“When You Know You are Weak, then You are Strong”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Judges 7-8
God says you are weak. You have small strength (Pr. 24:10), you are often foolish (1 Co. 1:26), ugly with sin (Ro. 3:28) and in you dwells no good thing (Ro. 7:18). How flattering is that?
So the issue I want to raise is not: “Are you weak?” but “Do you experientially know it? Are you so intimately acquainted with your weakness that you turn to God? Or do you barely realize it and you end up reacting out of your weakness and going your own way?”
The story of Gideon is a story of weakness and examples of what you should and should not do. Last time, we took as our theme of chapter 6, “Trust God to do as He has spoken.” The story last time had in it the idea of weakness. Gideon was so weak that he did not trust God as he should have. Gideon, in the first part of the chapter, was reluctant to obey the call of God to deliver Israel. Then Gideon rightfully admits his weakness (“youngest in father’s house, etc.). And God promised his presence to him, as he does to all who are weak. In the LORD’s calling of him, remember the LORD demanded worship and the tearing down of idols. The LORD also gave assurance that He will empower him to do his will in the sign of the fleece, which we determined was a testing of the LORD (he should have trusted God, but he was weak in faith). What we found was this was a paradigm for our relationship with God!
The theme of weakness is also found in our passage this morning and I’d like to show you how I came up with that briefly. Notice 7:2, God comments on the size of Gideon’s army “The people that are with you are too many” b/c your head will inflate. God commences to cut down his army from 32,000 to 300: Thus, God requires the state of weakness.
Notice also Gideon’s fearfulness (again!) to go against the Midianites (7:10). God tells Gideon that if he is afraid, he can spy on the Midianites, so Gideon goes to spy, b/c he is afraid. And God encourages him there with what he hears the enemy discuss. So, Gideon is weak with fear and he knows it.
And lastly, quickly notice that weakness can be detrimental to the spiritual health of God’s people if you exercise it and don’t recognize it! After the victory against the Midianites, Ephraim opposes God’s man Gideon (7:1) as do Succoth (8:6) and Penuel (8:8). So, exercising weakness leads to a detrimental effect on God’s people.
That’s why the title tonight is: When You Know You are Weak, then You are Strong
The assumption within that Title is that when you know you are weak, you know what to do about it. Go to God and get his power!
TTS: (7:1–6): The Lord tells Gideon that his army of 32,000 is too big and so the LORD reduces the army in two stages.
(7:7–8): The army is now reduced to 300 soldiers.
EXP: God had just assured Gideon in chapter 6 with the fleece, now God is reducing his resources. Will Gideon trust the LORD? The key to the passage is the interpretation of why God is reducing Gideon’s resources (2). God reduces resources b/c of potential for pride. When victory comes, God will make sure that man has ample opportunity to give Him the glory.
APP: God assures us from His Word that His promises are true. Then, He reduces our resources to make us totally dependent on Him. This reduction helps us to bring attention to Him when He still accomplishes his purposes.
*God will provide financially for you: Trust him as He seems to reduce your income. Phil. 4:19″ And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” –talking to Philippians who gave a gift to Paul, not to ungenerous Christians. Lk. 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure– pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” – Those who are generous have generosity running over for them.
*Some think “I know I’m weak, but I can do it b/c God helps me. “I CAN DO ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me. The focus is often on our doing it and not on the Christ who gives strength. It should read “I Can Do All things Through CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME.
*You may think: I’m too weak for God to use me. Half way there: “I’m too weak” is right, but it’s “I’m too weak/ungifted/uncaring, THEREFORE God will use me.” God uses the weak things of this world to confound the mighty. God uses all who KNOW they are weak.
TTS: (7:9–12): Because Gideon is still afraid to attack the Midianites, the Lord offers him the opportunity to go to the enemy camp to give him assurance of victory.
(7:13–15): At the enemy camp, Gideon overhears one soldier tell another of a dream he had of a loaf of bread rolling into the camp of Midian. A pagan Midianite interprets the pagan dream as meaning that God will give Gideon victory over the Midianites.
EXP: Gideon, the fearful hero. The LORD, a compassionate God! The LORD promises He will give Midian into his hand, but yet offers another alternative to encourage him in his fearful weakness: go down to the enemy camp and you’ll be encouraged. Gideon, fearful, goes down to the camp and overhears a dream and its interpretation, and is encouraged.
This is an unlikely source of encouragement (a pagan) and it says something about Gideon. A more trustworthy source is what the LORD had just said “I will give them into your hand.” Also, why wouldn’t he had been fearful to go the enemy camp? And then he receives encouragement from untrustworthy sources. First, it was a dream and second it was an interpretation of a dream and third it was a pagan’s dream and a pagan interpretation of that pagan dream. And Gideon receives encouragement?!? Why wouldn’t a divine visitation or the LORD speaking to him directly been encouraging?!? This shows the pagan mindset this man has. It also shows that the LORD knew this the whole time and showed compassion on him.
APP: God sometimes uses unlikely sources of encouragement. For example, how often has God used mere conventional wisdom to comfort you in your worry when He could have sent the verses like “Be anxious for nothing?” but instead, as you worry about how busy you are or if you’re going to be able to pay the bills, that he brings someone along, anyone, who says, “You know, you’ve been busy before and have gotten through it” or “you’ve been low on funds before but you’ve always paid the bills.” This isn’t the true theological answer, and if you’re a Christian you shouldn’t give a pagan answer. But nevertheless, God sometimes brings encouragement through unconventional sources. Take those to heart.
