Judges chapter 6 is where we take our reading from, Judges 6, and this morning we're beginning to look at the character of Gideon - the fifth Judge. We'll spend a number of weeks looking at Gideon, for he's such a substantial character among all the Judges, but this morning our title will be 'Gideon, The Fearful'.
Verse 1 of chapter 6: "And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds. And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it. And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD. And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites, That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land; And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice. And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house. And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man. And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then show me a sign that thou talkest with me. Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again. And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out unto him under the oak, and presented it. And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight. And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O LORD God! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face. And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites" - verse 24 will be our final verse.
'Gideon, The Fearful' - Warren Wiersbe says Gideon started his career as somewhat of a coward. In chapter 6 that we've read, we find that of him: he was a fearful man. Then in chapter 7, through most of chapter 8, we find that he turned into a conqueror, one who God uses after breaking him and melting him, moulding him and filling him. But sadly as we'll see in chapter 8, the remainder of it, he also became and ended his days as a compromiser. A man who was a coward, then a conqueror, and then ended his days, some would say, as a compromiser. There's more space devoted to the Judge Gideon, 100 verses or so, in the book of Judges than to any other Judge. We're going to follow his progress this morning and in subsequent weeks in the will of the Lord.
What I want you to see first and foremost, as we have learned from each of these Judge characters, is the condition that was recurrent in the nation. We find that outlined for us in the first two verses of chapter 6, and really again it is a reciprocation of the pattern that we saw in chapter 2 and verses 11 through to 19, another cycle of backsliding among God's people. 'They did evil', verse 1 says, 'in the sight of Jehovah: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds'. You would be forgiven, I'm sure, for asking the question: when are these Israelites going to learn the lesson? This is the fourth time they have fallen into the same trap. After Deborah and Barak, and after the great song that we read in chapter 5, they have been emancipated from their enemies. God has had mercy on them and heard their cry, and delivered them. But now again they fall into the same recurrent condition of backsliding, they fall into the same sin that was their besetting sin in the beginning: they did evil in the sight of the Lord - and often that is just a synonym, another phrase, for 'they followed Baal and Asherah' those wicked immoral gods and goddesses.
You see, sin is not a privilege to the child of God. That's what God, through His Spirit is communicating to us through the Judges. Of course, it's not a privilege to anybody, sin is more like a poison, but we seem to think at times, even as believers, that we are missing out if we don't partake of certain things that are found in the world. The Israelites could learn a lesson, God was trying to discipline them as sons and daughters in the covenant: 'Sin will harm you, it'll take you further than you want to go, and rob you of the blessings that I have promised you'. Through discipline He wants them to learn: 'Ye are bought with a price, ye are not your own. Glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's'. Of course, we know that whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. Here we find again He has to discipline His people.
This time the cane of discipline that He uses are the Midianites, and they were simply a Bedouin tribe of marauders from the north-west part of Arabia. They dwelt in tents, and they rode upon camels, hence some of the verses that we read this morning. They were also the people that sold Joseph into slavery, they had been the arch enemies and previous historical enemies of the children of God. But we see here that they are prevailing over God's people, look at this phrase, don't miss it: 'The hand of Midian prevailed'. Now here is a lesson, if ever there was one for every child of God in this place today: the enemy always prevails when you give in to sin. The enemy will have you cowering if you give him a foothold in your life.
Here you have the people of God, look at verse 2: they're making dens in the mountains, they're hiding, cowering in fear from these Midianite oppressors. The hand of Midian is prevailing against them - it's a pathetic picture for us, isn't it? When we consider, if we look back at chapter 4 and verse 24, we read there: 'And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan'. So they have come from the position of spiritual victory, where their hand was prevailing over their oppressors, to actually have the hand of their oppressors upon them and crushing them - what a lesson! I wonder am I speaking to someone here this morning, and you're a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you're a child of God, but at this present vantage point in your Christian experience you are overcome by the enemy. The hand of Satan, whether through the world, through the flesh, or through his own minions, is prevailing over you, is oppressing you - you're overcome!
