SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 11 April 2021
Sermon Text: Judges 6:36-7:25
Sermon Series: “Judges” (#11)
Click to Watch Sermon Video: https://youtu.be/2EfcyP5U2JM
I. Gideon the doubter
II. God perseveringly cares for doubting Gideon, teaching him to trust God
III. God amazingly edifies unassured Gideon, showing that God is sovereign
IV. God mightily leads Gideon to victory
What we’ve just read is a typical victory story recorded in the Book of Judges. The typical procession of a victory story begins from God’s call for Israel to fight against their enemy and, by the power of the Lord, Israel defeated the enemy and God’s peace was restored in the land of Israel. And that is the same big picture of what happened with Gideon and his fellow men of Israel.
But, if you read each verse slowly, you find some interesting and unique facts in Gideon’s story such as Gideon’s doubting and testing God, God’s choosing a small number of people having dismissed a great army, Gideon’s strange battle tactics, the way God destroyed the Midianites and granted a victory to Israel, and so on. Concerning these, we remember a rule that applies to reading and interpreting the Bible, that is, what is recorded in it is necessary for us to know and comprehend as it is related to our salvation; but, anything omitted is not necessary for our walk in the Lord. So, things that are unique to Gideon’s victory story are recorded to give us a spiritual message that is necessary for our salvation and sanctification. And the message is this – ‘God tenderly cares for His own and leads them to victory.’
So, Gideon’s story leads us to behold our God and know how gracious and caring He is toward each of us as was to Gideon. This means we should not focus on Gideon or his success because he is not the message and what he achieved is not what we’re urged to follow. Instead, through this story, we must know our God better who so loves us, who is our gracious Helper, thoughtful Counsellor and mighty Captain.
I. GIDEON THE DOUBTER
We begin contemplating this message, starting from Gideon the doubter. To say the conclusion first, he is a representative of you and me because we altogether are doubters by birth. When God’s angel appeared to Gideon and delivered God’s message of calling him for a work of God, Gideon replied and said this, “Please, sir,” meaning, ‘Don’t be silly, Mr.’ He doubted; he distrusted what the messenger brought to him.
In principle, that’s what all of us said as our response to God’s call. God’s angel appeared to each of us and, hearing His invitation to faith in Jesus, we responded and said, ‘Don’t be silly!’ I mean, that angel appeared as someone’s parents or Sunday School teacher or minister or friend or a passer-by. And each of us doubted, distrusted, and said, ‘Don’t be silly!’
Gideon was not a worse doubter than any of us, nor is any of us worse than others or Gideon – we altogether are same in doubting because there’s no level or degree in man’s doubting. That’s because doubting is distrust and suspicion. Doubting, you do not see what’s true and what’s false. So, if anyone doubts, he distrusts.
That was Gideon’s reply to the angel, saying, ‘Come on; don’t be silly, Mr.’ The same was our reply made to God’s messengers sent to us not once but many times in our life. Some people are still responding in doubt, distrusting and being suspicious. Gideon the doubter was one of us.
II. GOD PERSEVERINGLY CARES FOR DOUBTING GIDEON, TEACHING HIM TO TRUST GOD
So, while nothing is special with Gideon, God’s way of dealing with Gideon the doubter is extraordinary and mind-blowing. He entertained Gideon’s requests with a fleece of wool twice over two nights! This is something unheard of. Has God allowed anyone to test Him out? Moses’ warning against the sin of testing the Lord God Almighty is stern in Dt. 6:16. And it was affirmed by Jesus in Mt. 4:7 as He defeated Satan’s test with the words of Moses, saying, “You shall not put the Lord Your God to the test.” But God perseveringly cared for doubting Gideon and answered his requests. This is not a common, daily happening; rather, it’s something that the whole created universe would stop and watch with breathless attention. A mere man tested God twice and God perseveringly entertained him twice! What an exceptionally remarkable case! God did it to Gideon because He cared for him and wanted him to know that God is a living God.
