“Trust God to Do as He Has Promised”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Judges 6
Judges 6. The story of Gideon is the story of a reluctant judge of Israel who was fearful and unbelieving and more than likely a Baal worshipper at the time when the story opens (cf. 6:25-27). An unlikely character for God to use to deliver Israel. God can use anybody.
The message of these chapters, 6-8, is found in Gideon’s relationship with God. If you glance through the chapters after the first 10 verses of chapter 6, you’ll see the narrator spends most of his ink on the LORD visiting Gideon or Gideon praying to God.
He knew God’s character and had divine visitations to encourage him, yet he remained fearful until he received a vague interpretation of a dream by a pagan (he should have trusted God)! This is a story of how Gideon goes from fear to faith. It’s counterintuitive in the story. You’d think his going from fear to faith is a good thing. But it serves a different purpose in the story. The source of his encouragement forms the message. Remember we are going from bad to worse as we consider the moral and spiritual lives of these judges. The point is this, “Yes, he did express great faith, not denying that. But do you realize what the source was? It wasn’t God himself, even after all those divine visitations. It was from a pagan. Through a pagan interpretation of a pagan dream. This story is key to unlocking the message of the entire 3 chapters, so we’ll use it as a basis for the title of the message. So, in light of the entire story of Gideon, the title of the message is in the form of an exhortation “Trust God to Do as He Has Spoken.”
**Background: Sin, Slavery, Supplication (6:1-6)
TTS: Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and He sold them into hands of Midian for 7 years. Every year when Israel’s produce was looking about ripe enough, here would come these vultures, the Midianites. Whenever they would come, Israel would high-tail it to the mountains and hide as much produce and livestock as possible. The Midianites would let their livestock feed on the land and take the rest as spoil, including Israel’s livestock.
Every year, for seven years. You’d have to wait up there in the mountain while these thieves would ravage the land. Then you could come back down, only to weep over what had been stripped of the land! And weep they did…to the LORD (6,7).
Explain this main point: You would expect immediate help from the LORD, as he had done previously. But does he? Nope. Usually, they cry out, the LORD raises up a judge. Not this time.
TTS: (7) the Lord sent a prophet who quotes the LORD saying, “I was faithful to you to deliver you from Egypt but you’ve been faithless in fearing the gods of the Amorites (10).”
EXP: This is divine denunciation. So, Israel wants deliverance and God sends an interpretation of why the Midianites destroy their land. The LORD does this before the relaxation of deliverance.
ILL: Think about that if you’re Israel (cry to God for help, sends prophet). It’s like having your vehicle stranded on the side of the road and you call an auto shop and he sends a preacher instead of a mechanic! And the preacher tells you that you haven’t been taking care of your car! Israel cries for deliverance but God proclaims denunciation.
ARG/APP: So God values Israel knowing why they are in this mess more than Israel getting relief from that mess.
APP: Do we value what God values? How often do we cry b/c of painful circumstances or b/c of oppression from others and all we want is deliverance? But do you cry…for interpretation of the events? You may not have directly disobeyed (although you may have) and your character is maligned or your righteous testimony is undercut by others. God may send the reason “why” through his written word or through the counsel of others.
But at least we know that it is for our Christlikeness (Ro. 8 –God causes all things to work together for good to them that love God….he predestinated us to be conformed into the image of his Son –the good is our being like Christ). If that’s your delight, then you’ll be fine no matter what circumstances come your way! This isn’t a trite verse. Quoting it with compassion and conviction to someone at a funeral or to someone going through a hard time is not insensitive as some have taught. It’s God’s word and it reflects his eternal purpose for our lives. How “untrite” can you get? Those who view it as trite haven’t really considered how important that verse is or haven’t meditated long enough on it.
TRANS: So Israel admits that they are in a weak state and they cry to Him. And God is not so mean and unfeeling that He doesn’t hear their prayer for deliverance. In fact, 6:11-24 He promises His presence to those who are weak.
