HEROES OF FAITH
PART TEN - GIDEON
Frank W. Dowsett (Australia)
THERE wouldn’t be too many people who have not heard of the man Gideon. From as far back as our Sunday School days, his exploits have been a constant source of wonder, as were the tests he submitted before the Lord in order to establish the authenticity of what was happening.
The account of these exploits are recorded in the 6th and 7th chapters of the book of Judges. They are obviously too long to reprint in full here, so the reader is encouraged to get out their Bible and read these two chapters before continuing with this study, so as to have the overall picture in mind.
We read of his inclusion in the “Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11:30-34:
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. And what shall I more say? For the time would fall me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”
Without any doubt, he is among a very exclusive company of saints. We will be studying each of these in turn in subsequent issues. As we pointed out in our previous study, these nine people, or groups of people, all illustrated three most important attributes which we all, personally, must evidence in order to properly serve our Lord and Master.
1) The faithfulness of God.
2) The reward for obedience to God’s commands.
3) The absolute necessity to BELIEVE GOD!
As in any Bible study, it is important to understand the background of what is to transpire. We read this in Judges 6:1-6:
“And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds. And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it. And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.”
Now if anyone ever tries to tell you that the Bible is an outdated book, just refer them to this passage. The basic fact is that God allowed the foreigners and aliens to take over every aspect of Israel’s national life. They overran the entire country; they destroyed their increase, or profits; they introduced their own life styles; and left Israel so destitute that they were finally driven to appeal to God for help.
This process has become a national habit, right up to our present day. Do what you like, and then when everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, rush to God for help. Israel had been doing that which was evil in God’s sight. In other words, they were deliberately breaking and abusing God’s righteous laws, statutes and judgments. We are still doing the same thing, with the same results. The amazing aspect of this is that when the people really cried to Him, He always delivered them. We look forward to that day which is very quickly approaching when, in accordance with Ezekiel 36:37, we will finally implore the Lord to save us from the hands of our present enemies.
“Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock.”
But there is a very interesting aspect to this in regard to the identity of the enemies involved. The Midians were descendant from Abraham through Keturah.
We read in Genesis 25:1-2:
“Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.”
On the other hand, the Amalekites were descendant from Esau, who was also descendant from Abraham. We read in Genesis 36:12, and Exodus 17:8, and 14-16:
“And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau’s son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek: these were the sons of Adah Esau ‘s wife.”
“Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.”
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi: For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
These enemies were Adamites, of the seed of Abraham, but they were not Israelites. They were not of the chosen line through Isaac. So once again there arose an urgent need for another Judge/Deliverer. We read in Judges 6:7-10:
“And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites, That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land; And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.”
It is interesting to note the seven things which God had done for Israel, as underlined in the passage above, and yet Israel still insisted in doing things their way. One can only wonder what it will take for His wayward people to wake up to themselves as to the ONLY remedy for our parlous position. One thing though is for certain. This will not happen until we cast aside the God-dishonouring beliefs that the present anti-Christs are God’s Chosen People, or that God has changed His mind and transferred all the promises made to the fathers, to what is euphemistically called “The Church”. I must have missed something along the line. I seem to remember a verse in Malachi 3:6 which says quite the opposite:
“For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
But I forgot. That’s in the Old Testament isn’t it, and that doesn’t count any more.
So we find, as we will always find, God appointed another Judge to rule over Israel. He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. We read in Judges 6:11-16:
“And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.”
Thus Gideon comes upon the scene. And we note four aspects of his character which ably qualified him for selection.
a) His name means, “He that bruises - Great Warrior”
b) He bewailed Israel’s plight. (v13). In this he had the same mind as Lot, of whom we read in II Peter 2:7-8;
“And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds).”
c) He had the Lord’s assurance. (vvl4 and 16), and
d) He had a truly humble spirit. He was not too proud to admit his lowly birth and position.
God does not always choose the mighty and those of noble birth to serve Him. Paul reminds us of this principle in his letter to the Corinthians - I Corinthians 1:25-29:
“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”
Then comes a very important incident, one which most Christians seem to shy away from. There is one absolutely important principle which we dare not overlook. It doesn’t matter how certain we are as to accepting that the Lord has spoken to us, we are enjoined to “Try (Test) the spirits”. Satan is a great deceiver, and he has no trouble at all in deceiving people into believing that it is the Lord speaking, when in fact it is he, Satan, who is deceiving us.
This principle of testing what is said is clearly shown in I John 4:1:
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
Gideon did the correct thing. He asked the Lord for a sign as to the authenticity of what he had heard. God was not one bit put out by this. In fact it was just what He would have expected. The test is recorded Judges 6:17-24, and commences with verses 17-18:
“And he said unto him, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then show me a sign that thou talkest with me. Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again.”
