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We're turning this morning to the book of Judges again and chapter 8, and we have been going through, with a few interruptions here and there for obvious reasons, a study entitled 'Men For The Hour' in the Judges - the characters who are called Judges in the book of Judges. We have been spending quite a number of weeks on this character of Gideon, and I want to deal with him again this morning in what is probably the final study in the life of Gideon, and it's very appropriate for the fact that today is New Year's Day, and we're looking ahead into the unknown. We spoke last evening on a message specifically to do with the New Year, if you weren't there, well I'm sorry that you weren't, but you can get the tape recording - and why not get that message for the New Year. We'll be looking at Gideon this morning, but it has a slant and an aspect upon the relevance of this particular time of year as we'll see later on.

Sadly this morning our title is 'Gideon, the Fallen'. Someone has said well, 'It is not how you begin a thing that matters, but how you finish it'

We're going to begin reading at chapter 8 and verse 22, we'll summarise, when we look at it later, what has come prior in this chapter to these verses that we're going to read. But let's take it up from verse 22: "Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you. And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks. And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house. Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon. And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house. And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives. And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech. And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god. And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side: Neither showed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had showed unto Israel". Amen.

I don't know whether you can recall, with all the interruptions - and let me just say in parenthesis there a big thank you for your prayers over the last number of weeks at the birth of our little son. We appreciate your prayers, and both Noah and Barbara are doing very well, and also of course your gifts to us, both for Christmas and for the birth of the baby - we're very grateful. But if you can remember back when I was last with you in the pulpit on a Sunday morning, we were studying through the life of Gideon. We began with 'Gideon, The Fearful', and we saw that this man was wracked in his original state by anxieties and fears and inadequacies. Then we looked further at 'Gideon, the Faithful', and how, when God called him to destroy the shrine that was erected in his father's property to Baal and to Asherah, he very timidly, it has to be said, obeyed - but yet he obeyed. Even during the night he broke it down, but he did it, and he was faithful. We began to see a progression in this man's life. Then we saw, spending a week looking at the subject of guidance in 'Gideon and the Fleece', how we can discern God's will in our lives. Then the last study that we did was 'Gideon, The Fighter', and how Gideon, on a human level, with very little resources - only 300 men - destroyed the army of the Midianites. It wasn't really Gideon of course, it was the Lord; and the Lord was teaching Gideon that if he was going to succeed and have victory in life in his judgeship, and if the children of Israel were going to succeed with God, they would have to realise that their victory was in Him and not by the arm of the flesh.

Sadly this morning our title is 'Gideon, the Fallen'. Someone has said well, 'It is not how you begin a thing that matters, but how you finish it'. What a good motto for the New Year that is for us on this New Year's Day, when we consider the many resolutions that people make - and if you're honest, you'll have to admit that very few of us see them through until January 1st the next year. But this story has so much to teach us any day in the year, indeed whatever stage of life we are in as a Christian. It's especially relevant, I have to say, for those of you who are nearing the end of the journey.

We have watched as Gideon the fearful graduated through God's academy to become Gideon the faithful and Gideon the fighter

We have watched as Gideon the fearful graduated through God's academy to become Gideon the faithful and Gideon the fighter. Ultimately we see him being formed by God's Spirit into a hero, and we know that because when we turn to Hebrews 11, the hall of faith in the New Testament, God's Holy Spirit has the record there that Gideon was a great man of faith, named with many other great giants of the Bible. Yet here, solemnly and poignantly, we are considering the end of Gideon's judgeship under this title 'Gideon, the Fallen'. I think there is perhaps little else more tragic in life than a fallen hero. Some of you have had your heroes, whether in the secular or sporting world, or even in the church; and it's hard to watch them fall when they fall from such great heights. It's tragic to see a hero of the people fall, but what is more tragic is when a man or woman of God falls. It is bad for the people who look up to them, but more than that it is bad for the witness and testimony of God itself, and the world warms its hands at the thought of the fires of shame - yet how often it happens. It is perhaps happening more today than it has ever done.

