Judges Sermon # 8 Judges 6:1-24 July 2, 2017
“The Gospel Demonstrated Though Gideon”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
The story of Gideon in Judges 6-7 over the next few Sundays is the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ in three parts. Part one is acknowledging and repenting of both our idolatry and weakness. Part two is confessing our helplessness in the face of the oppressive strength of our foes: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Part Three is God demonstrating His wisdom and power to deliver us, so that He gets all the glory. We can say that the gospel message of Jesus and the cross is demonstrated through the life of Gideon.
The key to Gideon’s story is found in Judges 7:2 “In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her.” When it comes to being forgiven and rescued, we can only boast in Jesus and the cross.
Let’s study Judges 6:1-24 under four headings:
- Our Idolatry Forces Us into Cave-Living. (vv. 1-6)
Try to feel what conditions were like for the Israelites under these seven years of Midianite oppression. For seven years you would have been hungry… poor… tired…and living in fear. Because you never knew when or where the Midianites would come upon you, raiding your village and plundering your crops and your cattle, you would be living in caves in the mountains. Every time you tried to grow new crops, the Midianites would come and take everything you were growing! And what made it especially hard was that the Midianites made use of countless camels (v. 5), which gave them the advantage of a speedy, long-range fighting force. Camels could cover up to 100 miles a day and go for months without drinking water! These “ships of the desert” struck fear in the hearts of the Israelites, and gave to their opponents the ability to strike far and wide. This was the Midianite version of the German Blitzkrieg in WWII!
So the Israelites, who were given the land by God, and were to be blessed and prospering in it, instead lived in caves, hiding and always living in fear.
What was the ultimate reason the Israelites were living in caves? Verse one tells us: “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” And what was the particular evil that they were engaged in? It was the sin of idolatry. (See vv. 8-10 and 25-32). What did it mean for Israel to worship idols? It means committing spiritual adultery. It means being unfaithful to your covenant Lord. It means saying you love the Lord while at the same time giving your heart and affections to someone or something else.
This is a picture of how we as Christians often live. Our idols have promised much, but they have plundered us of our joy and confidence in the Lord. Isn’t that right? Oh, we may live in a nice home and have plenty of possessions, but if you living in subjection to your idols, then you a spiritual cave-dweller; you are living a defeated life; you are oppressed by Satan.
You know, every time the Israelites planted new crops they would think, “This time it will be different. This time we’ll succeed.” But every time their enemy would raid the land and make off with any food that they had. And some of us are like that. We think we won’t give in to our idols, and then, suddenly, we have fallen again, and we’re back to living in a cave.
After years of this oppression, Israel was totally demoralized. And so are some of you. Have your idols forced you to be a cave-dweller, to live in fear, and to suffer oppression?
If so, then you need to acknowledge this truth to God and cry out to Him.
2. We Need the Lord’s Diagnosis before We Get His Cure (vv. 7-10)
In their desperation, Israel finally cried to the Lord for help (vv. 6-7). And though they turned to the Lord only as a last resort, (hardly indicates a robust repentance), nevertheless, the Lord in His mercy heard their cry and came to their aid.
Let me ask you: if you are in pain, if you are suffering, what do you want from the Lord? You want relief! You want God to stop the pain, to bring healing and deliverance, right? Of course! But that’s not what the Lord does first when Israel cried out to Him. Instead he sends them a prophet, before He sends them a judge, a savior. Why?
It’s the same reason that when you go to the ER at a hospital, and you’re in pain, the doctors first need to give you a diagnosis of your problem before they can give you a cure for your pain.
They order x-rays, CAT scans, blood tests and more, so they can diagnose your problem, before they can give you the right cure and relief for your suffering.
And that’s what the Lord is doing here. He sends Israel a prophet to speak God’s Word, to diagnose their problem. What’s their problem? V. 10 “But you have not listened to me.” Israel needed to see that their Midianite oppression was due to their sin, their rebellion, and idol worship.
Brothers and sisters, mark this well: The Lord wants to x-ray our sins and our idols before He gets us out of a jam. Otherwise we won’t learn from our sins. We won’t forsake our idols.
“It is no coincidence that countless Midianites were sent as a punishment for Israel’s rejection of the Lord’s countless blessings.”
Please note that I am not implying that all of our pain and suffering is the result of our idols. No. We only have to think of Job’s sufferings, or the man born blind in John 9, or Paul’s sufferings as an apostle to realize that some of our suffering comes to sanctify us or as a result of living a holy life. But we do need to ask God to search us (Ps. 139:23-24) and diagnose the root cause of our problems.
For Israel, the core problem was not the Midianite oppression; it was the Israelite idolatry. Likewise, our core problem is not poor health or a terrible job or impossible to love family members. No. Our core problem is our idolatry. And I think the chief idol for most of us is wanting to be in control. We want to be in charge of our health, our future, our children, our spouse, our work situation, the traffic, and even the weather! But that idolatry only plunders us, like the Midianites, and leaves us living as cave-dwellers.