However, here’s the point in the literature, though. We need to trust the LORD when He speaks! Trust God to do as He has promised. Gideon had so much light (show throughout the story). Gideon receives visitation from the AOY and the LORD himself and we saw last time how Gideon knew he was talking with the LORD. The Lord repeatedly reassured him of victory and of His empowering presence with him (6:11-24). Later that night the LORD appeared to him again to tell him to tear down the altar and build another in its place (6:25-35). Then he received the sign of the fleece, a miracle (36-40). Then the LORD speaks to him again, but tells him to reduce the army (but the LORD speaks to him!). The LORD again promises deliverance in 7:7,9. Then finally the LORD tells him he can go down to the camp if he is still afraid. Here is where he will take heart. God had been visiting him, showing him miracles, personally speaking to him, yet it’s a pagan’s dream and its interpretation that encourages him.
Even still, this is the turning point in the story, where he goes from fear to faith. This is why he’s recorded in Hebrews 11:32. Notice 7:15, he makes a bold theological prediction based on the encouragement (READ). Also notice 8:7, where he makes another bold theological prediction (READ). Even though he had such a pagan mindset, the LORD used it to strengthen this man’s faith and encourage him in his weakness. God knows your heart and is seeking every day to make you like his son and to boast your confidence in his promises. As we heard on Wed. night, don’t embrace God’s promises half-heartedly!! Trust God to do as he has spoken even in your weakness. Allow him to lead you to greater faith.
TTS: The strategy (7:16–18): At Gideon’s command his men are to blow horns, hold up torches, and shout, “For the Lord and for Gideon!”
(7:19–22): The soldiers blow their trumpets, break the pitchers in which were torches. The enemy panics, probably thinking that Israel was already in the camp, and they fight each other.
(7:23–25): Gideon invites other Israelite tribes to chase after the fleeing Midianites and they capture and kill the leaders: Oreb and Zeeb.
TRANS: Next section puts a spin on the theme of weakness. Weakness itself is the strength if you KNOW you are weak and go to God for help. But if you fail to know you are weak there is ….
We’ll see here that the mishandling of the weakness of 1) pride and 2) fearfulness are a detriment to God’s people.
After the victorious battle (8:1–21):
*Two sources of opposition and resistance to God’s work and his people*
First, (8:1–4): The proud men of Ephraim complain against Gideon that they had not been asked to fight sooner. Gideon is able to cool their anger by minimizing his own role in the victory twice while flattering the tribe of Ephraim’s prowess.
EXP: Ephraim’s pride is what makes them hot with anger and it is what cools him off. Gideon’s smooth psychology strokes their ego and it makes the Ephraimites rub their fingernails on their robes, “Yeah, I guess we are pretty strong and we did give the primary help in capturing Oreb and Zeeb.”
APP: It’s no wonder that the LORD didn’t want to use the 32,000 to fight against the Midianites when you have this type of attitude within the nation. Pride brings down any nation and any local body of Christ
Second, (8:5–9): The fearful, Israelite cities of Succoth and Penuel refuse to provide food for Gideon’s hungry troops. Gideon threatens to punish them.
EXP: Both cities claim that if they feed Gideon’s army, and Gideon loses, then the Midianites will surely route them and get revenge on them. These cities were more exposed to Midianite attack than to other cities in the region. So, it seemed wise to be neutral just in case God’s people lost, they could save their skin. But was it really wisdom or selfishness? Is physical safety always the primary consideration? God had promised victory to Gideon; didn’t these cities Succoth and Penuel know that? These cities, in effect, sided with Israel’s enemies, so Gideon treats them as traitors and kills the men of the city (civil war), and perhaps it was justified (13-17). It seems extreme to us, but they were traitors. They should have supported Israel.
APP: This opposition is generated more from fearfulness than from pride. These cities were scared that God’s people would lose the battle with the enemies and, in effect, they sided with the enemy. They were concerned more for their own security than for the victory of God’s people doing God’s work. Are you hindered from doing God’s work b/c you are secure in your little comfort zone, which in effect, is your siding with the enemy? The Christian life is warfare folks, if you are not active in Christian service, you are siding with the enemy.
APP: Notice that this opposition comes right on the heels of victory. Same in our lives. Sometimes the fiercest opposition comes after our greatest victories. And you know faith can come from that, b/c you know something spiritually had been going on! You’re on the right track, but it’s tempting to think that when there is opposition, that God’s work won’t be accomplished.
EXP: (8:10–12, 18–21), however, Gideon still captures the two enemy leaders Zebah and Zalmunna.
Their defeats are recorded (8:10–12) and their deaths are recorded in (8:18–21).
APP: Don’t think that God won’t do his work in and through you if you’ve been experiencing resistance and opposition in your attempt to fulfill His commands. God gives grace and will accomplish His purposes.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Judges 7-8
Perhaps God himself has put you on your knees with the thought of your weakness (as when God reduced Gideon’s army). Perhaps you see so much sin in your own life (as when Ephraim, Succoth and Penuel opposed and resisted God’s work and His people) that you don’t think God could possibly complete His tasks. Well, great, at least you know you are weak. One of the exhortations this morning then is to receive the encouragements that he brings your way, where ever they come from pagan sources, but, in keeping with the point of the story, be certain to take encouragement from His Word. His promises are sure, don’t embrace them half-heartedly.
The main exhortation is this: When you know you are weak, turn to God for strength. Weakness is not a bad attribute acquired, it is something you are born with. Being strong in your weakness is merely recognizing your poor state and turning to him for strength! Gideon finally received a strengthened faith from God after numerous visitations. We are so slow to trust and rely on the Lord Jesus. In keeping with 2 Co. 12:10, take delight in your weaknesses in your life. This is supposed to give you an open heart toward Christ to be able to experience His resurrection power! He has great power, but he gives it to those who KNOW they are weak. God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. When you KNOW you are weak, then you are strong. Are you ready to admit your weakness to God that His power might rest on you?