In the Making - Judges 6-8 - Mat Pirolo
We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world. We do this with one another through worship by the Word to the world.
Father, we do just that. We thank You for the lives that have been changed because of this man's faithfulness to love like You love, to care for the widows and the orphans, to minister the gospel and Your word to them. Lord, we thank You for the life that he lived. We thank you for the testimony that he has. Lord, we pray for his wife. We just beg that You would surround her with Your arms, that You would surround her with love. We ask for the future of Joy Junction that this ministry would continue to serve those who are in need. God, we ask that more lives would be changed and that his legacy would continue.
We also ask tonight for ourselves that as we're spending time here in this room, opening our Bibles to hear what You have to say, that we would be open for exactly that, we would be open for correction maybe, that we would be open for conviction maybe, that would be open for comfort. Lord, we want for us what You want for us. We pray these things in Jesus' name, Amen. Amen.
I don't know about you, but I love a good action movie. I love seeing explosions happen, planes flying around, people kicking in doors. I love to see a good action movie. But you know what's even better than a good action movie with a solid hero is when you get to see that hero in the making.
In 2005, Batman Begins came out. I don't know. Any Batman Begins fans out there? Chris Nolan finally got ahold of the Batman series, and it was a good thing. No more like, Poison Ivy and George Clooney in a Batman suit. I don't think that was good for anyone. But 2005, Batman Begins, Christian Bale takes the scene. And we see him flying around in his Batmobile, and doing crazy things in his military-grade tumbler, and kicking in doors, and shooting his grappling hook.
But in that movie we see the making of a hero. We see a hero in the making. Because we know that he was in prison in like Nepal, I think. And then he was trained under that guy, Ra's al Ghul. You remember him? He's like the good guy at first because he trains him up. But then he turns out to be the bad guy in the end-- spoiler alert. That's OK. It was 13 years ago. Hopefully you've seen it. It if you haven't, it's your fault.
But he's trained by Ra's al Ghul. He's like fighting and doing ninja moves on top of an icy lake. He's climbing up a snow-covered mountain without a Patagonia jacket or North Face shoes. And he's taken hallucinogenic drugs like that Blue Rose, and he's like, bats everywhere, I'm scared. And we see a hero in the making. I don't think the drugs necessarily contributed. I'm not a proponent of that. I'm just saying, that's what Batman did. You don't have to be like Batman.
Maybe you saw American Sniper. It came out a few years ago. And it's the true story of Chris Kyle. He was a Navy SEAL and he was known as the Devil of Ramadi. He had more kills in Iraq than, I believe, any other soldier in that war. And it highlights his story. It highlights how he served our country, even how he died helping others who have served our country. But it also highlights the training that he went through to become the soldier and the hero that he became.
Maybe you've seen videos-- whether it was that movie or maybe you've seen videos of Navy SEALs going through their training. They go through something they call Hell Week, and they have to stay awake for days on end. They've got to carry these giant logs around with each other. They develop teamwork. And they're sitting in the freezing ocean with water crushing down on their face, and they're going through this immense training so that they can be heroes and serve our country. They're heroes in the making.
Well, tonight we're going to be looking at part of Gideon's story. And when I say Gideon, you probably think Gideon's 300, how Gideon was this mighty man who went on and he gathered 300 dudes. He actually gathered 32,000 guys, and God trimmed down his army to 10,000. And then he trimmed down his army again to 300, but those 300, they took their flashlights and their kazoos, and they beat 135,000 Midianite soldiers.
And so we see Gideon's story, it's like an action story. It's got so much success and victory in it. But tonight I don't want to focus on the highlight reel. Tonight I want to focus on how he got to the highlight reel. And I think that it's appropriate for us because every one of us is in a season. Every one of us is going through something that is making us who we are going to be tomorrow.
And so I want us to examine Gideon's In the Making moments with open eyes to see how maybe we can react in some of the circumstances that we are going through. We know that Jesus is working in us to make us more like himself. So every one of us has a next step. Every one of us has a next stage. We are being transformed from glory to glory so that we look like our Savior.
So we're in Judges chapter six. And let me just catch you up to speed. The book of Judges is one of the most depressing books in the Bible. So I came here to just lighten the mood tonight. I just wanted to hey, have some depressing times. The book of Judges, we see Israel continually failing to follow God. We see Israel sinning time and time again. In fact, there's a cycle that probably a lot of you are familiar with where they rebel from God, and then there's retribution. They're sent into captivity, or actually people come in and they make them captives right there in that land.
But then finally there's repentance, which leads to restoration. And then usually there's a few years of rest where they're just living, following God. They're living, enjoying life. And so this cycle goes over and over and over. And God, in order to bring them out of that slavery to whatever nation they're enslaved in at the time, he'll raise somebody up.
And that's often the way that God works, isn't it? He doesn't just like send an angel to like, crush everybody and be like, all right, you're good to go. He'll usually send a human to act on behalf of others who are suffering, to set them free and bring them into a right relationship with God. And so he raises up these people that we call judges. And they're not like with a gavel in white wigs and black gowns or anything. They're actually more like deliverers. A lot of them are more like soldiers.
