Gideon the Smiter
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, January 22, 2012
Copyright © 2012, P. G. Mathew
God wants to encourage us through the story of Gideon. At a time when the nation of Israel was in trouble, and Gideon himself was afraid and hiding in a cave, God came to Gideon.
Gideon was the fifth judge God sent to deliver his people Israel from their enemies. His name means "smiter." He was commissioned by God to crush and destroy the alliance of the Midianites and Amalekites who were oppressing God's people. Gideon is a type of Jesus Christ our deliverer, the Seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15) who would later come to crush the head of the serpent. He also foreshadows the church, under whose feet "the God of peace will soon crush Satan" (Rom. 16:20).
Friends, our God is mighty. He is almighty to save us. The church of Christ is indestructible, for Jesus is the builder of his church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against God's people. In the book of Judges we read repeatedly, "In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit" (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). The truth was that though there was no human king, God was their king, and the people were to obey his laws. So when the people desired to make Gideon their king, he refused to be their king: "I will not rule over you. The Lord will rule over you" (Judges 8:23).
The book of Judges speaks of Israel's apostasy and ongoing refusal to keep the covenant of the Lord. As a result, Israel repeatedly experienced covenant curses. Their rebellion would be followed by divine retribution. Then the people would cry out to the Lord in repentance and God would bring about their restoration. There was rebellion, retribution, repentance, and restoration. God is faithful to his covenant. He delivers his people when they cry out to him in repentance, as the psalmist declared: "The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears" (Ps. 18:4-6), and God delivered David.
"Again the Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord" (Judges 6:1). When we sin, we are sinning in the sight of the Lord. God sees us always. Hagar discovered that in Genesis 16. She said, "You are the one who sees me" (Gen. 16:13).
Others may not see us sinning, but God sees us. God saw when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden. God saw when Cain killed his brother. God saw when the people worshiped the golden calf in the wilderness. God saw when David committed adultery with Bathsheba. God saw when Achan stole God's gold and silver and hid them.
We are always in his sight. His eyes are like flaming fire. David asks, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" (Ps. 139:7). Nowhere, David-nowhere! God knows our every thought before even we think it. "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account" (Heb. 4:13).
When we sin, we sin in God's sight, and he must punish us. Yet he does not deal with us in direct proportion to our sins. As covenant Lord, he also shows great mercy. Jeremiah declares, "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because the LORD's love is great-big, huge, infinite-because of it, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "˜The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD" (Lam. 3:21-26, author's paraphrase).
When we sin, we experience just retribution for our sins. Because of their sin, for seven years God gave the Israelites over to the oppressive domination of the Midianites and Amalekites (Judges 6:1). These eastern peoples crossed the Jordan River and came over like locusts, stealing and destroying everything. The Israelites left their homes and hid in caves and mountain clefts.
We incur such divine retribution when we forsake the true and living God and serve the impotent gods of the world. The Bible says, "Be not conformed to the pattern of this world" (Rom. 12:1).
Gideon's father Joash himself was a Baal-worshiper. But Baal and Asherah cannot save anyone. They are lies that deceive. They say, "Come, sin, and be happy." But those who go and sin become miserable for the rest of their lives, reaping the covenant curse of death and destruction. Everyone must pay for his sins (see Deut. 28:15-68). The Lord declares, "They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and detested my decrees" (Lev. 26:43). In Isaiah 40:2 we read, "Israel has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins."
Baal worship is a violation of the first commandment that says, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exod. 20:2). We cannot serve God and Baal. We cannot serve God and money. God detests inclusivism; he is for exclusivism. We are to worship only the true God of the holy Scriptures-the Creator God, the Redeemer God, the only Sovereign God. All other gods are impotent lies.
Remember the words of Elijah: "How long will you be double-minded? If Baal is God, serve him. If Yahweh is God, serve him" (1 Kings 18:21, author's paraphrase). In the ensuing contest, Baal proved to be a fraud. Our God is a jealous God. The rebellious will surely, certainly suffer divine retribution. Such retribution is not pleasant. Therefore God commands all people everywhere to repent.
