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Are You a Gideon?
By Brian Pepper
It was in 1940 that the New Zealand Armed Forces first moved into Fiji in full force. It was a hectic time. Almost overnight a new settlement sprang up. The men had to accustom themselves to a damp sticky tropical heat which was so different from the snow bound military camp they had just come from. The Medical Section took over the Suva Girls Grammar School as their hospital. And, it is right there that our story really begins.
Most people have the idea that the Medical Unit is made up of perfect gentlemen, men who because of their conscience refuse to have a part in the slaying of their fellowmen.
But I want to say that it would have been hard to imagine a tougher company of men than those who were stationed at the Suva Girls Grammar School. Some were out and out Communists. Others had been warders in Mental hospitals and they were real tough.
Somehow when I think of that young man I have the impression that Gideon was just like that. I suppose most of you have read the story. It never fails to thrill my soul.
In Judges 6:2 we read, "And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains and caves, and strong holds."
Things were tough; there was no question of this. In order to save their lives the Hebrews had to leave their own homes and live in mountain hideouts and caves.
The Midianites every now and then would sweep over the land confiscating the crops and driving off all the farm animals they could find.
In verse 6 we read, "And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord because of the Midianites."
After losing their harvests for seven successive years the Israelites were on the verge of starvation. And right here I want to say that Israel was not suffering because God refused to help them; but rather because they had turned their backs on God. Now they were desperate and in their desperation they remembered God.
It is rather sad that things had come to this. But somehow they thought of God’s leading in the past and the wonderful way He had helped them.
Unfortunately this happens so often. During the last war there was a very popular expression, "You will never find an atheist in a foxhole.” Time and time again, when a man reaches his extremity he turns to God. And the wonderful thing is that God will hear him. I think it is wonderful the way God will answer a man who ignores Him in the good times and pleads with Him in dire extremity.
Judges 6:8 says, "That the Lord sent a prophet unto the children of Israel".
Verse 10. And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice."
God’s message was one of rebuke, one of censure. As much as to say, "You didn’t bother about Me when things were going well and now you are desperate you are singing out for help." However the prophet's voice met with a favourable response from the people.
Verse 12, And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour."
Did you notice how the Angel addressed Gideon. “Thou mighty man of valour.” This would suggest that Gideon had already distinguished himself by his bravery in war.
God’s workers whether they be ministers or laymen, need to be like Nehemiah who said, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down." God desperately needs earnest, consecrated workers in His cause.
Gideon was not only a man of valour, but he was also a thinking man. It is quite apparent that he had been reflecting on the reason why Israel was in such a desperate plight and unable to defend their own country. As he thought about it he worked out a plan to drive out the invaders.
Verse 13. "And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”
In other words, Gideon asks rather ironically, how is it that I am forced to beat out a little wheat in a wine press when I should be reaping an abundant harvest in the fields? And that was quite a question.
The Exodus from Egypt was always the glorious starting point in a recital of God’s mighty works in leading Israel. "At that time," Gideon says, "It was obvious that God was with us but apparently He is not with us now or the same miracles would be seen among us.”
There is no doubt that Gideon recognized that it was because Israel had turned their backs on God that His presence had been withdrawn. Gideon, despite his protests, had the necessary faith to be a real leader.
Gideon had grave doubts as to whether he would be accepted as a leader. He well knew that the people did not expect leaders to be chosen from the less important tribes. Also he was apparently the youngest of the family.
But despite his fears God had chosen him and in verse 16 God tells him that he would destroy the Midianites in one powerful encounter.
Even with this assurance of success, there must have been a lingering doubt in Gideon’s mind for he asked for a sign from God. The miracle that the Angel performed in his presence dispelled any doubts that he might have had and now he was ready to do the LORD’s bidding.
First, all of Baal’s altars must be destroyed. This was the first step and the most import ant. Every idol must be removed before we can claim God’s blessing. There are so many idols that stand between us and God, such as our possessions Self-indulgence, popularity, and so you can go down the list.
Gideon realized that it would be impossible to carry out his task by day for there would be an outcry and a contest inevitable. He well knew that with the limited force at his disposal that it would take hours to accomplish the task. He not only had to tear down Baal’s altar which was a massive thing, but he had to erect on the rock a new altar for the LORD. This was quite an undertaking.
Judges 6:29. "And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they enquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing."
Someone betrayed his secret. The others knowing that his sympathies were not with Baal naturally would be suspicious of him.
Verse 30. "Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it."
It is very difficult to understand how the Israelites could become so attached to Baal that they were willing to kill one of their own kinsmen who had so courageously destroyed the altar of Baal and built an altar to the LORD in its place.
But right here God raises up a champion. Gideon’s own father throws out a challenge. Verse 31. "And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar."
It is easy to see why Israel was in such desperate straits; for they were ready to kill a man who stood out for the God of heaven.
Verse 33. "Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel."
Verse 34. "But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet: and Abi-ezer was gathered after him."
Verse 37. "Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said."
Sure enough the fleece gathered water and the ground around it was dry. On thinking it over Gideon felt that after all this is what one would expect since naturally wool draws water. After all it might not be a sign at all. So he asks God for another sign. This time the fleece was dry and the ground wet.
God knew that Gideon needed a lot of faith and these signs would help to develop his faith. When a person’s faith is strong, he will depend less and less upon signs or miracles.
The LORD tells Gideon that he has too many men. Gideon had 32,000 The Midianites 135,000 Gideon’s faith must have been severely tested when the LORD told him that his army was too big.
The fearful and the cowardly were invited to leave the ranks because should they desert during the middle of battle it would cause others to flee also. It would be demoralizing.
Two-thirds left; which is a sad commentary on how idolatry had destroyed the faith of the people.
Verse 5. "So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink."
The people having been led to the brook evidently expected to cross immediately and to advance to the camp of the enemy. A few were eager to begin the engagement and as they crossed the brook they merely scooped up a little water in their hands. Others were fearful of the battle and having little hope of victory they saw an excuse to tarry. They knelt down and took their time in drinking their fill.
Those who hurriedly took a little water in their hands numbered only 300. That is a very small army. 300 to take on 135,000. And yet the LORD promised that with these few He would bring about the defeat of the Midianites.
The sifting served to single out those who were men of courage and faith. They had faith enough to believe that with God on their side success could be theirs even with such numbers. Israel had a great victory.
Gideon and his tiny army followed up this initial victory and wrought havoc among the enemies of Israel. It was a wonderful triumph because God gave the victory.
First Gideon had to tear down the altar of Baal before he could set up an altar to God. Baal worship does not alter very much. It is basically the same today; the worship of the temporal things; those little idols that we set up in our hearts. Before we can have success in our spiritual life these must go.
There is a rather encouraging fact in that Gideon, although he was the least in Israel, God used him in a mighty way; which shows that God is no respecter of persons. He will use anyone regardless of their qualifications or social standing.
You will notice that when Baal's altar was overthrown there was opposition. You can expect it. It is rather a strange thing, something I can never understand. When you try to do the right thing and follow the leading of God even your closest relatives will object. It seems as if they would much sooner have you as a real heathen than as a Christian.
Often as the opposition increases, we feel as did Gideon, that we need a sign to prove that God is still with us. The Devil comes in like a flood. He tries to persuade us that we are not worthy of the kingdom; that our past has been too black, our sins too many. But God answers our first sign. However like Gideon we begin to doubt, was it just a coincidence? Then He answers with another sign. God knows that our faith must grow.
I believe that there is a lesson to each one in Gideon’s army. At first it was quite a sizeable force of men. Then God reduced the number until it was only a small number. The men who were left were men of courage and of character. God wants men and women of character and courage.