And so we see Gideon. He is the fourth judge. And let's meet him. We're going to look at verse 1 of chapter 6.
"Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of the Midianites, the children of Israel made for themselves the dens, the caves, and the strongholds which are in the mountains. So it was, whenever Israel had sown--" that's whenever they planted their crop-- "the Midianites would come up, also the Amalekites, and the people of the East would come up against them.
Then they would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, coming in as numerous as the locusts. Both they and their camels were without number. And they would enter the land to destroy it. So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites."
We start off by reading a very familiar phrase, if you've read through the book of Judges, is "the children of Israel did evil in the sight of God." That's the fourth time that exact phrase with those exact words appears in this book. "So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of God."
I've got a two-year-old-- actually he's 23 months old. It's like it's a two-year-old, Mat, just say he's two. He's two, OK. The other day-- maybe you've had toddlers before, maybe you've experienced this-- but the other day, he had been in timeout, I think, four times before 9:30 AM. And maybe that says that we're too strict of parents, or maybe it says that he's a crazy kid or disobedient. But I was beginning like, by the fourth time that he was in timeout and we had only been up for a few hours, I was like, man, I'm kind of getting tired of this. You're continually doing evil in the sight of dad. You're continually doing evil in the sight of dad.
And I've got to think that maybe God is annoyed and frustrated by the children of Israel's inability to obey. Their continual wander-- "prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love." Their national anthem, or it could have been.
But aren't you glad? Aren't you glad that we serve a God that is patient-- more patient than I am? Aren't you glad that we serve a God that is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance? Aren't you glad that we serve a God that after the fourth timeout, doesn't fly off the handle and throw a toaster through the window? Which I didn't do by the way. I didn't throw a toaster. We don't even have a toaster because I threw it through the window.
So they have just experienced 40 years of peace. They've been free from slavery for 40 years. And as soon as that judge Deborah, the previous judge, is absent, they fall back into sin. They fall back into slavery. And then we find them crying out to God.
Can I just make a point real quick? That it is not good for any of us to be our only leader. I get that like, we all lead a life and that we should know ourselves so that we can lead ourselves so that we can make the best decision for ourselves. But it's not good when we are the only person that we are accountable to. It is potentially one of the most harmful things that we can do is to isolate ourselves from the influence of those who have gone before us, and isolate ourselves from the influence of the people that God's placed over us.
And so that's just a quick word for maybe one of you in here is doing that. Maybe some of you are isolating yourself and you're not wanting to have anybody that you confess your sins to. You're not wanting to have anybody that you're adhering to their direction. Because it's a lot more comfortable to be your own king. But I would urge you-- anarchy never leads to a good thing.
And so the people are sold into the hand of the Midianites. Now the Midianites are a people that we're somewhat familiar with from the previous books of the Bible. Moab teamed up with the Midianites, and they used Balaam to curse the children of Israel. And we're not going to get into that story at all tonight. But just the Midianites have been an enemy to Israel for quite a while. And Israel, in their sin, God allows the Midianites to come in and to take the children of Israel into slavery.
Now I like to think of the Midianites kind of as the Sand People from Star Wars. Any Star Wars fans out there? Because it says here that the Midianites were like too numerous to count, them and their camels. And we know from the good Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Sand People hide their numbers by walking in each other's steps. Right? And so maybe they're like that, maybe they're not.
But the Sand People, the Midianites, they're both desert-dwelling people, kind of just wandering around, Bedouins moving around, stealing things. And what we find pretty soon is that the Midianites keep sneaking in and swiping all of the crops. In fact, we just read that. Verse 5 compares them to locusts. It says they're numerous, they are unable to be counted. And they're like locusts in that way, but they're also like locusts in that they keep destroying the crop. As soon as the crop comes up, as soon as the harvest, as soon as the corn comes out of the ground, or the wheat comes out of the ground, here come the Midianites, swiping, stealing your lunch like the bad bully they are, taking your lunch money. They're like a nation of raccoons.
The children of Israel just need to watch Dora the Explorer-- Swiper, no swiping, Swiper, no swiping. If you don't know what that is, that's OK. Just ask your grandkids or your kids or me after service. I'm available to answer those questions. Really want to pour into you spiritually.
But it got to the point where the Israelites were becoming like cave people. They were running to the hills for their safety. And this wasn't kind of like a cool survival TV show. Bear Grylls, this is how you survive, and here's your life straw, and this is how you drink out of bamboo. It wasn't like that. They were impoverished. They were scared to death.
Think of ISIS a few years ago when they invaded the city of Sinjar and all of those Yazidi people-- I know that you saw the footage on every news outlet that there was-- were stuck at the top of Sinjar mountain. And when helicopters were coming in to bring aid and drop off food, literally parents were trying to throw their toddlers on to the helicopters so that their kids could just have any life other than the one that they were having. These people were terrified. They were running for their lives.
