Friday, December 31, 2021
Thursday, December 30, 2021
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Tuesday, December 28, 2021
Monday, December 27, 2021
Sunday, December 26, 2021
Thursday, December 23, 2021
Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Tuesday, December 21, 2021
Monday, December 20, 2021
Sunday, December 19, 2021
Saturday, December 18, 2021
We continue on with Chapter 7 today and Gideon's attack on the Midianites. I apologize for missing a couple of study sessions this week. I suffer from cluster headaches every year in the fall months and I've been waking up with them a lot lately. They make it difficult to look at a computer screen til later in the day but I'm at work by then and unable to do the blog. But I'm feeling great this morning and am happy to be able to study with you.
In our last session we learned that the Lord whittled Gideon's army down from 32,000 men to only 300 men. The Lord wants all Israel to know that the victory will be due to His power, not to man's strength and ingenuity. This is for the people's own good because they've been dabbling in idolatry and this faith lesson will help turn their hearts fully back to the Lord. Have you ever had the Lord work a situation out in such a way that it was impossible for you to credit yourself or anyone else with the victory? He does this not because He needs thanks and praise; He does it because we need to give thanks and praise. It strengthens our faith. It solidifies our resolve to obey Him. It gives us hope and courage for the future. He knows we live in a world that appears scary and uncertain and He knows we need to be able to hold onto something that is secure---and the only true security is Him.
Sometimes we make the mistake of placing our confidence in ourselves. That's easy to do when we're not sick and when nothing hurts and when life is going along pretty routinely. I think that may be what happened with the generations that were born in the promised land. They'd never endured the hardships of Egypt. They'd never wandered in the wilderness. They'd never fought in the battles that drove so many heathen idolaters out of the land. As a result of their comfort and ease, I think many of them neglected a close relationship with the Lord. That left them open to the temptation of becoming curious about the religious practices of the pagan cultures of the region. As we've discussed before, it's possible for anyone to become comfortable with a mediocre relationship with the Lord, especially when the circumstances of life are comfortable. I'd like to suggest that praying and reading the word of God is even more important in times of prosperity than in times of difficulty. Nobody really has to convince us that we need to call on the Lord for help during the hard times. But the enemy of our souls knows it's a human weakness to slack off spiritually in prosperous times. He knows that's when we're more likely to let down our guard, making it a good opportunity for him to confront us with a temptation we didn't see coming.
Gideon has 300 men with which to fight the coming battle and I bet nobody in his army was slacking off on their praying at this time. The Midianites and their allies combined have at least 135,000 troops, according to information we'll be provided in the next chapter, and the Israelites are vastly outnumbered. During the night before the battle I believe Gideon and his men were probably praying instead of sleeping. While Gideon seeks guidance from the Lord, the Lord tells him what to do. "Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. During that night the Lord said to Gideon, 'Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.'" (Judges 7:8b-11a)
The Lord gives Gideon two options which will produce the same outcome: he can either go ahead and attack the camp right now or he and Purah can spy out the camp first and then attack it. I love the way the Lord is patient with Gideon's anxiety about the coming battle. Gideon believes the Lord is going to give victory but that doesn't mean he isn't experiencing some apprehension. He wouldn't be human if he wasn't concerned about his own life and about the lives of the 300 men under his authority. He wouldn't be a responsible army leader if he didn't care about the welfare of his troops. The Lord tells Gideon that, if it will make him feel better, to first sneak down to the camp and listen to what the enemy troops are saying to each other. Something he hears in the camp will give him the extra boost of courage he needs.
"So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore. Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. 'I had a dream,' he was saying. 'A round loaf of barley came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.' His friend responded, 'This can be nothing but the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.'" (Judges 7:11b-13) The enemy army, which far outnumbers the army of Israel, is afraid of the army of Israel. I think this fear has been weighing heavily on their minds, which is what caused one of the soldiers to have his bad dream. This fear is what caused his friend to immediately interpret the dream as a sign that the Lord is going to give Israel the victory. The soldiers of the enemy army have heard the stories of Israel's military successes in the past. They have heard the fame of Israel's God. If they've been able to spy on Israel enough to learn the name of the army general then they must know that Gideon doesn't have as many men as they have, yet they are trembling in fear at the thought of facing Israel's soldiers on the battlefield. The knowledge that the enemy is terrified of him and his troops gives Gideon the last bit of encouragement he needs to move boldly forward with the attack in tomorrow's passage.
But first he gives thanks to the Lord: "When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped." (Judges 7:15a) I bet it was all he could do not to jump up and down and shout hallelujah but, being where he was, he had to bow quietly on his knees at the edge of the camp. In his spirit I believe he was shouting the praises of the Lord who has so patiently dealt with his need for reassurance. Gideon is a man willing to do whatever the Lord tells him to do; it's just that he needs extra help to always be certain that the Lord actually is telling him to do something. On several previous occasions we've seen the Lord having to provide Gideon with signs that he's on the right path. At no time has the Lord scolded Gideon for asking for signs. The Lord who created him understands how his mind works. The Lord knows Gideon's personality better than Gideon knows it himself. The Lord deals with everyone as individuals, adjusting His methods to suit each person's personality and circumstances. Gideon doesn't ask for signs because He doesn't believe the Lord is able to do what He says He's going to do; he asks for signs because he's afraid that, in his human weakness, he'll misunderstand the Lord's instructions. Gideon's faith in the Lord isn't weak, which is why the Lord finds no fault with his requests for reassuring signs. It's Gideon's faith in himself and in mankind in general that's weak, and rightly so, for we are all capable of deceiving ourselves and making mistakes. But Gideon's faith in the Lord is so great that he's mentioned in the portion of Scripture known as "The Hebrews Hall Of Faith". (Hebrews 11:32)
Join us tomorrow as Gideon, in the strength of the Lord, wins a great battle.