04 June 2014

Coward turns Conqueror: Gideon (Part 2 of 3)

By Bob Mendelsohn
Given in Moscow, Russia
4 June 2014

I love Yeshua and know that you do too. And we love because He first loved us. I want to experience His love today and I want Him to find you and share that love with you as well. And I want each of us to go from this chapel, after rest, to share that love with everyone out on the streets and in the metros and wherever else Ilya sends us.

We have spoken these last few days about hindrances to our relationship with the Lord, principal among those being our allowing sin and unbelief particularly to creep in and block our faith. And that’s hard work. For us and it was hard work for Gideon as well.

Especially as Gideon had an enemy, which was very real, with whom God wanted him to wage war and to win the battle. God was going to use Gideon to lead the Jewish people, from their various tribes, against the Midianite invaders and to lead them to victory. Amazing…the cowardly Gideon was going to be a hero. Do you remember the movie “The Wizard of Oz?” There was a character in the movie, the Cowardly Lion who only ‘needed a heart’ to have success. That same attribute is missing in Gideon, but in today’s story he gets one!

Oswald Chambers lived in Scotland 100 years ago and his writings have been collected into the classic “My Utmost for His Highest” which for over 40 years I’ve read regularly as a daily devotional. Gideon needed faith to accomplish his work, amen? Chambers said this: “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” In other words, you don’t know how God will work it out, but you believe He will do so.

In relation to the victory over the enemy, Chambers also said, “The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

So let’s look at our story in chapter 7 and a bit of chapter 8 today (Please read this section first if you are reading online)

Let’s talk about faith that really is our victory in modern days.

First thing to notice in chapter 7, verses 1—8 is that God will test our faith. If you have faith, good, so do demons, but real faith in God is not evident, it’s not shown, until it’s put to the test.

God will cause us to trust him, more and more, as we grow in our faith. That means we have to do with less, not with more, of natural things. That may be why 22,000 men walked away from the battle to come. (verses 1-3) The reason God initiated this is in verse 2:
The LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’  We cited this Monday in Jeremiah chapter 9, “Let not a wise man boast… but let him boast in …Me.”

So God said, let the fearful men go home. (.3) Note that this was a fulfillment of the biblical commandment found in Moses’ Deuteronomy 20.8: “‘Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted? Let him depart and return to his house, so that he might not make his brothers’ hearts melt like his heart.”

We spoke yesterday of the way that sin creeps into the camp of Israel, if we allow the nations to remain in the Land, if we permit them and then eventually share our lives with them, then we become infected with them. In the same way, fear creeps into the nation. One person is fearful and if allowed to remain, that fear pervades the entirety of Israel. God doesn’t want us to fear, but rather to trust him. Fear is faith misplaced.  In other words, if we have fear, we have faith in something, but not in the God who can overcome all things. Amen?

The second sifting of the warriors is very odd. (.4-8). Here we see a test happening to the future battalion by drinking at the riverside. Ordinary people are often tested in ordinary ways. I heard about a man who used to take future workers in his office to lunch to see how the candidate treated the waitress and to see if he were a polite person. The candidate didn’t know that this action was part of his examination for the job.

So we see the 10,000 become 300 by ordinary means. I’m not sure what the procedure meant, as the enemy was miles away, so they couldn’t see what was happening and the 10,000 no doubt came to the river in smaller groups, but however Gideon did it, he chose 300. Remember the Bible in Moses (Deut. 32.30) already said this was advantageous: “How could one chase a thousand, and two put 10,000 to flight” And the Midianites were 135,000 people all up. If that statistic were applied to Deuteronomy we only needed 30 people to fend them all off!

The soldiers who left also dropped off some of their equipment that was odd stuff indeed, like jars and torches. But remember God will use ordinary things to accomplish his extra-ordinary purposes. If it’s available!

So we read in verse 7 that God encourages the faith of Gideon.
The LORD said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his home.”
Maybe that’s what we are doing each day in chapel times. And why it’s important to hear from each other the stories each night in our evening celebrations. That way faith is increased!

Faith Strengthened
Verse 8 tells us that he ‘retained’ the 300 men, but the Hebrew says he ‘strengthened’ them.  And in verse 11, God encourages Gideon again by saying his hands would be strengthened if he heard the words of the enemy and contrasted it with God.

Let me comment on this phrase, “strengthen the hands.” It’s found here and Job 4.3-4 where Job’s friends are telling him in no uncertain words that he has to take the conversation from them, since “Behold you have admonished many, and you have strengthened weak hands. Your words have helped the tottering to stand, and you have strengthened feeble knees.“

Again the phrase is used in the book of Hebrews where we read, “Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” (12.12-13)

What is it that strengthens our hands and our feet? It’s God’s Word! Our words have the capacity to strengthen or in the case of the fearful, to weaken others. That’s why we are told to limit the number of warriors going up against the mighty Midianites who have ravished the land the last 7 years. It takes faith, mutual faith, corporate faith, and exercised faith to bring the victory to the Israelites. And we must speak faith and live faith if we are to gain that same victory here in Moscow among the 150,000 Jews or in Odessa or London or Sydney or wherever God leads us.

Gideon heard God speak to him four different times, and finally when Gideon heard from the Midianites and the dream that was interpreted, he knew God was with the Jewish people and came back and IN FAITH proclaimed “Arise, for the LORD has given the camp of Midian into your hands.” (.15)

Now God not only tested Gideon’s faith and thus the faith of the Israelites, but he also encouraged that same faith. As a result he blessed the faith, and accomplished what that faith allowed. The Newer Testament calls this ‘the gift of faith’ and is something I’ve heard you discussing the last few days.

Here’s what I mean. You are encouraging each other with words like, “I prayed for four Jewish contacts. And God gave me four Jewish contacts!” In other words, God is listening to your prayers. That makes other people believe along with you and trust God to hear their prayers as well.  What does the Bible say in Romans 10: Faith comes by what? And hearing by the Word of God.  (.17). Here’s the biblical triangle. Faith comes by hearing. Then we speak what we have heard. And God’s word produces faith in others and in us for more. Heart believes; mouth speaks; ears hear, heart believes; and on and on…ok?

Sometimes as in the biblical story of Gideon, the faith is for a military victory, or to overcome other obstacles. So it was in chapter 7 of Judges as the battle with the Midianites was almost over as soon as it began.

The story is great. The 300 smash their jars and turn on their torches; the Midianites wake up to what they think are hordes of armies surrounding them and they begin killing anything in sight or not in sight, and then running away.

The story ends at the end of chapter 7 with the heads of the princes of Midian being taken from their lifeless bodies and brought to Gideon. I don’t know what they thought he would do with it, but that was the custom of the day.

Do you remember where the story of Gideon began? The angel of the Lord found him. We read yesterday in Judges 6.11: "Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites."

The story is a classic inclusio, a technical literary term that has the action starting and ending in the same or similar place. We might use the term ‘bracketing.’ Look at the ending in verse 7.25: “They captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and they killed Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb, while they pursued Midian” The story of Gideon begins and ends in a wine press.

Gideon was no great valiant warrior, but his faith grew and he became a clever strategist and superior leader, a judge in the biblical understanding. The coward became courageous and landed him a spot in the Hall of Faith, in Hebrews chapter 11.The cowardly lion found his heart and this was no children's fairy tale.

His faith grew. My faith can grow. Your faith can grow. We need one another to live out this life of faith, Faith together leads to victory together, amen?

Let us grow it together by speaking faith to one another. Let us encourage one another, while it is still ‘today’ and live our lives for Yeshua in Moscow and everywhere else the Lord is leading us. Amen?

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