In this section, the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and tells him that Gideon is the one who will rescue Israel from the Midianites.
ARG [AOY]: Before we get into the story line, let’s discover the characters in the story and discuss who the angel of the LORD is. How many of you have grown up listening to this story taught and the teacher assumed there was just Gideon and the AOY? But is that true? The issue is whether the author of Judges intends for us to equate the AOY and LORD.
A good place to begin is to notice 3 uses of the English word “Lord” –(13,14,15)
3 “lords” in the passage
-(all lowercase, all uppercase, and just capital “L” and lowercase o,r,d):
-one is not a reference to God and two are a reference to God.
Now, with that as our background, let’s glance through the passage to see if we can conclude anything.
(13)Gideon addresses the AOY as “lord/sir”
(14)Then Yahweh looks at him
(15) Then, Gideon addresses the LORD as “Lord” (Adonai) (before he addressed the AOY as “sir”).
(16) LORD says “I will be with you” (different than what AOY says in (12 “The LORD is with you”).
Clincher: (21) The AOY leaves the scene.
(22) but the LORD continues to talk with Gideon.
B/c of this, it seems reasonable that we have 3 characters: AOY, LORD, and Gideon. So the AOY very well could be a preincarnate appearance of Christ and so can also be Yahweh -LORD [he can hold a staff in his hand (21) and can also vanish in fire].
Let’s get to the story.
TTS: (6:11): The angel appears to Gideon under an oak tree at Ophrah while Gideon is secretly threshing wheat in a winepress.
EXP: Notice, Gideon was beating out the wheat in a wine press. Normally, you beat wheat with a flail and then toss it up in the air to separate it from the chaff. But times were treacherous. Tossing chaff up in the air would have attracted the attention of the Midianites. So, (perhaps!) he uses a winepress instead to hide from the Midianites.
TTS: (6:12): The angel greets Gideon: “The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.”
EXP: That would have sounded a little silly to him, “valiant warrior” –he’s hiding from the Midianites at that very moment, as he beats out the wheat! He’s the youngest in his father’s house, too! But focus on the promise (12) –”The LORD is with you.” This is the promise of the LORD’s empowering presence.
TTS: (6:13): Nevertheless, Gideon grumbles, “If that’s true, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of?”
EXP: MAJOR: He’s receiving a divine visitation and he questions the statement’s validity!
TTS: (6:14): The LORD himself tells Gideon, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” (6:15): Gideon knowing his weakness responds, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” And then we have the promises for all the ages, …(6:16): “But the LORD assures Gideon, “SURELY (very good translation of Hebrew) I will be with you.”
EXP: I say “all the ages” b/c the LORD seems to like to play this trump card at the reluctance of some of His choice servants. Whenever God’s people are weak with fear and reluctant to obey God’s call, the LORD promises his presence. He’s said it to the most important servants in history. While Moses was resisting God’s call, the LORD said “I will be with you” (Ex. 3:12). It was the same with Joshua (Josh. 1:5) and it’s the same with us (Mt. 28:20 “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”).
APP: Gideon is very hesitant to accept God’s call on his life. Don’t resist God’s call on your life. He may be divinely directing you to go next door to your neighbor’s house. Whether he calls you to make your living from the gospel or from plumbing or nursing, don’t resist.
APP: Here’s the comfort: “I will be with you.” The comfort lies in the fact that you know who it is who is with you. And notice that that’s all you get! Is the promise of God’s presence enough for you?
How would you respond to this promise? Well Gideon….
TTS: … wants to make sure it’s true (6:17–23). He asks for a sign to be certain that he will rescue Israel.
(6:17–19): He goes home to prepare an offering for the LORD.
(6:20–23): When the angel touches the offering with his staff, fire flames up and consumes it. This convinces him that the angel truly was sent from the Lord.
