us the good news of Jesus’ saving grace. It tells us about how God visits the hopeless man and how the hopeless man becomes God’s mighty one and responds to the gracious God in worship, calling Him ‘Jehovah-Shalom,’ ‘the LORD is Peace.’ This is about God establishing His peace with the hopeless man!
So, please join me and hear the message of the Lord God who visits His elect and leads them to His eternal peace.
I. GOD VISITS THE HOPELESS
Always, the beginning of God’s salvation is His visit to the hopeless man. Some people say that man seeks God, and God appears to His seeker. But that’s false; the opposite is the truth – always, God moves first and visits the hopeless man.
As v. 11 shows, Gideon is hopeless; he is without hope. How do I know this? Because, as v. 11 testifies, he was beating out wheat in the winepress. Usually, threshing harvested wheat is done by hand. It proceeds from separating the wheat kernels from the stalks to winnowing them in order to separate the heavier wheat kernels from the light chaff. Never do people, in a normal circumstance, beat out harvested wheat in a winepress. If you do, you’d crush the kernels and chaff and mix them altogether, and the outcome would be a disaster for any farmer.
Moreover, Gideon was doing it to hide as much outcome of his field as possible from the plunderers. It means, he harvested immature wheat before the usual time of harvest which would also be the time of the Midianites’ invasion. Now, we know why he was beating it out in the winepress, not by hands – his wheat was immature, and crushing kernel and chaff altogether was the only option he had to get the best out of his field for survival.
I believe Gideon’s family had to live on their nerves till the last moment and, when they finally decided to harvest it, they did it as quickly as possible. So, we can picture Gideon in our mind who is moving hurriedly in a winepress. We can almost guess what’s going through his mind. Hope is gone, lost, and he feels miserable! In fact, this is the status of sinners, although people would deny their lostness in sin and hopelessness without the Saviour Jesus. You and I were once in such a state. The hopeless in the world are so busy with numerous things of the world, but in their hearts, there’s no hope, no peace, no joy.
To this hopeless man, God visits; to this hopeless Gideon, God visits and says to him, “The LORD is with you.” This message may sound like a greeting no better than simple ‘Hi,’ but it is much more than that. Remember what v. 11 tells us about the messenger of God. He was sitting under the terebinth tree while Gideon was busy with his work. We don’t know how long this angel has been there sitting and watching Gideon, the hopeless man. But, after an unknown period of sitting and watching, he appears to Gideon and says, “The LORD is with you.” This greeting is not a simple greeting; rather, it is God’s answer to Gideon’s hopelessness, although Gideon does not catch it at this very moment. The angel means, ‘God knows your despair, hopeless man – your sorrow, your tears and agony; but don’t be, as God has a good and gracious plan for you! He is with you!’
It is not surprising to hear Gideon’s undiscerning reply – he says, “Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” He has no idea to whom he is addressing. This is a typical reply of a hopeless one to God who visits him/her. Like Gideon addresses the angel, ‘sir,’ meaning an honourable person, the hopeless cannot recognise God’s visit because he has neither a spiritual eye to recognise God’s messenger, nor a spiritual ear to hear the Lord’s voice.
Gideon’s reply to the angel’s message means something like this: ‘Oh, no, sir; that’s not really true; God is not with us of Israel, let alone with me. Look what I’m doing; consider what my family and whole town and all of Israel are about to face. We’re doomed. No, sir, what you say is incorrect! We’re hopeless and I am hopeless!’
God still visits His elect in this manner, as He did to each of us in the past. He’s always near His elect, watches each of them carefully and graciously. Then, at His appointed time, He appears to each one and says, “The LORD is with you.” I said that He visited each of us in the past; but, not many of us, if not none of us, remember His first or second visit. That’s because we did not recognise Him who visited us, like the case of Gideon in v. 13 and following of Jdg. 6. After all, at the Lord’s earlier visits, we were the unbelievers of God’s existence, let alone His being our Creator and the Ruler of all things of the world! At that moment, we had no idea of our sinfulness that deserved eternal damnation! At that moment, although many of us thought that we were doing alright and enjoying a good life, we were hopeless in sin! That was the truth. And to the hopeless like us, God visited and said, like He did to Gideon, “The LORD is with you.”
Everyone in Jesus is visited by God. He visited Abraham when he was still Abram. Jacob was visited and so was Mary the mother of Jesus. Peter, John and James and lastly, Paul were visited by the Lord. He visited you and me. In like manner, He visits each one who is without hope, without joy, without life, to tell him/to tell her that God is with them!
II. GOD CALLS THE HOPELESS AS HIS MIGHTY ONES OF VALOUR
When God visits each of His elect, He calls them as His ‘mighty ones of valour.’ Not only does He call them ‘the mighty ones of valour,’ but also makes them so.
The conversation exchanged between Gideon and God’s angel points this out clearly. As God addresses Gideon ‘the mighty man of valour,’ he replies, saying, ‘if the LORD is with us, Israel would’ve enjoyed the Lord’s blessings rather than being torn to all directions.’ Then, the Lord says in v. 14, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel … do I not send you?” He means, ‘I’m sending you, Gideon.’ But Gideon replies, “Please, sir [in other words, ‘Excuse me, sir, but’], how can I save Israel?” His disagreement is based on this: ‘my family is weak and I’m the weakest among my siblings.’ Yet, the Lord persists and says, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites.”
Gideon does not comprehend what the Lord means because his mind is based on what is seen, what is tangible. His diagnosis of all things tells him that his family is powerless and he is hopeless. Inferring from what has taken place with Israel, Gideon sees that God is not with Israel. So, he concludes, ‘It’s impossible!’