Let me just say by way of preface and warning, as we enter into this study this morning: we all have to say, as we look at this fallen hero, Gideon, 'But for the grace of God, there go I'. There are none of us here today immune from falling. First Corinthians 10:12 reminds us: 'Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall'. We have to ask the question today: where did it all go wrong for Gideon? Can I summarise it by giving you what I feel is the bottom line? The reason for Gideon's fall was simply that he got too big for God to use, too big for God to use. That often happens. At first, a man is humbled that God should ever call him, maybe he's even fearful or uncooperative, as Moses was before Gideon was. If you turn back to chapter 6 for a moment and verse 15, we see the humility of this man. As God calls him, he says: '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'. That's where this man started: God called him in this humble state, though he was fearful and anxious.

God begins to take him through a process, through His school, if you like, and He journeys him through the low valley of humiliation to show Gideon that he's right, he is nothing and the Almighty is everything. If he's going to succeed as a leader of God's people, he has to keep always in view his low state and God's high state and necessary provision for him in the work that he has to do. It is at this point that Gideon learns that it is in his weakness that God's strength will be made perfect. If you look down to verse 34 of chapter 6, you'll be able to read this. At that point, when he realised his weakness but then was enabled to look to God for grace and help: 'The Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon', we noted how the Hebrew literally reads 'clothed Himself with Gideon and he blew a trumpet'. He led the people of God into great victory.

All of a sudden this man who is humble at the beginning, sees his humility and his inability, he is caused to see that with God's Spirit, when he is low, the Spirit of the living God, like a low valley, will flow through him to the river of living waters. God is enabled to do mighty things through this broken pot vessel, Gideon. Even in a miraculous way God's power is evidenced in his life, and we see that if you turn and remind yourself of chapter 7 and verse 2: 'The LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me'. God did a miracle, He whittled Gideon's armies from 32,000 down to 10,000, and then down to 300 - and armed with nothing but pitchers, lamps and trumpets, they trounced the enemy of the Midianites. That was to show that God gave them the victory!

But sadly we're here to memorialise the fact that somewhere along the way Gideon forgot where the source of his power came from. Somewhere, somehow he began to see himself as strong, he began to view himself as gifted and successful, wise and knowledgeable - and before long the Lord is left outside the door, because Gideon's ego takes over an area and territory that was once the Lord's domain. Let me say to all of us this morning, and I include myself in these remarks, that this has always been one of the devil's more subtle and yet successful strategies. We should not be surprised at that, because of course that's how Lucifer fell himself. As one has said, pride was the sin that made the devil the devil. Lucifer's job, as the Sun of the Morning, as the light bearer, was as a cherub to reflect the glory of God - he had no glory of his own, though he was a glorious creature, the glory in him was a reflection of the glory of God. God had created him to reflect and display the wonder and light of the Godhead. Yet we read in Ezekiel 28:17, God says to him in condemnation: 'Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty'. He began to think that he had something going for himself, and there is where the very first fall took place. Gideon's fall is along the same lines: he began to forget where the source of his power came from, and thought there was something in himself.

Somehow he began to see himself as strong, he began to view himself as gifted and successful, wise and knowledgeable - and before long the Lord is left outside the door

Now let's look more specifically and ask: how did this fatal fall occur in Gideon's life? The first thing I want to leave with you today is: his fall came shortly after a great triumph. This is a lesson we all do well to learn, this is often the tact of the enemy: that it is after the spiritual mountain tops that the valleys come, and the challenges, and the falls. You remember it was Elijah on the Mount, as he challenged the prophets of Baal in a great victory, after which the devil came to him and whispered in his ears that he was useless, and God had finished with him, and he's down in the valley and he's ready to die, for he's not as great as his fathers. Gideon's fall too came shortly after great triumph. I wonder, just in a way of caution: has the last year been a good year for you as a Christian? Praise the Lord for that! I don't want to pour cold water on it at all, I want to rejoice with you - but be very careful, because don't think or assume right away that this year must be the same. Andrew Bonar said well: 'Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle'.

Now, what we see here is a great victory of Gideon, another one. We see in the first number of verses that we did not read this morning in chapter 8 that Gideon deals in a textbook manner with division among God's people. Now anyone who has ever been in leadership, and who has experienced division among God's children, knows that is one of the most difficult situations to deal with. Gideon had four conflicts in his life that we know of: first of all there was the conflict with his own heart, the fears that he had. Then after that there was the conflict with Baal in chapter 6, as he pulls down the shrine of his father, and in effect goes against his family and his neighbourhood and the whole religious system of the time. Then thirdly he has this fight and battle with Midian in chapter 7, and he trounces those armies with 300 men. But now his final battle, and incidentally the battle after which he falls in chapter 8, is the battle with Israel, a battle with God's people - isn't that ironic?

