Friday, April 8, 2011

The Book of Judges - Gideon Part 2

Happy Friday everyone!  Today we are picking up back in our series on the book of Judges.  Last week we began Gideon and learned of his calling and the fist act God had him to do.  This week we are going to see the mighty way in which God will use him to deliver Israel from her enemies.
Then all the Midianites and Amalekites, the people of the East, gathered together; and they crossed over and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel. But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; then he blew the trumpet, and the Abiezrites gathered behind him. And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, who also gathered behind him. He also sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali; and they came up to meet them.  Judges 6:33-35 NKJV
So the enemies of Israel have gathered together in preparation for an attack.  Gideon, full of the Spirit of the Lord, calls the army of Israel together.  So with the Spirit of God in him and the army of Israel behind him, let's see if Gideon is ready to attack. 
So Gideon said to God, "If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said— ook, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said."  And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water.  Judges 6:36-38 NKJV
I guess he is not quite ready to attack just yet.  He asks God for a sure sign that He has truly called him to this.  He tells God that if He makes the fleece wet with dew but the ground dry then he will know he was called.  God gives him that sign, so now Gideon is ready for battle.
Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me, but 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 all the ground let there be dew." And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, but there was dew on all the ground.  Judges 6:39-40 NKJV
Alright, so he was not yet ready for battle.  Gideon now asks God to do the opposite so he can be really really sure God has called him.  This time he asks for the ground to be wet and the fleece to be dry.  God does so as Gideon asks again and now (and I mean it now) Gideon is ready for battle. Let's get to some war!
Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the well of Harod, so that the camp of the Midianites was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley. And the LORD said to Gideon, "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, 'My own hand has 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 Gilead.' " And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained.  Judges 7:1-3 NKJV
Gideon is finally ready for battle, but God isn't.  God has a problem with the size of Gideon's army.  It is just simply way too large and so when they were victorious, they would just claim the glory for themselves.  The original size of the army was thirty-two thousand men.  God told Gideon to allow all those who were scared to go home.  God really has little use for people with little faith anyway.  They would just end up getting in the way.  So twenty two thousand men went home leaving ten thousand more to fight.  Maybe the army is small enough now.
But 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. Then it will be, that of whom I say to you, 'This one shall go with you,' the same shall go with you; and of whomever 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. And the LORD said to Gideon, "Everyone 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 lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people got down on their knees to drink water.  Then the LORD said to Gideon, "By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people go, every man to his place." Judges 7:4-7 NKJV
The army was still to large.  Ten thousand was way too many.  God wanted the victory to by unmistakably His work and ten thousand was still quite a sizable army.  So now God has the men drink.  The men who lap the water like dogs were to be separated from those who knelt down to drink.  I would think that not many men would lap up water like a dog, and that is exactly what happened.  Only three hundred men lapped like a dog.  God chose that three hundred men to be the army of Gideon.  That is not an army at all and from the thirty-two thousand to begin with.
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 three hundred men. Now the camp of Midian was below him in the valley. It happened on the same night that the LORD said to him, "Arise, go down against the camp, for I have delivered it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant, and you shall hear what they say; and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp." Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outpost of the armed men who were in the camp.  Judges 7:8-11 NKJV
Gideon and his mighty army of three hundred is now set to face the vast army arrayed against them.  God calls Gideon to do some recon work in the camp of the Midianites saying that he will hear some things that will greatly encourage him.  Gideon takes Purah as he is a bit nervous about going down on his own and spies things out. 
Now the Midianites and Amalekites, 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 have had a dream: To my surprise, a loaf of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian; it came to a tent and struck it so that it fell and overturned, and the tent collapsed." Then his companion answered and said, "This is nothing else but the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel! Into his hand God has delivered Midian and the whole camp." And so it was, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, that he worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel, and said, "Arise, for the LORD has delivered the camp of Midian into your hand."  Judges 7:12-15 NKJV
Gideon, when face to face with an army as numerous as locusts with camels beyond number, he may have been rethinking how this was supposed to be encouraging.  Gideon had a very countable army and he was spying out a camp of soldiers so numerous they could not even be counted.  He overhears a man telling his dream to his companion.  Seems to be a weird dream regarding some barley bread tumbling into the camp, hitting one tent, and collapsing the tent.  Doesn't seem like much of a dream, but his companion knew full well what it meant.  It meant that God has delivered the entire camp into the hands of Gideon.  Yes, God does reveal things to those who do not even believe in Him and this is one of those cases.  A man had a vision from God and his companion had an interpretation from God for the dream.  That seemingly innocuous dream was God's pronouncement of judgment upon their army. Gideon was excited at hearing that news and he first worshiped God (always a good place to start) and returned to his camp giving everyone else the good news. 
Then he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet into every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and torches inside the pitchers. And he said to them, "Look at me and do likewise; watch, and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do: When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets on every side of the whole camp, and say, 'The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!'" Judges 7:16-18 NKJV
Here is the big plan. He divides the soldiers into three groups of one hundred and gives a trumpet, torch, and pitcher to each man.  The plan is to blow the trumpet signaling everyone else surrounding the camp to blow on their trumpet and cry out their battle cry.  In other words, they were going to make as much noise as they can.
So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outpost of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just as they had posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers that were in their hands. Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers—they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing—and they cried, "The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!" And every man stood in his place all around the camp; and the whole army ran and cried out and fled. When the three hundred blew the trumpets, the LORD set every man's sword against his companion throughout the whole camp; and the army fled to Beth Acacia, toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel Meholah, by Tabbath. And the men of Israel gathered together from Naphtali, Asher, and all Manasseh, and pursued the Midianites. And the men of Israel gathered together from Naphtali, Asher, and all Manasseh, and pursued the Midianites. And they captured two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued Midian and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side of the Jordan. 7:19-25 NKJV
They put their plan in effect and surround the camp.  At Gideon's signal, they blow their trumpets, cry out for battle, and break their pitchers.  The noise is loud and confusing and startles the enemy armies. They probably think that the army surrounding them is large and powerful.  God adds to their confusion so that they end up striking their own fellow soldiers and run for their lives.  God has given Gideon a great victory and emboldened by that victory, some of the armies of Israel pursue the Midianites to finish the kill.  They capture two princes and bring Gideon their heads.

