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Gideon: Seeing God’s Strength (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
August 17, 2022 4:00 am

Gideon: Seeing God’s Strength (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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August 17, 2022 4:00 am

Do you think you’re too weak to be used effectively by God? If so, then perhaps you haven’t accounted for His great power! Discover how God used Gideon’s weakness to confront evil and deliver an entire nation. Join us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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Music playing in the background As a culture gets increasingly crazy, common sense is at a premium. And as the people of God get increasingly confused, common sense in spiritual, theological, biblical terms is increasingly at a premium. There is in our generation an increasing lack of spiritual discernment. As I move around, I find people wandering around going, Does anybody here know what's going on? God says, I'll tell you what's going on.

You're not listening to me. That's the issue in Hebrews. That's why you have all these warning passages in Hebrews, is it not? What's the great warning in Hebrews chapter 2 and verse 1?

We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard so that we don't drift away. And what was the problem with the folks in chapter 4? It was that the message that they heard, that they had preached to them, was of absolutely no value to them, because although they heard it, they did not combine it with faith.

They were akin to those who died in the wilderness, with their fingers in their ears and their hands over their eyes. And so, says one commentator, in light of all of this, it is no coincidence that innumerable Midianites are sent as a punishment for the rejection of innumerable mercies. We have a difficulty fitting this into many of our theologies, but the Bible has no difficulty with it at all. It's not hidden in some covert somewhere in an obscure passage of Scripture. It sits on the very surface of Scripture. And I think it is actually an explanation as to where the church in the West is at the present time. Let me go quickly to say one or two things about God's servant.

God's servant. Because when you get to verse 11, it's no longer the prophet that's speaking. You've got in the first six verses, incidentally, the narrator who is speaking.

Then in 7 to 10, you've got the prophet speaking. And then in verse 11, it's the angel who starts to speak. And what we have in this angel is a pre-incarnate revelation of God, a theophany. Gideon doesn't immediately grasp it. By the time you get to verse 14 and verse 16, he is calling the angel Lord in this dramatic manifestation that we have. And the angel of the Lord, in verse 11, comes and sits down under the oak in Ofrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite.

Now, the picture here is a graphic picture. Here you've got this guy who, under normal circumstances, would be doing what he ought to be doing out in the open air—namely, threshing the wheat. And in the process of threshing wheat in the open air, they used to cast it up in the air, and if there was any breeze at all, the breeze would blow the chaff away, a la Psalm 1, and the grain, which was heavier, would settle down and would be retained.

And it was customary for that threshing process to be taking place outdoors and in full view of anybody who may be passing by. But given the circumstances with these marauding eastern peoples and the Amalekites and the Midianites, etc., the people of God had been reduced to doing this as a covert operation. And so we find this man, Gideon, and he is in a hollow in the ground, and he is going at his business, threshing his wheat in a winepress in order to keep it from the Midianites—presumably to keep the very sight of it from the Midianites, and then to store it in a way that won't be immediately accessible to them. And as he goes on at his work, he is threshing away, and all of a sudden he must have had the sensation that there was someone else just around him, as you sometimes get. And he looks up, and the angel of the Lord is sitting underneath this oak tree, and the angel speaks to him and arrests him with this amazing greeting. You know, it's one thing just to be going about your business and meet an angel, I would guess. It's the second thing if the angel says, hey, how are you doing? But it's heavy duty if the angel, the first words out of his mouth are, the Lord is with you, mighty warrior. Because here's this guy who is, whatever he is, he sure doesn't look like a mighty warrior.

He's hiding in a hole in the ground so that the mighty warriors don't find him, otherwise he ain't gonna be hiding in the hole in the ground anymore. And an angel shows up and says, the Lord is with you, mighty warrior. There's an irony about this. There is a prophetic dimension to this. It is ironic in light of who the chap is and where he is, and it is prophetic in light of what God does with someone when he sends his messenger to speak to them. You see, this is the amazing thing about the call of God. God comes to the strangest of chaps, in the weirdest of places, sometimes oppressed and feeling the extent of their impoverishment, and the first words that he speaks to us is, hey, the Lord is with you, mighty warrior. And you're looking over your shoulder, saying, and now who is this being addressed to? I didn't know there was somebody else in the room. And the angel says, no, I'm looking at you!

I'm looking at you! You see, the callings of God never leave a man where they find him. Because when God calls us to move on, if we try and stay stationary, we don't actually stay stationary, we move back. So once God is called, you can never stay in the same place.