Of course, he knew how to deal with the problem people among the ranks of the saints. Let me share a little bit with you, because it sets the scene of this great triumph before Gideon's fall. First of all, there were those in the crowd of God's people who were critical of Gideon, they were resentful. Critical people are often resentful, and we find them in verse 1: 'The men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus', chapter 8 verse 1, 'that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites?'. Ephraim was angry, they were miffed with Gideon. Gideon had left them out when they were going to fight the Midianites, and therefore they did not share in the glory of Gideon. In other words, they felt that their importance had not been recognised.

Now Ephraim is a tribe here which epitomises people, whether they're children of God or not, who are often filled with a sense of their own self-importance. I don't know whether you know any saints like this or not, I do - I'm not going to name them from the pulpit! - but they often get offended when you don't make enough of them. They have this attitude if you bypass them: 'Oh, I wasn't asked. I wasn't recognised, or I wasn't consulted, or I was overlooked. I have been totally ignored in this whole affair'. Well, Ephraim was like that, he was a prima donna. If you want to put it in a New Testament light, he was Diotrephes, who loved the preeminence, he loved to be made much of, recognised. Incidentally, isn't it interesting that this dispute many many hundreds of years ago among the children of God is fuelled by pride? Pride, the sin that made the devil the devil; and pride, the sin that has divided God's people down through all time, and which probably is the seed of every sin imaginable.

Let me ask you the question: how would you deal with these Ephraimites? 'Oh, you didn't consult me!' - critical and resentful - 'We weren't in the victory!'. Well, I imagine a lot of Ulster Christians would say: 'Those boys need to be brought down a peg or two, someone needs to tell them a few home truths, and I'm the one to do it'. But Gideon's quick-witted proverb was what did the trick, in verse 2: 'He said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you?'. He panders a little bit to them in the proverb, and he says: 'Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?' - and Abiezer is simply the house of Gideon. He's saying: 'Your vintage wine, what you have done, is it not greater than what I have done and my people?'. You see, Ephraim killed two of the leading kings in the enemy ranks, and what Gideon was saying was: 'You've knocked down two of the big guns, and we've been dealing with the smaller ones. You're really greater than we are at the end of the day'.

Anyone who has ever been in leadership, and who has experienced division among God's children, knows that is one of the most difficult situations to deal with

Now we need to ask the question: is that the truth? I'm not saying that Gideon was telling a lie, but was it really greater for Ephraim to kill two kings than for Gideon to attack 135,000 men with 300 and to conquer them? Of course it wasn't - but you see, what we need to see is that in the mind and the heart of Gideon he was prioritising. He wasn't playing fast and loose with the truth, but with a godly pragmatism Gideon realised that the unity of God's people at this time was more important than personal pride. Someone has said: 'It takes more grace than I can tell to play the second fiddle well'. Gideon was willing to play the second fiddle so that, whether he was wrong or mistreated or criticised, it didn't matter, what was important to him was that the people of God were one, not that he was vindicated.

He says in verse 3: 'God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian', and he names them. He blows them up a little bit, he doesn't come down on them like a ton of bricks - and this shows to me the great discernment that Gideon had as a leader of God's people, which is so lacking today. How did Gideon meet resentful criticism - and we've all faced it? He met it with gentleness, a gentleness that defused the situation completely. He was following, whether he knew it or not, Proverbs 15 and verse 1: 'A soft answer turneth away wrath'. We don't often get soft answers, but that was what was necessary at this particular time. Those who were critical and resentful in Ephraim, Gideon met them with gentleness and the unity was maintained.

