Sermon July 9, 2017 Judges 6:25-40 “How the Lord prepares You for His Service”

 Judges Sermon # 9     Judges 6:25-40     July 9, 2017

“How the Lord Prepares You for His Service”

Pastor Louis Prontnicki            Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

 

Suppose the Lord came to you in a dream tonight and told you He wanted you to lead a national movement to bring a true revival to America. And then He spoke to you the next day and gave you the same clear message, that He was going to raise you up to rid the church of their idols and worship the Lord with one heart. What would your response be? [Likely answers would be: “You have the wrong person, Lord!” “I couldn’t possibly do that, Lord!” “I’m too old, too weak, and too sinful, Lord – please get someone else!”]

That’s how Gideon must have felt when the Lord told him to lead Israel in defeating the dreaded Midianites, and to cleanse the land of their abominable idols. We saw some of that last week in Judges 6:1-24, and here in 6:25-40, we see how the Lord prepares Gideon for service in His kingdom. There are four aspects to this preparation, and each of them apply to you and me.

I want each one of you to think about a task, a ministry, a service opportunity that God may be calling you to, but you feel you are too weak, too unqualified for, to overburdened to take on.

 

First: Demolish your idols by sacrificing them to the Lord (vv. 25-27a)   The Lord demands total allegiance; all idols must be toppled. “Mr. Gideon, Tear Down This Idol!”

25 That night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old, and tear (pull) down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this stronghold. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”

27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him.

Before Gideon can serve the Lord in defeating the Midianites, he must first bring his people back to a true faith in the LORD, and start be setting things right in his own home. Since Israel’s idolatrous worship of Baal is the cause of Israel’s oppression, Gideon must deal with the sin in his own household first, by toppling these idols and sacrificing them to the Lord.

Dale Davis comments: “Why such a demand? Because two opposing altars cannot coexist side by side. You cannot have an altar to the Lord (v. 24) and an altar to Baal (v. 25). They are mutually exclusive.”  Consider that when you see a “Coexist” bumper sticker. Remember that when you try to rationalize why you love sinning, even while you sing praise songs to the Lord!

The command that God gives to Gideon here is a helpful picture of what it means for each of us to put off our idols, and to put on Christ!  God is calling Gideon, as He calls each of us,  to take a dramatic step of faith and obedience, in order to prepare us to serve Christ as Lord!

Gideon is to take his father’s mature bull and use it to pull down the strongholds of Satan, the altar to idols, and also to cut down the goddess image. He is then to use those same stones from the false altar to build a true altar to the Lord, and to use the wood of the idol as firewood to offer up the bull, who pulled down the altar, and was also the sacred animal of the fertility cults, as a burnt offering to the Lord!

  So step one in God preparing us for His service is to demolish your idols and sacrifice them to the Lord! Take the very things that have been the source and object of your false and skewed worship, and give them to the Lord, that He might have pre-eminence in those very areas.

So when the Lord commanded Gideon to tear down his father’s idols, He was telling him to stop depending on people and things other than God Himself, and to rely fully and only on the Lord!   It’s the same for each of us today: the first step of faithful obedience is to demolish the idols from your life  (1 John 5:21) and to sacrifice them to the Lord.  Think of what Jesus demanded of the rich young ruler in Mark 10:21.

The Lord will not allow for any double-mindedness or limping between two loyalties. See 1 Kings 18:21 and Matthew 6:24.  No man can serve two masters.

Even if you have to stand alone in the church…. Do it!

 

Second: Expect resistance, from your heart, and from believers. (vv. 27b-32) 

 The resistance of your heart: But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.  (v. 27b)

Like a Muslim convert to Christ, there was fear of the reaction of his family and neighbors. Gideon must have known that this step of faith would mean the death penalty for him (see v. 31)   Hymn # 449 “We Rest on Thee” – “We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling, and needing more each day Thy grace to know…”   Davis: God told Gideon to do it; He didn’t tell him what time of day or night to do it. “Obedience was essential, but heroism was optional.” The Lord doesn’t chastise Gideon for carrying out His commands at night; for He knows our weaknesses and our struggles, and He is gracious and patient with us!

 

The resistance from other believers:

28 In the morning when the people of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!

   Like when the idol Dagon had fallen and broke into pieces, next to the Ark, in 1 Samuel 5.

Picture this scene: Could they make out that a few pieces of charred firewood were from the Asherah pole, horrors of horror? How did Baal’s altar look so different, as the altar of the Lord?

29 They asked each other, “Who did this?”When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.” 30 The people of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”

 Gideon’s father, was likely the custodian/ keeper of this Baal sanctuary, which served the whole community.  Think of that: these are the men of Israel, who know the 10 commandments, who would consider themselves worshippers of the LORD, and yet they are so caught up in their idolatry that they are incensed that someone should do what the true God demands! They were so committed to a syncretistic worship that even the LORD was regarded as one of the Baal gods.

