My Life Group lesson for Feb. 5, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway and bits from Jay McCluskey and Adrian Rogers.
Have you ever taken a “Before” picture when starting a new diet and exercise routine?
Advertisements for fitness gyms, exercise equipment, and diets often feature “Before” and “After” photographs of people who have utilized their products.
The goal is to show a stark contrast in improvement.
Gideon is one of God’s great “Before” and “After” projects.
He’s known as one of the great leaders of God’s people. But the Gideon we meet at the beginning of the story is in stark contrast to the hero of faith he becomes.
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
*** Two weeks ago we started our study of the book of Judges, highlighting the repetitive story of the Israelites rebelling, repenting and being delivered by God’s judges.
*** Every victory was worn by the Lord, who worked through the judges on behalf of His people.
*** In chapter 6 we meet Gideon while the Israelites were being oppressed by the Midianites. Gideon would become an unlikely hero.
UNSURE AND UNTESTED (JUDGES 6:11-16) 11 The Angel of the LORD came, and He sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash, the Abiezrite. His son Gideon was threshing wheat in the wine vat in order to hide it from the Midianites. 12 Then the Angel of the LORD appeared to him and said: “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” 13 Gideon said to Him, “Please Sir, if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened? And where are all His wonders that our fathers told us about? They said, ‘Hasn’t the LORD brought us out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to Midian.” 14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and deliver Israel from the power of Midian. Am I not sending you?” 15 He said to Him, “Please, Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Look, my family is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” 16 “But I will be with you,” the LORD said to him. “You will strike Midian down as if it were one man.”
*** Wanted: Judge Dredd. (Sylvester Stallone isn't walking through Israel's door.)
--- Because of the sin of the people, God allowed the Midianites to oppress His people.
--- None of the other stories in Judges devotes such attention to the details of the oppression as this one.
--- The Midianite oppression was so great that Isaiah mentioned it centuries later (Is. 9:4; 10:26).
--- The Israelites would hide in mountains and caves and fortresses, but it didn’t always work.
--- Whenever the people would plant crops the Midianites would attack and take all their food, their sheep, oxen and donkeys.
--- That’s why when we meet Gideon he is trying to hide his family’s wheat by threshing it in a wine vat.
*** I’m not worthy.
--- Initially, Gideon appears weak and timid.
--- Like Moses did, Gideon gives excuse after excuse: He thinks the Lord has abandoned them; His family is poor (even though he later gets 10 servants to help him); His clan is the weakest in the tribe of Manasseh; He’s the youngest in the house.
--- Throughout his calling, Gideon questions why God would choose him and asks for signs.
--- Gideon put out a fleece asking God to cover it with dew while the surrounding ground remained dry. God complied with Gideon’s request (6:36-38).
--- But Gideon was not satisfied. He asked God to reverse the process, allowing dew to appear on the ground but not on the fleece. God acquiesced to Gideon’s request (6:39-40).
--- When it’s time for battle God reduces Gideon’s army from 32,000 men down to 300 as a way of teaching Gideon to rely on Him (7:1-8).
*** Rely on Him.
--- God simply replies, “But I will be with you.”
--- God’s strength is enough.
--- With God on Gideon’s side, the Midianites could be defeated by one man with no power.
--- The Lord was reassuring Gideon that he could fulfill God’s calling.
--- God was molding Gideon into a mature believer.
*** Question – How can we give up our doubts and fears and rely on God as much as Gideon had to do?
A FIRST STEP (JUDGES 6:25-27)
25 On that very night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s young bull and a second bull seven years old. Then tear down the altar of Baal that belongs to your father and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26 Build a well-constructed altar to the LORD your God on the top of this rock. Take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.” 27 So Gideon took 10 of his male servants and did as the LORD had told him. But because he was too afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city to do it in the daytime, he did it at night.
*** Serious family problems.
--- Before Gideon could deliver Israel from the Midianites, he had to rid his own family of idol worship.
--- We say it all the time, before you can save the world you can start by getting your own family in order.
--- While Gideon’s request for signs might indicate he lacked faith, his willingness to cut down his father’s monument indicates a big step of trust.
--- The scripture makes clear Gideon was afraid of his dad and his dad’s posse.
--- Gideon’s small acts of faith prepared him for greater obedience to lead an army against his enemy.
--- Gideon may have been in the Old Testament, but he’s a great example of someone who came to deny himself and take up his cross as Jesus instructs us to do in Mark 8.
--- Many people think that this means that our “cross” is a sickness, an unsaved spouse, or a cruel boss. However, a cross is not something that is forced upon you, over which you have no choice. A cross is something you willingly take up.
*** A slight overreaction.
--- In the morning everyone discovered what Gideon had done in obedience to God, and the men of the city insisted he be killed.
--- What Gideon did in God’s command and to honor God, these guys wanted to kill him.
--- Gideon’s dad, Joash, however, got the message.
--- Joash said, if Baal is a god, then let him plead his case against Gideon and defend his altar.
--- Joash refused to surrender Gideon, and his own spiritual journey back to God began.
--- When we have strayed from God, look to those God sends to bring you back.
*** Question – When was a time that God drew you closer to Himself by working in the lives around you?
REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS
Imagine adding a packet of sweetener to your tea but not stirring the drink.
If you take a sip, you will think you need another packet.
No matter how many packets you add, you will think you need more as long as you fail to stir the drink.
We want more sweeteners, yet what we really need is to simply stir.
We often ask God for new and divine powers.
What He really wants us to do is to “stir” into use the strength He has already granted believers.
God’s discipline and molding of Gideon succeeded.
We read in Judges 7:1-25 that Gideon delivered God’s people from the hands of the Midianites with only 300 men.
He also was victorious over other Midianite rulers before his death (8:1-35). God worked through a timid leader to secure victory.
When his story began, Gideon wanted the Lord to miraculously deliver the Hebrews from oppression.
While He can work through miracles, God often chooses to work His miracles through faithful and committed believers.
*** This passage shows how God took Gideon where he was and began to shape him into the leader he would become. God starts where we are in making us useful servants in His kingdom.
*** Compare your faith to Gideon’s. Are there areas where you are timid? Look for opportunities to grow your faith through acts of service and obedience to God.
*** What first steps has God led you to take to develop your maturity as a believer and signify your commitment to Him?