Judges 6-7 - Skip Heitzig
Calvary Church is dedicated to doctrine, and we want you to experience a life change that comes from knowing God's Word and applying it to your life. So we explain the Bible verse by verse, every chapter, every book. This is Expound.
We're in the book of Judges, chapter 6. A few years back, I had a privilege to go to India, and I think it was the first time that I went. We were out with a group street witnessing in a town, in a village, and we noticed that the people in the area were hostile toward the message. We used interpreters. They were using their native language and dialects.
And so we started sharing, and I noticed that after a while we were surrounded by people, people all around us, and they did not look happy at us. And so as the crowd grew, I turned to my interpreter and I said, can you tell me what's going on? And he said to me in that sweet Indian accent-- Ravinder, sorry, I'm going to probably butcher it-- but he said, (INDIAN ACCENT) I think we are going to get beat up.
And I thought, you're kidding me, right? He goes, (INDIAN ACCENT) No, I think we are going to get beat up. Well, we didn't end up getting beat up, but we were surrounded and the Lord did disperse the crowd, I suppose.
Did you know that we are surrounded as believers in this world? What we believe and what we stand for, the people of this world, the value system of this world is not simpatico with us. We are surrounded, and we are surrounded by hostile beings. And I just don't mean on the physical, but in the spiritual.
Paul said, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts-- that means armies, spiritual armies-- of wickedness in heavenly places. We are in the midst of a battle. The children of Israel, as we open up chapter 6 of the book of Judges, finds themselves surrounded by conflict.
Now, part of the problem for the children of Israel is they should have gotten rid of their enemies a lot sooner. When they settled the land, we recorded in chapter 2:1-2, that they let the people of the land live among them. They made covenants with them. They didn't do what the Lord told them.
And when you live that way, when you don't obey the Lord in the present, your past has a habit of catching up with you. It catches up with them, so they are continually plagued by people. They are surrounded by enemies.
Now, though we are surrounded-- and I have to say this, too. I just sort of launched into that little thing on spiritual warfare. We are also are surrounded by God's angels. We sometimes just focus on the demonic hordes that are against us, and that's true. But 1/3 of the angels of heaven fell. That means 2/3 didn't fall. 2/3 are on our side.
They are dispatched, according to the book of Hebrews, to those of us who are heirs of salvation. Not only that, but greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. So you have the Holy Spirit in you, as well as those resources on the outside. So yeah, we're surrounded, but in effect, they're surrounded. And God is going to get the victory in the end.
Something else, and we see it here in this book. When we face battles, we discover that sometimes God seems to cut down on our resources, so it looks like we don't have all that we need to fight the battle. Why does He do that? Why does He cut down the visible resources? To trust. I heard somebody whisper that. Exactly. So that we might learn to trust Him.
I've told this story a dozen or so times. But when I was in school and college-- and I was on a very minimal stipend income for the scholarship that I had in radiology-- I thought I budgeted for my groceries. I didn't quite budget right. And so I came down to-- right before I was going to get paid, I had peanut butter and jelly and a few slices of bread.
But I thought, I can make this stretch to the end of the week. And the end of the week came and I ran out of bread and jelly. So I just had a spoon with peanut butter, right?
So I'm thinking, Lord at any time now you could provide. Now would be a good time. But watch here how the Lord, in this story-- if God willing, we get to it-- see how the Lord strips them of their outward resources to get them to trust in the Lord.
In chapter 6, verse 1, it says "the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord." This is beginning to be a pattern. "So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years.
And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of the Midianites, the children of Israel made for themselves the dens, the caves, and the strongholds, which are in the mountains. So it was, whenever Israel had sown"-- that is, planted their crops, their seed-- "Midianites would come up. Also, the Malachites and the people of the east would come up against them."
Now these are marauding bands, like Bedouin type people. They lived in tents. They didn't build cities. These two people groups, by and large, just lived according to the seasons with their flocks, and they looked for opportunities to feed their huge numbers of people.
Let me tell you a little bit about these people because we need to get a historical reality check. First of all, there are Midianites. Midian was a son of Abraham. When Sarah died, Abraham remarried a woman by the name of Keturah. That's Genesis chapter 25.
He had six sons through that gal, and the fourth born son was a guy by the name of Midian. And these are the descendants of that Midian. So he is the offspring of Abraham that settled in that area.
The Midianites settled in what we would today call Saudi Arabia, northwest Saudi Arabia, closer toward the Gulf of Eilat, if you have a map in the back of your Bible. And that's where they settled, but they would maraud. They would attack these areas for their people and for their flocks.