Shockingly, the same happened to you and to me as to Gideon. You might not remember when it happened to you, but it’s true that similar things like Gideon’s wool fleece did happen to you. In fact, some of us might be in the middle of testing God and seeing the Lord’s response. I mean, we often, if not always, test God. Remember Gideon’s words recorded in v. 36 and following – he says this, “If You will save Israel by my hand, … I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.” Aren’t Gideon’s words familiar to your ears? Isn’t this what you and I often say to God – if not with our mouths, then, in our mind? ‘If You [God] want me to accept this challenge, if You [God] want me to commit my life to You, if it is Your plan for me, God, then, do this to me, show that to me, prove to me that it is You [God]!’ Isn’t this familiar to your ears? Surely, you and I have tested our God!
But none of us have been struck by lightning. I haven’t heard anyone I know was plagued to death by angry God because of his/her sin of testing God. People die due to each one’s biological timeline, like the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, or due to various other reasons. But I don’t read or hear anyone deceased because of God’s anger and His punishment fell upon him/her from heaven. I don’t think you’ve heard of such a thing actually happened to anybody.
God miraculously perseveres with us who are insolent, haughty and even cavalier. How could a creature demand his Creator to prove His credibility and genuineness! But God withdraws His anger, withholds His consuming breath, and perseveringly responses and wet the fleece and not the ground, and the next night, the opposite, wet the ground and not the fleece! He kindly responses to your demand, to your test, and to my pointing a finger at Him!
No wonder how God could give His only begotten Son to us to be the substitute for our sins and die in our position and be hung on the tree! Although Jesus the Son our Saviour and Lord came to earth and died 2,000 years ago, the Triune God had died daily since the fall of man in sin. Gideon was just one of the same ‘God-testers’ who lived on earth, and you and I are still testing the Lord! Yet, God graciously endures our wickedness, and answers to each one’s test.
Why is He doing this? Why is He so kind to each of us? Because He cares for us, He loves us who are sinners, waiting for all Christians to grow in faith and waiting for the unbelievers to come to Christ in repentance of their sins and faith in Jesus the Son. God’s perseverance with us as with Gideon is extremely special and mind-blowing. This is why Ps. 95 (vs. 7-8) says and Heb. 3 (vs. 7-8) repeats and urges everyone to ‘not harden his/her heart in rebellion’ – in other words, ‘do not test God’ – but ‘enter God’s rest’ – that is, by trusting God, have the peace and joy that come from above through Jesus Christ.
III. GOD AMAZINGLY EDIFIES UNASSURED GIDEON, SHOWING THAT GOD IS SOVEREIGN
What comes next amazes us further. God chose only 300 men out of 32,000 foot soldiers of Israel. Then, He sent Gideon to the enemy’s camp at night and hear God’s message for Gideon spoken through the mouths of the enemies. God amazingly edified still unassured Gideon, telling him that God is sovereign over all His creation.
This is the section we skipped from reading. A summary of what this section reports is this; having completed choosing 300 men, God sent Gideon to the Midianite’s camp at night. He went down and overheard what two Midianite solders talked to each other. One said that he had dreamed of a cake of barley bread tumbled into the Midian camp and struck and overturned the tent. Hearing it, his comrade said his interpretation of the dream. He said that it was about Gideon and how God had given Midian and all their camp to him. Hearing it, Gideon worshipped God in his heart at the spot.
Put yourself in Gideon’s shoes. You would’ve been greatly confused with God’s guidance. He asks you to send 31,700 men back home, and you only keep 300 which is less than 1 percent of the original number, 32,000. ‘Are You serious, God?’ I guess I would’ve asked this if I were him in such a situation. Moreover, these 300 men left are far from being like those 300 Greek Spartan warriors who stood against Persian king Xerxes in 480 BC in the mountain pass of Thermopylae in present time Greece. No, these 300 men are just ordinary blokes from farms and orchards and street markets.