So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, devastated. Well, what did they do? Second part of verse 6 says, "the children of Israel cried out to the Lord." Good call. Good call. I want to let you know that no matter where you are in your life, God is always willing to hear you cry out to Him. He's always eager and ready to hear you pray. He's never like, man, you've dropped the ball so many times, I'm not going to hear it this time. I'm done. My ears are clogged. Wherever you are. Maybe you're stuck in a cycle of sin. I would urge you, cry out to the Lord, pray, lift your voice to Him. Ask Him.
You know, the book of Proverbs says a righteous man falls down seven times. But what does he do? He stays on the ground and naps? No. The righteous man falls down seven times. He gets back up again. And I'll just let you know that God is never tired of hearing your voice.
Let's continue reading. "So they cried out to the Lord. And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried out to the Lord because of the Midianites that the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel."
Now up until this point in the book of Judges, every time that they cry out to God, he sends them a deliverer. He sends them a judge. He sends somebody to kick in the doors and to kick out the enemy. He doesn't send a prophet. He sent a prophet? What good is a prophet? We need somebody with a sword. We need somebody that's going to fight the battles.
But notice this, that before God brings salvation, he sends somebody with a sermon, that his word precedes his work. They're asking for a miracle. They're asking for salvation, and they get a sermon? Why? Well, like any good parent that is going to be sending their kid to timeout or any good parent that's going to be spanking their child, hopefully they're not just doing that and never offering an explanation as to why that child is going through what they're going through.
Hopefully when I send my son to the corner and say, hey, buddy, stand in timeout. You're one years old, so you get one minute in timeout. We set the clock, and it's like, 58 seconds, and he's like nah. Hopefully at the end of that, I don't just leave it and OK, figure it out. I'll always follow up with a conversation. Buddy, do you know why you were in timeout? Yeah you, caught me behind the refrigerator with the cigarettes. No, he's not even two years old. Usually probably because like he threw his fork on the ground. No cigarettes.
But we explain to our children what they've done wrong and why they're going through what they're going through. And that's really precisely what God's doing right here. In fact, let's look at what the prophet says. Let's read the sermon, so to speak.
"Thus says the Lord God of Israel," verse 8. "Thus says the Lord God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage, and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all who oppressed you and drove them out before you and gave you their land. Also I said to you, I am the Lord your God. Do not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But you have not obeyed My voice."
The prophet says three things, the sermon communicates three points. Talks about what God has done for Israel, talks about what God said to Israel, talks about how Israel failed to obey what God said. He says, I'm the one that brought you out of Egypt, I'm the one that brought you out of bondage. And not only that, I gave you a new land. And when there was an enemy in your land, I subdued them. I took them out. I gave you the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey. I've done so much for you because I love you. And I commanded you, I commanded you, do not fear the gods of the Amorites.
But you did not listen. You have not obeyed My voice. He reminds them of His work so that they could see His character. He reminds them of His word so that they could remember His command. And then He charges them with their crime. They failed to obey. They failed to follow Him. And you almost expect like a call to action. It's like, yeah, but what are your application points? Where are you going with in this sermon? And this sermon is really to be descriptive to them about why they're in the place they're in instead of prescriptive on how to get out of the place that they're in.
Because I have an inkling that maybe they had the temptation in their mind to blame their problems on God, to say we're under the hands of masters, we're slaves, and it's your fault. But in reality, this was a self-inflicted wound. They shot themselves in the foot, and they're trying to blame him maybe for pulling the trigger.
And I wonder if we ever do that. God, why aren't you here? Why am I in this place? This is all your fault. And he's like, I don't want you to be in that place, but you've decided to travel down that path. You've decided to make those decisions. You've decided to fall away from following me. And because of that you're not living in the times of refreshing that repentance brings.
Before we go on, I want to just notice with you the specific command that they failed to obey. He says, I am the Lord your God. Do not fear the gods of the Amorites. Don't fear them. Don't be respecters of the gods of the Amorites. Don't be concerned with who they are. I think He told them this because He knew, being God, that who you fear is who you worship. And who you worship dictates how you live. Who you worship and who you fear, you're a slave to. And to fear the gods of the Amorites and to fall into that sin, you become slaves to that sin. And it's going to lead to natural consequences.
And I think this plays out in our lives as well. If you fear man, if you're concerned with man's approval and acceptance of you, then you're going to fall for a lot of compromises. You're going to be living your life on a track that isn't going to fulfill you. It's just going to leave you empty because you're exhausted trying to please everyone around you. If you're living in the fear of man-- maybe you're wanting to just get more followers than the other friends that you have on Instagram, or Facebook, or whatever social media it is, and you're living for those likes.
If you fear man more than God, then you're going to fall for the peer pressure that they push you into. If you fear man, perhaps you'll chase after the things that you think will make other people like you. If you fall for the fear of man, perhaps you'll compromise what's truly important for what you might think makes you look important.
Let me just say, it's exhausting. It doesn't bring satisfaction. It doesn't bring fulfillment. Because that's not what you were created for. You weren't created to please the person next to you. You were not created to worship and worry about what does your boss always think about you, and how can you be at the top of your game so that you please him and you get all the accolades. The fear of man proves to be a snare.