Later on in the book of Exodus, we find that Moses' father-in-law, by the name of Jethro, was a priest of Midian. So it's all that region where Moses took his family and the children of Israel when they went through the wilderness. Now, later on, the Midianites become enemies to the children of Israel as they wander through the desert.
So a guy by the name of Balak-- remember Balak? Balak tells the elders of Midian that you have the children of Israel. They're going to take over everything. If you let them come into this land, they're going to take over your land, my land, everything.
So Balak instructed the elders of Midian to call for a guy by the name of Balaam, who would pronounce curses on them. He ended up blessing them instead of cursing them. But he came up with an ingenious plan because he knew that if the children of Israel were tempted centrally enough, that God would judge them if they sinned in that area.
So he said, get some of the young Midianite women to come into the camp and lay with them sexually, and that's exactly what happened. And a plague swept throughout the camp of Israel. You know the story, I'm just quickly tell it to you. But that's the background of the Midianites.
The Amalekites, Amalek, was the grandson of Esau. Esau was the brother of Jacob. Esau was the man of the flesh, right? He didn't care about his spiritual birthright. He sold his spiritual birthright for a bowl of red chili stew. And he became one who lived after fulfilling the desires of the flesh. Amalek, the Amalekites, his grandchildren, seemed to take that over throughout history.
So the Amalekites kites were the first people group to attack Israel when they left Egypt on their way out of Egypt toward the land of promise. The Amalekites came to a place called Rephidim, and there they attacked Israel.
And you'll know this story because Moses stood on a hill and Aaron and Hur lifted up the hands of Moses. And as long as the hands of Moses were lifted up against the Amalekites, Israel prevailed. When the hands went down, the Amalekites prevailed.
Now, the Amalekites and Amalek does become a type of the flesh. And God said, you're going to have war with Amalek from generation to generation. That's Exodus chapter 17. Because they kept compromising with them and settling with them.
Now later on, it's going to turn around and bite them. The first king of Israel, Saul, goes out to battle against the Amalekites. So they're still around during the monarchy. Saul goes out to battle, does not kill the King Agag. Keeps some of the kings and some of the entourage, as well as some of the choice animals for himself.
And he comes back into the camp. Saul comes back and Samuel the prophet says, hey, there Saul. What are you doing? He goes, oh, I've just come back from obeying the voice of the Lord. I did everything God told me to do. Now, God told him to wipe out the Amalekites.
Samuel said, if you obeyed God fully, then what is the bleating of the sheep that I hear in my ears and the lowing of the cattle? He said, well, you know, I've kept these animals to sacrifice to the Lord. You get really spiritual when somebody puts their finger in your chest like that.
So he came up with a spiritual excuse, but he also kept Agag, who was an Amalekite. Agag was the king. And obviously, not only Agag, but a whole bunch of his family survived, because much later on, there will arise a man in the court of Persia by the name of Haman, the Agagite, who comes up with a plan to destroy every single Jew alive in the empire. That's the story of Esther.
So the Amalekites proved to be problematic, all the way from way back, all the way through much of their early history on into the history, even when they were in Persia. So the mention here deserves sort of a summation of us understanding who these people were.
So verse 4. They would encamp against them, destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza. So I just want you to know that we're dealing with the area of the north, all the way down south. You've heard of the Gaza Strip, today where the Palestinian refugee camps are. Gaza is down south. So these Amalekites and Midianites have basically dominated the entire land of Israel from north to south.
"And they leave no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep nor oxen nor donkey, for they would come up with their livestock and their tents coming in as numerous as locusts. Both they and their camels were without number. And they would enter the land to destroy it, so Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord."
Let's see how the Lord responds to that cry. "It came to pass, when the children of Israel cried out to the Lord because of the Midianites, that the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel." Now, this is a prophet who is unnamed. We don't know who he is, but he is noteworthy because there is only two people in the book of Judges that are known as prophets, this guy and the gal in the previous couple chapters. Deborah was a prophetess. Now we have an unnamed prophet. But he comes in, he delivers a message.
So "the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, thus says the Lord God of Israel. I brought you up from Egypt. I brought you out of the house of bondage. And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all who oppress you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. Also, I said to you, I am the Lord your God. Do not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But you have not obeyed my voice."
This prophet does not come like the prophetess Deborah, to give a prophecy and to become the deliverer. This prophet only comes to speak God's word of rebuke to them, not deliver them from their oppression. They cry out to God. God sends them a prophet. The prophet speaks to them words of indictment, words of rebuke, saying just so you know-- because a deliverer is coming.
His name is Gideon. But just so you know, this is because-- you are in this because-- you have walked away from God. So the prophet is there to rebuke them to get them to further cry out to the Lord, to get them to pray harder, you might say.
