Friday, April 15, 2011

The Book of Judges - Gideon's Finale

Good Friday everyone.  Today we will finally finishing up with Gideon.  Before we begin, remember the Gideon we have seen so far.  When God found him, he was threshing wheat in hiding for fear of the Midianites.  God called him to tear down the alters to Baal, and he did so under the cover of darkness and in secret so that he would not get caught.  He was called to lead the army of Israel into battle and had God perform two miracles to make sure that was what he was supposed to do.  God then told him to spy out the camp of the enemy army to hear some encouraging news and was told to take a servant if he was scared to go alone.  Of course, he took a servant.  Yet when God first came to him, God addressed him as a "mighty man of valor."  Perhaps you are wondering just what God was talking about.  If you are, today that will be answered as today we will see a much different Gideon than we have seen the past two weeks.
Now the men of Ephraim said to him, "Why have you done this to us by not calling us when you went to fight with the Midianites?" And they reprimanded him sharply. So he said to them, "What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. And what was I able to do in comparison with you?" Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.  Judges 8:1-3 NKJV
Remember last week when, after the Midianites were running for their lives, Gideon called the people of Ephraim to go after them.  The people of Ephraim answered that call and captured two princes bringing them to Gideon.  That is where we left off last week.  For some reason, they were not happy.  They complained that they were not called for the original battle.  Of course they were not complaining before the enemy army was decimated and whoever was left was running for their lives.  This is sort of like the person who sits and waits for someone to call him and ask for help (knowing full well help will be needed) and then makes it into a chance to complain about not being called to help.  Just like with Ephraim, if he really wanted to help, he would have volunteered.  Just like with Ephraim, he wants the credit without having to do the work.  Gideon displays some great wisdom and diplomacy in handling those from Ephraim. Note his meekness.  He just led an army that slaughtered one hundred and twenty thousand Midianites and he praises the "superior" work of Ephraim in capturing two princes.  His diplomacy and meekness deflated a contentious situation and helped consolidate his leadership over Israel. 
When Gideon came to the Jordan, he and the three hundred men who were with him crossed over, exhausted but still in pursuit. Then he said to the men of Succoth, "Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian." And the leaders of Succoth said, "Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?" So Gideon said, "For this cause, when the LORD has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers!"  Judges 8:4-6 NKJV
Note that Gideon still had his three hundred men.  So far the score was Gideon: 120,000 and Midian: 0.  It really is amazing what God can do with a few willing hearts.  In fact, these three hundred men were pursuing fifteen thousand men.  Think about that for a minutes.  Fifteen thousand soldiers are running for their lives from three hundred exhausted soldiers.  This is not only a great picture of faith on account of Gideon and his men, but just how powerful God is for so many to be running from so few.  After fighting a battle they were then pursuing those who fled.  The men were tired (they were human after all).  Gideon comes to a city and asks for bread for his men.  The people of that city were not quite as confident as Gideon.  They basically told him that if they helped him, those armies they were pursuing would take it out on their city.  Gideon (sounding nothing like the Gideon of old) tells them that, first of all, he will be victorious.  He then tells them he will be back and that they will be sorry. 
Then he went up from there to Penuel and spoke to them in the same way. And the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. So he also spoke to the men of Penuel, saying, "When I come back in peace, I will tear down this tower!"  Judges 8:8-9 NKJV
Different city, same story as Succoth.  Gideon asks for bread, the city refuses out of fear, Gideon promises to return and tear down that city as well. 
Now Zebah and Zalmunna were at Karkor, and their armies with them, about fifteen thousand, all who were left of all the army of the people of the East; for one hundred and twenty thousand men who drew the sword had fallen. Then Gideon went up by the road of those who dwell in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah; and he attacked the army while the camp felt secure. When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them; and he took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole army. Judges 8:10-12 NKJV
Gideon and his men catch up with Zebah and Zalmunna and attacked them.  They attacked the whole army outnumbered fifty to one and they routed them.  There was no fear or hesitation on the part of Gideon now.  His men, now all the more exhausted with no one giving them food, slaughtered an army that far outnumbered them.  This is the power of God.  The two kings were captured and God has complete His promise to deliver that enemy army into Gideon's hands. 
Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle, from the Ascent of Heres. And he caught a young man of the men of Succoth and interrogated him; and he wrote down for him the leaders of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men. Then he came to the men of Succoth and said, "Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you ridiculed me, saying, 'Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your weary men?'" And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth. Then he tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.  Judges 8:13-17 NKJV