On the other hand, the fear of God. "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." Proverbs 1:7, Psalm 111, verse 10, and Proverbs 9:7 all have that phrase word for word in it. "The fear of God, the reverence for God, the concern for what God thinks about you--" that is the beginning of wisdom, that is the beginning of good living.
Let's meet Gideon. Up until this point, it's just kind of been back story. But let's dive in and look at what Gideon encounters. We're going to see him in three different circumstances. We're going to see him debating God. We're going to see that he argues with God as God calls him. He's debating deity, if you will. We're going to see that he's not breaking bad, he's breaking Baal. That's a little Albuquerque reference for you. We're going to see that he finds himself mixed up with a soggy sheepskin, which is just really weird and just dumb little words to remind us of different circumstances that he encounters, three circumstances he encounters.
So let's look at verse 11, Gideon. "Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash, the Abiezrite." Man, I've been saying that word like 40 or 50 times today. Abiezrite, Abiezrite, Abiezrite. Because it's just impossible to say naturally. So I'm like trying to train myself. So we'll just say Abie because it appears two more times in this text. And I can't do it. I just can't. Lord, help me.
"So the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash, the Abie while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress in order to hide it from the Midianites."
OK, so first off-- and we don't have a whole lot of time to get into who the angel of the Lord is, and why we believe that the angel of the Lord is who we believe He is-- but I actually taught a message in February of this year so you can check the archives if you want. It's called "Jesus-ology" and we get all into what Jesus was up to prior to being born in Bethlehem.
But from this text alone even-- we'll just cover it quickly. From this text alone, we can see that the angel of the Lord is no ordinary angel. In fact, the angel of the Lord appears to be God himself, the second person of the Godhead, Jesus. The angel of the Lord often appears throughout the Old Testament, often communicating messages of salvation to His people, which is what Jesus is all about, salvation, right? Not only that, the angel of the Lord, unlike any other angel, receives the worship of men. All the other angels are like, wait a minute, don't worship me. Get off the ground. I'm not worthy of that. And we find time and again that the angel of the Lord will actually receive worship. We'll even see an instance of that here in this chapter that Gideon is going to do something, and the angel of the Lord receives it.
And so the reason that I bring that up is because it's a pretty big deal if God shows up face to face and is talking with you, right? Pretty big deal, if you're like just going about your daily business, and all of a sudden, the Son of God is in your presence, and he's looking at your eyeballs, and you're able to look at his in this body. And so that's where Gideon finds himself. It says that he's in the winepress threshing the wheat.
Now what's interesting about this-- and some of you probably know this-- is the winepress is a really bad place to thresh wheat. The way that worked back then-- and it seems like good, old Gideon and his family had like a vineyard, and they had some wheat that they grew as well. So they had a lot of produce. They were farmers. Later on we see that there were probably wealthy. He had 10 servants that he could just tell what to do and they did.
And so the way that it works is a vineyard would often be built like on the side of a hill. The hill would be cut into kind of like steps. So you'd have a little plateau. You'd plant your grapes. You'd go up a bit. You'd have a plateau. You'd plant your grapes. You'd go up a bit. You'd plant your grapes on the next plateau. And then when it's time to harvest all those grapes, you bring them down to the bottom of the hill because it's easier to roll things down a hill than carrying them up, so it's just logical. And then you would have this giant Jacuzzi size winepress thing that you bring all your Italian family and friends over, and you like stomp on the grapes, and the juice runs down, and it catches in this little vat. And the juice later becomes wine because it ferments, and magic and science and things like that happen.
So that's the winepress. That's at the very bottom of the hill. But the place that you would go to thresh your wheat is at the top of the hill. The reason that you'd do that is because wheat has this little chaff that you don't want in your oatmeal on it. And so you have to throw it up in the air, and then the wind-- because the chaff is a lot lighter, the wind will carry the chaff away. The wheat will fall down. You collect your wheat. You make your oatmeal. You're happy.
But Gideon doesn't take his wheat all the way to the top of the hill where the wind is, where it's going to be easy to accomplish the job. He's down in the winepress. And we're told in the Bible, right here in this verse, that he did that because he was trying to hide his cereal from the thieves that always take everyone's food, from the Midians who swipe in and take the food. And so he's there in the winepress, and he's sifting through his wheat, and he's trying to get all the chaff away. And then God shows up.
And God says this. "The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, the Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor." You mighty man of valor. Now we just admitted that Gideon was hiding from the enemy, which may be strategic, was maybe because he was fearful. But either way, it doesn't sound like the picture of a man of valor.
A few years ago, I was at a wedding with my good friend. He's a pastor here, pastor Jesse, and his wife. And my wife was there too. It was great. It was a fun time. And we were in Phoenix, and it was an outdoor wedding on this farm. Fantastic, beautiful. Something you need to know about me, I have a fear, a phobia-- it's not a fear, it's like a phobia to the 10th degree-- of snakes, like just terrified. Me and Indiana Jones, we've got it going on because we're terrified of snakes. I can kill spiders, and I can deal with cockroaches all day long. But there's a snake within a mile of me, and you know.