You either go forward with him or you go back without him. And the word of the Lord to him was, hey, the Lord's with you, you're a mighty warrior. Now, I love the response of verse 13, I hope you're as encouraged by it as I am.

But, sir, Gideon replied, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Now, don't get smug and all kind of Pharisaical here, chaps, saying, my, my, if I'd had an angel come to me and say, the Lord is with you, mighty warrior, I would have said, yes, sir, angel, and I am with him and ready for service. No, you wouldn't.

No, you wouldn't. Why are you telling lies to yourself like that? Don't sit there, you big Pharisee, and do that stuff. This is good. This is why this is in the Bible. But, sir. There's a kind of strange tension in this, but, sir. It's like, but, Lord. If he's Lord, there's no but, you know? It's yes, Lord, but not but, Lord.

But, sir, why has all this happened? Didn't the Lord bring us up out of Egypt? But now he has abandoned us. He's put us in the hand of Midian. How wonderful it is to realize that when God puts his hand on the life of an individual, someone that he's about to use greatly, he's prepared to tolerate the silly questions that come out of our mouths, even as he tolerates Gideon's. It was about to become apparent to Gideon and to all of the people that God was as much in control of the people's abandonment as he was in control of their deliverance. The Lord has abandoned us. He's put us into the hand of Midian.

He spoke truth there. Cowper understood it when he wrote the hymn, God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform. He plants his footsteps in the sea, and he rides upon the storm. Judge not the Lord by feeble strength, but trust him for his grace. Behind a frowning providence, he hides a smiling face. And Gideon had something of an inkling of this. And therefore, there was an incongruity in it, and there was supposed to be.

There was a paradox in the greeting. The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. He looks at himself and he says, I'm not a mighty warrior.

And that was actually true, but it was prophetic of what he was going to become as God picked him up and used him. And the Lord turned to him and said, Go. He asked the questions, what does the Lord do in reply? Doesn't answer his questions. He says, Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand.

Am I not sending you? Now again, go in the strength you have. What strength did he have? He didn't have any strength.

He was so aware of his weakness. And he comes back and he says, But Lord, you say, Go in my strength? How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh.

I'm the least in my family. Now, you see, this is the story of the people of God. This is true of Gideon, but it's also true of the people of God. You think of all the proud, prophetic nations, all in the times that led up to the end of the Old Testament, and the great rising of Assyria and Mesopotamia and all these different places, and they represented wealth, and they represented wisdom, and they had architecture, and they had power, and they had might. And God's focus is on this funny little strip of land and this nondescript group of people. The spirit of the world is the spirit of Naaman, you know.

Isn't there something that I could do? I thought you would come out and grant me a blessing. You want me to go and dip myself in the Jordan.

Don't you realize who I am? God says, Just do what I told you. And you come across the intertestamental period and into the New Testament, and they're looking for a Savior on a horse, on a charger. They're looking for might. They're looking for power.

They're looking for the overthrow of the Roman Empire. And here he comes, and he had no beauty that men would be attracted to him. And a sheep before his shearers was dumb.

He didn't open his mouth. And people said, You're really going to save the world with this kind of stuff? You see, it's the same question that's on us today. I'll come to that in just a moment.

I don't want to anticipate myself. In verse 17, Gideon replied, If I've found favor in your eyes, give me a sign. And the Lord gives him a sign. He burns up his sacrifice, and he continues to confirm that to him as he proceeds. Now, in all of this stuff, the Lord is preparing his servant for a battle.

You know the story. Where is the battle to be fought? Well, if you read the remaining section here in chapter 6, I think you may agree with me that the battle was to be fought on three fronts. First of all, to fight the enemy that was among them. To fight the enemy that was among them. That begins in verse 25, and it goes to verse 32.

The same night the Lord said to him, Take the second bull from your father's herd, tear down your father's altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole. The pervasive influences of the surrounding godless culture were in the very family of the servant that God had chosen to use. And before we find ourselves again far too quick to speak in judgment, let us stand back for a moment and ask ourselves the question, Is it not true that we have met the enemy in one sense and it is us? That the real battle that we fight is a battle of an eroded holiness. It is a battle of a prevailing godlessness. It is a battle of an absorption of a culture, so much so that Tozer's words have now proved reality rather than prophetic, when from his grave, as it were, he still speaks to say, The church is the bestest guy set of pilgrims that the world has ever seen, because we have been so inculcated in so much of what is around us. And that was the first enemy to be addressed here.