Some promises you just don't want kept.  I am sure the people of Succoth and Penual were thinking that.  First he captures some young man from Succoth and finds out who is in charge of the city.  First he displays to them the kings they were so afraid of and who felt would have victory over Gideon.  Then he calls out the leaders of the city.  What happens next is best left to the imagination.  The images of thorns and tearing flesh come to find.  They he comes to Penual and kills the men of the city and tears down the tower he promised to tear down. 
And he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, "What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor?" So they answered, "As you are, so were they; each one resembled the son of a king." Then he said, "They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the LORD lives, if you had let them live, I would not kill you." And he said to Jether his firstborn, "Rise, kill them!" But the youth would not draw his sword; for he was afraid, because he was still a youth. So Zebah and Zalmunna said, "Rise yourself, and kill us; for as a man is, so is his strength." So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments that were on their camels' necks.  Judges 8:18-21 NKJV
The idea of being judged by the same standard you judge others is reprised throughout the Bible.  Gideon tells those two kings that if they had shown mercy, they would have received mercy.  They showed no mercy in their dealings and so Gideon will show no mercy to them.  First he asks his son to do the killing, but he was young and not ready for that kind of thing.  The kings challenge Gideon to do the killing himself and Gideon was all to ready to comply.  Zebah and Zalmunna were killed and the war was over.  God have given Gideon a complete victory.
Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, "Rule over us, both you and your son, and your grandson also; for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian." But Gideon said to them, "I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you."  Judges 8:22-23 NKJV
Here we have Israel having the first inklings of desiring a king.  This seed would remain planted for quite some time and would eventually lead to king Saul some many years in the future.  Gideon has it right, though, he says that he is not interested in the job and that God would rule over them. 
And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they [were] Ishmaelites.) And they answered, We will willingly give [them]. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred [shekels] of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that [was] on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that [were] about their camels' necks.  Judges 8:24-26 NKJV
A war brings spoil and Gideon is asking for his fair share. All he asks for is the golden earrings and those who were killed.  His soldiers are more than willing to give.  The amount he collected would have made him an incredibly wealthy man.
And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, [even] in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.  Judges 8:27 NKJV
Gideon made that gold into sort of golden cape.  Unfortunately, that cape became an idol for the people of Israel is remains the one stain on an otherwise very godly rule of Gideon.  Once it became and idol, Gideon should have taken it down.
Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon. And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house. And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives. And his concubine that [was] in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech. And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.  Judges 8:28-32 NKJV
And such is the rest of Gideon. He had many wives and he had seventy children.  We are also introduced to Abimelech in this passage, who we will talk more about next week.  He died at an old age and while he ruled, the people of Israel remembered the Lord.  I am sure you all can guess what happened when he was gone. 
In the opening to today's post, I reminded you of the Gideon we knew from the past two weeks.  I hope that you saw a much different Gideon today.  God called him a mighty man of valor and this week we see how he has finally matured into what God has called him to be.  Many rightfully use this lesson to show how despite what you may seem now, if God has called you to be something, He can make you into that something.  What I want to close with today is something that God has called all who are Christian.  In response to our faith in His Son, God has imputed on us the righteousness of His Son.  God calls us righteous.  I know you are thinking that you do not feel very righteous.  I certainly don't.  Many who know you may not call you righteous either.  God does.  Many like to spiritualize that and leave it at that God has called you righteous and therefor you are.  That we need not worry about any actual righteousness in our lives.  If we apply that same thinking to Gideon, he would have remained a "spiritual" mighty man of valor and never actually became the man he was.  He would have just accepted in faith that he was what God called him and went on with his life.  That is not what God did at all, though.  God raised him up into the man He called him to be.  He encouraged, challenged, and raised him up by whatever means were necessary to make him into the man he called him to be.  Such as God will do with us.  That is the process of sanctification that begins in this life and is not complete until we stand before Him in the next.  He will encourage, challenge, and chastise us as necessary to develop in us the righteousness He has called us to.  Be the man who God has called you to be.  Allow the Holy Spirit to do that work of sanctification in your heart.  Be lifted up by His encouragement, strengthened by His challenges, and corrected by His chastisements.  Just as an earthly father brings us from an unruly untrained child into a mature man, our heavenly Father will brings us from newborn babes in Christ, unruly and untrained, into the mature men and women of God He has called us to be.
being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;  Philippians 1:6 NKJV

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