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The Call of Gideon

April 7, 2024 Preacher: Kevin Godin Series: Judges (Broken People, Unbroken Promises)

Scripture: Judges 6:1–40

Sermon Transcript:

As we delve deeper into the book of Judges, our focus shifts to a pivotal figure: Gideon. Among the judges, Gideon's story stands out for its richness and detail, offering us profound insights into God's interactions with His people. In chapter 6, we learn about Gideon's divine calling and preparation. This is a narrative brimming with lessons that echo God’s later deliverance of his people through the gospel. Through Gideon's journey, we're reminded of a powerful truth: the ultimate gift from God isn't merely His blessings or interventions, but the invaluable gift of Himself. That is the main point I want you to see today, the greatest gift God gives is Himself.

Everything else that brings joy and confidence flows from this, that God is with us.

Chapter 6 starts with the familiar cycle we have repeatedly seen. Verse 1 says,

1 The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord…

Then, because of their idolatry God disciplines them using the nations around them,

…and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years.

This results in terrible oppression lasting seven years and so severe that the people hid in caves and bunkers and had to hide their crops and their animals.  

2 And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. 3 For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. 4 They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. 5 For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in. 

Their enemies would let them do all the work and then move in at harvest time like locusts ravaging everything and leaving them destitute. Verse 6 says,

6 And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.

So, like we have seen before, the people finally cried out in anguish. Verse 7,

7 When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites, 8 the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. 9 And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 And I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.”

Look what God does here. Israel cries out for relief and God sends a prophet. They ask for a general and God sends a proclaimer of his word. Imagine if your car broke down and instead of sending a tow truck or a mechanic, AAA sent you a Bible teacher. Have you ever felt like God dealt with you that way? 

We often want to escape our physical circumstances but God knows there is something we need even more than immediate relief. We need insight into our suffering so we can draw closer to him. God knows that ultimately joy and peace doesn’t come from the absence of pain, but from fellowship with him. We need something more than short term relief, we need him. We need to be delivered from our idols and into fellowship with him. Only then will our rest be lasting when it comes.

God wanted Israel to understand the reason for their pain so they would repent and find lasting joy and peace in him. One of the most loving things God does for us is to expose our sin and weakness with the light of his word so that we may be driven to seek his mercy. In the same way a good doctor will tell us the truth about our cancer so that we will follow the treatment, God tells us the truth about our sin so that we can be saved.

God responds to their cry with a prophet and his message begins with a reminder of God’s grace. God brought them out of Egypt, protected them and gave them the land. He reminds them of God’s instruction, they must not fear the gods of the Amorites. Then he shares God’s accusation. “You have not obeyed my voice”. Logically, the next thing should be an announcement of judgment, but that isn’t what happens. Instead, the camera cuts to another scene.

 Verse 11 says,

11 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. 

Rather than pronouncing judgment, the Lord will recruit a man to deliver them. God intervenes to change the direction of the story. They have violated the covenant but God will keep it. Here is displayed the richness of the glory of his grace. When he ought to punish, he delivers, when he out to pour out wrath, he pours out mercy. This is the same God who sent his Son to save sinners. This is the God we worship!

Lamentations 3:31–33,

31 For the Lord will not cast off forever, 32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33 for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. 

Psalm 103:10–11

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

Ephesians 2:1–7,

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 

How are we not moved every moment to pour out our hearts and our lives in worship to one who has loved us so much! What would we be apart from the grace and love of God?

The angel finds Gideon beating out wheat at the winepress. This is a job that should be done in open spaces. Normally, you want to be up on a hill or in a wide place so you can throw the sheaves in the air and let the wind carry the chaff away while the wheat falls back to the ground to be gathered. But Gideon is hiding because he is afraid of the Midianites so he is trying to stay out of sight, laboring in fear. Then verse 12 says,

12 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

How can a man cowering in the shadows be called a hero? How can one who hides his work be hailed as mighty? It's a mystery that speaks to the heart of God's transformative power—the power to take the weak and make them strong, to take the fearful and make them brave. In this we see a foreshadow of our own story. By faith we are declared to be justified before God. He greets us as righteous ones and saints but when this announcement is made, we have no righteousness of our own. We are declared righteous because Christ is with us. But all those whom he justifies, he also glorifies. Because God promises to be with us, every believer will eventually be perfected and glorified in God’s kingdom.

