Extraordinary Christianity-judges 7
Extraordinary Christianity: Judges 7:1-22
The Koalas and Cubs were as evenly matched as any two soccer teams made up of five- and six-year-olds could be. In the first half of the game, neither team scored. The players scrambled all over the field in a clump, falling over their own feet, stumbling over the ball, kicking at it and missing. But none of them seemed to care. They were having fun. During the second half, the coach of the Koalas pulled out most of his starters and sent in his substitutes—except for Scotty, who was the goalie and one of the team’s best players. The game took a dramatic turn. Apparently the coach of the Cubs was playing to win, because he left his best players in the game. The Cubs took control of the contest and swarmed around Scotty, who was doing his best to guard the goal. Scotty was a good player but no match for the entire Cubs team. The little goalie gave it everything he had, recklessly throwing his body in front of incoming balls, trying to stop them. His parents cheered him on from the stands, yelling encouragement and advice. Eventually, though, the Cubs scored a goal. A few minutes later the Cubs scored on Scotty again. This infuriated him and he became a raging maniac—shouting, running, diving. With all of the stamina he could muster, he tried covering two opposing players at once, but it was no use. The Cubs scored again. After the third and fourth goals, Scotty’s demeanor changed. He could see it was no use. He completely lost hope. Desperate futility was written all over his face. In the stands, his father’s demeanor changed as well. He had been cheering on his son, but now he was feeling bad for him. He kept yelling, “That’s okay, hang in there, son,” but he was clearly feeling his son’s pain. After the fifth goal was scored, Scotty did what you would expect any six-year-old to do. He got so frustrated that he started crying. Huge crocodile tears rolled down both cheeks. He went to his knees, put his fists to his eyes and cried in anguish. He felt hopeless and brokenhearted.
Can you recall a moment in your life when you encountered an impossible situation?
· More times than not when God has a plan for us it will require us to take steps of faith, daring and risk.
· I don’t believe I have ever followed Gods leading that did not stretch me-that is in part how we know that a call is from God. God does not call us to easy tasks, but rather faith tasks.
· This is the case of the OT character named Gideon.
n Gideon was not a super hero
n He was extremely insecure in his abilities
n He was insecure in God’s abilities
n He was no different than any of us-just an ordinary man
· Before we can go much further we need to understand what was going on at the time:
n Israel did evil-Midianites took over for seven years.
n Israel cried out to God-He sent a prophet, the prophet is not named but tells them they do not deserve deliverance.
n Gideon is chosen to deliver the people-God tells Gideon that he will defeat the entire Midian army, but Gideon requires proof. He sets a meal before the Angel of God and the Angel consumes the meal with fire demonstrating that this is from God.
n Gideon then receives instruction from God to tear down the idols of Baal for which he almost losses his life.
n This act seems to bring to bear an imminent war, but God through the Holy Spirit enables Gideon to assemble an army to stand against the Midianites.
n It is at this time that Gideon doubts God and asks for a sign. It is at this time that God confirms his call for Gideon to defeat Midian through the test of the fleese.
We want to take up the story of Gideon and how it affects our lives at the point where a battle is going to take place. It is in this situation found in Judges 7:1-22 that we want to discover the way God works when he calls us to a task.
1. God Provides Impossible Situations (7:1-8)
7:1 Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and his men got up the next morning and camped near the spring of Harod. The Midianites were camped north of them near the hill of Moreh in the valley. 7:2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to hand Midian over to you. Israel might brag, ‘Our own strength has delivered us.’ 7:3 Now, announce to the men, ‘Whoever is shaking with fear may turn around and leave Mount Gilead.’” Twenty-two thousand men went home; ten thousand remained. 7:4 The Lord spoke to Gideon again, “There are still too many men. Bring them down to the water and I will thin the ranks some more. When I say, ‘This one should go with you,’ pick him to go; when I say, ‘This one should not go with you,’ do not take him.” 7:5 So he brought the men down to the water. Then the Lord said to Gideon, “Separate those who lap the water as a dog laps from those who kneel to drink.” 7:6 Three hundred men lapped; the rest of the men kneeled to drink water. 7:7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men who lapped I will deliver the whole army and I will hand Midian over to you. The rest of the men should go home.” 7:8 The men who were chosen took supplies and their trumpets. Gideon sent all the men of Israel back to their homes; he kept only three hundred men. Now the Midianites were camped down below in the valley.
· It is interesting that ‘Harod’ means ‘trembling’ as this was Gideon’s demeanor…
· It is important to understand the physical situation of the armies…
· After Gideon had gathered 32000 troops he had put together an army for which he more than likely felt had a chance against the Midianites.
