From A Cave Into The Battlefield

SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SEVICE, 14 March 2021

Sermon Text: Judges 6:25-35
Sermon Series: “Judges” (#10)
Click to Watch Sermon Video: https://youtu.be/Fod-D178Slc

SERMON SCRIPT:
Main Points:
Introduction
I. Pull down to build up (vs. 25-27)
II. Let God contend (vs. 28-32)
III. Go with the Holy Spirit (vs. 33-35)
Conclusion

INTRODUCTION
For seven years, Israel was under the hands of the Midianites. For such a long time, God’s people hid themselves in caves and dens whenever their enemy came and devoured their land. None was able to stop them or protect their once called ‘the land of promise.’ The land flowing with milk and honey had no one to stand against their enemy and its fruit satisfied not its residents but the appetites of the vandals, namely, the Midianites and their livestock. In this way, no hope was left with Israel and, whenever the marauders reappeared, they ran away, hiding under the rocks and in dens and caves in the rugged places.

What was the cause of Israel’s such a thorough devastation? Why were the Israelites in such a dreadful trouble? It was their sin, their rebellion against God; they forsook God and worshipped false gods of their neighbours. So, God gave them into the hand of Midian for seven years. After that period of deep trouble, they finally cried out to God for help and, hearing their cry, the Lord raised up a deliverer, a saviour, that is, Gideon.

We’ve read and meditated thus far for the last two Lord’s Days. And today, we’ll focus on God’s preparation of His servant, Gideon, for the fight of faith. With this story of God and Gideon, a recollection of some historical facts is not our concern; rather, our focus is on rediscovery of God’s truth that saves and revives both Christians and Christ’s church. This truth is, in a word, ‘repentance’ from sin and ‘faith’ in our Lord.

So, let us hear and know how our gracious and omnipotent God prepares His beloved children like you and me – alongside Gideon – for the fight of faith and that through repentance and faith.

I. PULL DOWN TO BUILD UP (VS. 25-27)
Our story begins with the information of when it took place. It was the night of the very day God visited Gideon first time. Now, Gideon knows God’s voice and the first command of the Lord he hears is to pull one thing down and build another up. The thing to pull down is the altar of Baal and the Asherah statue, and the another to build up is an altar to the Lord God Almighty. God requires of Gideon to break one down to the ground and to bring another up to heaven.

This act of pulling down to the ground from one’s life such things as the altar of Baal and the Asherah statue is ‘repentance’ because the Baal and the Asherah represent all forms of man’s rejection of and rebellion against God. Breaking those down and discarding them from one’s heart and life is repentance. For Gideon whom God has visited and called to live for God and do the works of God, repentance must take place; his heart must be cleansed so that no idol, anything other than God must be removed from Gideon’s heart and life. As much as it is for Gideon, so is for you and me.

Some commentators view that this command to pull one down and build another up is God’s test of Gideon for future tasks, but I don’t think it is a test; rather, it is the Lord’s preparation of Gideon for the fight of faith in the rest of his life. All who are visited by God and called to be His followers must face the fight of faith in their walk on earth, and repentance is the first step in their path.

Having said, let me elaborate more about the Baal and the Asherah that must be pulled down and cut down from each believer’s heart. Baal and Asherah are the Canaanite god and goddess of fertility, and they represent, in this context, all forms idols and false gods of this world. Worshipping them is, therefore, man’s sinful pursuit of earthly pleasures of wealth and health and fame as well as security. Their altar and statue standing in the centre of one’s life must be pulled down, therefore, and removed completely as the first step into one’s walk of faith and fight of faith.

As this first step is made, something else is built up in the believer’s life. That is, an altar to the Lord God Almighty and a burnt offering is offered up to Him. This burnt offering is a peace offering to God, and the sacrifice offered up to God for establishing peace with the penitent sinner is Jesus Christ. Pulling down one’s rejection of and rebellion against God is immediately followed by bowing to the Lord in worship.

This is ‘faith.’ And faith turns the worshipper’s eyes and heart and soul toward the mercy seat of the Lord God Almighty; faith keeps the worshipper’s eyes on the Lord and keeps the worshipper’s ears open to hear only the voice of God. So, Gideon follows the Lord’s command to him and break down the Baal and the Asherah and build an altar to God and worship Him.

II. LET GOD CONTEND (VS. 28-32)
But, as we read from v. 27, he did it at night. Whether Gideon did it on the very night God spoke to him or on another night in hesitation, we don’t know. But, he did it at night in fear of his father and his townsmen.

Of course, Gideon’s fear and hesitation is understandable. Gideon’s father, Joash, is the major contributor to the settings of Baal and Asherah worship and the people in his town worship those idols. He could’ve been punished by his own father, let alone the people of the town.

I guess his wish is to remain undetected, continuing his life quietly and his status quo in his society unaffected. It is a temptation every convert faces. When he first turns away from his sinful way of life, deciding to follow Jesus and worship God alone, he wishes that his change of life’s direction be undetected by those around him, not affecting his status quo. So, like Gideon of Jdg. 6, he does his repentance by night – I mean, in secret, behind the door, rather than under the bright daylight, in public, before the eyes of the people.