The reality that secures God’s proclamation about Gideon and the one that secures his proclamation about us is the same. Both are possible only because of the great promise, “The Lord is with you”. But Gideon isn’t quite sure about all this.

13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”

Gideon has heard all the amazing stories about what God had done in the past, but when looks at his life and the circumstances around him he just doesn’t see that same power. When God assures him that he will be with him to deliver the people but Gideon responds with all the reasons he can’t do it. 

Brothers and sisters, how often do we do this? We listen to our flesh tell us we are too weak, too sinful, too old, or too young. We think of dozens of reasons someone else should go when God has called us. That’s what Gideon does and God responds the way he always does with reluctant servants. “But I will be with you”.

This is a cosmic trump card that removes away any legitimate excuse or hesitation. If God is with us the journey may be difficult and uncomfortable, but it will end in glory. Whatever else happens, failure is not possible. This is the same promise that comforted Moses and strengthened Joshua. We don’t need to know all the details of how everything will work if we know he is with us. We don’t need to know the how, when, where, or why if he is with us. All we need to know is who and if God is with us, it is enough. Amen?

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

How many of us are fearing men, threshing our grain at the winepress making excuses rather than taking hold of this promise and living as witnesses for Christ? I’m not qualified, I haven’t studied enough, I’m too busy, I’m going through a lot right now. To each of these the lord responds, “but I will go with you.” Lord give us the strength to truly say, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” 

That is the great promise he gives Gideon, but Gideon still isn’t taking any chances. In verses 17-24 Gideon asks God to confirm this by accepting an offering. He wants to be sure this is God making this promise. Gideon prepares a meal and offers it to God, who consumes it with fire that springs up from the rocks. This proves that it is God but rather than calm him it terrifies him. We all have New Testaments and so this reaction seems odd to us but it is not a small thing to come face to face with a holy God. I think scholar Dale Ralph Davis is right when he says,

“We have no real sense of the terror and awesomeness of God, for we think intimacy with God is an inalienable right rather than an indescribable gift. There is nothing amazing about grace as long as there is nothing fearful about holiness.”

What makes God’s grace so amazing is that he extends it in perfect holiness. He speaks peace to Gideon and Gideon responds with worship. He builds an altar. But there cannot be two altars in our lives. If we are to sacrifice upon the altar of the lord, we must tear down our altars to false Gods. The Lord is going to show through Gideon what salvation must entail. In verses 25 & 26 God tells Gideon to tear down the altar that his father had built and verse 27 says, 

27 So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night. 

Gideon obeys, but he is still fearful. Nothing will weaken our hearts more than the fear of men. Gideon is still weak but God is working in him. He goes out at night because he is afraid but he does tear the altar down. Gideon gets a lot of flack for being afraid but let’s be careful here. Yes, we should be bold but obedience is more important than optics. Sadly there are many hyper critical Christians that discourage the young in the faith by looking down on their efforts.

We can’t expect someone who just met the Lord to be as mature as one who has walked with him for 30 years. We want everyone to grow strong and mature but if you are growing and making progress in your walk, do not let critical people discourage you. Instead, find people who will love you, take joy in your progress, and encourage you to continue praying, studying, and serving.

Gideon is afraid, but he obeys and he causes quite a stir. When the townspeople learn the pagan altar was destroyed they are furious. In verses 28-30 the people are calling on Gideon’s father Joash to turn him over for this deed so they can kill him. Then verse 31 says,

31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.

His father comes to his defense, basically saying “how dare you” contend for Baal. If he is a god, let him fight for himself. It takes Gideon’s act to bring some theological clarity to his father. This stand at the fallen altar kicks off the next phase where Gideon is acting in the role of the deliverer. 

The Midianites and Amalekites and others gathered together as they had been doing for seven years and poured across the river, primed to plunder the land but this time God empowers Gideon who sends out a call to several tribes to rally to him.

33 Now all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East came together, and they crossed the Jordan and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him. 35 And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, and they too were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they went up to meet them.

Just before the action, however, we see Gideon’s hesitation one more time in the famous story of the fleece. Verse 36,

 36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.


The Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon and when it did, it was joined to human weakness. Again, Gideon’s only hope is in that promise God made that he will be with him. Many see a lack of faith in Gideon here, but I see something a little different. I see a man willing to obey but afraid. He wants to be sure.