And so Becca, who-- I hope this is OK that I share your height. Is that OK? Give me a head nod. Yeah? It's OK? So she's 5 foot 1, which is awesome. Way to go, Becca, awesome. Five foot one. One of the groundskeepers at this outdoor wedding, they found a garter snake. Now garter snakes are like harmless. They're two feet long. They're like the diameter of a dime. They can't do anything to anyone but crickets. They could probably kill a mouse, but whatever. It's not a big deal for us. Garter snake, not a big deal. The groundskeeper grabs a garter snake, is carrying it like within 15, 20 feet of me. I jumped behind five foot one Becca.
But it gets worse. She reminded me today. Because I thought the story went that I just kind of like whoo, here we go, I'm fine, I'm good, I'm good, just stay away. She told me today that I kind of pushed her forward. It was a good thing that Alyssa and I were married prior to this happening. Because I don't know that she would have said yes to a man that pushed another woman forward to get bitten by the snake instead of him. But nobody called me strong and brave that day. Nobody said, Mat, you're a mighty man of valor hiding behind Becca. It didn't happen.
And so this statement that God makes about Gideon, first off, it's ironic. But the second thing, the more important thing, is that it's prophetic. Because you see, God doesn't look at Gideon in all of his failure, in all of his fear, and say, that's who you are. God doesn't look at Gideon in his circumstances today. God looks at Gideon in who He's going to make him tomorrow. And I think that you need to hear that for yourself as well. Because maybe some of you feel so inadequate. Maybe some of you feel like such failures that you could never get back up again.
But I want you to know that God doesn't look at you in that state of failure and think worthless, I'm walking away. He looks at you and says, I made you. I made that person. They're loved by Me. They're called by Me. I'm going to equip them, and I've got a plan for them. So that person is a mighty man of valor, not because of today, but because of who I'm going to make him tomorrow. And even furthermore, Church, because of the cross of Christ, because of the blood that Jesus poured out of his veins so that we could receive redemption. God doesn't only look at who He's going to make you tomorrow. He looks at you as though you are the sinless Son of God, that you have the righteousness of Jesus.
And so I don't want us to walk out of here wallowing in our failure, but believing that God has something greater for us, believing that God has us to look more like Jesus tomorrow than we look today. You know, Jesus calls me a saint. The Bible-- he calls me a saint. Now my wife, anybody works close with me, they know that that's not the first title that you would apply to Mat Pirolo's name. But Jesus looks at me, God looks at me through rose colored glasses because of the blood of Jesus.
Let's look at Gideon's response, verse 13. "Gideon said to him, oh, my Lord, if the Lord is with us"-- if the Lord is really with us-- "why then has all this happened to us and where are all his miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites."
See, Gideon here is asking, man, if God is good, then why these problems? If God is really with us like You say He is with us, then why did He forsake us and sell us into the hand of the Midianites? Gideon has some major doubts here. Gideon's really struggling with his faith here. But Gideon's really honest with his God here.
And obviously, some of his premises are faulty because it wasn't God that sold them into the hand of the Midianites. You know, it wasn't God that forsook them, it was them that forsook God. And so again, Gideon, just like the people in the verses before are kind of blaming God for the problems that they've inflicted on themselves.
But one of the things that he was doing is he was basing God's goodness on the circumstances that he saw. But people of God, aren't we told to walk by faith and not by sight? We don't base God's goodness off of the things that we're walking through, but we base God's goodness off of the faithfulness that He's had and the word of God that He's given us-- his character that stands true, and we can read about, and we've seen.
Verse 14, "then the Lord turned to him and said, go in the might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have not I sent you? So he said to him--" so Gideon responds to God-- "oh my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house. And the Lord said to him, surely I will be with you and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man."
Gideon's response is like there is no way, God. You don't know what tribe, you don't know what clan I'm a part of. Manasseh is my tribe, and then I'm like part of this crazy tiny little clan. It's the smallest of all the clans. And I'm probably the most hated person in my family. Nobody thinks that I'm going to amount to anything. Gideon was looking at himself through his eyes. And God says it's not about who you are today, it's about who I'm making you tomorrow. And even beyond that-- you know what I love about this?
God doesn't say to Gideon, OK, but actually you're wrong. You really do come from a great tribe, and your family's fantastic, and you've got so many skills, and you're so good, and you're great-looking, and you've got this cool resume. What's funny is Jesus doesn't reassure him with any of that. He simply reassures him with His presence. He says it doesn't matter what tiny family you come from. It doesn't matter how poor or how weak or how insignificant or inadequate or unequipped you are. It matters that I'm with you. That's the only thing that matters.
And we saw that time and again with Joseph, with Daniel, that that was the thing that stood out among them. It's that God was with them, that God was with them, that God was with them.
And by the way, if you're feeling inadequate or insufficient, then that may be the very thing that makes you qualified for God to use. Because He likes to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal to Him. But He loves to show Himself strong when we are at our weakest. Because it's in our weakness that His strength is made perfect.
