SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 25 April 2021
Sermon Text: Judges 8:29-9:57
Sermon Series: “Judges” (#13)
Click to Watch Sermon Video: https://youtu.be/ZHsM3_wM57c
I. A subtle flaw of Gideon
II. A serious faction in Israel
III. An atrocious sin God hates
Last Lord’s Day’s message was on Gideon, the fifth judge of Israel. We heard how doubtful and arrogant he was. In that sense, he was a type or representative of us all. God’s message for us with the story of Gideon was, therefore, we must not put our trust in any man because no one is righteous, thus, can save any other, let alone himself/herself. Instead, God alone must we depend on and to His Son Jesus our Lord alone must we come in faith. Because He is gracious, because He patiently waits for us to know His grace and love toward us and repent from our sins and rebellion against Him. We must trust our Heavenly Father alone because He works with us and through us, even though we – in our arrogance – doubt His faithfulness. He carries out and fulfils His will in us and among us! In a word, the message with Gideon’s story is to know how precarious and unreliable man is while God is always gracious and faithful!
I remind you of last week’s message because today’s sermon is about what Gideon sowed and brewed. I mean, the story we read from the last part of ch. 8 and the 57-verse-long ch. 9 is like a short summary of the life of the seed Gideon sowed which sprouted soon after his death and grew to bear fruit and withered at last. So, although we hear at the end of ch. 8 that Gideon died, what we read from the subsequent chapter is all about Gideon and what he had left for his sons and the nation Israel. In a word, it’s the result of Gideon’s sin. I guess he had never expected anything like this to take place after his death. But ch. 9 is one of the saddest moments in Israel’s history and what Gideon had regarded as trivial and insignificant ripened and became an atrocious sin which costed a generation of Israel, the OT church.
In summary, one of Gideon’s son, Abimelech, conspired and killed his brothers – 70 of them who were sons born to Gideon – and became king of Shechem and of Israel at large. But Abimelech was not a good king but a tyrant or despot. Soon, he destroyed the nation from within, killing his fellow Israelites and burning down strongholds of his fellow countrymen. While he was killing his own people, he faced the end of his own life in a miserable way.
This is the section we skipped. We did not read ch. 9 because this story of Abimelech and Israel’s internal strife is nothing but a result of Gideon’s sin. Simply put, a ‘flaw’ Gideon left brewed into an atrocious sin of Israel. I said Gideon’s ‘flaw’ because that would’ve been what Gideon had thought and regarded while he was alive.
So, the message for us to hear and take to our heart today is that we must consider sin seriously rather than insignificant or frivolous or trivial. We must look at our sin as not only a serious offence to God, but also a root of a dangerous and dreadful outcome in each one’s life. This story of Gideon in ch. 8 alongside of Abimelech in ch. 9 proves it.
I. A SUBTLE FLAW OF GIDEON
So, let us begin with examining Gideon’s life and sin. V. 30 says that he had 70 sons from many wives. I don’t think that was the norm of the day. Having many wives and 70 sons tell us Gideon’s political and social and religious status. He was like a king though earlier he had refused to be Israel’s ruler. He was like a high priest with the golden ephod he had made and placed in his hometown. Everybody looked up to him in many ways. Such a status of his enabled him to have many wives and numerous sons. I guess people of his time encouraged Gideon to have many wives; some of them might’ve asked him to marry their sisters or daughters one after another.
Despite people’s consent or stimulation, God’s truth always remains louder than the world’s lies, and Gideon’s bigamy is clearly a sin. God’s command from the beginning is clear, that is, a man and his wife in the marriage covenant. No matter what the norm of the day might’ve been, this command always and eternally stands as true. Gideon despised this true and righteous command of God.
Moreover, v. 31 says that he had a concubine who was from a town called Shechem, and had a son from her. ‘From Shechem’ means a Canaanite rather than an Israelite woman. In a word, Gideon intermarried, married to a Canaanite woman – a clear sin against God. So, whenever you find the name of the town, Shechem, in ch. 9, you’re reminded of Gideon’s sin of intermarriage, marrying to a pagan woman and Abimelech was born to him in that specific sin of his.
In addition to his intermarriage, Gideon’s naming of this son he had from that Canaanite woman reveals another sin of Gideon to our attention. He named him ‘Abimelech.’ ‘Abimelech’ in Hebrew means, ‘My father is king.’ It might sound alright to some people’s ears. But if you remember what you’ve read from the OT books, such as Genesis, this name would quickly raise your eyebrow and make you check the name again.