Three very practical lessons, that I have learned through studying the condition that was recurrent in the nation here again, I want to leave with you. The first is this: how the Lord has to withhold blessings from us at times to get us to see our great need of Him. The Lord was disciplining His people, the Lord was withholding blessing so that the people would come and ask for it, because there was a stage at which they didn't even think they needed it - they were rich, they were increased in goods, they were floating along on the winds and waves of previous experience and triumphs. But God had to take away from them spiritual victory to make them realise that they still needed to rely on Him.
The second lesson I have learned is similarly from our perspective, how it is only in times of difficulty - whether they be temporal or spiritual - that we seem to cry for God's aid. Isn't it? God often has to bring us into a predicament, has to corner us in some difficulty until we start to seek Him early, and then find Him. Then the third lesson I have learned is that even when we do seek Him at times, often it can be shallow, it can be superficial. That's what we find in the life of Israel here in the Judges, that's the way their repentance was. It wasn't a true, deep, meaningful repentance; because each time they went back to their sin. We must always beware of such decisions and commitments that are only superficial and shallow.
Now you might be sitting here and thinking: 'Well, I'm being overcome by the devil and by sin and by evil in this world, how do I know whether or not my initial repentance was superficial and shallow?'. Here's the easy answer: are you finding yourself, at this moment, in the vicious cycle that the Israelites found themselves in? They're now in the fourth cycle of sin, sorrow, in crying out to God for repentance and mercy, they are restored, and lo and behold they're back like a pig wallowing in the mire, they're like a dog going back to their own vomit. Second Corinthians 7 verse 10 teaches us that godly sorrow that works repentance is not to be repented of. If you have known true salvation, your repentance will be such that you will have a deep sorrow for your sin that has led you to full restoration - I'm not saying you can never be backslidden, of course you can, but there's something wrong if you're continually falling, getting up again, falling, getting up again, and never ever experiencing true victory in the life of faith.
The condition that was recurrent, is it recurrent in your life? I call it 'roller coaster Christianity'. Someone else has said it's the 'Grand Old Duke of York' spirituality - when you're up, you're up, and when you're down, you're down, and when you're only halfway up, you're neither up nor down. You don't know where you are this morning, sometimes you're on the peak of your roller coaster, other times you're in the depths of the valley. I tell you today, from the heart of God, because it's the spirit, I believe, of this book of Judges: God needs more than that from you! But on a note of encouragement: you can expect more than that from the Christian life - and marrying those two statements together, God has promised you more in Christ! But yet, this is the condition that is recurrent in your life as well as the Israelites, and I have to warn you: if you never ever rise above this recurrent condition, you will experience the enemy's oppression and the result of it as they did.
What was that? Well, it was a harvest that was condemned, in verses 3 to 6 we read of this. Some of you - I dare not say 'grumpy old men' - but some of you, when you get your daffodils pulled out of your garden, well, you feel it, don't you? You don't like when the vandals come along, and the teenagers, and start to mess up your handiwork. Well, that's correct, but that's not your livelihood - you're not relying on your little patch in the front garden to feed on and to keep you alive. These Israelites were, and here these Midianites were coming, this Bedouin tribe in their tents, and waiting until the Israelites were asleep or preoccupied, and then they would come in and wreck their livestock and their agriculture. They would take their camels and ride over all their produce and fields of crops. There they are, continually out on the periphery of God's people, trying to intimidate them, demoralising them. How do you think they felt, when they have waited all to harvest, and then the crop is flattened by mere vandalism and terrorism?
You see, what the Midianites wanted to do, and I want you to note this please because there's a spiritual principle behind it, they wanted to take the ground from under the feet of the people of God that God had given them. They wanted the land back. God had given them the land, promised them the land, but the enemy wanted to pull it from beneath their feet - and that is always the enemy's tactic. We, as the New Testament people of God, are not living in a particular land that God has given us, but we have the promises, the spiritual promises, that we read of in Ephesians in chapter 1, in heavenly places in Christ. We read in Ephesians chapter 6 that we're in a battle, not to get the victory, we have the victory in Christ, and He has put us on the victory ground through His cross work and His resurrection - but it is the devil's ploy and scheme to push us off the ground and make us think we're losers.