Then there's a second group, and they were the cynical. The cynical tried to discourage Gideon - we see them in verses 4 and 5: 'Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them. And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian'. Now you imagine the scene: 300 tired warriors, they're absolutely exhausted. They've gotten a great victory for God, they're seeking refreshment in Succoth among their own people, and one of these Israelite towns on the other side of Jordan closes the door upon them, and says: 'Go away! We don't want anything to do with you!'. Imagine this! Gideon's 300 men have won a victory, and these people of Succoth should have appreciated what God had done through them, through Gideon and his 300 men. He had liberated them from the oppression of the Midianites, but instead of appreciation, what do they get in return? Discouragement. All these soldiers wanted was a drink of water and a piece of bread, but the attitude of the people of Succoth was cynical. They were saying, in effect: 'Why should we help you? You still haven't won the war! You may have won a little battle...' - and maybe they were thinking in their subconscious, 'What if you don't win the whole war, if we help you the Midianites will come back and they'll sort us out because we give you a hand in the matter'.

It's true, though I don't like saying it, that the Lord's people can be very discouraging at times. I have to say to you that there's an element of realism that is needed if you do anything for the people of God, that if you don't accept that they can be discouraging, you'll not survive in church life - because saints are only sinners saved by grace. There could be times when we feel we ought to be appreciated, but all we get is discouragement. The fact of the matter is: the danger is that Gideon at this point could have said, like some of us do at times, 'I'm jacking this in, I am wasting my time, I'm not doing this any more!'. The problem is when the discouragement that we face from even the people of God becomes disillusionment, we allow it to affect our spirit. Though Gideon, I'm sure, was discouraged at the resentfulness of the critical, at the lack of appreciation of the cynical who discouraged them, Gideon was determined that he would not be disillusioned, he would not be set off course from the calling of God.

He refused to be deflected from God's purpose on his life, and he promised to come and visit these men in Succoth and after the battle, and he did - and, boy, did he visit them! How did he meet discouragement? He met it with perseverance, with tenacity, with steadfastness. He reminds me a little bit of Nehemiah - you remember he was up building the walls in Jerusalem, and Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem sent their friends to call him down from the wall, to distract him from the work of God, and he sent messengers back to them saying: 'I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease whilst I leave it and come down to you?'. I think it was Livingstone who said: 'God loves plodders'. Gideon was able to discern how, with a soft answer, to answer the critical and resentful; but how, also, with harshness and with steadfastness and sternness to address the cynical who were going to discourage him. What a leader! What victories these were!

How did he meet discouragement? He met it with perseverance, with tenacity, with steadfastness

Then thirdly there were the flatterers who sought to exalt him. In verse 22 we read of them, because of his great victories that we've mentioned: 'Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian'. 'As a reward for delivering us, we appreciate you at least: be our King!' - well, we find that Gideon resolutely resisted the pressure. He declared to them that the Lord would rule over them, not a King. What a man, eh? We might well say: 'Where did he go wrong?'. Can I say that this is so subtle that it is frightening to me, because from this moment on, just after this, without so much as a murmur of prayer for direction from God, we see that after refusing the throne Gideon announces his own strategy to the people in verse 24. 'Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey' - the Lord isn't mentioned from the mouth of Gideon for the rest of the record that we have of his life and his judgeship.

He now announces to the people his own strategy, what he thought was the answer for the people. Albeit unconsciously, Gideon at this point took a direction, and that direction was to take the driving wheel of the people of God, effectively, out of the hands of the Almighty and into his own frail grip. Now I have no doubt he was well-meaning and sincere, but his fall came just after great triumphs, when he simply took one step too far ahead of God. I don't know about you, but that scares me.

His fall came shortly after great triumph, but then secondly his fall began when he leaned on his own understanding - his strategy! He may have followed the wisdom of Proverbs 15 verse 1: 'A soft answer turneth away wrath', but he mustn't have read, or at least he had forgotten Proverbs 3:5-6: 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path'. You see, in chapter 7 and verse 2, if you look at it for a moment, you will remember that God chose to deliver the people through 300 Israelites so that it would be seen that God had delivered them and it was not their own hands, lest they vaunt themselves against God saying 'Mine own hand hath saved me'. But now Gideon is beginning to lean on his own hand, his own understanding, and he's not trusting in God to do the impossible.

