Let Baal Contend
050-00740 Judges 6:25-32
I. Last week we met Gideon, a man chosen by God to lead Israel; a man who recognized his weakness and discovered that his weakness was the perfect vehicle through which God would display his power. “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
A. But as Paul Harvey used to say, “Here’s the rest of the story.”
1. Gideon still needs some kind of verification from God.
2. So he tells God, “wait here while I go get an offering.”
3. And God p
4. Gideon goes and slaughters a goat, prepares the meat in an unleavened bread coating and comes back with the meat and the broth from the meat.
5. So God says, “Put the meat on this rock and pour the broth over it.” And Gideon does what he said.
6. Remember that Gideon is speaking with the Angel of the Lord and this Angel takes the tip of his staff and touches the meat and whoosh! It’s all consumed by fire.
7. Ok. So Gideon finally catches on that he is actually seeing God face to face because the Hebrews knew that the Angel of the Lord was God. And Gideon panics.
8. Judges 6:23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”
9. So Gideon builds an altar right there and calls it “The Lord of Peace.”
B. Now we begin – “That same night…”
1. God has been patient with all of Gideon’s doubts (which should remind us how patient God is with us because he knows our frailties and our faults.)
2. But it is time to go to work.
3. Gideon must begin his campaign against the Midianites by cleaning up his own house.
a) He must take one of his father’s bulls, not the best but the next best.
b) And he has to tear down his father’s altar to Baal along with the Asherah pole next to it.
c) Then he is to build a proper altar to God and sacrifice the bull on it.
4. So Gideon takes ten men with him because of the work it would take and just to be safe, under the cover of darkness they do what God had commanded.
5. The next morning, the men of the town notice what has happened to Joash’s altar to Baal and began to investigate who would do such vandalism against Baal.
6. And of course they discover that it was Gideon, Joash’s own son.
II. So what does all of this mean? To get to the lesson here we have to get a little background.
1. The name means “master” or “possessor” – Baal is the master of people because he possesses their land.
2. Baal means Lord. Sometimes the name was even applied to Yahweh, God. But God eventually told his people that they couldn’t do that because the most common understanding of Baal in the world was incompatible with who he is.
3. You see, there were many Baals or more accurate Baalim.
a) There was Baal-Gad or lord of good luck.
b) Bel-Merodach – lord of the sun.
c) Baal-Shemaim – lord of the heavens.
d) Baal-Zebub (Beelzebub) – lord of the flies.
4. So Baal was a kind of catch all god who took on unique names depending on the community and their context.
5. The rule of Baal was a double edged rule, as with most gods: The Lord of the Sun blessed the people with light and warmth but also cursed them with unbearable heat that scorched crops.
a) When the people pleased Baal, he blessed.
b) When Baal was angry, though, that’s when the trouble began.
c) And so to appease an angry god there had to be a sacrifice made – and that sacrifice was usually human.
d) Such human victims were generally the first born of the one making the sacrifice and he was offered by being burned alive.
6. It is no wonder that Yahweh did not want to be identified with such a god.
B. Asherah pole.
1. Asherah means “she who enriches.”
2. She was the goddess of fertility and very common in Canaanite worship.
3. Over time from her Assyrian origin Asherah became associated with the trunk of a tree which was decorated with branches symbolizing the “Tree of Life.” This was the Asherah pole and it was no small trunk.
4. Israel had been warned about the Asherah pole before they entered Canaan just as they had been told not to tolerate the Canaanite gods. Deuteronomy 16:21 (NIV) Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the Lord your God.
5. So now we have a pretty good picture of what Gideon was told to do.
C. So why did the town’s people get so worked up in the morning when they saw the change?
1. You might expect Joash to be upset – it was his altar and Asherah pole that were destroyed.
2. But the people made it their business. Why couldn’t they just go about worshipping at their own altars?
3. I suspect it is for the same reason religions today fight with each other rather than tolerate their differences.
a) Gods are jealous, if they are really gods.
b) Even if you have multiple gods, each one is for a specific sphere of life and to keep your gods happy you must be faithful to them and worship them.
c) If one person in the community refuses to worship the prominent god of the area, that god could get angry with the whole community.
(1) Suppose you work for a large corporation in some middle or lower management position.
(2) Suppose this company makes a policy at the top that they expect everyone will follow.
(3) And suppose that this policy conflicts with your moral commitment to God.