And this is the story of so many figures throughout the Bible. I mean, Moses-- when God called Moses to go deliver the people of Israel, he had tons of excuses. He was the youngest in his family who got stuck in the river and like alligators all around, and he was raised, but then he killed a man and he is ill-equipped. Then he spent 40 years in the desert. And then he had like a st-st-st-stutter problem. And so he's like, I can't be used. And even today, he's on the top 10 list of most influential people in history ever. And God used him to deliver 2 million people out of Egypt.
And David-- I mean, David was so insignificant that when Samuel the prophet came to his dad's house, Jesse's house, and says, hey, I know that one of your boys is going to be the king, so line up all your boys. His dad didn't even bother to call him in from the backyard. He said OK, well this is my tall son. He's going to play for the Lakers soon. He's going to be with LeBron. It's going to be amazing. He can jump high. Look at this one. He's got a beard. Don't you like that beard? That's a fantastic beard. Don't you like that beard? And it's not any of those guys. Jesse didn't even think that his son had any potential. And David goes on to be one of the greatest kings of Israel.
And the same is true outside of the Bible with other believers, other people as well. Hudson Taylor was a missionary to China in the late 1800s. He started the China Inland Missions Program which brought over-- get this-- 800 missionaries to China. He started some 125 schools in China. And he saw 18,000 converts in his life, the days before Wi-Fi, the days before telephone-- well, I guess maybe telephones-- Alexander Graham Bell, I don't know. But 18,000 people.
Somebody once asked him why did God choose to use you in this great way. His response-- because I am the weakest man that I know. God loves to show Himself strong on behalf of those who are weak, who feel inadequate, who feel ill-equipped. You need to know that you're not insignificant or inadequate in God's eyes. He is with you.
So Gideon is getting ready and he just asked for a little authentication process here. He's like, OK, God, so You're saying these things. But can I test You just to make sure that what You're saying is truly true and I know for a fact that You're actually going to show up on my behalf? And so read verse 17 with me.
"Then he said to Him, now if now I have found favor in Your sight--" this is Gideon speaking-- "then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me. Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You and bring out my offering and set it before You. And he said, I will wait until you come back. So Gideon went in and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot."
And he does this whole cooking show. And this is where this goes, and this is where that goes.
"And he brought them out to Him under the terebinth tree and presented them. The angel of God said to him, take the meat and the unleavened bread, and lay them on the rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. Then the angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff--" get this. This is just gnarly. This is like no Martha Stewart cooking show or Rachel Ray thing that you've ever seen before.
"Then the angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in His hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread, and fire-- fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the angel of the Lord departed out of his sight."
OK, what in the world? I love the ending of that verse. It's just like, OK, here's all this meal. Gideon goes in the house, I got to prepare this meal. This guy's going to-- who knows what he's going to do. And then the angel of the Lord touches it with a staff, and it just poof, it's gone. He was a gentleman because he said actually take all that stuff out of the bowls. I don't want to burn them. That's nice china, I don't want you to get that ruined. And then it just like consumes, and then he's just gone. He's all, a deuce, I'm out. Proved myself, I'm gone. Read this next verse. It's just hysterical. So what is it, verse 22.
"Now Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord."
Yeah, I think like somebody hands you a staff and fire comes out and consumes this offering that you give them, ah, good perception. Very wise of you, Gideon. Now Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord.
'So Gideon said, alas, O Lord God, for I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face. Then the Lord said to him, peace be with you. Do not fear. You shall not die. So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it The Lord is Peace. And to this day, still in Ophrah of the Abies, it is there."
So Gideon asked for this sign, and he is kind of struggling with his faith. And he is like, I don't know, like God just kind of showed up, and I don't know if He's going to keep His word. And I don't know if it really is Him. And so he tests, and the angel of the Lord does this thing with the stick and the fire.
And what does that remind you of? Like there's an offering on a rock and it's consumed by a fire. Reminds you of maybe like the temple or the Tabernacle at this point? People would bring their meat. They'd bring their offering. They would lay it on the altar, and it would be consumed by fire, and it would be consumed by God. And it was an offering, it was a sacrifice. And so right in Gideon's backyard, he has just like this tiny little tabernacle set up. And God shows Himself faithful, and God is patient with Gideon's doubt.
The second thing that we're going to see is that God asks him to break Baal or break a Ba'al, as you would say. So let's look at verse 25.
"Now it came to pass the same night that the Lord said to him, take your father's young bull, the second bull of seven years old and tear down the altar of Ba'al that your father has and cut down the wooden image that is beside it. And build an altar to the Lord instead, your God on top of this rock in the proper arrangement. And take the second bull and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood, the image of which you shall cut down. So Gideon took 10 men from among his servants and did as the Lord had said to him. But because he feared his father's household and the men of the city too much to do it by day, he did it by night."
One of the first things that God commanded the children of Israel to do when they came into this land was to tear down the idols. And really, the evil that they continued doing-- because it says they did evil in the sight of the Lord-- the evil that they were doing was worshipping these different idols. They would worship these false gods, and they would have these different altars and these idols erected so that they could go to them and they'd worship.
