WHEN GOD CALLS US TO ACTION
by Clay Wilemon
The Plan: Gideon Would Live Comfortably In Israel
Judges 6, 7, and 8 provide an account of the people of Israel living under the daily terror of Midianite occupation that was a direct result of Israel doing what “was evil in the sight of the Lord”. The Israelites had moved out of their cities and into caves to protect their food supplies from Midianite raiders; and to keep from being killed.
The promises of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the evidence of God’s power in the Exodus, and the promised abundance that Israel experienced in the Promised Land were very real to Gideon. All of these pointed to a life of comfort and security that Gideon longed for. But Israel had conveniently forgotten the curses for disobedience that God delivered to Moses in Deuteronomy 28, and suffered God’s wrath as a result.
And nowhere in Gideon’s plan did he, a weak man from the weakest clan in a small Israeli tribe, think that he was going to be a Moses-like figure that God would use as mighty warrior to call Israel back to God and to defeat the entire Midianite army. Gideon was quite comfortable being anonymous, letting someone else be bold and courageous, and letting someone else be used by God.
The Broken Plan: Israel’s A Mess And God Wants To Use Me To Fix It
So the obvious broken plan in Gideon’s life was that he and his people, God’s chosen people, were living life on the run while being tormented by pagans. However, Gideon personally had a bigger broken plan. His plan to live in the security of anonymity and never venturing outside of his comfort zone, was being shattered by God Himself.
In Judges 6: 14-16, God calls Gideon to be the judge He will use to lead Israel in repentance toward God and in battle against their enemies.
14And the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” (Judges 6: 14-16)
Talk about broken plans. Imagine that you are Gideon, watching your favorite news channel in your small apartment far away from the centers of power, agreeing that your world is a mess, longing for the good old days, and praying that God will fix it. And then, God sends the Angel of the Lord into your living room and says, “You’re right, things are a mess, I am going to use you as my chosen instrument to turn the people’s hearts to me and free the nation.”
If that were to happen to many of us, like Gideon, we could find all sorts of excuses why God had the wrong guy. Look at the ‘pronoun war’ going on the Judges 6: 12-15 below. The Lord is clearly calling Gideon to action and leadership and yet Gideon tries to redirect the conversation back to ‘us’ as a nation. God, of course, is having none of that and tells Gideon to go and save Israel and reminds him that it is the Lord God who is sending him.
12And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6: 12-15)
The Gospel Answer: God Uses Gideon To Turn Israel To Repentance And Freedom
The first step God called Gideon to take was to tear down the articles of Baal worship that were in the midst of God’s people and a clear reminder that they were still rebelling against God. Israel could not expect God to act on their behalf if their allegiances were split.
Gideon and the Israelites had a god problem in that they were worshipping something that was clearly not God. The same thing happened years later when Elijah asked the people of Judah in 1 Kings 18, “How long will you go limping between two opinions?”. God is a jealous God; and He is no fool. He is not going to war for us if we are not giving Him our undivided worship.
A few very interesting things happened when Gideon obeyed God’s command (Judges 6: 25-27) to tear down the altar of Baal. First, Gideon went and did it at night. He was obeying, but he was still not the bold mighty man that God has called him to be. Second, notice the reaction of Gideon’s father in Judges 6:31 below. Joash was emboldened by his son’s faithful action and spoke up against the people who were angry that Gideon took a stand against false worship. So Gideon saw firsthand that his faithful response to God had an impact on other people, even those in his own household.
28When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 31But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” 32Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar. (Judges 6:28-32)
After addressing sin and rebellion within God’s people, God turns Gideon’s focus to defeating the Midianites. Scripture tells us that Gideon initially took 32,000 men to battle. Then God took the 32,000 to 10,000 and finally down to 300 men. God wanted Israel to see that it was He who was delivering His people from Midianite bondage. The Lord told Gideon in Judges 7:2, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.”
God clearly wanted the glory for delivering His people so that they would trust Him and see that He alone was sufficient for all they needed. But he was also showing the Midianites that He was God. Gideon had the benefit of overhearing the Midianite soldiers discussing that it was God who would defeat them that very night. This is a good reminder that God is usually working more than one angle at a time.
Along the way, Gideon tested God’s plans three different times because he was fearful and because he wanted to know for certain that God was going to do what He said to deliver the Israelites from Baal worship first and then from Midianite oppression. Was this lack of faith a bad thing? Well, if we were writing the story and trying to create a human superhero, it would be bad. But God was using a weak man, with no societal standing, to be His chosen judge and deliverer of His people. God is the hero, so the storyline was very much intact.
Gideon is a lot like the ruler in Mark 9 when Jesus said that his child would be healed if the man had faith. The man responded, “I believe; help my unbelief.” Gideon had faith in God; but it was not superhero faith. It was faith that moved, sometimes reluctantly, but at each step of the way in accordance with God’s plan no matter how uncomfortable that got.
The Outcome: Israel Was Freed From Bondage And We Can Be Too
God used Gideon and 300 men with torches banging on pots to supernaturally defeat an army of over 100,000 Midianites. Israel was freed from the bondage of an evil geo-political force and, more importantly, they were freed from the bondage of false worship in Baal and the continued wrath of God.
God used one man named Gideon, to redeem Israel. It started with turning Gideon’s heart to stand for God and against the blasphemy of false worship among God’s people. It continued as God patiently showed this very human man that God would and could deliver on His promises. And finally, it concluded with God giving Gideon and Israel 40 years of rest in Him.
God still uses one man, Jesus Christ, to redeem weak and rebellious people from the bondage of sin today. Romans 5 makes it clear that weak people like us, in rebellion against God, can be saved by God through Jesus Christ from the wrath of God.
6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5: 6-11)
You are invited to join the men of Christ Community Church for a Fall Conference based around the theme “When Plans Fall Apart”. This conference is for the man who has experienced failed plans or lost confidence in God, His people, and His promises. The good news is that we have hope! During this weekend we will study these issues through the lens of Scripture and the examples of godly men throughout history who have gone through similar or even worse situations in regard to their finances, relationships, health, and careers. We hope you will join us! Register by Monday, November 2.