Unfortunately, Christian’s repentance from his/her former sins takes place in a completely opposite way. That’s not the way you and I face when our own Baals and Asherah are pulled down. Instead of being stealthy, the whole world knows about our conversion; instead of being hidden in the crowd or, in case we’re detected, being gradually forgotten in the eyes of the crown, our repentance always grabs people’s attention. Our family members, friends and colleagues immediately find out the change that has taken place in us, and would bring a charge against us, as Gideon’s townsmen do in vs. 28 and following. They want Gideon to be killed for pulling down the Baal and cutting down the Asherah. Of course, people around us would not demand in words our life for the change, but that’s simply because God is gracious to us in this nation. Many others in the world do not have such a blessing, thus, are under the same situation as Gideon’s of Jdg. 6.

But, you and I and all who repent from sins and trust in the Lord should not be afraid of the world’s demand/accusation/prosecution because your act of pulling down the Baals and cutting down the Asherah is commanded by the Lord God Almighty who is the King and Judge of the world. So, all complainants and accusers make their commotion against God, rather than against you, the believers. And the Lord will dismiss and quieten them in His fury.

This is what happens in this story of Gideon. God Himself deals with all accusations and prosecutions against Gideon. As all villagers have come to Gideon’s house and demand him to be taken out and killed, Gideon’s father, Joash, stands before them and says this: “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.”

What we hear from Joash amazes us because, as you remember, he is the major contributor to the religion of Baal and Asherah in his town – those idols used to stand on his land for the villagers. But God opens up Joash’s mouth and announces His divine verdict and judgment against all idol worshippers – I believe, this is for Joash himself! In this way, the Lord quietens the accusers and protects His beloved who comes to Him in repentance and faith. The Lord not only protects His beloved, but also honours us in the eyes of the accusers. Moreover, God instils fear in the minds of accusers so as to fear Christians. See what the townsmen of Gideon named him, ‘Jerub-baal,’ meaning, ‘Let Baal contend against him,’ against Gideon. Now, to the eyes of the villagers, their god, Baal, has to contend against Gideon! In like manner, God protects and honours all who come to Him in repentance and worship in faith.

I guess that we of the present evil generation need to remember this truth more than ever because more accusers will appear in the coming days and accuse us and many true followers of Jesus for our repentance and faith. Some years ago, two gospel workers were arrested in Tasmania for preaching the gospel of Jesus in public. What is coming shortly to the churches and Christians in Victoria is a threat of prosecution against their faithful preaching of God’s word and faithful living according to the teaching of the Lord’s life-saving word. None will be able to freely, publicly counsel or help transgenders with the word of God – it’ll soon be illegal in Victoria. The USA which is a nation all people have known as the one built upon the Christian heritage is no longer the one we used to know and call, but a country that allows all sorts of evil as legal, and many Christians on that land mourn over the sins of the nation.

In the midst of all these troubles, we must not forget that the Lord God Almighty contends on our behalf. He quietens our accusers, often in amazing ways like opening up the very mouths of the accusers of Christians and the church to declare His divine verdict. Joash in our text passage is a typical case and he says, “Whoever contends for [Baal] shall be put to death.” So, you and I and all who repent and believe in the Lord Jesus should not fear because God who has promised to be with us now and forever contends on our behalf!

III. GO WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT (VS. 33-35)
Then, what comes after this? The Spirit of God clothes you and me who repent, as does Gideon in v. 34. In other words, the Holy Spirit fills your heart and soul, and works in you and through you.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit, Gideon sounds the trumpet and calls his fellow kinsmen. Moreover, through the Holy Spirit, he sends out messengers to his tribesmen to come together into the battlefield. And all people who have heard his call respond and come and gather together with one heart!

This is another amazing outcome of Gideon’s repentance and faith in the Lord. I believe you remember what these Israelites used to do over the past seven years whenever the Midianites appeared – they hid themselves in caves and dens in fear of their enemies. But, now, they all come out to meet the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East. Why such a sudden change in their attitude? Is it because they have suddenly noticed Gideon’s leadership and realised his skill in battle? No, that’s not the reason. Gideon has been ‘no one’ in the tribe of Manasseh as nothing has been changed with the status of his father’s house which is the weakest in the tribe and Gideon is still the least among his siblings.

What is it, then, that has convinced all of the northern tribes of Israel to come out of their dens and caves to meet Gideon and go into the battlefield as one man? To put it in a slightly different way, why would your work colleague or your friend or your spouse or child join you and come to Jesus? It is not because Gideon is worth following; it is not because you or I am worth following; but because the Holy Spirit is with Gideon and with you and me, working with and through him and through us also!

Consider also what might’ve gone through Gideon’s mind. How does he suddenly change his mind and make the trumpet call? Didn’t he question the angel of the Lord a day ago – or two days ago, to its maximum, saying, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest … and I am the least in my father’s house”? The answer is the Holy Spirit taking possession of Gideon and working through him to carry out the work of God!

So, we go joyfully and willingly with the Holy Spirit, and enjoy the work He carries out with us and through us. When we try to do things in our own wit and strength, it fails; but when the Holy Spirit does things for the glory of God in Jesus’ name, all things bear much and sweet fruit and they become our great joy!

CONCLUSION
Let us remember that the first step of all these is pulling down of each one’s Baals and Asherah – that is, our repentance from our sins – and immediately building an altar to the Lord – that is, our faith in Him through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Let us pull all down and leave nothing; fear no one when you and I pull them down, because it is the work of the Holy Spirit in you and me and all His called and saved children!

In all, let us go with the Holy Spirit in full joy and vigour! ***

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