And so his father had an altar to the false God, Ba'al. And God says, hey, I want you to go and I want you to do as I first commanded. I want you to clear that out. I want you to take it away. God gives Gideon his first task to complete, his first opportunity for obedience. And I want to say, you know, Gideon gets a lot of flack. Even in the Bible, it kind of seems like it's like, well, he didn't do it during the day because he was afraid of his father's household. He did it at night. He went all Zero Dark Thirty, like SEAL team six went in there with his night vision goggles, and was all, and cut that altar down, burn it, put the bull on there, fire goes up. I imagine like once the fire goes up, I don't know, maybe fires were just so common, nobody noticed the fire. But who knows. It was nighttime.
So a lot of people give him flack. But I think it should be pointed out, and we should be inspired by the fact that he was obedient at all. And it wasn't convenient for him to be obedient. And you know, obedience is so much more important than making a show of how you're being obedient. Jesus gave a parable, and the essence of it was this. It's better if somebody says no and ends up doing it in the long run that thing that they've been asked to do than the person that says, yeah, I'll do that, I'll do that, and never ends up doing it.
And so obedience, I think, is to be honored. We're kind of reading a bit of Gideon's eulogy here. We're kind of reading his biography right here. And I do a lot of funerals, and so I hear a lot of eulogies. And it kind of gets me thinking about what I want to be said in my eulogy, which is weird and it's like, ooh, what a creepy guy this is. But it gets me thinking.
And I think at the end of my life, if I could say that I was simply obedient to Jesus, that I loved God in my heart and I was obedient to Jesus, I would love that as a eulogy. But you hear a lot of eulogies. And it's like people are struggling to find the words to say anything good about their family member or their friend. They're saying, well, maybe he was kind of like a nice guy. He liked the Dallas Cowboys. Or he was a big, big Steelers fan.
It hit me the other day, we kind of have the opportunity to write our own eulogy. Because you're writing your eulogy right now by the way that you live and the things that you do. Sure, somebody else might pen it down, and type it into a computer, print out the sheet, and read it. But they're going to print that sheet of paper out based off of the decisions that you made.
And so I just wondered if we're living lives that are worth writing about. I wonder if we're living lives that are worth reading about. I wonder if we're living lives where people would be able to say at the end of it, man, that person was just obedient. That person stepped forward, took steps of faith when it wasn't comfortable. He was obedient when it wasn't convenient. And we're going to see that maybe sometimes obedience will cost you your social status. Maybe it's going to cost you your social life.
In a second, we're going to see that people want to kill Gideon because he did this. And verse 28 says "and when the men of the city arose early in the morning, there was the altar of Ba'al torn down, and the wooden image that was beside it was cut down. And the second bull was being offered on the altar which had been built. So they said to one another, who has done this thing? And when they had inquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing. Then the men of the city said to Joash, bring out your son that he may die. Because he has torn down the altar of Ba'al and because he has cut down the wooden image that was beside it."
Man, how far the quote, unquote "people of God" have come, the people of God wanting to kill somebody for being obedient to God. And the craziest irony of this is that God had put Gideon in place to be their savior. God had put Gideon in place to be their great deliverer. And this was actually an act of deliverance for those people, and all they want to do is kill him. And I think we would be crazy to not see the parallel of this with Christ that the very One who came to this earth to bring salvation to mankind was killed by mankind. Because we didn't want to hear it.
How wild a thought. And I even think about the people, as Jesus was hanging on the cross, nails through His wrists and His feet, a thorn digging into His skull, people mocking Him. If He's God, if You're really God, why don't You come down from there? Come down from that cross and rescue Yourself. Jesus could have easily done that. But the reason that He stayed staked to that wood was because He wanted to save the very people that were mocking Him.
And imagine if these people here-- bring out your son so that we can kill him-- imagine if they would have gotten their wish. They wouldn't have been delivered from the Midianites. They would have killed the very one that was trying to save them. So Joash offers some wisdom. And we've only got a few more minutes so we're going to kind of fly through this. I hope that's OK.
Verse 31, Joash, Gideon's father, says to all those who were standing there, he says, "would you plead for Ba'al? Would you save him? Let the one who would plead for him be put to death by morning. If Ba'al is god, if he is god, let him plead for himself because his altar has been torn down. Therefore on that day, he called him Jerubbaal saying, let Ba'al plead against him because he has torn down his altar."
This is just good wisdom. If Ba'al is really God, then let him fight his own battles.
Verse 33, "then all the Midianites, and the Amalekites, and the people of the east gathered together, and they crossed over and encamped in the valley of Jezreel. But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon. Then he blew his trumpet and the Abies, the Abiezrites gathered behind him. And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh who also gathered behind him. He also sent messengers to Asher, Zebulon, and Naphtali, and they came up to meet them."
So the Midianites are preparing for battle. Gideon blows his trumpet. He sends out a bunch of army recruiters. He gathers 32,000 guys to fight with him. Verse 36, "so Gideon said to God, if You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said, look I shall 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 shall know that You will save Israel by my hand."