· In the midst of Gideon’s plans God takes over and provides direction to Gideon.
n Those in fear could leave. Gideon lost 22000 men-2/3’s of his forces.
n God had Gideon direct the troops to drink water. Those who kneeled to drink were separated from those who lapped the water like a dog. A battle ready soldier would have probably kneeled to drink because it was a better position in case the enemy surprised them. Lapping would require the person to get in a position difficult to react quickly.
n It is those who lapped that God choose, reducing Gideon’s forces to 300.
n It is interesting that God choose those who were the most unlikely.
· We need to understand how Gideon was more than likely feeling. All his confidence had been taken away. He was shocked, dismayed and more than likely in despair. It is always important to understand that the characters of the Bible were human; they reacted much the same as us.
· In vs. 2 God provides the reasoning for reducing Gideon’s troops. God wants to make it clear who should get the honor for the victory that is to come.
· God in v. 7 assures a probably shocked and dismayed Gideon that the Midianites will be defeated, but as we will see this does not calm Gideon’s fears.
· When we step out in service for God, when we are called to a holy task there is some things to remember:
n God wants us to keep in mind that He is the one that has done the work. He may create an impossible situation in order for us to keep in proper perspective who is doing the work.
n God may be the author of the strains we face when we serve him.
n He wants us to remember he can use the most unlikely people.
n Despite the situation we are too remain obedient. Gideon carried out God’s instructions even though he knew it would make it difficult.
Payson beautifully writes: “I have been all my life like a child whose father wishes to fix his undivided attention. At first the child runs about the room, but his father ties up his feet. He then plays with his hands until they likewise are tied. Thus he continues to do, till he is completely tied up. Then, when he can do nothing else, he will attend to his father. Just so has God been dealing with me, to induce me to place my happiness in him alone. But I blindly continued to look for it here, and God has kept cutting off one source of enjoyment after another, till I find that I can do without them all and yet enjoy more happiness than ever in my life before.”
· This is what God can accomplish, when we are faced with impossible situations it can and should draw our attention to God. Depleting our confidence in ourselves is a goal in God’s interaction with his people for the purpose of having us recognize and live in God’s provision.
2. God Provides Confidence in impossible situations (7:9-15)
7:9 That night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up! Attack the camp, for I am handing it over to you. 7:10 But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with Purah your servant 7:11 and listen to what they are saying. Then you will be brave and attack the camp.” So he went down with Purah his servant to where the sentries were guarding the camp. 7:12 Now the Midianites, Amalekites, and the people from the east covered the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels could not be counted; they were as innumerable as the sand on the seashore. 7:13 When Gideon arrived, he heard a man telling another man about a dream he had. The man said, “Look! I had a dream. I saw a stale cake of barley bread rolling into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent so hard it knocked it over and turned it upside down. The tent just collapsed.” 7:14 The other man said, “Without a doubt this symbolizes the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God is handing Midian and all the army over to him.” 7:15 When Gideon heard the report of the dream and its interpretation, he praised God. Then he went back to the Israelite camp and said, “Get up, for the Lord is handing the Midianite army over to you!”
· Even though Gideon has received a tremendous blow to his perceived ability to carry out Gods commands, God still expects Gideon to carry it out.
· This is the case based on the fact that God never expects Gideon to do this alone.
· God is not ignorant of Gideon’s fear. God does take in account our concerns when we face impossible callings.
· In v. 10 we see a principle that can be taken from the text. That principle is that facing impossibilities is not one that has to be taken alone.
· V. 11 provides another insight and that is that when God places us in impossible situations we should understand that God is already at work. The context of this verse indicates that the Midianites were already experiencing nightmares regarding their fate in this war.
· The text in v. 12 again reminds us of the dire situation that Gideon is in. The Midianites had thousands of troops, an uncountable number of camels, they were as innumerable as the sand on a seashore. We can face situations just as this where there does not seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.
· After hearing this dream and the fact that God had assured him that from his spy mission he would understand God’s plan, Gideon was able to see how even though this could not be done, he could go ahead as long as his confidence remained in God.
· The natural outworking and positive outcome of assurance from God is that it redirects our attention to God. Directing our attention to God for all we have may be defined as praise.
· Another outworking of assurance of God is the ability to go ahead with God’s plan with confidence.
· There is more for us to remember when God calls us to situations that may seem to be impossible:
n God is compassionate for our feelings of despair and sense of being overwhelmed.
n We need each other. When we are in difficulty we need to lean on each other for comfort, confidence, accountability and encouragement. We can often go through hardships when we know that someone is standing along side of us.
n God may cause impossible situations for his glory but he also prepares the way for his glory to be shown.
n God wants to reassure us in our calling but it is important to note that we need to be open to seeking God’s assurance.
n The idea of God receiving all the honor should continue to be shown through our praise because God has provided the ability to follow his call.
John McKay, of the NFL, tells a story illustrating the supreme confidence of University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant: “We were out shooting ducks, and finally, after about three hours, here comes one lonely duck. The Bear fires. And that duck is still flying today. But Bear watched the duck flap away, looked at me and said, ‘John, you are witnessing a genuine miracle. There flies a dead duck!’”