You've got the problem right in your own camp, he says. You're going to have to tear down this pole. You're going to have to smash down this altar. You say, Well, do we have altars to smash?

I think probably. Do we have poles around which we gather? I think we must be honest to say we do. The notion that security and comfort and enjoyment are suitable for us to bow before, or even worse, power and wealth and an unbridled self-indulgence. Says Wilcock, In every age there are forces at work which promise to meet our desires. Political programs, economic theories, philosophical movements, entertainment industries, all having one feature in common. They are big enough to do things for us that we can't do for ourselves, yet at the same time amenable to our manipulating them, so that we might get from them what we want.

And the culture around them—the water in which the boat was floating—had seeped into the boat. And the prevailing challenge to Gideon's folks at this point is the prevailing challenge in every generation on this one front. Jesus said, I don't pray that you take them out of the world, but I pray that you keep them from the evil one. And the church, especially in the realm of evangelicalism, has, over history, bounced between two extremes. On the one hand, isolationism, which makes us very sure of what we have to say, but there's no one to talk to.

And the other, an absorption by the culture, which gives us someone to talk to but leaves us with nothing to say. And so God comes to his servant, and he says, I want you to fight, first of all, the battle that is among you. Tear down the altar, cut down the pole, use the pole to burn the stuff. What does the hymnwriter say? The dearest idol I have known, whatever that idol be, help me to tear it from its throne and worship only thee.

Now the big mighty warrior, verse 27, took ten of his servants and did as he was told. Is there something there? I think so. Do you think he just wanted companionship? I don't think so. I think this is as tough as he was. Excuse me, could you come with me, please? Why?

Well, it tells us he was afraid of his family, and he was afraid of the men of the town, and he did it at night rather than in the daytime. Do you find it rising in you again? That little Pharisee response? The little, I'm-a-really-devoted one?

It's coming up? Whoa! I wouldn't have been afraid. I would have done it in broad daylight. Get serious.

You're frightened sometimes to pray on the airplane when you're having your meal, because the person's so close to you in coach that they're gonna be—they might even get born again just listening to your prayer. You're doing all that scratching of your head stuff, you know. The guy's looking like, does he have a big zit on his head or something? What's the deal? So, notice, he did it at night, but he did it! Says Davis, obedience was essential, heroism was optional. Now, guys, some of us are waiting to be heroes before we get obedient. Heroism is optional. Let the Lord take care of making heroes. Let us take care of the business of being obedient. Go cut down the poles.

Go get a few of those idols. You know what they are. I know what they are. The enemy is among us.

Enough. The enemy is around us. Verse 33 to 35. The Midianite action now came on the back of the Canaanite thinking.

Get rid of the Canaanite thinking, and then deal with the Midianite activity. Again, let me quote, to move things to a conclusion. If they trust one set of worldly forces to give them prosperity, they can hardly be surprised if another set takes their prosperity away. You see, that's what the people of God were doing.

They were trusting on all these earthly things to answer the questions of their life. So God says, you want to trust in that? Fine, I'm going to turn it on your heads. And God ordains that those whose hearts are set on the Canaanite gods of peace and plenty and comfort will regularly suffer the Midianite scourges of strife, deprivation, and misery. You want to have peace and comfort and prosperity, and you're seeking it over here?

Fine. Let me bring that over on your heads for a while. And even as God uses evil as a punishment to teach his people, he calls Gideon to rise up and oppose the very evil that he uses as a punishment. Well, that'll stretch your heads in the small group Bible study, won't it?

Right? The very evil which God raises up to use as a punishment to bring his people into line, he simultaneously raises up his servant to oppose the very evil that he is using himself as a punishment to bring his people into line. God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform. And so he, Gideon, listens to the word, and he blows the trumpet. And he blows the trumpet in light of the latest invasion. And all the Midianites, verse 33, and Amalekites and eastern peoples, they joined forces, and they crossed over the Jordan, they camped in the valley of the Jordan, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet.

You know, if you only had the first part of the verse, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he finished this sentence, you know, what would you say? I don't think you would say, And he blew a trumpet. Now, I don't want to be unkind to any trumpet players here, but blowing trumpets is not that big of a deal.