I know that I preached to you not so long ago on King Hezekiah, under the title 'The Best of Men, A Man At Best'. In 2 Kings 19, this man who finished his life in dishonour also, when he received the letter from King Sennacherib, and all the threats and vaunting and blasphemy against the Living God, likening Him to the other gods of the nations, we see that Hezekiah took that letter from the hands of his messengers, and the Bible says he read it, he went up to the house of the Lord, and he spread it before the Lord. If you ever get a letter like that, that's what you need to do, spread it before the Lord. Let me say to you at the beginning of this New Year: that's where we need to be as children of God. Whatever happens, we ought not to take a step - and you have no idea how this is speaking to my own life - without spreading everything before the Lord. It's important - why? Because Gideon shows us that one wrong step can lead to depths of depravity that are unbelievable, because thirdly: his fall ended in open idolatry and blatant hypocrisy.

Imagine that this one, Gideon, who had destroyed his father's shrine to Baal when he was a young man, now as an older man in later life he becomes the actual instrument of the devil to reintroduce such idolatry to the nation! Isn't that incredible? In verse 27, if you look at it, back in Judges 8 we read: 'And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither prostituting after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house'. What did he do? He got all the earrings of the Ishmaelites and all their ornaments made of gold, and put them in the melting pot and he made a gold ephod. Now an ephod was the priestly garment, and from these spoils of war the ephod, which was part of the High Priest's attire - a sleeveless tunic that was worn over other garments, made of very costly materials, gold, blue, purple, scarlet, fine linen - he made a gold one of these, and it became a snare to him. Now I don't know whether you know this, but attached to the ephod in the Old Testament priest there were not only twelve jewels that represented the twelve tribes of Israel, but there was a pocket, and in the pocket resided the Urim and the Thummim. Now the Urim and the Thummim were the instruments whereby the people of God of old discerned the will of God in particular matters.

Gideon, who had destroyed his father's shrine to Baal when he was a young man, now as an older man in later life he becomes the actual instrument of the devil to reintroduce such idolatry to the nation!

I believe with all my heart that Gideon's intent was to remind the people that they wouldn't have a King, that the Lord would rule over them, and maybe the Urim and the Thummim was a reminder that they were to be guided by the sovereign providence of God - but the irony is this: though this might have made sense to Gideon, God wasn't in it! He may have done it for the right reasons, it may have given the right message; but it was from the wisdom of a man, not the will of God. Here's a warning, if ever there was one, for all of us: never ever replace divine wisdom with human strategy. There is nothing - I don't care how many letters you have after your name, or how many seminars you have been to, or books you have read - that can replace God's word, that can replace the Holy Spirit and can replace believing prayer: nothing!

Idolatry from the man who trounced it in the past, but also hypocrisy because, after rejecting the throne, he lived the life of a King. In verses 29 to 32 it describes the lifestyle, effectively, of a monarch. Gideon said: 'I won't be King, my son won't be King, my grandson won't be King', and then he goes on as a Judge to retire, not as an army officer or as a Judge, but more like a monarch. He's wealthy, partly from the spoils of battle I imagine, and partly from the gifts of the people. We read on that he has many wives, he has at least one concubine. His wives bore him seventy sons - it doesn't mention the daughters, how many they were. His concubine bore him one son, and in fact the son that his concubine bore him he named Abimelech - and do you know what that means? 'My father is King'!

'There's a wee bit of a contradiction here', you say. I think it's more of a compromise. We see from the rest of the book of Judges, subsequent verses after chapter 8, that this son Abimelech later tried to live up to his name as the son of the King, and he tried to become ruler over all the land. Gideon seems to have tried to assume priestly duties with his ephod; consulting God, perhaps, on behalf of the people. What's the lesson here, my friend? It is complete hypocrisy! His private life did not measure up to his public confession. Did you hear that? Listen to me: his private life did not live up to his public confession. He says to the people with his mouth: 'There'll be no King ruling over you. I'll not be it, nor my son, nor my son's son. The Lord will rule over you', and then he goes on to live like a king. Isn't it true that many believers begin with a blaze of glory, but they end in a bog of shame. We have to say, sadly, so many great and useful men and women of God, before they finish their course they write, or they say, or they do something - and, though it may not undo all the previous work that they've done for good, it leaves some kind of a blemish on their good name, and a question mark on their testimony.