I wonder how many things the Lord allows in our life just so he can hear from us more often. Everything's good. We're not really praying that much. Everything's great. We're not really reading our Bible all that much. We get a little inconvenience-- oh, God. It's like God kind of smiles and goes, you know, I haven't heard from you in a while. Great to hear from you.
"Now the angel of the Lord"-- verse 11-- "came and sat under the terebinth tree, which was in Ophrah-- not Oprah, but Ophrah, which belonged to Joash, the Abiezrite-- and Abiezrite is a clan, a family of the tribe of Manasseh-- while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress in order to hide it from the Midianites.
You have to understand this setup. Whenever you would thresh wheat in those days, you would typically thresh wheat on a threshing floor, a rock surface, on a raised hill. The reason you want a raised hill is because you want to take advantage of the prevailing winds that are in that part of the world that come just about every evening, every afternoon and evening. The winds come from the Mediterranean and they softly blow.
So you want to get on a raised hill so that you can, with your winnowing fork, throw the grain up in the air, the stock and all. And the chaff, which is lighter than the meat of the grain, the chaff blows away in the wind and the grain goes back to the rock surface. So that way you can separate the chaff from the wheat. That's how you winnow it.
When you want to press wine, the winepress was always in the lowest part of the valley because when you squeeze the grapes the juice runs out, so you pick the lowest spot to do that. So we find Gideon. Because he's so afraid of the Midianites, he doesn't want to do it in plain sight.
So because he is so fearful, he is so afraid, like everybody else in the land, he is winnowing down in the valley, in the low place, down where the winepress is. And the wind isn't that great. So you throw it up in the air and it just all goes back down. It's very frustrating. That's what he's doing.
So I set that up because I want you to get what the angel of the Lord says to Gideon. So verse 12. "The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, the Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor." Now, that could be sarcasm. He could have just sort of smiled and winked, hey, Mr. Courageous, down here in the winepress, winnowing.
Or, or he is speaking a prophecy. It's as if the Lord says, I know you're a scaredy cat, but I've got big plan for you to become a mighty warrior and I'm going to speak this word because this is what you are going to become. You might be scared today, but when you're an instrument in God's hands, you're going to become a mighty man of valor.
That's what I think he's doing. Just like the Lord Jesus sometimes renamed people based upon what he knew they were going to become, rather than what they were at the moment. So I love that about God. I'm going to turn you into this. This is what I'm going to make you. And history shows that he became one.
"The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor." And Gideon said to him-- I'm sure Gideon looked around, like is there somebody else here that I don't know about? Gideon said to him, "Oh, my Lord, if the Lord is with us, then why has all this happened to us and where are all his miracles, which our fathers told us about saying, did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites."
What a statement from Gideon, from this mighty man of valor. The Lord is with you. Really? If the Lord is with us, then how come I don't see the miracles I read about or heard about. Where's God now? I don't see any evidence of God. I don't see any signs and wonders.
Because he says this, now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. Boy, talk about being a revisionist. The Lord hadn't forsaken them, they have forsaken Him. That's the reality. He's got it all wrong.
Then the Lord turned to him and said, go in this might of yours and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. That's the command. Have I not sent you? So he said to him, oh, my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.
You know, sometimes God has a hard time getting people to surrender to him as vessels. Sometimes the Lord wants to use people, but with some folks it's hard. God wanted to use Moses. Moses, I've sent you to Pharaoh. Who am I? I can't even talk right. I-- I-- I stutter. I can't do this.
The Lord spoke to Jeremiah. Jeremiah, I'm going to use you to speak to the nation. Are you? I can't be your spokesperson, I'm so young. God has a tough time using some folks. Gideon, I want you to go. I can't go, I belong to a bad, crummy family. We're all poor. We can't really do anything. I didn't live a great childhood. I'm the least in my father's house.
"And the Lord said to him, surely I will be with you." It's all you need. That's everything. Doesn't matter who you are, it matters who He is with you. "Surely I will be with you and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man."
Then he said to him, "if now I have found favor in your sight, then show me a sign that it is you who talk with me. Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to you and bring out my offering and set it before you. And he said, I will wait until you come back. Then Gideon went in, prepared a young goat, and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour"-- unleavened because he has to do it quickly. He didn't want to let it rise.
"The meat he put in a basket and he put the broth in a pot. And he brought them out to him under the terebinth tree and presented them. The angel of God said to him, take the meat and unleavened bread and lay them on this rock and pour out the broth. And he did so.