That is what the Midianites were trying to do: 'They came', it says, look at that, 'as grasshoppers', verse five, 'for multitude'. Children of God today are facing a multitude of locusts that are ready to eat their harvest of spiritual fruit. As Martin Luther could say in those early days of Reformation, and it's still applicable to us:
'Still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great
And armed with cruel hate
None else on earth is his equal'.
Now what I want you to notice is that often the Lord allows the enemy to overcome His people when they're in sin to discipline them. That's what happened Job, now he wasn't in sin as such, but the reason why all that came upon him did come upon him was that he might be purged, that he may be brought nearer to God and see God more clearly. But there are times when God allows us to be disciplined because there is sin in our lives.
Turn with me for a moment to Haggai, if you can find it, and chapter 1. Haggai chapter 1 - if you find Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, after Haggai, Zechariah - it has fourteen chapters, so it's an easy one to find, and then before it Haggai chapter 1. Here's an account of just this, God disciplining His people because of their sin, verse 3: 'Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled', your fancy, luxurious, 'houses, and this house', God's house, His temple, 'lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. Ye looked for much, and, lo it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands'.
Now this is a principle, we're all very familiar with the principle of 'You reap what you sow' - but here is a principle that says: there are some times that you don't reap what you have sown. There are times when you sow, and you reap nothing, it comes to nothing. You say: 'How can that be, and why would that ever be?' - if the seed that you sow is contaminated by sin! I'm not going to spend too much time going into this, but this is a spiritual law of discipline: God can cut holes in your pockets so that the more you put in, the more falls out. God can blow upon your riches, God can give you the opposite to the Midas touch, and everything you touch breaks or rots or is destroyed. Now we do not live by the natural laws of the land of Israel that the Old Testament saints were under, but this same spiritual law applies to us in a spiritual sense. Amos chapter 8 and verse 11 said: 'Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Jehovah'.
There is nothing new under the sun, and God still disciplines His people for disobedience. 'How does He do it?', you say, 'Does He still withhold harvests?'. Well, I don't know if He withholds physical harvests or not, but I'm almost certain that He does withhold spiritual ones. I ask you: what other explanation can there be, if the Lord Jesus said in John 4 and Matthew 9: 'The fields - look up! - they're white unto harvest. They're ready to be reaped', and yet if a harvest is withheld and there's so little fruitfulness, what other explanation can there be other than that there is a transgression of this spiritual law of discipline in sowing. Though we sow and sow and sow, God can blow upon it, God can cut holes in our spiritual pockets so that it all vanishes away. As the hymn writer put it, you cannot be channels of blessing if your life is not free from all sin - that's it!
Now we see that when God's people cried out for mercy and help, God on this occasion did not immediately deliver them as He had in the past. He sends a prophet, and the prophet brings an indictment to them in verses 7 and 10, and he leaves them hanging at the end of the message, he doesn't give them any hope at all really. He just tells them that they have not obeyed God's will. But what he does do, and I want you to notice this, he reminds them of God's past deliverance of His people. 'Remember Egypt, remember how God delivered you out of Egypt, gave you all the covenant blessings. He drove out your oppressors from before you', and the implication that the prophet is bringing to the people is: is your God not this God, can your God not do the same? 'This is the point that you're missing, your God is the same, but', mark these words, 'ye have not obeyed My voice'. Do you see that in verse 10?
God hasn't changed. I wonder is this a personal word to someone here in our meeting this morning. Maybe you're asking the question that Gideon asked, and we'll get to him in a minute in verse 13: 'Why then is all this befallen me? Why am I undergoing this discipline? Why is there a spiritual harvest in my life that seems to be condemned, and what I try to do for God fails continually, and I feel so impotent in a spiritual sense?'. Could it be that God is withholding the blessings from you, in order that you might see that there's something in your life where you are not obeying His voice?