Unless it's purposeful. And of course it was. He blew the trumpet. You want to be a trumpet blower? Are you prepared to blow the trumpet? You prepared to stand up for what is right against everything that is manifestly wrong?

You prepared to stand up and call homosexuality a perversion, not an alternative lifestyle? Are you prepared to deal first? Am I prepared to deal first with the enemy that is among? Am I prepared to deal with the enemy that is around? And lastly, am I prepared to deal with the enemy that is within?

Gideon said to God, If you will, save Israel by my hand, as you have promised. Look, I'll place a wool fleece on the threshing floor, if there's dew only on the fleece and all the drear—you know all that stuff, you've preached sermons on it. You can't remember what you said about it, because frankly, you weren't that clear about what you were saying about it, remember? And you had it dry when it was supposed to be wet, and wet when it was supposed to be dry, and goodness gracious, you had it all over the place, and people hadn't a clue what was going on, and you wish you'd never even mentioned it in the first place. And you probably shouldn't have done, because it's only a very tiny part of the bigger picture. But you read in one of the old Keswick books a great sermon on the fleece, squeezing the fleece, and so you determined to do it as well.

I suggest to you, don't do it again. It was a special case to which God responded in a special way. And his broad sweep is for us to be obedient to what he has already made clear—not to sit around trying to get things wet or dry so that he can do special deals for us.

But God was really nice, really kind to Gideon, because he knew that Gideon was fearful. And he takes the fearful servant, and he picks him up, and he's about to use him. And we'll come to that tomorrow, but let me give you a final illustration of a fearful servant. On November 21, 1873, Dwight L. Moody reaches Scotland, and one of the biographers says, Scottish people are eminent for their knowledge of theology. He who would edify a congregation of Scotsmen must come to them with the beaten oil of the sanctuary and pour it from vessels of a proper and traditional form. He should be a man of high attainments and learning.

The stamp of some college should be upon him, and more than all he should come with the endorsement of some eminent body of divines. All these things were lacking in Mr. Moody. If there were any preacher in all the world who was likely to be rejected in Scotland, aside from the power of God which attended him, Dwight L. Moody was that man. And God came to him and said, Hey, Moody, my mighty warrior. And the farewell meeting of Moody and Sankey was held on the slopes of Arthur's seat—that big knoll of grass that you've seen on chariots of fire when Eric and his sister walk out there and talk to one another is down behind Holyrood Palace at the bottom of the Royal Mile. The farewell meeting of Moody and Sankey was held on the slopes of Arthur's seat, no building being at all adequate to accommodate the vast congregation. From the historic seat of Christianity, which they had entered in fear and trembling, they went forth with joy in their hearts.

Why? Because God, in the immensity of his purpose to redeem a people for himself, decided to pick up an interesting chap in the midst of his days and have him blow his trumpet. So to those of us who feel overwhelmed by the enemy, who feel crushed by our own sense of weakness, and to those of us who have become increasingly self-reliant, may these thoughts, random as they are, turn us again to the Scriptures, and again to Christ, who makes his power clear in the very obvious nature of our weakness. It is the promise of God's Word that we can count on Jesus to display his power in the midst of our weakness.

We're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. The better we understand the Bible, and the more we realize all that God has done for his people, the easier it becomes to trust his promises. That's why we teach the Bible every day at Truth for Life. We trust God to work through the teaching on this program, to encourage pastors to build up local churches, to bring unbelievers to a saving knowledge of Christ, and help believers continue to grow in their faith. Now, growing in faith involves the ongoing practice of learning more about God, and one of the ways we do that is by studying his attributes as they're revealed to us in the Bible. To help with that, we want to suggest a book titled God Is, A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God. This book presents a five to six page daily reading on 26 different characteristics of God.

The author makes a point to show how these characteristics are clearly revealed in Jesus, and at the end of each attribute discussion, he also gives practical suggestions for how we can apply what we've learned to our everyday lives. Request your copy of the book God Is when you give a donation today. You'll find it in the app, or you can visit us online at truthforlife.org slash donate. And if you request the book God Is with your donation today and you'd like to purchase extra copies to share with others or for your church, you'll find them in our online store. They're available for purchase at our cost.

The books are available only while supplies last, so it's best to purchase extra copies while the book is being offered. Visit truthforlife.org slash store. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. Tomorrow we'll find out why parental authority is absolutely vital for a stable society. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-08 09:49:06 / 2023-03-08 09:58:41 / 10

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