And the angel of the Lord put out the end of his staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the angel of the Lord departed out of his sight." He wanted to sign. This is a pretty good one, right? The thing just went up in flames.
Now, once again, we are introduced to the angel of the Lord. And I've told you before that I believe the angel of the Lord is a theophany, or more precisely, a christophany, an appearance of Christ, a pre-incarnate apparition of Christ in the Old Testament. And that is because in most all of the occurrences of the angel of the Lord, either the angel or the audience, the person watching or interacting with the angel, acknowledges deity.
Either the angel of the Lord will say that he is the Lord or the person will recognize this is the Lord. So for example, when the angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar in the book of Genesis and gave a promise that God is going to work through her and through her offspring, she gave a name to the angel of the Lord.
You are the Lord who sees. You are Yahweh-Roi, she said to the angel of the Lord. You are the Lord who sees. That's one instance. On Mount Mariah, the angel of the Lord indicated to Abraham that he was the Lord. At Bethel, when the Lord appeared to Jacob, again, the angel of the Lord identified himself as the Lord. So we find this all the way throughout the Scripture.
Look at verse 22. "Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the Lord." Now I don't know if it's in your Bible, but in my Bible, He is capitalized and Angel is capitalized. That's the translators doing that, because the original Hebrew has no capitals in the documents that we work off of. But in English, they're capitalized because the translator wants you to know this is probably the Lord Himself.
"He was the Angel of the Lord. So Gideon said, alas, oh Lord God, for I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face. And the Lord said to him, peace be with you." I love this. He's all scared, like I'm going to die. I'm going to die. And the Lord comes back and says, peace. Peace. Settles him down. Peace. That's the Lord's heart, wants to speak to you His peace.
"Peace be with you. Do not fear. You shall not die." I think the Lord wants us to hear that tonight during this pandemic, during this time of great fear. I'm going to die. Peace. You're not going to die. My peace I give to you.
"Do not fear. You shall not die. So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it Yahweh-Shalom, the Lord is Peace, the Lord Shalom." To this day, it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
"Now it came to pass that same night that the Lord said to him, take your father's young bull, the second bull of seven years old, and tear down the altar of Baal"-- this is interesting-- "that your father has. And cut down the wooden images, that is, the wooden image that is beside him."
Interesting that in Gideon's own backyard, his dad has an altar, a cult worship idol. I've told you before about syncretism. One of the problems of ancient Israel wasn't that they denied God. They didn't deny Yahweh, as much as they worshipped God. They worshipped Yahweh. But they also worshipped other gods and goddesses.
So they just brought it all together, and they conflated these different religious systems into a smorgasbord of different ideologies, and that was their worship. It's like, well, there's a lot of different ideas and ideologies. I can't afford to make anybody mad. I don't want to insult anybody. Just worship them all.
So in his own backyard, he's got this idol happening. So the Lord says, OK, first thing I want you to do is to take this animal, this bull-- and notice how old the bull is. It's specified in the text. How old? Seven. Do you think this is here by accident? Probably not. I think every time you find a detail you should ask yourself why.
Now here's why I guess. The Midianites oppressed Israel, we are told at the beginning of this chapter, seven years. So get a seven-year-old animal. This animal has been alive as long as the Midianites and Amalekites have troubled your land. Let's kill it. Let's get rid of it. Because I'm going to do a new thing and I'm going to drive your enemy out and this worship system out and reign over Israel.
So tear down the altar of Baal that your father has and cut down the wooden image. I am presuming it's the Ugaritic goddess Asherah that we have seen mentioned in this book already. "And build an altar"-- verse 26-- "to the Lord your God on the top of this rock in the proper arrangement.
And take the second bull and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the image, which you shall cut down. So Gideon took 10 men from among his servants and did as the Lord had said to him. But because he feared his father's household and the men of the city too much to do it by day, he did it by night."
Now you can say he was a coward. He was a chicken. He should have done it if he was a man of faith. Remember, he's the guy threshing wheat in a winepress. So God is working with this "mighty man of valor." He's going to get there in stages.
Don't be too hard on him, just like you shouldn't be too hard on Nicodemus who came to see Jesus at night. I've heard so many preachers just bad mouth him. Hey, he came to Jesus at night. Give him credit for that. Hey, he tore down the altar here give. Him credit for that. He did obey.
"And when the men of this city rose early in the morning, there was the altar of Baal torn down and the wooden image that was beside it cut down and the second bull was being offered on the altar which he had built." Question. Why was it that the Lord wanted Gideon to tear down his father's altar?
Well, what is God calling Gideon to do? Deliver the children of Israel from their enemy. That's what He is going to do, the Midianites. So if you're going to lead people publicly, you better live it out personally. You start in your own backyard.
