Sermon July 23, 2017 Judges 7:16-25 “Weakness Turned to Strength” Part Two

Judges Sermon # 10B     Judges 7:16-23     July 23, 2017

“Weakness Turned to Strength” [Part Two]

Pastor Louis Prontnicki    Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

   Let’s think about your life right now. You are probably facing certain challenges (health, financial, family issues and more)…you may feel that you are engaged in a spiritual battle (addictions, stubborn sinful habits, or feeling that you are defeated)… or you may be seeking to move forward with serving the Lord in a new or deeper way (a ministry of prayer, serving others, telling others about Jesus, giving more of your money away, etc.)

Let me ask you: in your mind and heart, how much of this is God going to deal with, and how much of it requires you to step up to the plate and give it your all? In other words, if you believe that God is sovereign over your challenges, your battles, and your service, should you pray and put it all in His hands, and watch Him work? Or… in what way does the Lord want you to take ownership and responsibility for these things?  Do you simply “Let go and let God,” or do you work as if everything depended upon you… or both? What is your tendency?

It is instructive to see what Gideon did, when he was faced with insurmountable odds (450 to 1), in coming up against the vast and oppressive Midianite army.  We see here three truths:

First Truth: The Lord sovereignly caused the Midianites to panic and to flee. (vv. 21-22)

  21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. 22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholahnear Tabbath. 

Imagine being in the midst of the Midianite camp. It’s nighttime; most soldiers are sleeping, and given that the Israelites have been pushovers for these last seven years, they have no reason to think that they are in any danger.     All of a sudden the Midianites hear loud crashing sounds and shouting, coming at them from all sides, and as they look out of their tents they see all these torches surrounding them! They are terrified, and a panic breaks out among them. They grab their swords and start hacking away at each other, and then start running away in abject fear and terror!    Meanwhile, if you could watch what is going on from a drone high above the campground, you’d see 135,000 soldiers running for their lives, while a mere 300 Israelite soldiers are shouting and waving their torches!  It’s almost comical!

What’s going on? The Lord is sovereignly causing the Midianites to panic and to flee!  Matthew Henry notes that the Lord is sovereign over men’s imagination, and He can use their imagination to terrorize them, if He so chooses.

This is a method which the Lord often uses against His enemies, to make them look foolish, so that he gets all the glory. Consider the following Scriptures:

The wicked flees though no one pursues them, but the righteous are bold as a lion (Prov. 28:1)

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”…yet these evildoers are overwhelmed with dread, when there is nothing to dread (They are in terror, where there is no terror.) Psalm 53:1, 5

Exodus 14:13-14 Moses says to Israel: “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

So the first principle is that the Lord can sovereignly cause our foes, the enemies of the gospel, to panic and to flee. He fights for us! He wins our battles! He gives us victory over our stubborn sins! He goes on ahead of us as we seek to serve Him! Rejoice!

 

The Second Truth: Gideon wisely used the resources which the Lord had given to him, to fight the Midianites. (vv. 16-20, 23-25)

16 Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside. 17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’” 19 Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. 20 The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”       23 Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. 24 Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Barah.

    We’ve already seen that the Lord was sovereign over this battle; He gave Israel the victory. But did that mean that Gideon just watched everything from his box seats? No. He planned wisely; he used the resources at hand; and he involved others.

A. Gideon planned wisely:

The “attack” was planned at around 10 PM, just after the changing of the guard. The triple noise of the trumpets, the breaking of the jars, and the shouting of their battle cry would create confusion and fear among the enemy, and the sudden appearance of the torches would add to the mayhem. Plus, Gideon split his 300 men into three groups, so that they would attack the enemy from three sides, all at the same time. (Psychological warfare/ surprise attack at night, etc.)  As the Midianites woke up to the sound of the jars breaking, it would sound to them that as if the battle had already started, and panic was not far behind.     God calls you and me to plan wisely, even as we rely on His sovereign power.

