The Progression of Faith: Gideon's Story
Hebrews 11:32-34; Judges 6-8
What’s your faith-story? With all the time spent in Hebrews 11, it is evident that those who walk with God are continually cultivating the soil of faith and are seeking to produce a harvest of fruitful living. These stories of people and their faith have been given to us in an encapsulated biography. Their stories can fill more than just the sentence or two used. Now we arrive at a listing of individuals and events that speak of faith. Now our writer says he was running out of time to elaborate on each person or event that he will bullet point in the remainder of this chapter. However, there are certain of these individuals and events that we need to examine more fully for they speak to our living in today’s world and are lessons from the Old Testament remembered in the New Testament that should influence how we who follow Christ are to live today. For those who know the Bible well, these names and phrases used in our text are a reminder of the stories. However, if these names and stories are not familiar to you, well, stay with us as we glean from some of theses stories and phrases.
Take for instance the life of Gideon. It was not uncommon for Israel to fall under the rule of an enemy who serves as a rebuke of God. In the day of Gideon, fear drove the Israelites into the dens and caves of the mountains and strongholds that could be mustered. In the time of the harvest, the oppressive Midianite army would gang up with the Amalekites and other eastern armies to battle the people of God. Using the blitzkrieg of camel warfare, they would devastate the land like locust due to their numbers and their abuse of the land. The enemy would destroy the produce of the Israelite fields and take the sheep, oxen, and donkeys so that Israel had not sustenance or means of providing. When Israel cried out to God for deliverance, through an unnamed prophet God reminded them of His past blessings and of the profound fact that they had not listened to Him but had turned their hearts to the Canaanite gods of fertility. No wonder the produce of the land was being pillaged by the Midianites and others (6:1-10). This is why Gideon is threshing grain at a winepress located under his father’s oak tree. The press was a hideaway for Gideon to thresh wheat and evade the Midianites.
The questioning of God brings humility (6:11-16). Called a valiant warrior/a mighty man of valor, Gideon, hiding in a winepress, isn’t so sure the title fits. We must remember, it isn’t how we see ourselves but how God sees us. Gideon, who is the youngest child from a small family of the tribe of Manasseh, has a few questions. 1) Who am I to do this? Since he is the youngest and from the smallest family-tribe, aren’t there others better qualified? 2) If God is with us, why all this trouble? 3) Where are the miracles of God of which I have heard and why do we not see similar miracles from the hand of God? Gideon’s conclusion to his query is that “God has brought us up but He has abandoned us”. God answers Gideon “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” (6:16) God does not answer each question individually. Instead, God answers the questions with a promise--”I will be with you” and you will be as one man. Now the army of Gideon and God will be one. God is all about unity. He wants His people to prevail but it is as one and not as separate individuals. This is the problem for Israel. They have been doing what is right in their own eyes (anarchists) and now they must act as one (united/community/family/army). Gideon may become a leader of God’s people but it will be God who gives the victory. There is nothing more humbling than to come to the end of our own strength and abilities and at that place meet God.
The proving of God brings worship. Gideon doesn’t test God but rather gives God an opportunity to express His work. 1) It began with a sacrifice. A young goat prepared, unleavened bread made from 22 and one half pounds of meal, and a pot of broth are presented much like the meal prepared by Abraham for the Angel of the Lord (Genesis 18). It is a sacrificial food gift given with the desire that it would be received. The meat and bread are laid on a rock and broth is poured out and, when the angel of God touches them with the end of the staff, fire consumes them. Gideon realizes that he has come face to face with the LORD (YHWH). He built an altar and named it The LORD (God) of Peace. He then pulls down the altar of Baal at his father’s house and built an altar to the LORD. He then makes an offering to God using the wood from the pagan altar for the fire. Burning the pagan altar was an act of shaming the false god and any who would follow a hollow deity. It as a confirmation of the living God and an act of obedience that could only be from a heart that worshipped God. 2) His worship continued with a sign--a fleece of wool, first wet with the ground around it dry and then the fleece dry with the ground wet. Today we do not put out a fleece of some material nature expecting the supernatural. Jesus reminds us that God does not want us to seek signs but to seek Him (Matthew 12:38-39; 24:24) but rather we seek God with our whole heart looking in anticipation for His work and seeing Him respond--that is as much worship as making an offering.
The power of God brings victory. Gideon may have wanted God to take care of the problem but God wanted Gideon to act. The honor roll of history is of men who chose to be in God’s minority rather than the world’s majority. General Gideon began with 32,000 people but God said this was too many. God would give the victory. So those afraid and trembling were allowed to go home. Coronel Gideon now has 10,000 remaining. Once again God says, “too many”. At the water, the number is reduced to 300 when these drank with an eye to safety and the rest knelled to drink water from the stream. Captain Gideon is now ready for the battle. It doesn’t matter our rank or position. The battle belongs to the LORD. In fact Gideon on reconnaissance hears the dream of a Midianite that a loaf of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and leveled a tent. Barley? Why not wheat, since it had more value? God commanded the dividing of the 300 into three companies of 100 each with a trumpet, an empty pitcher, and a torch for each man. On Gideon’s command, a uniting of trumpets sounds, pitchers breaking and torches held high with a cry “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon,” the 135,000 Midianite soldiers attacked one another and fled as their leaders were caught and defeat was assured. It is God’s victory, won in God’s way, by God’s plan and God’s power. Faith accepts that it is not by our work but by His mercies that He has saved us and is maturing us as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Faith is our victory… the presence of God’s power to conquer, triumph, overcome any enemy attack or any enemy that has settled into our lives--addiction and its enslavement; passions and temptations; abuse and the enslavement to the abuser; ridicule, mocking, or persecution, threatening trials or diseases. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world--our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (I John 5:4-5).
Can we live in faith as did those who were before us? Let us never be discouraged for God’s arm is not shortened that He cannot save nor is His power less that it was. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He never grows old, sick, or weary. He is a Father who is at the ready to come to the aid of those who call on Him, who move forward in faith to obey Him, and who are ready to see Him in life. That’s what Christ does, He shows us the Father (John 14:7-14). Let us never be discouraged because of our number. God doesn’t need a large number to accomplish His purpose. Faith can be misplaced in large numbers or a large building, or those who depend on education, skill, and experience. The important thing is that we be available to God, trust His promises and His plan and seek His victory.