You start with your own household. If you're going to be the guy out there, you begin at home. You begin with your family. You begin there. So that's where he's called to begin.
By the way, you know what the name Gideon means? Hacker. Hewer. Hewer, actually, somebody who cuts down. So it's like the Lord is saying, hey, hacker. You hack. Time to live up to your name and hack that alter down. Let's get at it. Hack away.
"So they said to one another"-- verse 29-- "who has done this thing? And when they had inquired and asked and said, Gideon, the son of Joash has done this thing. Then the men of the city said to Joash, bring out your son that he may die, because he has torn down the altar of Baal and because he has cut down the wooden image that was beside it. Joash said to all who stood against him, would you plead for Baal?"
Really? You have to fight for your god? Your god won't fight for you so you have to defend your god. Would you plead for Baal?
"Would you save him? Let the one who would plead for him be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him plead for himself because his altar has been torn down." Now, this is fascinating to me. The boldness of Gideon inspired his dad to take a stand for righteousness. He was just sort of going along with everybody and everything up to this point, but just seeing the example of his son and the boldness of his son inspired him to stand for Yahweh.
And I like that. So a lot of times we think parents influence their children, and they should and they do, but sometimes children influence parents and they take a bold stand. And I love how the son's boldness and faith in God inspired dad to put this gauntlet down.
Therefore, on that day, he called him Jerubbaal, or Yerubbaal, saying, let Baal plead against him because he has torn down his altar. That means Baal pleads or let Baal plead. That's what the name means, so they renamed him.
"Then all the Midianites and Amalekites and people of the east gathered together and they crossed over and they encamped in the valley of Jezreel." Or for you New Testament folks, the valley of Armageddon. Same valley. Valley of Jezreel, Valley of Esdraelon, Valley of Armageddon. It's that whole northern plain, that vast farmland in the north.
But verse 30, "for the spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon. And then he blew the trumpet and the Abiezrites gathered behind him." That is his own family, his own clan. "And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, who also gathered behind him." so. Now his own tribe. He also sent messengers to Asher, a neighboring tribe, Zebulon and Naphtali, two other neighboring tribes, "and they came up to meet them."
And we'll discover how many of the children of Israel came up to meet him, 32,000 of them gathered together with Gideon. Now, it says in verse 34, "the spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon." Let me give you the literal translation. It's very picturesque. The Spirit of the Lord clothed himself with Gideon.
Isn't that interesting? The Spirit of the Lord clothed himself with Gideon. That really is a beautiful definition of what it means to be filled with the Spirit. Think of being filled with the Spirit like a glove. The hand that does the work puts itself into the glove, and the hand is controlling the glove.
Your life is that glove. He fills you with His Spirit, so that glove becomes His clothing. He does the work. He empowers. The glove gets to come along for the ride, but the hand is doing the work. So the Spirit of the Lord clothed himself with Gideon.
Here's a prayer. Lord, may I be your suit of clothes today. May you do a work in my family, in my world, in my neighborhood through me. I want you to clothe yourself with me. That really is a beautiful prayer. That really is the idea of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
So many times I hear people say, I want more of the Holy Spirit. I need more of the Holy Spirit. No, no, no, no. The Holy Spirit needs more of you. You surrender yourself to Him, He's the one that does the work. You, with all that power of the Holy Spirit at your disposal, you'd be scary, man.
That's like giving you the red button to push, the nuclear pack. No thank you. But when the Holy Spirit, who knows what He's doing, has you, you get the excitement of coming along for the ride, being part of the work. Spirit of the Lord clothed Himself with Gideon.
"And Gideon said"-- verse 36-- "to God, if you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only and it's dry on all the ground, then I know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said." Boy, this guy likes signs, doesn't he?
And it was so. He rose early the next morning, squeezed the fleece together, wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. You would think, OK, OK. That's good. I'm good with that. "Then Gideon said to God, do not be angry with me and let me speak just once more. Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece. Let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on the ground, let there be dew." That is all around the fleece.
"And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only but there was dew on the ground." So here's Gideon. He's thinking, it could just be a fluke, the way the temperature goes down and the moisture goes in the air. A soft material like this would tend to gather more moisture than a dry surface, so that's why I need to reverse it.
I don't know what he was thinking. But this is a famous portion of Scripture, Gideon's fleece, that I ever heard abused, or at least misused, by a number of believers, who will say, I'm asking the Lord for a fleece. I'm putting a fleece out. You've heard that before. That's terminology that they use.