Yet man on his own cannot truly repent. True repentance is a divine gift. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of his people. So we must humble ourselves and cry out to God for mercy. We must forsake all our wicked ways completely, as the prodigal son did and as the publican Zacchaeus did, and seek God's face. "If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14). We must confess, "Baal cannot save us. Money cannot save us. Worldliness cannot save us. Philosophy cannot save us. Science cannot save us. Only the living God of the Scriptures, the triune God, can save us." Cry out and say, "Have mercy upon me, a sinner!" And God will hear our prayers and come down to help us speedily. He will forgive our sins and heal us and our land.
Seven years of oppression by the Midianites taught the Israelites that idolatry is destructive. So we read in Judges 6:6-7 that the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help, and God heard their cry and sent them a prophet to explain why they were under oppression.
This was not the first time this happened in Israel's history. In Judges 2:1-3 we read, "The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, "˜I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, "I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars." Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.'"
So in Judges 6:7-10 we read that God sent a prophet again to explain the why of their misery: "When the Israelites cried to the LORD because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, "˜This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land. I said to you, "I am the LORD your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live." But you have not listened to me.'"
Do you want to know why you are in misery? Do you want to know why you are in trouble? Read the Bible; there is explanation: it is our problem. Paul told the Corinthians, "For this reason, many of you are weak and sick, and a number of you die" (1 Cor. 11:30). We are all looking at someone else's problem. We should look at our own problem.
What does Baal do for you? Baal comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. But the Lord comes to help us. As the Lord told the Israelites, "I brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land. I said to you, "˜I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.' But you have not obeyed me."
If we want to understand the why of our troubles, listen to the word of God. God's word will show us the way to salvation. The Lord saved us by grace. We confessed he alone is Lord and we are his obedient subjects. But in due time, we strayed and rebelled. We served sin, which gave us pleasure for the moment. We built altars to Baal and offered sacrifices. These worshipers even killed their own children to show their earnest devotion to Baal.
When we sin in the sight of God, he abandons us. Remember the words of Azariah to King Asa: "The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you. But if you forsake him, he will forsake you" (2 Chron. 15:2). Friends, don't come and say, "Well, I didn't abort," while you did many other things. Repent. Humble yourselves. Seek God with all your heart. Turn from all your wicked ways. Pray to God. He will hear our prayer, forgive our sins, and heal us and our land.
Not only did God send a prophet to explain the why of their situation, their troubles, but God himself came down to Gideon where he was hiding from the Midianites. God hears our cry. He also comes to meet us and save us. The prophet only explained, but God came to save.
God has compassion on his suffering people. So he came in Jesus Christ to us to save us from our terrible situation. We read in Isaiah 53:4-5, "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."
God has come to deliver us, to save us, to defeat our enemies, to restore us, and to give us peace and eternal life. From the fullness of Jesus we receive grace upon grace upon grace. Friends, this morning he has come to speak to you, to deliver you, and to give you peace. It is he who says, "Come to me. Baal and Asherah cannot help you. Your money cannot help you. So come to me. If you are weary and fed up with your sin, I will give you rest." Listen to him. He is speaking to Gideon, and he is speaking to us.
Gideon had been thinking about the true God of the Scriptures for some time, even though his own father became a Baal worshiper. In the history of the judges, God appeared only to one judge, Gideon. God came to his hole in the ground, to his dunghill, to his hell, where he was threshing some wheat. And God said, "Listen." God says, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. The covenant Lord, the Lord who defeated the Egyptians, the Amorites. The Lord Almighty, the I AM THAT I AM is now with you. Gideon, you are a mighty warrior, not in yourself, but because I am with you. I make weak people strong. You are a smiter. You will crush your enemies because I am with you to help you."
Gideon has a conversation with God. We may also speak to God and express all our concerns. So Gideon asked, "If the Lord is with us, why are we having all these troubles? Why?" That is the first question.
God says, "Gideon, the prophet told you the why. You people failed to keep my covenant stipulations. You all disobeyed the Lord, and so the Lord abandoned you. But now the Lord is once again with his people." He is Immanuel, God is with us.
That was the first question, but Gideon was not satisfied. So he asked a second question: "If God is with us, where are all his wonders our fathers told us about and that we read about in the Bible?" Not just why, but where is the God of wonders our fathers told us about. (PGM) In other words, Gideon was saying, "We need some wonders now. We are weary and burdened by the oppression of the Midianites. Can God help us now in our terrible situation? Will he again do great wonders for us in our time?" That is what we should ask every time we read the Bible. Can God do that in our time, in our situation? Can God help in the present?
