Today we are continuing our conversation through Judges. The heart, the focus of this book is that something needs to change.
The same cycle happens over and over and over again:
The point of the book is not to make people feel bad for failing, or to say that failure is the end of all hope. The point of the book is not to make the judge the hero or to make you feel good because you are not as bad as whichever person. The point in the book–in the repetition–is to see and feel that something needs to change!
Also, it was not just a repetition of the cycle; it was a spiral deeper and deeper, farther and farther. Something needed to change. We needed a messiah, Jesus.
Last week we ended with the conversation, what changes when Jesus is introduced to the cycle? This is foundational to faith. The “answers” can feel easy to give, but walking in it Is complex.
Today, the cycle continues with Gideon. This is a great story, but another nuance of the cycle shines in this story, this judge. Something needs to change, and… We will get to the “and.”
Here’s a dialogue question to get us going today, giving us a shared starting point, building connection with who you are sitting with, and intentionally engaging us in the learning process:
How do you tend to respond in a moment when you are facing impossible odds?
So far in Judges, we saw the start of the persistent cycle with Othniel and Ehud, and we saw the unlikely heroes of Debrah and Jael. And today, we see the importance of the recognition of God’s power.
Again, this is all building towards the need for something to change. The something that needs to change is definitely under God’s power, not in our capability.
Before we walk into Judges 6-8, let’s take our conversation a step further.
How do you respond when you are asked, told, and/or expected to do the impossible?
There is a theme in Scripture of God’s empowering. There is what a person could possibly do in his or her best moment (or in his or her weakest moment). And then (the theme) God fills in. He sustains, provides, does, magnifies, multiplies… This will shine in the narrative today, but feel the theme in greater scripture:
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. (Psalm 54:4)
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:19-20)
Remember our first conversations: How do you respond to the impossible? How do you respond to being asked to do the impossible? This is going to be a key reflective moment as we process Gideon’s experience in Judges 6-8:
How does God help you/people when you/people are facing the impossible?
Here are the characters in this story in Judges 6-8:
Gideon: The judge. The least of the least. The one that is hard to convince. The doubter. The eventual great leader. The eventual one that hands off the spiral to repeat again.
The Midianite army: The oppressors. A super power. Unbeatable.
The Israelite Army: Starting at 30,000, most were sent home until only 300 remained.
A dry fleece (or rug), a wet fleece, the angel of the Lord, and Joash, who was Gideon’s dad.
So here’s the story of Gideon from Judges 6-8:
The Israelites again did evil in the eyes of the Lord. For seven years the Midianites oppressed them. Because of the oppression, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in the mountain clefts (hiding out). Whenever the Israelites planted or built, the Midianites and Amalekites would steal it. The Israelites were so impoverished that they cried out to God for help.
An angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, who was fearfully preparing grain in secret in a winepress, hoping that the Midianites wouldn’t steal it. The angel said, “The Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior.” Gideon’s response: whatever. If God was with us, this all wouldn't have happened. The angel told him, go in the strength you have and save Israel out of the Midianites’ hand. Am I not sending you? Again, Gideon responded, whatever. My clan is the least and I am the least in my family.
The angel persisted: I will be with you! You will WIN!! Gideon: If I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign. Then Gideon prepared an offering and presented it on a blanket and placed it on a rock as the Angel of the Lord commanded. The angel touched it with the tip of his staff and it exploded and was consumed by fire. Gideon FREAKED OUT: I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face; I am going to die!
The angel told him he wouldn’t die and commanded him to prepare another offering, this time by tearing down the Asherah pole to use as the wood to burn it. The Asherah pole was a religious element in the Isrealites’ worship of the false god Baal. Gideon did it, but he was afraid so he did it at night.
The people were upset. Who did this?? They figured it out with careful investigation and Gideon was sentenced to death. But Joash, Gideon’s dad, defended his son: If Baal is really god, he can defend himself. This gave them pause, because Baal has not been “working” so well at protecting them from the Midianites and the Amalekites. They called Gideon “Jerub-Baal” or “Let Baal contend with him.”
Now the Midiantes and the Amalekits joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel. This was oppression at their doorstep again.
Gideon blew a trumpet and gathered an army. But even with his boldness to gather an army, Gideon was still doubtful. He asked God to give him a sign with a fleece laid on the ground–the first day, that the fleece be wet and the ground dry; the second day that the fleece be dry and the ground wet. Both happened just as he asked.
Early in the morning, Gideon and all his men camped near the enemy armies. God told Gideon that he had too many men, and if He delivered Midian into his hands, they would think the victory was theirs and not God’s. He told Gideon to tell his army that if anyone was afraid, they could go home. Twenty-two thousand men left. Ten thousand remained.
God told Gideon there were still too many men. He said to take them down to the water to drink and send home anyone who scoops it up in their hands, keeping only those that drink like dogs, lapping it up. Only 300 men remained.
During the night, the Lord said to Gideon, Get up. I am going to give the Midianites over to you. But if you are afraid, go down to the camp and listen to what they say. It will be encouraging. So he went down to the camp. They were beyond count and their resources were beyond imagination, like the sand of the seashore. But when Gideon arrived, he heard two friends talking about a dream: A loaf of bread rolled down the hill into our camp and struck the tent and overturned it. The one hearing the dream replied, This can only mean one thing–we are going to be defeated by the Israelites! (Really?)
When Gideon heard the dream and interpretation he worshiped and called the army of 300 dog-drinkers to get ready for battle. He armed them with a trumpet, an empty jar, and a torch. At his command, all together they blew their trumpets, broke the jars, held up the torches, and shouted, “For the Lord and for Gideon!”
And the Midianites RAN. It was a miraculous victory.
The Israelits said to Gideon, Rule over us–you and your son and grandson. Gideon said No, the Lord will rule over you.
Why was it important that this be an obvious victory of God?
The repeated cycle in Judges is building and spiraling… and it is not over. It is getting deeper and deeper, pointing towards the need for something to change.
Christmas is coming, when we celebrate that change! Paul put it this way:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
So here’s a question for you: What has been a victory of God in your life, and/or what could be?
Remember Gideon’s questioning. Remember his doubt and fear, again and again. You can have those in this moment and the next. Not doubting or questioning is not the point. The point is that something needs to change: Jesus. This opens the door to the impact of the “something needs to change.”
What has been a victory of God in your life and what could be? *This does not have to be epic to be of God.
How does faith impact these moments/realities?
Take It Deeper Questions
- Read Judges 6.
- If a bully came to your house and broke your stuff, what would you try extra hard to keep from him or her?
- Why is it easy to be confident in your faith and then have no faith in quick succession?
- Why do people tend to despise moments of weakness?
- Why does God seem to thrive in moments of our weakness?
- How are you challenged, focused, encouraged, and/or confused by this text?
Bible Reading Plan
2 Chronicles 12
2 Chronicles 13
2 Chronicles 14
2 Chronicles 15
2 Chronicles 16