That’s because Abimelech was a royal title of Philistine ruler, similar to ‘pharaoh’ of Egyptian king and ‘agag’ of Amalekite king. Abimelech is not a Hebrew name, but a pagan name or title based on a pagan religion and culture and politics. Thus, we know that Gideon was definitely sympathetic toward, if not embraced, Canaanite custom and religion. It might sound to us Christians of the 21st century that a Christian father named his son Buddha or Mohamed or any other pagan god’s name.
Also, we may guess Gideon’s intention with this name, Abimelech, ‘my father is king.’ He was, in effect, a ‘ruler’ of Israel, living and acting like a real king. By naming a son of his Abimelech, he might’ve wanted to declare what he was in Israel.
Some of you might think that maybe I’m too sensitive here in my interpretation; maybe I’m too critical and not merciful or generous toward Gideon. Maybe I am. But to God’s eyes, NO! Not too sensitive, not too harsh at all because a sin is a sin, however subtle or light or insignificant it might seem to man’s eyes, sin is sin in the eyes of God. Also, as I mentioned earlier, Gideon committed various sins – sins God had declared as abominable and detestable.
There are some specific sins in the OT described by God as abominable and detestable. And there are other sins with no such description. But to God’s eyes, every sin looks exactly the same with an exactly same wage, that is, death. However, God specifically pointed out that some sins are abominable and detestable to His eyes and such sins include intermarriage and following and worshipping other gods which Gideon committed and violated.
I don’t think, however, Gideon considered his sins as grave sins and detestable sins. That’s because all people around him would’ve assented those as a normal way of life for a person like Gideon. The whole society and nation must’ve consented and encouraged him to do them and continue in them. I think you remember what Gideon’s father used to be. He used to be the main and important figure in his hometown for Baal and Asherah worship. Gideon grew up in such an environment and used to take part of a detestable and abominable sin, that is, worshipping false gods. I believe you also remember that the time of Judges was the time of ‘multiculturalism’ or of spiritual confusion – in that time, everyone did what was right in his/her own eyes as Jdg. 17:6 and 21:25 point out. Worshipping the God of the Bible and worshipping Baal and Asherah were intermingled in that era. So, Israelites of Judges’ time created a new religion of worshipping so-called ‘Baal-berith’ as 8:33 tells us. Their God was not the God of the covenant, but Baal-berith, in other word, Baal of the covenant! Do you see what it means? What Gideon did were regarded in the eyes of his contemporaries nothing serious, let alone sinful; his sins were regarded as simply some ‘flaws’ everyone had.
II. A SERIOUS FACTION IN ISRAEL
But, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us remember that such a subtle, insignificant flaw or fault or defect or even mistake brews and ripens to become a serious and atrocious sin!
Let’s see into what Gideon’s sins brewed and became. Almost immediately after his death, all of Israel went back to Baal worship. They remembered the God of their fathers no more. Moreover, a serious faction or dissension took place among the Israelites. And Abimelech, Gideon’s son born from his Shechemite or Canaanite concubine, stirred up the whole nation.
There are a few things we need to know. The first is Abimelech’s conspiracy with the Shechemites or the Canaanites. If Abimelech had had no blood relationship with those Shechemites, he would not have been able to conspire a murder of his own 70 brothers. If Gideon, Abimelech’s father, had not married to that Canaanite woman, or if he had trained Abimelech with the word of God and taught him the way of God, he would not have conspired against his brothers and the people of Israel. If Gideon had shaken off the idea of having more than one wife and faithfully walked and followed God’s way, his sons would not have faced such a calamity. Do you see what this means? A subtle, insignificant ‘flaw’ or ‘blemish’ which might be regarded as acceptable by people and society could easily become a disaster when such a sin ripens!
Quite opposite to my hypotheses, however, Abimelech stirred up those of Shechem and conspired with them a horrible thing, that is, murdering his 70 brothers. The youngest was able to escape from that tragedy, and having distanced himself from this group of evildoers, he spoke a curse against Abimelech and the Shechemites. Abimelech reigned for three years as king and, in those years, there was no overarching consent in Israel regarding Abimelech’s kingship, as 9:22-25 tell us. Moreover, the Shechemites did not like Abimelech, and Abimelech was not in love with them either. Then, a revolt, another conspiracy, was formed. In shutting this down, Abimelech killed many Shechemites and destroyed their city.