The Lord then turned to him, looked straight at him to increase his faith, and said, "Go in the strength you have to save Israel. I am sending you as I sent Moses, Joshua, and all others. I will strengthen you to do the job. Trust me. I am with you. You are my apostle, my shaliach. I will save my people through you."
Then Gideon asked a third question: "How can I save Israel because my clan is the weakest, and I am the least in my family." And God said, "Gideon, the Lord is not seeking the mighty and the best. He does, in fact, seek the weakest and the least who will trust in him and obey him." Paul speaks of this: "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him" (1 Cor. 1:26-29).
So God was saying, "Did you ask how? Let me tell you how." In the Hebrew text it says, "Because I will be with you, and you will strike down, that is, you will smite all the Midianites" (Judges 6:16). David said, "I love you, O Lord, my strength. . . . The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold" (Ps. 18:1-2). Nine times in the first two verses of this psalm we see the possessive pronoun "my." Elsewhere David says, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall lack nothing" (Ps. 23:1). What about you? Is God your rock, your fortress, your strength, your deliverer, your salvation, your shepherd, your Savior, your Lord?
God gave a sign, and Gideon realized the one speaking to him was God himself. He said, "I saw God; I am going to die" (Judges 6:22) But God told him, "Shalom l'cha al tira lo tamut." "Shalom l'cha" means "Peace to you." "Al-tira" is "Don't be afraid." "Lo tamut" means "You will not die," meaning "You will surely live" (Judges 6:23). The Lord then gave three more signs to increase Gideon's faith to fight the good fight and save Israel.
God Is Encouraging Us
The Lord is speaking to each one of us who, like Gideon, is asking, "Why? Where? How? Why is this happening to me? Where is the God of miracles? How can I fight the battle? How can I live a victorious Christian life? How can I deal with all the problems that I face?"
What he has spoken to Gideon, he is speaking to us. The Lord is saying, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel." God is saying, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you." He says, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind." He says to us, "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might." He says, "When you are weak, then you are strong in the Lord." He says, "Put on the full armor of God and stand against all spiritual forces of evil." He tells us, "Overcome the devil by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony." He tells us, "Resist the defeated devil and he will flee from you." He says, "I will be with you and you will fight and you will win." He says, "Peace to you. The peace of God that passes all human understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." He declares, "Peace to you. Do not be afraid; you will not die."1
Jesus Christ did not come into the world that we might die. He came into the world that he may raise us from the dead. "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord" (Zech. 4:6).
Listen to him, all you who are suffering, depressed, and miserable under the burden of your problems. God says, "I will protect you. I will be a wall of fire around you. I will be your shield. I will be with you, I will be upon you, I will be in you, and I will be with you always, even unto the end of the ages." Be encouraged by the words of the writer to the Hebrews: "And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies" Heb. 11:32-34). Take heart from Paul's declaration: "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" (Eph. 3:20-21). In Jesus Christ, as Paul says elsewhere, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rom. 8:37). In this strength, go.
Go and Fight the Good Fight
God is asking us to go and fight the good fight. We are not to go back into a hole and live in fear, threshing out a little wheat, hoping no one will see us. No, get up from that hole! Move out! As he said to Gideon, now he says to us: "I am sending you. I will be with you, and you will fight the good fight. And I will fight with you."
Cry out, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!" And poor Israel, symbolized by a little barley pancake, would roll down and completely destroy the tents of the Midianites. They knew it because God gave them a dream ahead of time. One soldier said, "I saw a barley pancake rolling down. It came and hit our tent and destroyed it." The interpretation was given; this has to be the sword of Gideon (Judges 7:13-14).
When Gideon received this intelligence report, he was very happy. His questions were over. God was telling him, "Go in this strength. Fight the battle tomorrow and every other day. The Midianites will surely be destroyed and defeated."
The Spirit of the Lord took possession of Gideon, clothing and empowering him. In Judges 6:34 we read, "Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon," but that is not the proper translation. It should say, "The Holy Spirit clothed Gideon." In other words, Gideon was in a cocoon, completely covered by God. He need not fear a thing.