EXP: To say that the fulfilled request he makes “convinces” him might miss the point. It actually terrifies him to death (22) so much so that the only comfort from the LORD is “you shall not die.” You would think it would have reassured him. What we think is “cool!” Flame, going up in it, etc. We perhaps think it strange that it terrified him. We seemed to reach our warm, comforting arm through the pages of the text and say, “Brother Gideon, if only you had a NT you wouldn’t be so scared. Having a relationship with God like this …this is your right.” Really? True, nothing is more reassuring than God’s presence with us in our weakness of faith and fearfulness of our circumstances, but nothing is more FEARFUL than the fact it is GOD who is with us! Don’t lose sight of that.
So (6:11-24) is God’s Promise of His Presence to the Weak.
TRANS: True, this promise is for those who are weak, but it is only for those who are weak and do something about it! In this case, notice what God asks Gideon to do.
6:24-32 is a contrast in worship. Gideon, after receiving assurance of the divine presence, is commanded by God to erect two altars to the LORD (24, 26) and tears down 2 idol altars in (25-32). We’ll see that Gideon’s actions are paradigm for our relationship with God. You can’t serve both the LORD (and all he represents) and Baal (and all he represents).
A. The first altar (6:24): Gideon builds the first altar after the visitation from the LORD and the AOY. He names this altar “The Lord Is Peace.”
B. The second altar in (6:25–32)
1. (6:25–27): The Lord tells Gideon to destroy his father’s altar to Baal and construct an altar to the Lord in its place. Gideon does so at night b/c he is afraid.
2. (6:28–30): The morning after Gideon pulls down the altar, the people of Ophrah threaten to kill him.
3. (6:31–32): But Gideon’s own father, whose altar Gideon tore down, saves his skin, saying, “If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself.”
EXP: The LORD is just about to deliver Israel through Gideon, but Gideon has to be properly prepared first. Gideon needed to obey the LORD in ridding false idols from his own household, whether it was his or his dad’s. Gideon’s whole family were likely Baal worshippers, including Gideon. Gideon could have been converted when he erected the first altar. So picture yourself as Gideon. If you are a saved individual, you had to come into a relationship of worship of the LORD before you could tear down the idols –now you have to be willing to tear them down. You could think of his building of the first altar as the moment his salvation.
APP: Have you trusted Christ as your Savior? If so, have you “cast out every idol and broken down every foe?” In spite of all opposition from your peers and the people of this city have you obviously thrown down and torn apart the idols of this age? Have you clearly broken from Baal-like materialism and sensuality?
APP: Notice also that: God’s People are Accountable to You. It was a son breaking down his own father’s idol. Whether it’s a son of a father or a brother of a sister or one Christian to the next, we must hold each other accountable. Is one of your own family members turning away from the LORD? You can see it in their eyes, they are not happy b/c they are disobeying God’s word. If done in the right spirit and for the right reasons, it is your Christian duty to “bear one another’s burdens” and in this case the burden of sin in the life of your own family.
TRANS: Keep in mind that in our story, this is all happening right before God delivers his people. Thus, God demands worship of him and tearing down idols in our lives before he will use us to accomplish his purposes. And now, the gathering together for battle. God uses his prepared servant.
The narrative then continues with the main actions of the story: the deliverance and the fight against the Midianites.
TTS: (6:33): A vast army of Midianites and Amalekites unite to attack Israel.
(6:34–35): The Spirit of the Lord “comes upon” Gideon, and he blows a ram’s horn to gather an army.
EXP: Fascinating wording (“comes upon” -34) in the Hebrew (if every have a chance to study Hebrew, do it). None of the English versions get this right. The NASB has a footnote which is what the ESV has in its text: “The LORD clothed Gideon.” You could translate it that way, but it still doesn’t quite capture it. The LORD clothed Gideon with what? It’s best to translate this “The LORD ‘put on’ Gideon.” (as you would put on a garment). This leaves the idea of “to clothe” and you are not left with thinking “clothed him with what?” It also adds an element of absolute possession. The LORD puts on Gideon like a man would a garment. So it’s not Gideon acting anymore, the garment has no control over what is about to transpire. Very picturesque.