I am not commending Gideon for his testing of God. God’s word should be sufficient for us but the Bible is real in showing us Gideon’s struggle. Gideon hesitates, but he is not without faith. In verse 37 he prefaces his request by saying “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said


He is making sure he didn’t misunderstand something. He asks God to confirm his word by keeping the fleece wet and the ground dry. When that happens, he perhaps realizes that he didn’t think it through since it is the nature of wool to absorb moisture. It could have been a coincidence so he asks for a second sign. This time he asks God to do something against nature to prove his commitment.


As New Testament believers we no longer need to wonder if God will really keep his promises because he has given us an unnatural sign far greater than a dry fleece to prove his love for us. Friends, God sent his Son to die to save us. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the Son of God who came from heaven to earth as a human being, lived a perfectly sinless life, and voluntarily allowed himself to be crucified on a cross. 


By dying on the cross, Jesus was suffering the punishment for our sins. We have all sinned and our sins deserve God’s punishment. Our sins demand justice, yet Jesus took that punishment in our place on the cross. He suffered God the Father’s wrath so we wouldn’t have to. Then three days later, he was raised from the dead. This proves he can deliver as he has said and he now offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to everyone who will put their trust in him. All those who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior by faith can say along with the apostle Paul in Romans 8:31–32,

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Brothers and sisters, if you have any doubt that God loves you and will keep his promise to deliver you, look at what he has done for you through Jesus. It makes no sense for him to offer such a tremendous price for your soul and then leave the work unfinished. Jesus proves beyond any doubt the commitment God has to the salvation of his people. We don’t need fleeces to understand God’s will for us. He has shown us in the most clear and convincing way that his word is true and his promises never fail. 


We don’t need to test God, we need to trust him. We have all we need in his holy word to guide our lives by faith. Those who seek signs rather than trusting God’s word ultimately end up trusting their own experiences, which is dangerous. We don’t want to be like one guy I heard about. He came in one morning with donuts and said God wanted him to buy them. He said, “I was driving near the bakery and I said Lord, if it is your will for me to get donuts this morning, make the very first parking spot near the door available.” He said, “sure enough, the 4th time I drove around the building there it was. Wide open.” 


That’s how it goes with some of us. So, I don’t commend what Gideon does but I am thankful that God’s word is honest about this. I am encouraged that God is not ashamed to stoop down and reassure us in our fears. I am thankful he is patient with my weakness. I am grateful that in his grace and mercy he blesses my wavering grip on his word. I am relieved to know that when I am afraid, God will not abandon me.


If my salvation depended upon me holding tightly to him with perfect faith, I would be lost. Praise God that our salvation depends rather on his holding tightly to us in his perfection. Gideon doesn’t give us a good example with his fleece, but he does give us hope. Gideon's story, particularly his use of the fleece, is not a pattern for us but points us to God's patience and steadfastness. 


His actions reflect our own doubts and fears, yet they also highlight the unfathomable depth of God's grace. It's not about the great strength of our faith, but the object of our faith—God Himself—who secures our salvation and sustains us. He gives us hope because he points us to a loving and merciful savior. Jesus tells us that if we even had faith as small as a mustard seed, the mountains would obey our commands. 


Even the greatest of us do not have the faith in God he deserves. We are like the man in Mark 9 where Jesus tells him that all things are possible for those who believe and he cries out in verse 24, “I believe; help my unbelief!” This admission isn't a sign of failure but an acknowledgment of our dependence on God for faith itself and every step toward holiness. It is in recognizing our need for God's help in our weakness, that we find the true essence of faith.

So Gideon has much to teach us. God doesn't call the equipped; He equips the called. It is by his power that cowards are transformed into mighty men of valor. It is God that makes shepherds into kings and farmers into prophets. The measure of your life is not found in what it appears to be today, but in what God has promised to you. Believers, this truth should move us to dedicate our lives to our Savior who will never forsake us. 1 John 3:2–3 says,


2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.


In Gideon, as in the other judges, we see God already at work preparing the world for the salvation to come in Jesus. We see the patterns and shadows that will be made clear in the light of the Gospel. That God delivers his people and brings life out of death and victory out of defeat. That he guides us by his word and secures us with his own presence. We have greater light than Gideon and even greater promises. The greatest of which is that God will be with us and we will be with him in eternity. Let’s rejoice in this, having the same confidence expressed by the apostle Paul in Romans 8:38–39 ,


38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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