The same is true of us. Jesus instructed his disciples, "Go to the city and wait there until you are clothed by the Holy Spirit. . . . You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you. And you shall be my witnesses" (see Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). He tells us, "You shall be my soldiers, who will fight the good fight and win."
But first God directed Gideon to go and destroy his father's altar to Baal. Gideon was still a little fearful, so he went in the night. He destroyed the altar to Baal, cut down the Asherah pole, and built a new altar to God. Then he sacrificed on it the second bull, a seven-year-old bull which his father had devoted to sacrifice on Baal's altar. God said, "You get that bull and kill it and sacrifice it to me," and he did.
In the morning the men of the town came together and said to Joash, "Your son must die." They were going to kill Gideon for these actions. But they could not. Why? God had said to him: "Peace to you. Fear not. You will not die." "You will not die" means "You will surely live." Gideon's father told the men, "No deal. He is not going to die. And not only that, you are going to die. Let Baal defend himself. He is a fraud. Let him defend himself."
In Judges 7:22 we read, "The Lord caused the Midianite men to turn on each other with their swords." The Lord is fighting with us. He is not simply saying, "Go and fight the good fight." He is also saying, "I will go with you." And he covers us. He is around us. He is above us. He is underneath us. He is on either side of us. He say to us, "I will be a wall of fire around you." There are the chariots of fire and horses of fire surrounding us. Imagine three concentric circles. We are in the innermost circle. Next to that, God himself surrounds us with his angels and fiery chariots. Then comes the third circle, the enemy. It is God who is facing the enemy. Therefore, let us go and fight the good fight.
The Lord caused the Midianite men to turn on each other with their swords. Many were killed, and the rest fled, leaving their possessions in God's country. Gideon and his people killed Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite chieftains. They also killed their kings, Zeba and Zalmunna.
God Will Help Us!
Gideon had asked the question: "Where is the God of miracles?" He did come, and he did it again. Gideon experienced the miracles of God. As in the days of Joshua, the Lord again fought and brought great victory. And he will do it again for us in our history. In fact, he delights to do it.
Isaiah read about this story and says in Isaiah 9:4: "For as in the days of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor." What is Isaiah saying? As the Lord did for Midian, he will do for us by defeating Assyria. And this Assyrian defeat of Isaiah's time was pointing to liberation of God's people by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from the domination of sin.
God will act for us. He will do it again. I believe in and serve a God of miracles, a God of wonders, a God who does unusual, mighty things.
Friends, believe God. He who delivered his people in the past will act again. He will help us, save us, deliver us, and defeat all his enemies, who are also our enemies. Isaiah says again, "The Lord Almighty lashed them with a whip, as when he struck down Midian at the rock of Oreb. And he will raise his staff over the waters as he did in Egypt" (Isa. 10:26). What he did in Egypt, and what he did to the Midianites, he will do it again for you. He will lift off our shoulders the burden that crushes us. He is the liberator.
Our God is a warrior and a savior. The Lord is with us when we are with him. If we seek him with all our heart, he will be found by us. He said to Moses, "I will be with you." He said the same thing to Joshua: "I will be with you." He said to the apostles, "I will be with you." He says to each one of us, "I will be with you. I will do again for you what I did for my people throughout the history of redemption." God is a God who brings revival. It has been going on in this church. If God is for us, who can be against us?
So he says to each one of us, "Rise and fight the good fight for God. You will be victorious, for I am with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you. In fact, in Jesus Christ each one of you is a super-conqueror."
He is speaking to us: "Peace to you." He is speaking to us: "Fear not." He is speaking to us: "Be strong." He is speaking to us: "You will fight the good fight. You will finish the race. You will keep the faith. And you will receive the crown of righteousness."
Friends, there is nothing to fear. There is nothing to worry about. God is with us. God makes the weak strong. When we are weak, then we are strong. Therefore, we glory in our weaknesses, that God's power may be made perfect in our weakness.
1 See Judges 6:14; Acts 1:8; 2 Tim. 1:7; Eph. 6:10; 2 Cor. 12:10; Eph. 6:13; Rev. 12:11; 1 Pet. 5:9; Phil. 4:7; Judges 6:23.
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Copyright © 2012, P. G. Mathew
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