Well, for Gideon, there was a crisis as God's word and God's ways seem to clash. I'm not suggesting there was sin in his life, but in a sense there was because we find here that Gideon is an extremely fearful man. Like the nation, he almost typifies it, for in verse 11 he's hiding, cowering behind the winepress threshing wheat. Now normally wheat would have been threshed out in the open air in order to blow away the chaff, but here he is hiding because of the Midianites. Basically what this is communicating is that he's just eking out a living, he has an impoverished existence. Does that not speak to us, as believers today, when we think of the great wealth that we have in Christ in heavenly places, the victory that we're meant to enjoy as Christians - yet so many believers are just existing, they're just saved and stuck, they're ticking over!
Well, the Lord comes to such mouse of a man as Gideon, and He says - and this is remarkable in verse 12: 'The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valor'. Now, that was too rich for Gideon, even if it was from an angel - because the implication of what he says in verse 13 is: 'Well, if I'm such a mighty man then, and if God is with us the way you say He's with us, why? Why is the land in the condition that it is? Why is our harvest condemned?'. In the psyche of Gideon there is a clash, a crisis, as God's word seems to clash with His ways.
How many times do we ask the question: 'Why?'. Personally, and as the church, and as a body of God's people in this land, we ask: 'Why? If God is with us, if God is blessing us, if all these words are true in this book, why? Why does this happen? Why does this not happen?'. Usually the reason why we ask 'Why?' is because we walk by sight and not by faith. Now what am I talking about? Well, turn with me for a moment to 2 Kings 6 to give you an illustration of this. Second Kings chapter 6, and here you have the servant of Elisha who sees God's enemies surrounding the nation, the Syrians. In chapter 6 of 2 Kings, verse 15: 'The servant of Elisha was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha'.
A little girl on one occasion was listening to the great stories of the Bible that her mother told her about Moses, and Joshua, and Samson, and Daniel. Finally she ended by saying: 'Mummy, God was much more exciting back then'. Is that how we feel at times? Gideon said: 'Where is the God that our fathers told us of?'. Is He really around today in the 21st-century post-modernist society? We ask: 'Why does this happen to me personally if God is in my life? Why is there a lack of blessing as it used to be in the church?'. Maybe our question progresses, as it did for Gideon, to say: 'Where are the miracles of our fathers? Did not God, our God, bring up Israel from Egypt?'.
Now, there are such pious pukes about who would come and censure Gideon for saying such things. You get them sometimes in prayer meetings, when you start to get real with God they come around and say to you: 'Now, you shouldn't really say that, you know'. I know that we ought not to get familiar with God in our address to Him, but Gideon is not talking from the vantage point of doubt here - he's not doubting God or testing God. This is not over-familiarity, he's not dictating to God as the Almighty, but he's standing on the vantage point of faith and he wants to prove God, he wants to know that God's promises are true. This is the point of this passage, I believe, God loves to show Himself true to His promises! He loves to show Himself as faithful to answer prayer that is prayed on the foundation of His word.
The old saints of God used to call this 'holy argumentation'. If you bought off the book stall at the week of prayer Spurgeon's little book of sermons on prayer, I think it's called 'Praying Effectively' or something like that, 'Effective Prayer' - he has a sermon in it on Job 23 verses 3-4 where Job says: 'Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments'. Talking about how we bring the promises of God and plead them before God. How do you interpret a verse like Isaiah 45:11, God says to His people: 'Concerning the work of my hands command ye me'. Staggering, isn't it? It's not presumption, now, we want to be careful of that, but God is saying: 'I have put myself at your disposal through the exceeding great and precious promises in Christ'. Gone are the days, it would seem, when the violent storm the heavens to take blessings from God with forceful faith and righteous argument. Not because God is reluctant to give us the blessings, but God is trying to teach us, God is wanting to bring us into His school. He wants us to reason with Him, that He might bless us.