The account goes on to record how Gideon prepared an offering for the Angel of the Lord, and the following actions of the Angel made Gideon realise to whom he had been speaking. Verses 22 to 24 record his reaction:
“And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, 0 Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face. And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovah-shalom:” (Jehovah brings peace).
The first requirement for victory is recorded in verses 25 to 32, where Gideon was required to remove all forms of idolatry from among the people. He started at the correct place - with his own family. His father’s altars of Baal were destroyed, and an altar to God was erected in a selected position, as stated in verses 25 and 26.
Then he turned his attention to the general populace. When night came, he took a party of ten men and under cover of darkness, destroyed the altars to Baal with its grove. The people got real mad about this and threatened to kill Gideon for what he had done. But his father, Joash, intervened in the words recorded in verse 31:
“And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar.”
Shades of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, isn’t it. In both cases, the people were told to allow their false gods to protect themselves, seeing they were supposed to be so powerful. But of course, they couldn’t defend themselves, despite which the people still continued to support them. What a stupid race of people we are.
It was only at this point, when Gideon had proved his worthiness, that the Spirit of the Lord descended upon him; v34:
“But the spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.”
But Gideon was taking no risks. Having determined that the call of the Lord was genuine, he now asked for assurance as to the promise of victory. This is recorded in Judges 6:36-40:
“And Gideon said unto God, if thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.”
The two main lessons to be learned from this is firstly, that we should never use an insignificant test to prove God. By that I mean, never use a test that can fairly be duplicated by man. Make it reasonably impossible. The test should be of such a nature that it glorifies God, not man.
Secondly, we should recognise the difference between testing God and tempting God. Sadly, many Christians fall into the latter category.
I well remember two incidents which really shocked me. Many years ago, before we started this Mission, we attended the Wednesday night prayer meeting of the church we then attended. One of the ladies there made a great show of praying for God to fix her washing machine which had broken down. All she had to do was to call a technician and make use of the gift that God had given him - whether he realised it or not.
The second incident involved a young man who got into his car, which was parked next to ours. It wouldn’t start, and I actually witnessed him as he got out of his car, gave it a good kick, at the same time saying, “In Jesus Name, start.” Such actions are a disgrace to Almighty God, and fall under the classification of “tempting” God. Pounding the table and demanding God to do what we want is a sin of the highest order. But we have every right to test the spirits to make sure it IS God speaking and directing us.
The next lesson we learn from Gideon’s experience is that “Big Is not always best”. In Judges 7:1-2 we read:
“Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.”
So God introduced what we would today refer to as a culling procedure. In verse three of chapter seven he told Gideon to reduce the overall number by eliminating those who were ‘fearful and afraid’:
“Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’ So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained.”
This was one of God’s Laws in respect to warfare as recorded in Deuteronomy 20:8:
“And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.”
But the number was still too many, so in verses four to seven we read:
“Then 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. Therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you, ‘he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you, ‘he shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink. Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water. And 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.”
Thus their suitability was tested. Those who were chosen were they who placed their hands in the water, thus disturbing the surface of any pollution, and lapping the water out of their hands. This also meant that they were able to keep their weapon in the other hand, ready for instant use, whereas those who kneeled down to drink would have to have laid down their weapon.
In the final battle against the enemy, God requires only those who are ever watchful, alert, and dedicated. God does not want those who are “people followers”, only desiring to go along with what the majority do. Most Christians today can’t accept being a member of a small group. They feel too vulnerable. But God’s Word constantly refers to His use of “a remnant”. We read in Isaiah 1:9; Matthew 7:14; and 20:16;
“Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.”
“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
“So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.”
The third test is recorded in Judges 7:9-14, where God gave Gideon assurance as a result of his obedience in the face of such superior odds:
“And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand. But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host: And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host. And the Midianites and the Arnalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude. And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, 1 dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.”
God never intends us to exhibit what we call ‘blind faith’. We are repeatedly exhorted to constantly ‘check the spirits’, so that we may determine that it is really God speaking, and not Satan pretending to be God with the intent of leading us into error and danger. Every step we take must be checked in accordance with God’s Will. God knows our human weaknesses, so He expects us to check with Him.
When all these considerations have been double checked and confirmed as being the will of God, we put our faith into action with complete confidence of success.
And from this we learn that success comes only by Total Obedience. We read in Judges 7;16-22:
“And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with emply pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers. And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do. When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands. And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled. And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man’s sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath.”
When God’s servants stand united and obedient, they are invincible.
If we let down our guard, the enemy will pour in through the chinks and play havoc with us. But when we stand firm in obedience, and in the strength of the Lord, the Lord fights for us. The enemy will self-destruct, and flee.
Gideon rightly deserved his place in the “Gallery of Faith”.
In these final eventful days, the Lord requires Gideons - those who will serve with an unflinching dedication, patience, reverence, and FAITH, constantly testing all things so that we shall be worthy of the High Calling which the Lord has placed upon us.
Let us, as Gideon, be Great Men of Valour.
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