Lord, we need more Gideons in the church, with the exception of the way that he ended. He did not start well and he did not finish well but, we do have much to learn from his middle years.
I am preparing to teach this lesson to our kids next Sunday. I pray that the Lord will use this message to challenge the children to become Gideons, rising to the call of leadership that our churches and societies so desperately need.
I. Israel’s situation
We see Israel’s situation in Judges 6. The society has been trapped in the cycle of sin. They had a period of strong leadership where the leaders led by the Word of God, taught the people the Word of God, literally saturated society with the Scriptures. Moses was taught by God and he invested in Joshua and Caleb. Joshua led the same way that Moses did. The only problem with Joshua was, he did not invest in and raise up a leader to take his place. He passed the baton to the people, to govern themselves and that, unfortunately, was a very bad idea. The people did evil in the sight of the Lord. God raised up enemies to enslave them, to torment them so that they would come to their senses and return to God. During Gideon’s early days, when he was called by God, the Israelites were under the yoke of the Medians. They had been under that yoke for 7 years. These were very difficult times. The Israelites were living in caves. They would plant crops and then the Medianites would harvest the crops. Israel was being humbled by God. It took 7 years for them to be fully humbled. Fear was a way of life. In the midst of all of this, after 7 years, Israel finally cries out to the Lord. God sends His prophet to remind them of who He is and who they really are. He confronts their sin. Their priorities and values were all turned upside down. Gideon’s own father had an alter to Baal and an alter to Asherah. These are two idols that represent sinful activities that they were partaking in. So, when a society turns away from the Word of God and begins to follow idols, here are some of the problems that people within the society face. We live in fear and try to figure out how to cope with it. People become enslaved to their sin nature and self gratification. I want what I want and I want it now. As a result, people suffer because they harm themselves and create many, many victims as they seek to gratify their lusts. At the end of the day, the only people we can blame is ourselves.
As I read and think through this, I cannot help but think about my own country. We once embraced the Word of God because we had strong leaders who led by the Word like Moses and Joshua in Israel. Over the years, we have seen a decline in leaders who led by the Word and as a result, the people began turning away from God and to idols. We now live in a society that mimics what is going on in Israel during Gideon’s day. Our society is enslaved to idols. We live in fear. We are enslaved to our desires. There is great suffering and we are the authors of our own suffering. We need Gideons to rise up among the church, to get God’s people back right with Him and extend the Word of God out into our society once again. Let’s see how it happened.
II. Gideon’s preparation
In Judges 6, verse 11, God reaches out to Gideon. Gideon was not unique. He was not special. Nothing about him said, “I’m a great leader” or “I’ll one day be a great leader.” God goes to Gideon, to prepare him for his great task, His great calling. Gideon has some knowledge about God, how He works but that knowledge is muddled in confusion because he does not understand the connection between sin and suffering the consequences. Not only that, Gideon also tries to excuse himself from having to carry out God’s calling. He is a lot like Moses. He thinks God has made a mistake. There are other, more qualified people than I am etc. God gives Gideon the same response that He gave to Moses, it is not about you, I am with you and that is all that you need. Gideon is afraid and he also has trust issues. He wanted God to show him some signs so that he could believe. You would think that hearing the audible voice of God would be enough but, obviously it is not enough. God is training Gideon in faith. The next step in the process is God gives Gideon an assignment. Gideon is to go and destroy the idols in his father’s house. Gideon is obedient, but still fearful. He sneaks in to the house and does it at night with no one’s knowledge. This is important because before the people will turn to God and stay with Him, they must be set free from what enslaves them. This is why the idols must be destroyed. We see a pattern, one small act of obedience leads to another and then another, and another. If we learn to obey God in the small things then He will begin to entrust bigger things to us. God prepared Gideon one step at a time until he was ready to lead the entire nation to freedom.
III. Gideon’s victory
As Gideon learned obedience to God, he began to extend that to his fellow countrymen. He had challenged 32,000 men to follow him to battle against the Midians. God gives Gideon the plan, step by step, of how to do battle with the enemy. Gideon has to trust God’s plan, even when it does not seem to make a whole lot of sense. He has to depend on God as he leads the people to battle the enemy. God gives victory. Now Gideon has to return home and continue leading his people. This is seen in Judges 8. Gideon is still, at this point, a good leader. He helps the people resolve conflicts. He continually teaches people, especially the importance of respect. Gideon is a humble man. The people wanted to make him a king (ruler/leader). He rejected that. Through his leadership, the people had rest for 40 years. Unfortunately, the story comes full circle because Gideon ends up ensnaring himself by idolatry. As a result, he lost his influence and the people turned away from God, falling back to their old ways, becoming enslaved to all that goes along with idolatry.
As God raises up Gideon’s from among us, I pray that we can learn from his strengths and also from his weaknesses. Are you ready to be a Gideon? Has God called you? Have you answered the call? How are you being prepared to be a Gideon? Are you following God’s plan for victory? May the Lord help us raise up many Gideons from among us! May we be ready and willing to do our part.