Now let me ask you: have you ever been in a situation where God has made the heavens brass, where He has made the earth barren and dry? Do you know what He is doing? He's wanting to bring you into a place where you don't just call in desperation upon God as a last resort, that's not what we're talking about, but you're calling upon God in faith as your only hope - that's different. Is He pushing you into a corner to challenge Him according to His words? Oh, some of the accounts of revival are staggering. One young man in Lewis, when he was praying, prayed like this: 'Lord, Your honour is at stake'. A wee woman that met Duncan Campbell, along with her sister had been praying for a revival on that island, was praying to God and was heard to say: 'Lord, if You don't do this upon Your promise, I don't think I could ever trust You again' - upon the promise! She wasn't asking God to do something He didn't say He would do. Faith that is prepared to either break down or breakthrough is what God wants! Like Rachel, to come, because she had a promise that she would have children, and say 'Give me children or I die!'. That's what we're talking about.
Well, God told them that the commission from Him remains the same. Whether the condition of the nation was recurrent, and the harvest was condemned, and there was a crisis in his mind because God's word and God's ways seemed to clash, God told him: 'The commission from me remains the same'. Verses 14 and 16, and I would urge you to study this portion in comparison and parallel with Moses' call - it's almost identical, and the excuses that Moses and Gideon give also. But this is the pre-incarnate Christ, this is the Angel of Jehovah - look how Gideon addresses Him in verses 13, 15 and 22, he calls him 'the Lord', and He speaks as the Lord. Here he is before the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus tells him four things: 'Go in this thy might'. Two: 'And thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites'. Three: 'Have not I sent thee?'. Four: 'Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man'. What promises! If Gideon could only embrace them, those promises would equip him for everything that lay ahead.
But Gideon wanted a confirmation that the Lord was still with His people. In verses 17 to 24 he got it, he got this offering and made it for the Lord Jesus in pre-incarnate form. He brought it to Him, and in verse 21 we read that fire came out of the offering, out of the rock beneath it, and this supernatural sign of fire consumed Gideon's offering to show that it was accepted with God. But what it did to Gideon was, it filled him with awe and fear, because what God was saying was: 'Thou shalt see now whether My word shall come to pass unto thee' - I'm confirming it for you! That's not a sin, by the way, we need to believe God's word, but sometimes in His grace He confirms it for us.
Let's finish on this note: the crux of Gideon's problem. You find it in verse 11, verse 13, verse 15, verse 17, verse 22-24 - what is it? He's fearful! A prophet's sent to the people, he still fears. The Lord Jesus Christ as the Angel of Jehovah appeared before him, He shows him a supernatural sign of confirmation that God is still with him and his people, yet he's still fearful. If Gideon had a besetting sin, it was fear. Is that your besetting sin? Anxiety, worry, call it what you like, it's still fear - and how debilitating it is! The fear of man brings a snare, Proverbs 29 says, it's paralysing - it takes away spiritual, and even at times physical power. Yet look at Gideon, and we'll show his progression over these next weeks: look at the mighty warrior he became! Why? Because, in his weakness that he admitted, God's strength could be made perfect when he believed what God had said.
When I was reading and studying this, I asked the question: why does God describe Gideon as if he were the opposite of what he clearly was. Here he is, a mouse of a man, hiding in dens like the rest of the people behind the winepress. Why does He describe him as a mighty man of valour? Because God saw Gideon's potential if he embraced the divine power. Can I put it like this: God saw not just what Gideon was presently, He saw what he could be if he believed God. It's like a sculptor looking at a great clump of rock, he doesn't see it as an ugly piece of rock, he sees it as a piece of art once he's finished with it. Before God could do a work through Gideon, God had to do a work in Gideon - and it's the same with us, and when he came to the point of a sense of his own weakness and impotence, then he became a vessel meet for the Master's use.
One weak man with God became the majority. Oh, if there's a lesson in Judges it's this: to be confident of this very thing, that if we give our lives to Christ and acknowledge the weaknesses of them, He that has begun a good work will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. He gave him His peace: Jehovah - Yahweh - shalom, 'The LORD, my peace'. He spoke His peace into the fearful heart of Gideon, and that's what we need. Now here's the point, please don't miss it: God spoke to him, faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God, and in Hebrews 11 we read that he is in the hall of faith - a great man of faith, because faith comes by hearing, he believed what God said, and God gave him His peace and His strength.