Now, what they mean by that is I am trying to determine what the will of God is so I'm going to do something or ask God to do something, like Gideon did with the fleece. First of all, Gideon isn't trying to find the will of God. He knows the will of God. God told him, go. Defeat the Midianites. It's going to happen.
So he's not using this to determine the will of God. Gideon wants a confirmation. Not a determination, a confirmation of the presence and the power of God. So be careful when you say, I'm putting a fleece out. I need a sign. Jesus said a wicked and an adulterous generation seeks after a sign.
Folks, you have the Holy Spirit living in you, in you. He came upon Gideon. He lives in you. He resides in you. So it's one thing to ask God for direction, ask God for guidance. But how about this?
What if God says, I have a better plan. Don't ask me for guidance. How about if we let the guide Himself live inside you? If the guide lives in you, you're all set. He'll take care of the guidance because the guide lives inside of you.
Something else. When I hear people say I'm putting out a fleece, I want God to show me his will, they usually look for a natural sign, a natural sign. Well, if the phone rings at 1:00 in the afternoon, then it's from the Lord. This was not a natural sign that Gideon asked for, nor got. Both of them were supernatural signs, supernatural.
Oh, by the way, if you ask God for the 1 o'clock phone call, what do you do if the phone call comes at 1:10? You say, well, that's good enough. God has a 10% margin of error. No, you'd probably scratch your head and go, gosh, was that really the Lord? Because wouldn't the Lord, if you ask him for a 1:00, be 1:00 promptly? Just a thought. I'll let you wrestle with that.
"Then"-- verse 1-- Jerubbaal, that is, Gideon, and all the people who were with him rose and encamped beside the well of Harod so that the camp of the Midianites was on the north side of him by the hill of Moreh in the valley. I tell you what, I wish we were in the land of Israel right now, because this passage is just so fun to teach standing by that very brook and well of Harod.
Looking at Mount Gilboa to one side and the camp down by the hill, where the other mountains are, were the Midianites, where you can see it all. I don't even know why I said that. I just taunted you and made you wish that you can go to Israel and you maybe can't, so sorry about that. I'll get back to the text.
"And the Lord said Gideon"-- now, before we get to what the Lord said to Gideon, Gideon, as I mentioned, has 32,000 troops, who have volunteered. All these tribes come. The Midianites have more than 135,000. That's about how many die in this battle, so presumably they had hundreds of thousands. But let's just say 135,000 to 32,000. Israel safely is outnumbered 4:1.
"So the Lord said to Gideon, the people who are with you are too many." Now, if you're Gideon, you're going, uh, I was just about to say I have too few men and you're telling me I have too many. But notice the language.
"The people who are with you are too many for me-- for me-- to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against me, saying my own hand saved me. Now, therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilboa."
Gideon, before you go to battle, you have too many men. Because if you win this battle with a 4:1 odds, you're going to come home from the battle patting yourselves on the back going, man, are we warriors or what? There've been plenty of battles in history where men have been outnumbered and they won the battle.
But if you make the odds ridiculous, if you stack the odds against you so that there's no way you could win except for God, you can't brag about it. You can't boast about. So it's too many for me to do it. There is a principle I want you to learn. Difficulty must always be measured by the capacity of the agent doing the work.
Difficulty must always be measured by the capacity of the one doing the work. Who is going to do the fighting in the battle? The Lord is. The Lord promises to be the one delivering. So it doesn't matter if there's one guy or a million guys, God is doing it. So numbers really aren't an issue.
So He says there's too many. So He says, go to your men and tell them, whoever's scared, if anybody is fearful and afraid, go home. Depart from Mount Gilead. And look at verse 3 at the end, "and 22,000 of the people returned and 10,000 remained." So now there's not 32,000 against 135,000. Now there are 10,000.
And all he had to say is, hey, you know what? Before you get into battle, anybody here scared? Go home. Really, it's OK. And they all said, OK, and they just left. Now, that shouldn't surprise you. That is actually a principle.
Back in Deuteronomy-- you don't have to turn there, but if you're quick with your fingers, you can-- Deuteronomy 20, God says, when you go to battle, have the priest approach the people and give them a mandate. Tell them you're about to fight a battle. The Lord is going to give you victory, but there is a few reasons why you can stay home from the battle.
Number 1, if you've planted a vineyard but you haven't eaten of it, stay home. If you built a house but haven't dedicated it, stay home. If you're newly married, stay home. I mean, your wife's been looking forward to this and you're just going to go get married and go right out to war? No, no. Just go enjoy your honeymoon. Stay home.
But then he says this. This is Deuteronomy chapter 20. "Speak further to the people and say, what man is there who is fearful and faint-hearted? Let him go and return to his house lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart." Here's the principle. Faith is contagious, but so is fear.