Let me ask you: are you willing to hear the Lord’s diagnosis of your problems? Are you willing to listen to what He commands you and promises you, in the gospel? Do you ask God to use His Word to X-ray your life, your priorities, your heart-loyalties, and to show you where you are sinning, what idols you are pursuing? Are you willing to do that? (Hebrews 4:12ff.)
How many of our problems are caused mainly because we just didn’t listen to the Lord?
3. The Lord’s Presence Transforms Cowards into Mighty Warriors (vv. 11-16)
Threshing wheat (v. 11) was normally done in a place where the wheat could be thrown high in the air, and the wind would carry away the chaff, while the good grain fell to the ground, but Gideon was forced to improvise in a winepress, a hollow in a rock, from fear of the Midianites. Gideon, like the rest of the Israelites, was living in fear. He was a coward, a weakling, a chicken.
But God meets him where he is, as a coward, and calls him a mighty warrior! (v. 12). How can that be? Is the Lord going to build his self-esteem by using the martial arts or the power of positive thinking on him? Is the Lord going to give Gideon the typical graduation speech about “be all you can be,” and “go for your dreams,” etc.? No way! What the Lord does is to promise Gideon that He will be with him. V. 12 – “The Lord is with you.” V. 16 – “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites.” This is what Gideon needed to transform him from a “98 pound weakling” into the Incredible Hulk! Though Gideon was a weak man from a weak clan from a weak tribe, yet he would become a mighty warrior, delivering Israel from the oppression of the Midianites, because the Lord would be with him. And isn’t this what Jesus said to the weak and cowardly disciples, in Matthew 28:16-20, in the Great Commission?
“Go into all the world… make disciples… for I am with you, even to the end of the world!”
The Lord loves to work out His purposes through those who know they are weak and helpless, as the promise of the Lord’s presence is really all that we need. For God has nothing better to offer us than Himself! For when He says He will be with you, He means He will be with you in all that He is: as King, Father, Savior, Lord, Victor, Shepherd, Helper, Friend, Intercessor, Guide, Encourager, and so much more! Therefore you need to think about facing life and dealing with your idols, if you are assured that the Lord of the Universe is with you, if Jesus the Good Shepherd is leading you! Think about giving up the idol of control, because you know that God is with you and is in charge!
Let me ask you: do you have the assurance that God is really with you?
4. The Path to Peace is a Consuming Fire (vv. 17-24)
Gideon asks the Lord for a sign to make sure that he has found favor in the eyes of the Lord. He gathers a young goat, some unleavened bread, and broth and brings them before the Lord as an offering to him, waiting to see what will happen. After Gideon places them on a rock, and pours the broth over the goat and the bread, the angel of the Lord touches this offering with the tip of his staff, and fire flares from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread! Think about that: God takes this hard rock and turns it into a consuming fire which burn up the soggy meat and bread! When this happens, Gideon is confident of three things: First, he knows that the Lord will be with him. Second, Gideon is assured of this promised victory over the Midianites. Third, he knows for certain that because his offering was acceptable in the Lord’s sight, so too he is now acceptable in the presence of the Lord. Matthew Henry writes: “This acceptance of his sacrifice evidenced the acceptance of his person, and confirmed his commission.” That’s why Gideon calls the altar “The Lord Is Peace,” because acceptance by God leads to peace with God.
This is what God does for each of us through the cross of Christ, but instead of us bringing an offering to the altar, it is God who supplies the sacrifice. God the Father sends His precious Son, Jesus Christ, to be our sin-offering at the cross. The flames of God’s righteous judgment consumed Jesus on the cross, so that through his substitutionary atonement, we can be accepted as righteous in God’s eyes, and we can enjoy peace with God forever. (Rom. 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”)
Real peace is not a feeling or enjoying comfortable circumstances. Real peace is about your relationship with the Lord. When we know His peace, through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, then we can come with joy and boldness into the presence of the Lord, and dine at His banqueting table!
Then we can die to our idol of control, and find our new identity in Christ, with Him as our Sovereign Lord, controlling our lives, far better than we could have ever done!
Notice in v. 24 that Gideon built a memorial altar which was visible for generations to come, and it reminded the people of God’s consuming fire and God’s accepting peace. Today, for us, the Lord’s Supper is our reminder of God’s judgment and God’s peace, through Jesus Christ. It is our time to fellowship and eat, in the presence of the Lord.
Where are you this morning? Living in a spiritual and emotional cave? Holding on to the idol of control? A spiritual coward and weakling? I invite you to join with Gideon in his transformation. Lose your idols! Listen to His diagnosis of your heart problems, and obey what He says! Cling to God’s promises and rest in His presence! And come to the cross of Christ, where you will be accepted and loved by God, and find peace for your restless soul.