Friday 12 August
With Ali Calvin
It is a privilege to be standing here and sharing for God’s word. Yet not I but through Christ me. We are looking tonight at the book of Judges. The people of Israel have been led out of Egypt and into the promised land. The city of Jericho has fallen. God had asked them just one thing – do not have any other gods but me. But they began to worship the gods of the peoples around them.
Every now and again, they got desperate and cried out to God and He gave them a judge. And while that judge was in power they would come back to God. But as soon as the judge died, they would disobey God again. It is a bit like losing weight (lose weight, gain weight, lose weight, gain weight…) That is what the people of Israel was like. Again they did evil in the sight of the Lord.
They were a nation that had turned away from God. When a nation turns away from God, the result is oppression. The enemy begins to take over. The oppression was so great that they had to prepare shelters in the mountains. They were overcome by fear and they hide. Unfortunately the stronghold they run into is not God, they choose shelters of their own making. The enemy destroys their crops and ravages the land. They have become a people living in fear who have lost their freedom and their fruitfulness. They have bought into the lie that the enemy is stronger and they have no choice but to retreat and to hide.
It is the same old story told over and again as in the garden of Eden. Are we are as a people and as a nation oppressed by the enemy? Are we backing off? Are we compromising because we are buying into the lies of the enemy?
The Midianites had so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord. It had been seven years. Why did they take so long? Was it because they were ashamed? They cried out to God and look at the mercy of God in v7. He was under no obligation to respond to them and yet in His mercy, His response is immediate. When we cry out to Him, unworthy as we are, He responds.
God wants His people to dwell with Him, to know His heart and His goodness but we need to put Him first. We need to have no other gods before Him.
Gideon is in the winepress. He is trying to salvage something of the harvest and suddenly the angel appears and says, “Mighty warrior, the Lord is with you.” God looks at us and sees what we could be if we give our lives to Him. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham (the father of many nations). Jesus said to Simon you will be Peter, the rock. God looks at us and He speaks truth over us. Maybe it is truth we do not yet see. The question is, do we believe what God speaks over us or do we believe what the world says or even what we speak over ourselves?
What voice will you listen to tonight?
What is Jesus saying about you? He says that if you put your trust in Jesus you are a child of God. He says you have every spiritual blessing in Christ. He says He washes away all your sin. He says He puts His spirit in you and He says greater is He that is within you than He that is within the world.
Gideon doesn’t believe it. He says, “But sir… if the Lord is with us…” He is not convinced. Are you convinced that God is with you? That He is in our midst? That He is the living God, the almighty powerful God?
Gideon has heard the stories about the Living God even thought his family is worshipping Baal. He has heard the stories but he hasn’t seen any of it in his own lifetime, in his generation. So he comes to the sad conclusion, God must have abandoned us.
Maybe we don’t see the answer to our prayer. Maybe we don’t see the healing that we long for. We come to the conclusion that God doesn’t do those things today or that He has abandoned us. Yet He is the same God and He will never abandon His people.
The Lord tells Gideon, “Go in the strength you have.”
Have you ever thought I’ll step out for the Lord when I’m a bit stronger. I don’t feel I’m equipped yet or that I’m ready yet. Do you think you ever will? Do you think you will know God well enough? I reckon if I ask any of our speakers, we never feel ready but we step out in faith and obedience.
Go in the strength we have. We have been challenged to go out and share what we have. Will we go out and share the love of God? It is challenging and a little bit scary even. God says, “Just go in the strength you have and save Israel out of the hands of the Midianites. The enemy has been oppressing Israel for seven years.
Look at Gideon’s response, “Hello, you want me to save them? But Lord how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest and I’m am the least!”
Yet not I but through Christ in me.
Gideon goes out to face a big big enemy with a big big call but also with a big big God who is more than enough.
He is not the one doing the saving… that is all God. When I was in my first parish, I looked out over the village and felt, “I have to preach the gospel in this place. I have to see these people come to Christ.” I nearly worked myself into the ground for years until I was close the burn out. I then met with God and He said, “You are not the Saviour, I am. Just be faithful.”
As we go out into into His mission. We are all in ministry. As we go out into whatever ministry He has called us to, remember that se cannot save anybody, but Jesus can. He just asks us like Gideon to be obedient, to be faithful and to be brave.
Our gracious of God gives Gideon the confirmation he needs. We read, you should not put the Lord your God to the test but Gideon needed reassurance. Have you ever been in that place? God in His grace and mercy, gives us what we need so that we are sure of His calling. He does that for Gideon.
V25 The first thing God asks is for Gideon to tear down the altar to Baal. Compared to saving the people of Israel, this doesn’t seem like a big request. He needs to get rid of the idolatry and take a stand in his family. That is often the hardest place. In the midst of family and friends, among the neighbours. He has to go up on the mountain and sacrifice his father’s prize bull.
Gideon obeyed but he did it at night because he was still afraid. Sometimes we need to feel the fear and do it anyway! I imagine him lying in bed waiting to see what would happen in the morning. He knew he could pay with his life for what he had done and yet he was obedient. In a small town, it is impossible to keep a secret, so the townsfolk come demanded that Gideon’s father, Joash bring out his son so they could kill him.
But Joash makes an amazing response, “If Baal really is a god, can’t he protect his own altar?” It tells me Joash knew Baal wasn’t real. He knew it was wrong. Why had he gone along with it? Why had he participated in idol worship? Was it because he was bombarded by the spirit of his age. But because his son has taken a stand, now Joash finds the freedom and courage to take a stand too.
In v33 the Midianites come again and look at verse 34. The Spirit of the Lord comes upon Gideon. This Gideon who had been afraid, who would only obey at night. He has been filled with insecurities and inadequacies. When the spirit of the Lord comes upon him, everything changes.
Think of Jesus, we know nothing of Him before his baptism but He comes up from the water and the Spirit comes upon Him and He goes forward into His ministry in the power of the spirit.
Remember Peter, and the disciples who gathered in the upper room. They know the truth but it is not until the day of Pentecost that they can no longer contain the message of the Gospel and they spill onto the streets. As Peter preaches 3,000 people are added to the church because he is being faithful to the word of God and to the spirit of God.
Gideon has heard the word of God, but now the Holy Spirit comes upon him. Enough of allowing the enemy to steal and kill and destroy. Gideon says, “enough”. I wonder, do we as a people need to rise up and say, Enough… with the word of God and the spirit of God, we have all we need to say “no” to the enemy and to stop him stealing, killing and destroying.
Will spoke last night about the end of Gideon’s story which is not so good. But when Gideon is operating in the word of God and the power of the spirit, the people are set free.
Gideon blows the trumpet and people start to gather around him. At last someone has the courage to stand up against the enemy. The tribes gather around. They put their tribalism behind them and unite to defeat the enemy.
At the sacrifice, God head asked Gideon to rid of his idols. It was a test of obedient. It was a big ask. It was a difficult thing for him to do but it was nothing compared to what God did for us in Jesus. On that occasion it was another sacrifice on a mountain but it wasn’t bull. God gave His only son, the only sacrifice that could take away the sin of the world so we could have our sins forgiven and be filled with the spirit, so we might never need to be battered and defeated by the enemy again.
It was for freedom that Christ has set us free. I know there are times we all struggle but Jesus died and rose again so that we might have victory over the enemy and to live in freedom. We’ve been talking about being transformed by the renewing of our minds. That transformation will only take place when we come back to believing wholeheartedly the truth of His word and the power of the spirit.