B. Gideon used the resources at hand:

Let me ask you: what does the text tell us about the Lord’s specific directions for the battle? Not much at all, right? Lord told Gideon that He would give the Midianites into his hand (7:9, 14), but He did not tell Gideon how to do battle against the Midianites; He left the details, in this case, to Gideon. So Gideon looks around and sees what resources the Lord has left for him: 300 men; plenty of trumpets (from those men who left), clay jars, and torches. And with those resources Gideon wisely improvised a plan of attack.  Matthew Henry writes that “Faith in God’s promises must not slacken, but rather quicken, our endeavors.”

Yes, God intends on the one hand to humble us and to keep us from any boasting or self-glory/ self-reliance, but on the other hand, He intends that we use our brains, and take responsibility for what God has entrusted us with. God calls us to be wise, discerning, and resourceful.

Ps. 32:8-9 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding, and must be controlled by bit and bridle.”

Matthew 10:16 “Therefore be as wise as snakes and as innocent as doves.Matthew 22:37 “Love the Lord your God….with all your mind.”

Therefore, what are the resources which the Lord has given you, which He wants you to use in a wise manner?

C. Gideon Involved Others (see v. 24-25)

 So all the men of Ephraim were called out and they seized the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah. 25 They also captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued the Midianites and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was by the Jordan.

Did you notice that once the initial rout started, with only 300 Israelites, then men from four other tribes went to join them…Why didn’t the bigger numbers of soldiers not matter now? Was it because Israel had learned their lesson about fully relying on God, in being reduced to only 300 men… and now God was allowing more Israelites to participate in the mop up operation?

All of us have a tendency to either (1) trust ourselves too much {I’ve got it under control”} or, under the guise of trusting God’s sovereignty, (2) fail to take responsibility for what God has entrusted to us. {“Just let go and let God” and then we do nothing!} Remember that even though we can’t boast of anything we do for the Lord, He still will use us to accomplish His will and to advance His kingdom. Gideon, after getting the promises of God and after overhearing the encouraging dream and interpretation of the two Midianites, did not go and sit on the sidelines of the game! No. He worshipped the Lord and then called his men into battle, and gave them a great and surprising battle plan, which included using the knowledge God had given him about how fearful the Midianites were of Gideon’s reputation, That’s why he had his men shout, “For the Lord and for Gideon!”  God’s sovereignty leads, and our strategies follow.

We sometime use our weaknesses and our inadequacies as poor excuses for failing to take steps of faith and obedience and for being responsible for our actions or inactions. But on the other hand, we sometimes use our strengths, abilities, resources and experiences as (self-deluded) reasons for bolstering our egos and sinful pride, and for thinking that we are better than others (at least in that one area), and for thinking that we are righteous and good and self-sufficient. We can easily roll gutter balls down either side of the bowling alley.    Let us seek to apply this truth of wisely using the resources the Lord has given us in the areas of our finances, our volunteering, our homes and our skills, etc.

 

The Third Truth: The Lord’s way of routing the Midianites foreshadowed the way of the Gospel.

    The Lord’s method of defeating the Midianites – with shouts, trumpets, and torches of light into the darkness – was a type of how the Gospel defeats the devil’s kingdom: the preaching of the gospel, the sounding of the trumpet, and the holding forth of that light out of earthen vessels (clay jars, 2 Cor. 4:7). He uses a few disciples to turn the world upside down. MH:  “God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, a barley cake to overthrow the tents of Midian, that the excellency of the power might be of God only; the gospel is a sword, not in the hand, but in the mouth.”

God is not is the business of making your life more secure or more comfortable. His goal is His glory, and His means of demonstrating that glory is often to make us weak. Our weaknesses are opportunities for Him to demonstrate His strength/ power.

   In summary, the Lord teaches us in Judges chapter seven that:

  1. The Lord Weakens Us So We Rely on Him. (7:1-8)
  2. The Lord Encourages Us in Our Weakness So We Rest in Him. (7:9-15)
  3. The Lord Uses the Weak to Shame the Strong, So We Boast in Him. (7:16-25)

Are you trusting in and relying upon His grace and strength, in your weakness? Come to Jesus Christ, and find that He alone is your all in all.