Now can I leave you with this intrinsic thought: where did he get it? He got it in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, when the fire of God came upon him. That's the open secret - it's no secret at all. In the presence of Jesus, in a crisis of faith, he turned from the fearful to the faithful. That can happen to you too.
I read a story this week, listen to it, and I close with it. In May 1855, an 18-year-old boy went to the deacons of his church in Boston. He had been raised in a Unitarian Church, not believing in the supernatural deity of Christ, the resurrection, the blood and so on. In almost total ignorance of the gospel he came to them, but when he had moved to Boston to make his fortune, he began to attend a Bible-believing church. Then in April 1855 his Sunday School teacher had come into the shop were he was working, and simply and persuasively shared the gospel and urged the young man to trust in the Lord Jesus. He did, and now he was applying to join the church. One fact quickly became obvious: this young man was totally ignorant of Bible truth. One of the deacons asked him: 'Son, what has Christ done for us all, for you, which entitles Him to our love?'. His response was: 'I don't know. I think Christ has done a great deal for us, but I don't think of anything in particular as I know of'. Hardly an impressive start, you would say. Then years later a Sunday School teacher said of him: 'I can truly say that I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker than was his when he came into my Sunday School class, and I think the committee of the church seldom met an applicant for membership who seemed more unlikely ever to become a Christian of clear and decided views of the gospel truth, still less to fill any place of public or extended usefulness'. Nothing happened very quickly, as you can imagine, to change their minds; and the deacons decided to put him off for a year of long instruction to teach him the basic Christian truths. Perhaps they wanted to work on some of his other rough spots as well. But not only was he ignorant of spiritual truths, he had trouble reading, writing, and his spoken grammar was atrocious. The year did not help very much, but since it was obvious that he was a sincere soul, they accepted him into the church membership. 'Over the next years, I'm sure', the writer says, 'that many people looked at that young man convinced that God could never use a person like that' - if they did, they had written off Dwight Lyman Moody.
God used him, because there are no lost causes with God. God's grace and God's love to Moody transformed him into the one of the most effective and significant servants of God in church history, a man whose impact is still with us today. This is the spiritual truth of Gideon and all the Judges: He does not see us just for what we are, but for what we can be if we believe Him and allow Him to work in our lives.
'The Midianite is in the land,
Bleak devastation reigns.
Charred fields and looted granaries
Give witness to their gains.
A lonely figure threshes there
'Neath Ophrah's grizzled tree,
Then stunned, he looks
To find himself in regal company.
The Angel of the Lord, no less,
Now graces Gideon’s view.
'I've come to vanquish all your foes,
My weapon will be you!'
My Lord, what instruments have I
To drive the tyrant hence?
Just two, but all sufficient they -
FAITH and OBEDIENCE'.
Our brother George Bates, a couple of weeks ago, said during his preaching: 'If you fear God, you'll fear nothing or no one else'. That's the message in summary this morning: what are you fearing, what sin is in your life that you won't let go of? Maybe God has called you to the mission field to be an evangelist, to be a pastor or teacher, but you haven't answered His call, you've not obeyed His voice. Maybe it's something very very simple, and God has withheld His spiritual harvest because of it. Trust God, believe His word, leave your sin and embrace the Angel of Jehovah, the Lord Jesus.
Father, help us all to be at His feet, like Gideon, humble, saying 'I am the least'. May we, like the Baptist, decrease ourselves, deflate our egos, that we may uplift Christ. Let us always know that we have the Saviour with us, for then we can go without any fear as we follow in His footsteps. Oh, to know 'I am with thee always, even unto the end of the world. Go and make disciples'. Thank You for Your word, and may it find a resting place in all our hearts, for Christ's sake, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the sixth recording in his 'Men For The Hour' series, entitled "Gideon, The Fearful" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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