It’s like today, if some zealous Christian were to “smash” one of our idols, with his rebuke or preaching, or even by personal example! Gideon had not only stepped on their toes; he had desecrated their idolatrous lifestyle; he had attacked the hornet’s nest and wakened the sleeping bear. How dare he do that! Yet, if they had been humble and aware of their sins, they would have been thanking Gideon for doing the right thing, and for exposing their idols!

Applications: Lord, which idols do you want me –and all of us – demolish and cut down?

Lord, have you already raised up a Gideon to expose my idols, and I have taken offense at his words, his rebuke, or even his godly example, which has put me to shame?

Lord, help me and each of us to learn that if we fear You, we do not have to fear what men will say to us or do to us. Let us seek the praise of God, not the praise of men.

In vv. 31-32, we read that Gideon’s father, Joash, defends his son’s actions by pointing out Baal’s impotence! Does Joash have a conversion here? Do his son’s radical actions wake him up to see the impotence of Baal? He doesn’t say that he now worships the Lord alone, but at least he sees the folly of idol worship, when the idols can’t defend themselves.

Note Joash’s biting satire, which fits in with the theme of Judges, mocking the false gods and those who trust them! (Ps. 115:8) (Col. 2:15)

“If Baal was a real god, it would be an insult worthy of death to intervene on his behalf (31); for a god who was really God could vindicate Himself, without the need for human interference.”

 

Third: Rely upon the Spirit’s power against your many foes (vv. 33-35)

  33 Now all the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel.34 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. 35 He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them.

This is probably the eighth year in a row that these nations have invaded Israel, looking to strip the land of anything they are harvesting… but this year, things will be very different; there will be a new twist, a new wrinkle in Israel’s response to their raiding and plundering!

The Lord, having dealt with Gideon’s fears/ insecurities, and having him clean his own house of idols, now uses him to defend/ deliver His people.
The Spirit of the Lord comes upon him (Lit: “The Spirit of the Lord clothed itself with Gideon”); “The Lord’s spirit became incarnate in Gideon, who then became the extension of the Lord.” The Lord always equips those He is going to use for mighty tasks… even as He has equipped us with all that we need (see Eph. 6:10ff).  We today are clothed in Christ’s righteousness (Rev. 19:8). We are clothed with Holy Spirit, empowered to fulfill the work He has entrusted to each of us.

Gideon calls for fellow Israelites to follow him and join him in battle, beginning with the men of his hometown, who apparently had seen the light since Gideon had destroyed the town’s idols!

Davis: “The Spirit’s power is joined to human weakness.”

Remember that the key to Judges chapters 6-8 in found in 7:2 “In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her…”  God forces us to rely upon His Spirit to face our foes!

 

Fourth: Trust that God will be gracious as He leads you (vv. 36-40)

36 Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised— 37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” 38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

Gideon wants to be more certain of the Lord’s sure Word to save Israel though him. His faith is real, but it is cautious.  His faith shows both the heights of greatness and the depths of uncertainty, but the Lord is remarkably patient with Gideon through his ups and downs. (Ps. 103:14 “He knows our frame…”)

God is gracious to reassure us in our weaknesses and fears (also see 7:9-15).

The sign of dew was significant in that “Israel had been looking to Baal for life-giving rain. Baal’s specialty was Dew. Later on, to disgrace Baal, Elijah would declare to Ahab, “There shall be neither dew nor rain.” (1 Kings 17:1). So the Lord is sovereign even over the dew! YHWH is all-powerful, and Baal (and our idols) are nothing! (Psalm 115:8)

Here the Lord is coaxing along a reluctant leader, who needs to have his confidence built up, step by step. Gideon does not lack faith in the Lord, but he is cautious in stepping out in faith, when the task ahead is daunting. Wouldn’t you? Our bumper sticker might say “God said it and I believe it,” but our actual life experiences in steeping out in faith reveal a more tentative approach, right?

Note how the second sign (the fleece remaining dry while the ground is wet with dew) goes against nature, as wool would more readily absorb moisture.

BTW: What are the sign the Lord gives us today? The Lord’s Supper and baptism; a complete Bible; the Holy Spirit; and at time, signs and wonders, as needed

“Perhaps Gideon is conscience as he asks for this second sign that he was coming close to angering the Lord by his lack of trust, and yet he is desperately searching for confirmation of the divine promise. This was readily forthcoming, for the Lord deals more tenderly and graciously with His children than any earthly father.” – Arthur Cundall.

Today, God is also gracious with us, when we ask for assurance and confirmation. He patiently comes alongside of us, by the Holy Spirit, and leads us in good pathways. He is understanding of our weaknesses and doubts.

Hebrews 4:15-16 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin, Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.”

Are you willing to have the Lord use you as His instrument?