If those 22,000 men would have entered the battle and ran away in the midst of the battle, everybody would have run away. It would cause sheer panic to break out. Fear is contagious. Knowing that fear is contagious, get rid of those who are afraid. If they're living by fear-- I'm surrounded by fear. They can't get out because of fear, stay home. Stay home. Don't go to battle. Don't fight. We don't want your fear spilling out into the others.
So 22,000 left. Now he's got 10,000. "And the Lord said to Gideon"-- this back in Judges now, verse 4 chapter 7-- "the Lord said to Gideon, the people are still too many. Bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. And it will be that of whom I say to you, this one shall go with you, the same shall go with you. And whoever I say to you, this one shall not go with you, the same shall not go."
So he brought the people down to the water. "The Lord said to Gideon, every one who laps from the water with his tongue as a dog laps, you shall set apart by himself. Likewise, everyone who gets down on his knees to drink. And the number of those who lap, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men. But all the rest of the people got down on their knees to drink water.
And then the Lord said to Gideon, by the 300 men who lapped, I will save you, deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people, so every man, go every man to his place. So the people took provisions and their trumpets in their hands, and he sent away all the rest of Israel, every man to his tent, and retained those 300 men. Now that the of Midian was below him in the valley."
If you have ever done any stint of duty in the United States military, I almost am certain you were not tested in this manner before you were allowed to get in or kicked out. Nobody said, let me see how you drink water. No, its usually let me see how you can handle that weapon. Let me see how your physical stamina will be in running long distance with a pack on your back, et cetera. Let's see how you are with others in the battle. This probably is not one of them.
But in ancient times, this made sense. You see, this was a test. It was a test of urgency. The first was the test of courage. If you're fearful, go home. Now it's a test of urgency. So you could drink a couple of different ways. You could bow all the way down to the ground, like on all fours, and drink right out of the river.
Or you could bend down slightly, kind of crouched down slightly, take your hands, put the water in your hands, bring the water up to your mouth. And only 300 did that, proving that they, let's call it, "lived in the yellow." Ever heard that phrase? In law enforcement or in training, they tell you to live in the yellow.
A guy named Cooper came up with a color code-- white, yellow, orange, and red-- and that aware people should live, and do live, in the yellow. A lot of people just sort of live their lives in the white-- there's no problem. There's no big deal. And then if something escalates to a life-threatening situation, red, they are totally unprepared and typically will die.
So a person who is prepared walks and looks at things and notices things, and walks into a room and takes note of people and situations and thinks, if there is an emergency, how would I handle it? What would I do? OK, so that's living in the yellow.
So if you're a soldier and you bend all the way down to the ground, now you're just staring at the ground. You are temporarily incapacitated. If you bring the water to your mouth, you can still look around and notice things, and if an emergency situation arose, you're on your feet and you can fight. So it's a test of urgency and preparedness. They're going to drink water, but they're going to do it in a very circumspect way.
There's a good little principle here. Sometimes some people take a lot of unnecessary time with necessary things. You got to drink water, that's necessary. But you can do it, or you can make it an elaborate thing and just spend so much time doing it. So if you're going to fight in my army, Gideon said, do it quickly, do it circumspectfully, and be ready to fight.
And it happened, verse 9. "On the same night, the Lord said to him, arise. Go down to the camp, for I have delivered into your hands. But if you are afraid to go"-- boy, he knew Gideon-- "but if you're afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah, your servant, and you shall hear what they say. And afterwards, your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.
And he went down with Purah,"-- his servant, which indicated he was, indeed, afraid-- "to the outpost of the armed men who were there in the camp." After all, he's got 300 guys. I don't blame him. I'm going to do that. I have 300 men. I'm going to fight hundreds of thousands of enemy, Purah, let's go.
"Now the Midiantes and the Malachites, all the people of the east, were lying in the valley, as numerous as locusts, and their camels were without number as the sand by the seashore in multitude. And when Gideon had come, there was a man telling a dream to his companion. He said, I've just had a dream. To my surprise, a loaf of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian."
Now, barley is what the poor ate. And remember, Gideon said, I'm poor. I come from a poor family. I come from the least in my father's house. And the children of Israel were impoverished by the onslaught of these marauding tribes.
"A barley loaf in the dream tumbled into the camp of Midian." And listen, this is a pretty big loaf of bread, but dreams are like that. "It came to a tent and struck it so that it fell and overturned and the tent collapsed." That's one big, mighty loaf of bread. Where's the beef?