APP: Has the LORD put you on? Has He clothed himself with you? Does He have total control?
Now, it seems like the narrative should now proceed directly from 6:35 to 7:1, which continues the warfare scene. It would fit. But instead we have the sign of the fleece in (36-40).
TTS: Here, Gideon requests two signs from God to assure him of his calling to rescue Israel. God graciously answers both of Gideon’s requests.
1st request (6:36–38): Gideon asks God to cause the fleece to be wet while the ground remains dry.
2nd request (6:39–40): Gideon asks God to cause the fleece to be dry while the ground remains wet.
[1st: Wet fleece, dry ground; 2nd: Dry fleece, wet ground]
EXP: First, let’s comment on the requests themselves. A fleece was made from wool. Wool naturally absorbs water. Now, why two requests? The first one may have seemed like it wasn’t a miracle, it may have seemed natural, not supernatural. Wool absorbs water. So sure, the fleece could be wet while the ground was dry. The dew may have left the ground before Gideon awoke but the wool still retained the moisture, that’s naturally possible. So, Gideon asks for a second sign (“alright, alright, alright, maybe that was a fluke, maybe it just happened that way”). “So LORD, make the fleece dry while the ground is wet. This is a so much more unnatural, and thus perhaps a true miracle. If the ground is wet, the wool would surely have absorbed the moisture. But not in this case. A true miracle.
ARG: Now, let’s answer the question: “Is this exemplary?” or “Is Gideon doing the right thing?” Let’s take a look at the wording. (36) “Then Gideon said to God, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken… (37) behold, I will 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 will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.” Notice the repetition “as you have spoken” (is the narrator saying something here? A faithful, godly Jew would look at that and say…”Arg, Gideon…God said it, trust him!”) “Is Gideon full of faith here? I would say not. He knew what the mighty everlasting God, who never lies, had said and he needed additional confirmation. He should have trusted God. TRUST GOD TO DO AS HE HAS PROMISED/SPOKEN
But also, look at (39) “Do not let Your anger burn against me” and he offers a second test. Gideon knew that this may have been displeasing to the LORD. He knew to be fearful about making such a bold request. That’s not a clincher, b/c Abraham had the same heart toward God while praying about Sodom and Gomorrah in Gen. 18. But then there is what I think is the true light on whether or not Gideon’s actions are exemplary and right.
Notice (39) again “please let me make a test once more with the fleece…” Word “prove” or “test.” (Ex. 17:7; Dt. 6:16) This is the same word used when the Bible says, “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah.” Gideon seems to admit that he’s testing the LORD. So it is reasonable to conclude that Gideon actually is.
What does it mean to test the LORD?
To test God is to put upon him demands that are inappropriate to his character. Men test the LORD when they act as if they are doubting whether His promises are true, or whether He is faithful to His revealed character. I think that is exactly what is going on here. Gideon has direct revelation from God about his character, but proceeds to test God by putting demands on him and doubting whether his promises are true.
APP: Perhaps you’ve heard people say “I put out my fleece to see what God’s will is for me.” My response to that is “Really? You shall not put the LORD to the test!” You don’t need to do that b/c He is faithful to lead His people into his perfect will as they obey him day in and day out.
APP: Are you testing the LORD? Do you put inappropriate demands on the LORD or do you doubt whether he is faithful to his character?
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Judges 6
Gideon, in the first part of the chapter, is reluctant to obey the call of God to deliver Israel. Gideon rightfully admits his weakness (“youngest in father’s house, etc.). And God promises his presence to such people. In the LORD’s calling of him, the LORD demands worship and the tearing down of idols and he also gives assurance that He will empower him to do his will. This is a paradigm for our relationship with God!
God’s power is made perfect in your weakness. If you will see yourself as a person in need, God will promise His presence to you, but know that God resists the proud. Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, worship him in the beauty of holiness and cast out everything that raises itself up against God. Even in your weak faith, God will give assurance that he will use you to do his will. In all of this, don’t doubt that what he says is true. Trust God to do as He has promised.