There is still much more about Gideon that we will get into next week, but I want to stop here for today.  Today we do have some great lessons regarding faith that I would like to share.  First of all, I am sure that many of us have felt like Gideon in wanting sure signs followed by more sure signs from God that He is calling us to do something.  God granted Gideon that request, but He does not always seem to grant our request for the same thing.  I think that goes to the honesty of the request and the faith we have in God.  Gideon was honestly searching the will of God for going on his military campaign.  I think for many of us, we truly do know the answer but use our requests for sure signs as an excuse not to act.  God knew that if given those signs, Gideon would know for sure his calling and act on it.  God knows for many of us that we will ask for a never ending series of signs and never really plan to act.  Furthermore, Gideon never doubted God's ability to give him the victory.  He was only making sure he was doing what God was asking him to do.  There is nothing wrong with confirming with God what He is asking you to do so long as it is an honest request.  The important thing is that once that confirmation comes we act on it and not just find some other excuse not to act. 

The other lesson is one where maybe I am stretching a bit, but I do believe there is Scriptural precedence for this.  One example is King Joash who was told to strike arrows against the ground and being that he only struck the ground three times, he was only going to have victory of their enemy three times.  Note that Gideon asked for signs twice and that twice God shrunk his army.  I wonder if Gideon had marched out right away in full faith if that would have happened.  I wonder if he would have marched with those thirty-two thousand men and had victory then.  It would still have been a great miraculous victory considering the size of the enemy army.  But Gideon's faith was a bit shaky and so God still had to work on it and perhaps He did so by sending him out with such a small army.  The fact is that God had called a Gideon a mighty man of valor and Gideon was not quite there yet.  God promised a work in Gideon's heart and He is doing what He needs to do to complete that work.  We will see a much different Gideon next week. 

And that is the take home message for today.  God has a work He wants to complete in each and every one of us.  He promises to complete that work in us and so He will in one way or another.  Sometimes it will be by encouragement like with those wet and dry fleeces that Gideon asked for.  Sometimes He will force us to rely on him by taking other things we rely upon away from us like in dwindling an army from thirty-two thousand to three hundred.  Sometimes He will challenge us with a humanly impossible task like in facing an immeasurable army with a mere three hundred men.  Sometimes He will give us a prophesy through ourselves or through others like Gideon hearing a God-inspired dream and interpretation from the camp of the Midianites.  Sometimes He will make us actually go into battle to see His mighty work such as Gideon engaging the camp of the Midianites.  God was making Gideon into that mighty man of valor He called him when He first met him.  God has plans for the lives of each and every one of us and He will do the work necessary in us to complete that work.  Sometimes His work will make us feel on top of the world and sometimes it will make it feel as through the world is coming down upon us.  In the end, all is for our good and for His glory.  In the end, when we accomplish just what God was preparing us for, the blessing will be even more immeasurable than that army of the Midianites was. Let God do that work in you and you will become what you were intended to be before the foundations of the earth.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.  Psalm 139:14-18 NKJV

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