Judges 6:1-35

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 4, 2001

Introduction

The book of Judges gives us little historical vignettes during that four hundred year period between the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua, and the beginnings of the kingdom.

In the book, we have begun to see the spiritual roller coaster ride of the nation of Israel.  They kept repeating the cycle of falling away from the Lord, going through difficult times, crying out to God, being restored back to God, and then falling away again.

Illustration

The Five Chapter Book:

Chapter One: A man was walking down the street. He fell into a hole. He groped his way in the darkness. After a long time, he made his way out of the hole.

Chapter Two: A man was walking down the same street. He pretended not to see the hole. He fell in. After a long time, he made his way out of the hole.

Chapter Three: A man was walking down the same street. He sees the hole. He falls in. He says it's not his fault. After a long time, he made his way out of the hole.

Chapter Four: A man walks down the same street. He sees the hole. He knows it's there. He tries to walk around it. He falls in. He knows it's his fault. He quickly gets out.

Chapter Five: A man takes another street.

Judges 6 – God’s call

:1-6 Israel falls away – Midian rules

:1 the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.

Another cycle begins as Israel falls away. This time, it only takes seven years for Israel to wake up and ask God for help.

I’m sure God is glad that Israel only takes seven years to come back this time, but I’m sure God would have been even happier if His people hadn’t fallen in the first place.

:2 the children of Israel made them the dens

Just as the Taliban are holing up in the mountains and caves of Afghanistan, the Israelites did the same during this period.

:4 destroyed the increase of the earth

Every time the Israelites would harvest their crops, the Midianites would come in and take everything. Very similar to the grasshoppers and the ants in “A Bugs Life”.

:5 they came as grasshoppers for multitude

We find out later when Gideon has begun to fight the Midianites (Judg. 8:10), that they had an army of 135,000 men.  The last time Israel had fought a war, their army had only numbered 10,000.

:7-10 God uses a prophet

:10 I am the LORD your God …but ye have not obeyed my voice.

God uses this prophet to tell the people clearly that the reason they are in a mess is because they have gone into idolatry again.

:11-24 Gideon and the Angel

:11  and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah

Ophrah – was this near the land of “Winfrey”? J The area of Gideon’s homeland is all in the same area as that of Barak’s battle with Sisera (Judg. 4), about 15 miles southwest of the Sea of Galilee.

Abiezrite – a descendant from Abiezer, one of the descendants of Manasseh.

:11 Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress

The process of “threshing” was the removing of the chaff from the kernels of wheat. Under normal circumstances, grain was “threshed” out on a hilltop, on a wide, open place. Oxen would pull sledges through the stalks of wheat, then the grain was tossed into the air to allow the wind to blow the chaff away.

The fact that Gideon is threshing his wheat in a winepress shows two things:

He’s scared of the Midianites, so he’s doing his threshing in a place where he hopes he won’t be found. The Midianites won’t be looking for food at winepresses during the wheat harvest.

Gideon’s harvest must be unusually small. A winepress was not a large place.

:12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him

the angel of the LORD – this is a special personage in the Old Testament. He appeared to Abraham (Gen. 22), to Moses (Ex. 3), and here to Gideon. We believe this is an appearance of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. This is a “theophany”, Jesus before He took on human flesh in Bethlehem.

:12 The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.

valourchayil – strength, might, efficiency, wealth, army

An interesting thing to say to Gideon, since you’ll see that he was also quite afraid at times. I have this notion that God must think we can handle a lot more than we give ourselves credit for.

:13 Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why …?

Why? It’s a question we all ask from time to time. It’s okay to ask it.

Lesson

We ought to know better

I find it interesting to think that Gideon should really know better. After all, the answer to Gideon’s question has already been clearly given by the prophet (Judg. 6:10).
The people had disobeyed the Lord and had gone into idolatry.
To make things worse, we’re going to see that there was idolatry right in Gideon’s own family. It’s not like Gideon is unaware that people are worshipping Baal. Hey, his own family is doing it.  He knows better.
Sometimes we ask good questions, but in reality, if we’d just sit down and think about it, we already know the answer.

