THE MAN OF VALOR
Same Enemy, Different Name
The book of Judges is filled with the familiar phrase, "The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord." Forty years of peace and freedom did not make Israel a grateful people who loved their God so much that they obeyed him with hearts of gladness. Instead, God's people loved themselves and chose other gods to serve that could not save them and continued in their idolatry capitulating to the people around them. Sin always brings consequences, and for Israel's sin, they were given into the hand of Midian for seven years. The oppression of Midian drove the Israelites to make their homes in caves. Israel would plant their crops just to survive and like a plague of locusts the Midianites and the Amalekites would descend on them, leaving them no means of sustenance and the people struggled just to make it to another day. Poverty, violence, and hunger was the way of life for seven years. The people repent and plead with the Lord for his help. God responds by sending a prophet to declare Israel's sin and guilt before the Lord. The people just wanted out of their circumstances, but God gives them what they need which is a knowledge of their sin and a reminder of his holiness. Israel had abandoned the God that brought them out of slavery and from the hands of those who would oppress them. Israel enjoyed a unique covenant relationship with God who bound himself to them. God saved his people, and he commanded that his people be faithful to him only. God's people were forbidden from worshipping the gods of Canaan, but they had not obeyed, and they had broken the covenant. This word of rebuke is God's grace and is intended to bring about repentance.
Why Then Has All This Happened
The prophet spoke, the people repented, and the Lord came to deliver his people. The angel of the Lord came to a man named Gideon while he was threshing wheat in a winepress. One does not usually thresh wheat in a winepress but desperate times called for subterfuge because of the Midianites. The angel of the Lord, God, returned after leaving Israel so long ago (Judges 2:1-5). The angel addresses Gideon as a mighty man of valor as he tries to conceal himself from his enemies. Gideon dismisses the greeting and rejects the notion that God is with him. Gideon expresses his doubts, sorrows, and fears. The questions come quickly in succession as Gideon struggles to reconcile the world around him with the truth of God. Why are things like this? Why doesn't God end Israel's suffering by his power as he had in the past? He launches a rhetorical question that is followed by his accusation against God. Gideon believed that God had forsaken his people and now they were left alone to fend for themselves. There is a connection between God and Gideon's present circumstances but it was not God's unfaithfulness, it was Israel's sin that brought about God's judgment by the hand of the Midianites. God divinely commissions Gideon to go and save Israel. Gideon is filled with doubt, and he discloses his misgivings about the mission. Gideon's clan is the weakest, and he is the least in his family. God assures Gideon of his presence and guarantees victory, explaining that it will be as if Gideon is only fighting one man.
Here's Your Sign
Gideon asks for a sign to confirm the authority and the identity of the angel. Gideon entreats the angel to stay while he goes to get an offering to place for him and the angel agrees. If one reads of an angel that will receive worship, that angel must be understood to be divine. Gideon lives in difficult, and the meal that he prepares as an offering is substantial. Gideon returns to the angel who is waiting and presents his offering. The angel instructs him to place the meat with the cakes on a rock and then pour the broth over the top. The angel of the Lord touched the offering with his staff, and suddenly fire erupted from the rock consuming the offering, and the angel vanished before his eyes. Gideon knows that he has seen the Lord and cries out to the Lord for mercy. He is petrified with fear believing that he would die for seeing the angel of the Lord face to face. The Lord comforts Gideon and assures him that he will not perish and speaks peace over Gideon who immediately responds in worship. He quickly builds an altar calling it, "The Lord is peace."
Later that night, God directed Gideon to destroy his father's altar to Baal and the Asherah that was beside it. The test of faith is obedience and Gideon is now facing the enormous challenge of ministering to his family. Gideon must build an altar to the Lord his God and offer a seven-year-old bull using the wood from the Asherah as fuel for the fire. Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord commanded under cover of night because he was afraid to attempt such an audacious act during the day. The next morning the village was unsettled by these acts and they sought to discover the identity of the perpetrator. Once it was determined that Gideon was guilty of these acts, the town leaders demanded that Gideon's father hand him over to be executed for his sacrilege. Joash's faith seems to be rekindled by Gideon's actions, and he will not consent to the demands of the town leaders. He defies Baal and challenges him to respond with power if he is truly a god. Gideon was given the nickname Jerubbaal meaning that Baal would contend with Gideon.
The Midianites and the Amalekites entered the land intent on executing their annual raid and the camped in the valley of Jezreel. God covered Gideon, and he stepped into his new role as a leader of God's people. He sounded the trumpet and sent messengers throughout the land summoning them to join the army. Gideon asks the Lord for a sign confirming his presence and God graciously and patiently granted his request not once, but twice. God delights in strengthening those who are struggling with belief, and it is far better to confess weakness while asking for strength than to go into battle with counterfeit faith.
Things To Consider:
- How does God rebuke and calls his people to repentance today?
- What should we do when we are walking in patterns of disobedience? How?
- Why do we question God when things are difficult?
- Why do we struggle to take God at his word?
- How can looking at our weakness be idolatry?
- Why must we rely on the Lord?
- What offerings should we bring to the Lord? Why?
- How can the Lord be peace in chaos and difficulty?
- Why is living out our faith at home such a challenge?
- How does God strengthen weak faith?