· God may ask us to do incredible, stretching, impossible, overwhelming things. He may even place obstacles in our path so that the glory can only go to him. In the midst of this though he will give us the confidence, and assurance to carry it out.
3. God Provides the victory in impossible situations (7:16-22)
7:16 He divided the three hundred men into three units. He gave them all trumpets and empty jars with torches inside them. 7:17 He said to them, “Watch me and do as I do. Watch closely! I am going to the edge of the camp. Do as I do! 7:18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, you also blow your trumpets all around the camp. Then say, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon!’” 7:19 Gideon took a hundred men to the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guards. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars they were carrying. 7:20 All three units blew their trumpets and broke their jars. They held the torches in their left hand and the trumpets in their right. Then they yelled, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 7:21 They stood in order all around the camp. The whole army ran away; they shouted as they scrambled away. 7:22 When the three hundred men blew their trumpets, the Lord caused the Midianites to attack one another with their swords throughout the camp. The army fled to Beth Shittah on the way to Zererah. They went to the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 7:23 Israelites from Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh answered the call and chased the Midianites.
· After Gideon has been given the confidence to go ahead with the attack using only 300 men he hatches a plan.
n He divides his army into three groups of 100 men.
n He gives them each a trumpet, a jar and a torch
n He instruct them to follow his lead and do as he does.
· As I have mentioned before, the Midianites were in the valley at the base of Mount Moreh. The forces of Gideon were south of the Midianites in the hills surrounding the valley.
· Gideon and his troops went to the edge of the camp and surrounded the Midianites on three sides.
· They carried their trumpets and their jars with a torch in each one.
· When Gideon gave the signal they blew their trumpets and broke their jars exposing the light.
· They then yelled out their battle cry: first recognizing God and then their leader.
· Normally there would only be a few men in an army that would announce a battle with a trumpet or carry torches. With all his troops blowing trumpets and displaying torches gave the illusion that they were a much bigger army than they actually were.
· It is significant to note what Gideon and his army were doing. They were entering into battle but the text indicates that it was impossible for them to engage in combat…
· The very point was that God was going to win the victory and that is exactly what he did. Without Gideon having to do any fighting the army of Midian was defeated.
· There is some things to remember from these verses when God calls us to impossible situations:
n For some reason God desires to use his people to fulfill his plans.
n In carrying out our part of God’s plan we are to be innovative, creative and shrewd.
n We need to be careful to acknowledge God as the source of any plan.
n We may at times be surprised as to how disproportionate our efforts are to God’s accomplishments.
What would have happened had Moses tried to figure out what was needed to accomplish God’s command? One of the biggest arithmetical miracles in the world was required in the desert. Moses led the people of Israel into the desert….Now what was he going to do with them? They had to be fed, and feeding 3-1/2 million people required a lot of food. According to the U. S. Army’s Quartermaster General, Moses needed 1500 tons of food a day, filling two freight trains, each a mile long. Besides, you must remember, they were cooking the food. Just for cooking this took 4000 tons of firewood and a few more freight trains, each a mile long and this is only for one day. They were for forty YEARS in transit!!! Let’s not forget about water. If they only had enough to drink and wash a few dishes (no bathing?!), it took 11,000,000 gallons EACH DAY--enough to fill a train of tanker cars 1800 miles long. Think about this; every time they camped at the end of the day, they required a camp ground 750 square miles. Yet each day God provided water from a stone, bread to fall like snow and quail to rain down.
· God’s ability to use what little we have is what God seems to do best. He demonstrates his knack for amazing us with how he takes so little and makes them bigger than we could ever have hoped.
· It is difficult for us to imagine why God would call us to do something that advances his kingdom, works in the lives of others, brings the Gospel to those who need to hear it or make some outrageous change in our lives and then create a situation making the accomplishment of that task nearly impossible.
· The answer to this is that we need to remember that the relationship we have with God is really not about us. The things we do in the name of Christ are not about who we are but who God is.
· If God involves us in his redemptive work and then decides to make that plan nearly impossible for us to do on our own that is his discretion.
· But as we see from the situation that Gideon found himself that God place us there, he does it because we have missed the plot, overlooked the point and we have the tendency to give ourselves the glory.
· God does not give up on us and even as he is redirecting the circumstances to show his splendor he gives us the reassurance to play the part he has for us.
· So even in the middle of that impossible task God as only God can do uses us in the part he has asked us to play and does more with it than we could ever imagine.
· So we should pray, asking God to use us to reach the community, to increase our relationship with him and to have people come through our doors having placed their lives in God’s hands for the first time. But do not be surprised if he asks you to do more than you imagined and that in the process you feel overwhelmed with your inability. It is then that God displays his power and we begin to see what can happen when God is unleashed in this world.