:14 Go in this thy might

Lesson

Use the strength you have

You may not feel like you have enough strength for the things you face, but God must think you do.
The Bible says that God won’t allow us to face something that we can’t handle with His help –
(1 Cor 10:13 KJV) There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
All you can do is take a step forward. Go as far as you can.

:15 I am the least in my father's house.

Lesson

God uses inadequate people.

There may be times when you begin to get this hint that God wants you to do something. And for some of us, our immediate reaction is that we couldn’t possibly do that thing because we aren’t anything special …
Moses felt extremely inadequate –
(Exo 3:11 KJV) And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
(Exo 4:10 KJV) And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.
King Saul started off with this same humble attitude –
(1 Sam 9:21 KJV) And Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore then speakest thou so to me?
Jeremiah –
(Jer 1:6 KJV) Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
It may not be a bad thing that you may at times feel inadequate. It actually may be to your advantage. Someone who feels inadequate will tend to run to the Lord and depend upon His help much more than the person who feels like they can handle anything.

:16 And the LORD said unto him

Observe how one moment Gideon is talking to “the angel of the Lord”, and the next he is talking to “the LORD” (or, Yahweh). This is why we believe that God Himself is making an appearance.

:17 show me a sign that thou talkest with me.

Gideon isn’t so sure about this whole thing. He wants to know that this is really a “God thing”.

I believe the “sign” that Gideon is asking for will be the “fleece” in verses 36-40.

Lesson

Make sure it’s God speaking

I know that some folks find fault with Gideon for simply not trusting the Lord and going out and doing what God says.
But keep in mind, God doesn’t rebuke Gideon for this. Instead, God will accommodate Gideon’s request for a sign.
I believe very much that God speaks today and that He wants to direct our lives.
But I have also seen over the years how a person can become misguided by taking something they think God ought to say, and conclude that God has spoken to them.
I’m afraid that at times we might be a little too quick to slap a “God has told me” on something that God hasn’t said.

And then when the thing doesn’t happen, or someone questions you, confusion reigns. Excuses fly. People are hurt.

For those of you who are wondering if this whole “God thing” is real or not – check out the evidence.  A man named Lee Stroebel was the legal reporter for the Chicago Daily Tribune.  He had degrees in journalism and law.  When his wife became a Christian, he decided to put his investigative background to work and see if this Christianity thing was true or not.  He became a Christian.  You can read about the things he discovered for himself in his book, “The Case for Christianity”.
Personally, I kind of admire Gideon for wanting to know for sure that this was God speaking.

:21 there rose up fire  … the angel of the LORD departed

For me, if I had asked God for a “sign”, and then I see this guy start a fire with a stick and then disappear, I might be pretty satisfied. But this isn’t what Gideon asked for. He’s not impressed or convinced yet.

:24 Then Gideon built an altar … and called it Jehovahshalom

Jehovahshalom – “Yahweh is peace”. When you get things right with God, you will find that God gives you peace in your life.

:25-27 Gideon tears down the idols

:25 Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock

Apparently, Gideon’s father had at least two bulls. For some reason, the “first” bull was unacceptable. It might be that God didn’t want Gideon to sacrifice his dad’s “main” bull.

:25 throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it:

grove‘asherah

Lesson

Tear down the altars

At some point when you make a decision to follow the Lord, He’s going to ask you to remove some of the junk in your life.
We call this “repentance”.

Lesson

Don’t let your father’s ideas stop you

For some people, they get stuck in the rut of thinking, “Well this is the way our family always has done it”.
God doesn’t want you depending on what your father believed to be right.  God wants you to come to Him on your own, with your own conclusions.
In the prophet Jeremiah’s day, the people had grown far from the Lord.  All they knew of religion was the traditions that they had learned from their fathers.  God spoke through Jeremiah and said –
(Jer 7:22-23 NLT)  When I led your ancestors out of Egypt, it was not burnt offerings and sacrifices I wanted from them. {23} This is what I told them: 'Obey me, and I will be your God, and you will be my people. Only do as I say, and all will be well!'
God wants you to know Him for yourself.
(Jer 9:23-24 NLT)  This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man gloat in his wisdom, or the mighty man in his might, or the rich man in his riches. {24} Let them boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD who is just and righteous, whose love is unfailing, and that I delight in these things. I, the LORD, have spoken!
God sent His Son Jesus to take care of the one obstacle that keeps us from knowing God.  Jesus died on a cross in order to pay the penalty for our sins, and opened the door for us to know God.
(Isa 55:6-7 KJV)  Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: {7} Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