So Gideon is again kind of doubting, OK, God are You really, really, really going to come through? I'm going to throw this fleece out, and if it's wet and all the ground is dry, then I'll believe You're in it. So that happens, and then to summarize the next few verses, he says, OK, but one more test. This is like Google 2-step authentication process. I'm going to send You a text message, God. If you write the right code back, then I know it's really You. So the first night, OK, God comes through and the fleece is wet. He rings out a bowlful of water-- weird details, but they're in the Bible. I love it. And the second night, he says, OK, now I want the ground to be wet and the fleece to be dry. And God does that.
And what I love about this is that God is patient with him. You know, God knows His frame that he is but dust. And He's patient, and He's gracious. God did not have to go through all of this to prove Himself. Now let me just say this-- because maybe some of you are struggling like, oh God, what job should I take. Let the person call at 3:43 in the afternoon, and then I will know it's Your will. And I would just encourage you, don't do that. And maybe some of you, it's just like, if the leaf falls from that tree at the right time-- that's like, Beauty and the Beast stuff, that's not Bible stuff.
And let me just say this-- Gideon is never commended for doing this. Though God cooperated and said, OK, I understand that you're weak, and I understand that you need this satisfied, Gideon's never commended for it. He's also never trying to find out what direction he should go. He's just looking for confirmation of his calling. And so let me just say this. You don't have to look for signs. You don't have to look for falling leaves.
God's given you His will when God gave you His word. See, the will of God is hidden in the word of God. And so if you open the Word of God, you spend time daily in the Word of God, then you're not going to be having a question about everything in your life. You're just going to be able to follow Him because you trust His character, you know the promises that He's given you, and you know what He's called every Christian to do. And as you do that, you're going to find satisfaction, you're going to find direction because He has given you that.
He's also given you His Spirit who dwells inside you. And Jesus said, it's actually better that I go away so that I can send this Holy Spirit who's comparable to me, He's another advocate like me. And He will help you and be with you forever. The Spirit of Truth-- you know Him for He lives with you and will be in you.
Hey, we've only got a few minutes left. And so I just want to hammer out three-- we'll just do two takeaways real quick. We'll do two takeaways real quick. The first one is this, deal with internal idols before external enemies. You say you want a revolution. We all want to change the world. Just kidding-- that was a Beatles reference. Sorry, nobody got that. I thought maybe the Beatles were a big-- OK, we all want to see revival in our land, don't we? We want to see restoration. We want to see God do amazing, crazy, big, huge things. We want to see that revival.
I think we should be working towards that. But before Gideon went into battle against 135 Midianites, you know what he did? He had to deal with the idol in his father's house first. And how foolish it was for his dad to worship something that was made by hand instead of worshipping the maker of man.
Nike, Apple, Disney, Netflix-- all things that are made by human hands that are fairly easy for us to worship, fairly easy for us to make idols in our lives. And I'm not saying like-- oh, if you've got Netflix-- I've got Netflix. But I'm just saying, if it becomes an idol, if looking at sneakers all night and trying to buy the nicest sneakers, and always have the best, and always looking for status, and if something has become an idol, I would encourage you, take serious steps to cut those things out of your life. Because idolatry, worshipping anything other than God-- first off, it's not going to satisfy you, and second off, it's going to keep you from the fullness of all the land that God does have for you to take.
And so deal with those internal idols before you try taking on the external enemies of this world.
The second thing, and I'll leave you with this, is be the answer to your own prayer. Be the answer to your own prayer. Gideon, in the first few verses of this passage, is crying out, God, if You're really with us, why haven't we seen these miracles. I'd really love to see some deliverance. I'd really love to see You do some amazing things on behalf of the children of Israel. And God says, I'm calling you, buddy. So Gideon steps up. God is with him. If you read through chapter 7, chapter 8, you're going to see there's some pretty phenomenal things that happen. But it wasn't Gideon praying, OK, God, send somebody, send somebody, send somebody, and then never answer the call when it came. He got up and said, OK, I'm going to do that.
And so for you, what's burning in your heart? What things do you hate that are happening? Maybe for you, you're just so angry that New Mexico is the leader in childhood hunger. Maybe for you, you hate that our education is so messed up in this state. And so you're praying, God, fix that, fix that, fix that, fix that. What are you going to do to answer that prayer that you're petitioning? What's burning in your heart? Take one step. Take one step in faith in the direction to seeing that problem fixed.
God, we give this time to You. We give ourselves to You. We give the rest of this night to You. And we're just amazed. We're amazed that You would come, spread Your arms open for those of us who have mocked You, who have hated You, who have sinned against You. It was our sin that put You on that cross, and we're so grateful that You suffered that cross for Our sake. We just want to say thank You even though we're ashamed of our sin. But we know that we don't have to live in shame because repentance brings refreshing. And you're a good God, and we don't have to live in regret. Because You've got greater things ahead, and You're transforming us from glory to glory. God, we ask that You would be glorified in our lives. We pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen.
What binds us together is devotion to worshipping our Heavenly Father, dedication to studying His Word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.