(4) Do you capitulate and perform the immoral deed or do you take a moral stand and refuse to do it?
(5) If you refuse, how do you think you might be treated by others in the company? By the heads of the company?
(6) You are expected to be a “team player.”
d) So Joash was expected to be a team player.
III. The result of Gideon’s obedience.
A. Joash did not get angry at Gideon. Or at least the story does not record any anger.
1. Rather, he relies on some well thought out reasoning.
2. He turns the town’s people against their own anger.
a) Are you going to plead Baal’s cause?
b) If Baal is really a god he should be able to defend himself.
c) Let Baal prove himself; let Baal contend with the one who has broken down his altar.
3. Joash knew Yahweh well enough to know that God Almighty had done many powerful things.
a) Gideon had already shown that he knew of God’s salvation from Egypt.
b) Clearly he got such knowledge from his father.
c) So if God could deliver with a mighty hand, what could Baal do?
B. The same strategy was used by Elijah when during the reign of King Ahab the prophets of Baal were challenged.
1. Build an altar and lay a sacrifice on the altar. Now call to your god and see if he consumes your sacrifice.
2. Even with all the dancing and chanting and self mutilation nothing ever happened. Elijah just kept taunting. If Baal is a god then Baal should prove himself.
3. In the end, it was Elijah’s God, YAHWEH who consumed the sacrifice and the prophets of Baal were humiliated.
C. There is no challenging Yahweh’s position as the Most High God and Almighty Ruler over all the world.
1. Psalm 115:3-8 Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.
IV. The Lesson for us.
A. We do not need to defend God. We do not need to defend the Truth.
1. God is who he is. He is capable of contending with those who do not believe.
2. Truth is what it is. It defends itself. You can’t live long denying the Truth.
3. Furthermore, we cannot defend God or the Truth.
a) It is neither necessary nor possible to defend that which cannot be defended. Their very nature stands firm against the onslaught of those who would do battle with them.
b) Can you imagine anyone defeating God?
c) Can you imagine anyone successfully denying truth, not merely with words, but with life?
4. So if we do not need to be defensive, we can live very different lives.
a) We don’t need to become threatened by those who don’t believe as we do. In fact we can all the more love them recognizing their need.
b) We don’t need to know all of the answers, all of the truth, to be able to live the truth. Jesus said you will be his witnesses, not his theologians.
c) God cannot be defeated, so we who put our trust in him can have assurance that no matter the situation, we can be at peace.
d) God is always the victor. If we are God’s, we too are always the victors.
B. All of this is true. And all of it is demonstrated and proven in Jesus Christ.
1. All Jesus ever claimed to do was to obey the Father.
2. But for that he was arrested, tried, convicted, punished, and crucified.
3. And through it all Jesus did not speak a word in his defense.
4. When he spoke, he merely confirmed the truths others had said about him.
a) Are you a king? You said it!
5. Yet because Jesus is the Truth, because Jesus is the Son of God, not even death could defeat him.
6. He rose from the grave and ascended to heaven as the victor.
7. He made no defense because he needed no defense.
C. Therefore, Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
1. Romans 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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.
2. 2 Corinthians 1:20-21 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.
D. Because Gideon obeyed God, he overcame the evil of the world around him.
1. He was given a new name: Jerubbable, which means let Baal contend with him.
a) We know that this name was a victorious name because there was nothing Baal could do to harm Gideon.
b) God was victorious for Gideon.
c) God is victorious for all of his people.
2. Revelation 2:7 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
3. Revelation 2:11 He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
4. Revelation 2:17 To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.
5. Revelation 2:26-28 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’— just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star.
6. Revelation 3:5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.
7. Revelation 3:12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.
8. Revelation 3:21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.
V. God has called us not to defend him, but to obey him.
A. Such obedience is testimony of his mighty acts.
B. In 1968 Kent Keith was a 19 year old Sophomore at Harvard. He wrote a manual to help train High School leaders hoping to provide them with wisdom on how to create real change. It was called The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council.
1. The manual became a book known today as The Paradoxical Commandments.
2. Mother Theresa somehow got a copy of the book and on the wall of her home for children in Calcutta a version of these commandments can be read.
3. Keith’s book is worthy of a good read and I recommend it to you.
4. But today I close, remembering Gideon, Jerubbaal, with Mother Theresa’s Paradoxical Commandments.
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.