:27 because he feared his father's household

It has been suggested that if Gideon and these ten men tried to tear down Baal’s altar during the day, that the men of the city would have prevented it.

Lesson

God even uses people who are afraid.

We often talk about how we ought to trust the Lord and not be afraid.
But the truth is, God uses people who are scared to death.
Joshua – Over and over again, God said to Joshua …

(Josh 1:7 KJV) Only be thou strong and very courageous …

God only says those kinds of things to people who are scared.

But even though God can use people who are afraid, He doesn’t want them to stay afraid.
There will come a day when God will ask you to put your fears aside and serve Him.

With Gideon, God will have him tell the army that if they are afraid, they should go home. And two thirds of Gideon’s army will leave.

:28-32 Gideon is defended by his dad

:30 Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die

Lesson

Some people don’t like you following God

Realize that some people won’t like the changes God is making in your life. Even though it was Gideon’s father’s altar, these people are the ones that are offended. Why should they care? If anyone should be offended, it should be Joash.

:31 if he be a god, let him plead for himself

Some wisdom from Gideon’s dad. Apparently the truth of what Gideon has done has affected his dad, even though Gideon has torn down his altar.

:32 Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal

Jerubbaal[email protected]‘al – “let Baal contend”

:33-35 Gideon gathers an army

:33  pitched in the valley of Jezreel.

This is the same area where Barak and Sisera fought, just southeast of the Sea of Galilee.  This is the area near the city of “Megiddo”.

:34 But the spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon

Earlier, Gideon had been told by the Lord, “Go in this thy might”.

But now, as the time for action has come, God puts His Spirit on Gideon.

Lesson

You step, God fills

I think this is often the case.
We may face a particular challenge and feel pretty inadequate for the job.
But, out of obedience to God, we take a step in our “own strength”.
And then the Holy Spirit comes in to pick us up and take us through the event.
For some of us, we may be waiting for some kind of energy bolt from heaven to come coursing through our bodies before we will get up out of our Lazy Boy recliner. But I think we will find that if we will get up and start taking a step, God will meet us with His strength.
Faith – trusting and acting, even when you don’t see how it’s possible.
Illustration
Where's Your Umbrella?
One summer, a drought threatened the crop in a small town. On a hot and dry Sunday, the village parson told his congregation, “There isn’t anything that will save us except to pray for rain. Go home, pray, believe, and come back next Sunday ready to thank God for sending rain.” The people did as they were told and returned to church the following Sunday. But as soon as the parson saw them, he was furious. “We can’t worship today. You do not yet believe,” he said. “But,” they protested, “we prayed, and we do believe.” “Believe?” he responded. “Then where are your umbrellas?”
I’m not trying to say that if we have enough “faith”, that we can make God do whatever we want.
But if God is speaking and nudging us, we ought to obey.  We ought to do what God asks.  He will take care of what we need.
For some of you, God is going to be nudging you to take a step.  You may not feel you have the strength, but God will meet you if you only take a step.

:34-35 and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.

One of the reasons for blowing a trumpet was to gather people together to form an army.

After it was all said and done, Gideon will have gathered an army of 32,000 men (Judg. 7:3). They would be facing an army of 135,000 Midianites (Judg. 8:10).

When Gideon blew the trumpet, the first ones to answer the call and follow him were his own people.  Abiezer was Gideon’s “people”.

Lesson

Some people will be affected by your stand.

Even though some of the people were offended by Gideon tearing down the altar of Baal, some people were deeply impressed, enough to follow him into battle.
It was the members of his own family, the people closest to him that were affected most.
If Jesus has truly changed your life, the people closest to you will know it best.