Maybe that wasn’t a satisfaction to Abimelech; so he turned his fists toward a city called, Thebez, in the territory of the tribe of Ephraim. We’re not told why Abimelech attached Thebez after Shechem, but this is clear evidence of serious division or faction taken place among the Jews, and Thebez must’ve stood against Abimelech. The ruler of the nation fighting against his own people means that the whole nation was in great turmoil and riot. I believe that, for the people of Israel, such an internal trouble would’ve been much worse than being under the oppression of enemies like Midian or Moab. Brothers killing brothers, sisters hating sisters: there’s no unity, but hatred and enmity over the whole nation of Israel.
And what was the beginning of it all? Gideon’s ‘flaws’ or ‘defects’ or ‘mistakes’ which were so insignificant to his eyes and to the eyes of his friends and neighbours. His ‘flaw’ grew, ripened and brewed into a sin greatly destructive and dread which spoiled the whole nation of Israel!
III. AN ATROCIOUS SIN GOD HATES
Such an atrocious sin God hates. God does not just stand aside and spectate such a sin. He intervenes and punishes such a sin according to His righteousness. Both Abimelech and the men of Shechem faced God’s punishment and both were greatly humiliated. The men of Shechem were killed by Abimelech, their own flesh and blood, and Abimelech was defeated by a woman of Thebez. Their sins fell upon their own heads with great humiliation.
What is the lesson we learn from this story of Gideon’s flaw, mistake, brewed into an atrocious sin that disturbed and destroyed the entire nation, that is, the OT church? The lesson for us is this that we must know both the destructive power of sin and its mastery in disguise. We know the wage of sin is death, eternal separation from God and expulsion from His presence. What a dreadful concept it is! Each and every sin is in the same effect. Violation of even one dot of God’s righteous law will surely lead a sinner to the eternal damnation. That is the destructive power of sin.
In addition, sin is a master of disguise. When it appears in one’s life, it hides its true face and disguises as something normal, thus, acceptable. Our friends give a nod to it, the society gives its approval of it, we ourselves see many others around us do it, so we easily consider it as a part of the normal way of human beings and readily accept it. Then, once it takes a foothold in us, everything changes – I mean, sin becomes our master and we its slaves. We’re engulfed and subdued by its destructive power. In fact, we’ve been sin’s slaves since our birth. Ps. 51:5 reminds us that our slavery to sin began from the moment of each one’s conception.
This is why every man and woman, boys and girls, young and old need a Saviour not casually, but desperately! This Saviour and Lord is needed not only for sinners, but also for all Christians who are born again through faith in the Son Jesus Christ because, without His grace daily poured upon us, we cannot stand firm in faith and resist sin’s temptation. We need the Holy Spirit’s power and wisdom to distinguish sin in disguise.
Hearing this, some of you might think and say in your mind, ‘This is too difficult! How could I deal with every individual sin of mine, let alone washing myself clean from every subtle sin? I’d never be able to do it!’ Well, my fellow sinners saved by faith and washed daily by Jesus’ blood, you and I can’t do it, but the Spirit of God can and will do it for us! In fact, He is doing it in and among us at this very moment as He has always been since the moment of our conversion. What you and I need to do is to acknowledge His work and depend on Him for more works for us in the days coming. You simply listen to Him telling you, through the words of the Bible, what sin is and which part of your life is sin against God. Then, submit yourself to God, acknowledging your sin before Him, and ask His forgiveness in and through Jesus. Then, work together with the Holy Spirit to not continue in that sin you repent of. Do not worry about your temporary returning to it, our Father is gracious and He’ll lead you, lead all of us, in His grace and continually fight a good fight against your sins and mine!
Closing today’s message, let me reemphasise this, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, that you and I must consider our sins serious rather than insignificant or acceptable. We should look at them not through the eyes of men of this world, but through the eyes of God, that is, the word of God.
Let me remind you of a part of our first Bible reading, that is, from 2 John, especially v. 4. Hear the word of God spoken through the Apostle John: “I rejoice greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.” What they were commanded by the Father, and what we too are commanded by our gracious Father is this – as Rom. 6:12 and following says: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body … but present yourselves to God … For [because] sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law [that is, under the power of sin] but under grace [under the power of our Heavenly Father and of our gracious Lord Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit]”! ***