I believe some of us, if not many or all of us, are still like Gideon of today’s passage, thinking that it’s impossible to overcome the evil of the world. Based on human experience and reasoning, we think something like this: ‘My prayer for my loving ones would not be realised because I’m so weak and inefficient in leading them to Christ; my prayer for the Lord’s church for growth in both spiritual and numerical sense would not happen because the church has always been like what it is today; overcoming my specific sin is impossible because the temptation is always there and I’d never be able to be free from this temptation of sin; therefore, Oh, nothing is possible!’
If you carefully study what many of us think, however, you’d notice that our thoughts are based on our past experience and human reasoning, like Gideon does in our text passage. We look and diagnose the present based on the past. Gideon in our text passage is not different; he talks about the size of his clan and his status in his father’s house. Moreover, he recalls the recent history of Israel and in conclusion, quickly dismisses the angel of the Lord and says, ‘Excuse me, sir, but it’s impossible for me go and save!’
But, if you examine the words of God, you’d be able to find out that God takes no notice of the past but considers the present and the future glory. See what He says in v. 14, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel … [I am sending you].” He continues in v. 16, saying, “I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites.”
God acknowledges Gideon’s present, saying, ‘Go in this might of yours’ – He does not deny who Gideon is and what he has at present – but He says to Gideon to go and do God’s work BASED on the promise of God, that is, His perpetual presence with him! ‘No matter how weak or how hopeless you’ve been, go and do the works for which I’ve called you because I’m sending you and will always be with you!’ This is not only for Gideon, but also for you and for me and for all true believers!
See how consistent this call of God has been for His people in the Bible. In Gen. 26:3, Isaac heard it from God; Moses heard the same message in Ex. 3:12; Joshua and the entire Israel heard it in Dt. 31:23 and at least three other places in the Book of Joshua; Isaiah the prophet delivered the same message of God to Israel in Isa. 43:2; Jesus’ apostles and those who were with them heard it from the Lord in Jn. 21 – our first Bible reading for today. Most amazingly, the risen Lord Jesus declares in Mt. 28, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Note that He says, no longer ‘will He be with us,’ but ‘He IS with us always, to the end of the age’! Moreover, Jesus’ message for His disciples is to ‘take heart’ as in Jn. 16:33 because He who has overcome the world is with them and with us!
So, He calls us His ‘mighty ones of valour’ because we who are with the Lord ARE His mighty ones of valour!
III. GOD’S BELOVED WORSHIP THE LORD WHO IS PEACE
The last point we hear from our text passage is a pure joy to our believing hearts – we, God’s beloved, worship the Lord who is ‘Peace.’ His name is ‘Jehovah-Shalom.’ Worshipping Him is our natural response to His amazing grace shown in His visit to us and in His calling us as His mighty ones of valour. God is at peace with us!
Considering God’s peace with Christians, I’m greatly troubled whenever I hear any false teacher preaches and says that God receives people as they are, so, only believe. False teachers omit sinner’s repentance before the righteous God and they portray God as the One who simply forgets about people’s sins and never mentions them. That’s false – in fact, a lie.
Instead, we must know that, when the Lord establishes His peace with us, He opens our spiritual eyes first in order for us to see the horror of the curse of our sin. Then, He declares to our spiritual ears His pardon for our sins and engraves on our hearts our sonship through faith in Jesus Christ.
See how Gideon reacts when he realises that he has faced the Lord’s angel. He exclaims in v. 22, “Alas, O Lord GOD!” He means, ‘I’m DEAD! For I have seen the Lord’s angel!’ By the way, seeing a God’s messenger is exactly like facing God Himself! The point is not who he sees, but what his encounter with God’s messenger has brought to his spiritual eyes! It’s Gideon’s sinfulness before the righteous God, the condemnation brought upon him through his rebellion against the Lord God Almighty. That is now evident to his spiritual eyes! Like darkness dreads light, fearing its immediate disappearance at the presence of light, Gideon’s heart and soul tremble for the weight of his sinfulness. This is the beginning of establishment of God’s peace with the sinful man. Without trembling of one’s soul before the righteous God, any man’s peace with God is a false one.
I mean, this trembling is spiritual trembling. Its appearance differs from people to people. It happens quickly and instantly to one person, but to another one it takes place over an extended period in time. This trembling is the dreadfulness of sin, one realises in his heart and soul, followed by a deep thanks to the Saviour for taking that curse off him.
Having dealt with man’s sin in this way, God declares His peace to him, like the way He does to trembling Gideon. He declares peace as in v. 23, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” This ‘peace’ is the Lord’s eternal peace; it is not a truce, but a perpetual peace treaty. More than that, this peace is the eternal bond of love through the blood of Jesus Christ. This peace bonds us and all true Christians eternally to God as members of His household!
So, it is natural for Christians like you and me, like Gideon of Jdg. 6, to worship our God, calling Him, “the LORD is Peace,” ‘Jehovah-Shalom’! This is why you and I are naturally drawn to worship services on Lord’s Days and gatherings of fellow believers as our joy in the Lord’s peace is doubled and tripled when we gather before Him in the name of Jesus Christ.
Our God is the gracious Lord who visits the hopeless men and invites them to Him with this message, ‘the LORD is with you.’ He opens their spiritual eyes and ears, and enables them to respond to the call from above in repentance and faith. With them, God establishes His peace, washing them with the blood of Jesus and covering them with the righteousness of His Son our Saviour!
All who are visited by God is blessed; all who have heard His message, ‘the Lord is with you,’ is blessed. They are the mighty ones of God because the Almighty God IS with them!
In this way, Gideon’s story is your story and mine as the Lord who visited him has also visited us! Praise God who is our Peace, Jehovah-Shalom! ***