I wonder is there someone here this morning and you're beginning the Christian life? Can I give you this warning: stay humble. R. A. Torrey wrote a book entitled 'Why God Used D. L. Moody', and I've recited this to you before, but there are very few other things have impressed my life as much as this quote. He warns young men and women that humility was the secret to this man's ministry, and they ought to make it the secret to their lives. I quote him: 'Oh, men and women! Especially young men and young women, perhaps God is beginning to use you. Listen: get down upon your face before God. I believe here lies one of the most dangerous snares of the Devil. When the Devil cannot discourage a man, he approaches him on another tack, which he knows is far worse in its results; he puffs him up by whispering in his ear: "You are the leading evangelist of the day. You are the man who will sweep everything before you. You are the coming man. You are the D. L. Moody of the day"; and if you listen to him, he will ruin you'. Listen to this: 'The entire shore of the history of Christian workers is strewn with the wrecks of gallant vessels that were full of promise a few years ago, but these men became puffed up and were driven on the rocks by the wild winds of their own raging self-esteem'.

Someone said to me once: 'Stay low, don't blow, and go slow'. Are you beginning the Christian life? Stay humble. Perhaps you're nearer the end of the Christian life - can I ask you: are you still humble? Have you ever been humble? I'm led to believe, I haven't had it documented for me, that RAF fighters during the Second World War made most of their mistakes not when they were out in the dogfights over the seas and oceans of Europe, but they made the most errors when they were coming in to land. They were all tense up there in the air fighting for their lives, but when they were coming in they began to relax, feeling that they had made it - and they dropped their guards, and many died.

Take heed, he that thinks he stand, lest he fall - and the most spiritual Christian may fall, and that's why we need to keep our eyes on the unfailing example of the Lord Jesus

In the course of his final series of Bible lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, Harry Ironside said in his prayer, listen to this: 'O God, keep me from becoming a foolish old man'. What a prayer! Could you pray that? Dr Culbertson retired as president of Moody Bible Institute, and he heard that the trustees were planning to name a building in his honour. He protested, and do you know what he said? 'Men, you do not know how I will end'. It's not how you begin that matters, it's how you end. Take heed, he that thinks he stand, lest he fall - and the most spiritual Christian may fall, and that's why we need to keep our eyes on the unfailing example of the Lord Jesus. It's interesting to contrast Abraham's reaction after his battle with the kings of the plain, with Gideon's here - because after that victory, Abraham took nothing for himself, but he made sure that others received the spoils of the victory. We actually read that he especially refused to take anything from the heathen King of Sodom. In Genesis 14 verse 22 he says to the king of Sodom: 'I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, of that which is from you, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich'. What a difference!

Do you know how Abraham spends the next chapters of the record in Genesis? Fellowshipping with another King, Melchizedek, a type of our Lord Jesus Christ - he kept his eyes on the unfailing example. Micah could say that God has showed us 'O man, what is good; and what the LORD requires of us', this year and every day, 'to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?'. I'm not really concerned this morning how you began the Christian life, I'm not concerned how you went on in your early days, and the trail you blazed for God. I'm asking you this morning: how are you now? How are you going to end? As a bitter twisted old man or woman, or as someone who has just passively let the flame go out in their heart? As we begin a New Year, may we all be able to say - whatever happens, whether the Saviour comes or calls us - like the apostle, as he looked up from the chopping block: 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith'.

Lord, we borrow the words of Jude and say that we long that glory should be brought unto Him who is able to keep us from falling, to present us faultless before the throne of the Glory on high. We do not want to bring shame upon the testimony of God. We want to tread and take each step carefully. Lord, forgive us and help us to forget the past and press on for the high calling of God. Lord, all of us fall from time to time, but though we fall seven times, may we rise again to the glory of God - and if we get up, Lord, keep us up; that it may never be said of us that we turned and forgot our first love and source of power, and lent on our own understanding. For us as individuals, this we pray, and for the Iron Hall as a church - God forbid that we should ever live for a name or a reputation, but let us live with our eyes firmly fixed on Christ, the unwavering example. Amen.
Don't miss part 11 of 'Men For The Hour': 'Jephthah, The Reject'

Transcribed by:
Preach The Word.
January 2006

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tenth recording in his 'Men For The Hour' series, entitled "Gideon, The Fallen" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.

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