Someone might point out and say that they could’ve been specially prepared by God and are capable of fighting well in battlefield because they did drink water differently than the others. But that’s a baseless assumption and anyone who has served in the army would agree with me. Zero connection is there between how to drink water and being a good warrior.
Do you think it was a coincidence that only those 300 people drank water in a specific way, different from all others – I mean, 9,700 men? Why not 301 or 299, but 300 were distinctive? It was not at all a coincidence; rather, it was a work of God in His sovereignty, that is, He is the One who runs the history as the Ruler of all things both visible and invisible. Human will seems to be a free agent to our eyes but surely the operation of human heart and will is under the sovereign rule of God. Although we can’t understand how human will and God’s sovereign rule work, such is a fact. And God led those specific number of men to drink water in a specific way in that specific moment. Then, God presented them to Gideon.
In a word, it’s the Lord’s message to Gideon that He knows what He is doing, and His plan is good for His beloved like Gideon and Israel, the OT church! ‘So, trust Me, Gideon,’ is the Lord’s message. I believe many of you have heard the same message from your Heavenly Father, ‘I have a good plan for you, My dear; so, trust Me!’
Moreover, Gideon heard God’s message spoken through the mouths of his enemies. Gideon’s God and our God is the sovereign God, the Creator and Ruler and King of all, and He is not limited by the walls of His church – I mean, His word, His truth is for the whole universe rather than for His followers. The enemies of Israel, the OT church, were under His power. God demonstrated it to Gideon, His beloved servant. His God is the same God we worship and commit our life and all. And He is forever sovereign King!
God amazingly edifies unassured Christians – like the way He did to Gideon – and let us know that He is the sovereign King!
IV. GOD MIGHTILY LEADS GIDEON TO VICTORY
The last thing we need to remember is the fact that God mightily leads us, His dear ones, to victory, like the way He led Gideon to a thorough victory over his enemies! In Gideon’s victory, he and his 300 men did not do much; rather, God did give them a great victory.
We go back to the night in which Gideon overheard the enemy soldiers’ words. Now, Gideon was fully assured with God’s plan. So, he came back to his men and shared what he had received from God; they went out with jars and torches and trumpets. Then, Gideon and all men broke their jars and blew each one’s trumpets, then, shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” As 7:21 and following say, these men of Israel stood around the Midian camp, and the enemies were confused and killed each other. God did all the necessary things for victory while Gideon and his men stood still and watched.
Let me take you many years back in time from Gideon’s to meet Moses in the time of Exodus. When he had led Israel to the shore of the Red Sea, all people were in a great turmoil due to the approaching Egyptian army. Then, Moses stood and spoke these words to their faint ears and hearts, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will work for you today.” ‘Stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD!’ I truly believe that Gideon and his 300 men remembered Moses’ words as they were beholding God’s saving hand that night!
Moses was not the only one who strengthened and comforted the OT church with such words; Samuel, Israel’s last judge, did the same and the words he said are recorded in 1 Sam. 12:16: “stand still and see this great thing that the LORD will do before your eyes”! We’re to ‘stand still and see’ the great things of the LORD! Stand still and see how God mightily leads us to victory.
What is the greatest thing our Lord did for us? The cross of Jesus Christ where the final victory was declared and Satan was defeated! We’re invited to behold that cross of Jesus and rejoice in the Saviour’s death and resurrection! We’re eagerly waiting for its final consummation, waiting for Jesus’ glorious return to us.
God mightily led us to victory and He still does, leading us to victory daily and yearly through Jesus. What a blessed people we are!
The prophet Isaiah sums it all up in Isa. 30:18, saying this: “Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus, let us hear our gracious Father’s message for us that we trust Him, rather than testing or distrusting or being suspicious of His promises. He perseveringly cares for us, teaching us to trust Him. He amazingly edifies us to know that He is a sovereign God. In all these, our gracious Heavenly Father mightily leads us to victory daily through Christ! Gideon’s story tells us this and proves it as true! ***