"Then his companion answered and said, this is nothing else but the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, a man of Israel, for into his hand God has delivered Midian and the whole camp." He comes down into the camp. Gideon hears at exactly the right moment a guy telling his dream and a guy interpreting the dream for him.
He said he wanted a sign. God said, if you're afraid, go down and listen to this conversation. He does. So it was when Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation that he worshiped. I love that. You must first be a worshiper before you are a warrior. You want to be a good warrior, learn to be a good worshipper. Public victories are the result of private devotions. So he worshiped.
He returned to the camp of Israel and said, arise, for the Lord has delivered the camp of Midian into your hand. And he divided 300 men into three companies, put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and torches inside the pitchers. He said to them, look at me and do likewise.
Watch. When I come to the edge of the camp, you shall do just as I do. When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you shall blow the trumpet on every side of the whole camp and say, the sword of the Lord and of Gideon."
300 are about to go into battle, 300. Untrained, probably, for the most part, but it's a lean, mean, fighting machine against hundreds of thousands of enemy. As you watch this, you might be tempted to say, does the Lord want to kill them?
No. The Lord wants to get the victory, and often-- as I mentioned, here's the principle-- God stacks the odds against us. I want you to know that if you feel overwhelmed, God will often stack the odds against us so that He might get the victory.
Elijah was against 300 prophets of Baal. And then God told him, put water on the altar. Or Elijah told them, pour water on the altar. Doused his altar completely with water so it wouldn't burn, and then fire fell down from heaven and consumed it. The odds were stacked against him in that situation.
Jesus told the 11 disciples, go into all the world and preach the gospel. That's the odds stacked against us. Sometimes-- and this is really rare in the church-- sometimes you don't need more people. And I say it's rare in the church because, typically, the church never thinks fewer is better. Bigger is always better.
Well, I understand that, and I hear you. And I've had people say, would you make an announcement for this ministry or that mission, we need more people. We just don't have enough people. Listen, you don't always need more people. Sometimes you just need the right people. Because more people can just muck it up. A few of the best people and you could be on your game.
And so you will find that as a principle throughout the Scripture that sometimes fewer is better. We're going to get to it in 1 Samuel, but Jonathan and his armor bearer are going to go into the camp of the Philistines. And Jonathan will say to his armor bearer, what restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few? God could use an entire army. But you know what? God could just use you and me, just us two. Just us two. And the Lord did, just two of them.
So Gideon and his men did that. They blew their trumpets. They broke the pitchers. So they heard 300 cracks. They heard and saw flashes of fire and trumpets being blown, and people scattered and they were defeated before Israel. In verse 24, "Gideon sent messengers throughout the mountains of Ephraim, saying, come down against the Midianites. Seize them from the watering places as far as Beth Barah and the Jordan."
That's down at the crossing. That's down where Jesus was baptized, way, way, way down there. "Then all the men of Ephraim gathered together and seized the watering places as far as Beth Barah the Jordan. And they captured two princes of the Midiantes, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the Rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb." Fitting. "They pursued Midian and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side of the Jordan."
They won the victory, but it's going to create problems. The problem it's going to create is the largest tribe and most powerful tribe in the north, the tribe of Ephraim, wasn't included. And when they heard that there was a battle and they didn't get invited to the fight, they get jealous. And jealous people are the ruin of anything God wants to do. And so they'll iron it out, but it does become an issue because of that, but we'll get into that in chapter 8.
Father, we want to thank you for an opportunity to look at one of the great stories in the Bible, one of the great battles that Israel, a people who have largely, for generations, been greatly outnumbered by hundreds of millions of enemies all around, and have survived. We read their early history in these chapters.
And we need to remind ourselves that it's the same God, that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And that these principles are principles that are still in effect today. I pray you will speak peace to your people. I pray, Lord, that you would tell them, once again, you don't have to be afraid. You're not going to die. And if something happens where you do die, you're going to heaven, so I've got you covered.
I just pray that you would bring comfort and peace to your people during this time. Lord, we need a fresh boost of it. Lord, if we are feeling overwhelmed, if we are feeling outnumbered, just remind us that you are with us. And because you are with us, if God be for us, then who can be against us?
Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for the New Covenant. Lord, we have so many enemies all around us, but we have your angelic hosts also surrounding us, sent to minister to those of us who are heirs of salvation.
And we have your Holy Spirit, and we pray that He would fill our lives like a hand fills a glove. Clothe yourself, Holy Spirit, with our lives. Use us for Your sake, for Your glory, for Your purpose, that we might extend Your truth throughout all the earth. It's in Jesus' name we ask, amen. Let's all stand.
For more resources from Calvary Church and Skip Heitzig, visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us during this teaching in our Expound series.