A Few Good Men. . . and Women

Series: Preacher: Date: October 28, 2012 Scripture Reference: Judges 2:11, 4:1, 6:1, 8:33, 13:1; 1 Corinthians 1:27-29

God uses unlikely heroes who are faithful followers, so His name will be made Great!

We are journeying through this series called The Story.  I am excited to be a part of The Story series. During my sabbatical one of my prayers were to fall in love with God’s Word and experience Him in a new way.  I have experienced just that through the readings.  I find it hard to put down The Story book as I get enthrawd in the journey of the characters in the story.  So far, we have walked with the Israelites as they escaped Egypt and wandered through the desert for 40 years.  There has been blessings and curses throughout this time.  The promised land is before them and the leadership changes.  Joshua becomes the new leader who leads the Israelites into the Promise Land.  Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan they set up Ebenezer, memory stones, milestones to help them remember what The Lord had done.

Every time the people faced a wall or barrier it was crumbled by The Lord’s power.

The Bible says “the nation of Israel faithfully followed God throughout the life of Joshua and the elders” (Judges 2:7).

I think after all they experienced the Israelites would be transformed and never turn away from God as long as they lived and would pass their faith in God onto the next generation, right?  But, as we rea, that is not the case.

The scriptures say that the Israelites faithfully followed The Lord during Joshua’s lifetime.  Joshua dies and the story goes that the generation after that did not know the work that the Lord had done.  That means the nation failed to instill a love and devotion for God in their children, in the next generation.

Now this morning we are in The Book of Judges.  As you read chapter 8 in The Story, you may notice a cycle repeated in the history of Israel.  Look on the screen and you will see this diagraming Israel’s cycle of disobedience, punishment, repentance, deliverance, and service.

Now you think after repeating this cycle a few times the nation would catch on, but this cycle continues for over 300 years.  One generation does not pass on their faith in God and the Bible say’s, the next generation began walking in darkness.  They became consumed by the surrounding culture and stopped worshiping God and began worshipping the idols of Baal.  If you turn to either Judges 2:11, 4:1, 6:1, 8:33, or 13:1 you will read these words, “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”  Read with me in Judges 6:1

1 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.

God gave Israel everything they needed to be a great nation.  He established guidelines for them to live by, that clearly said, “do not worship other gods.”  For this blatant sin God severely punishes their behavior.  The nation is oppressed by other rulers.  They would fear for their lives, leaving them to scatter into the mountains for hiding.  They would reach a point of total desperation.

This is more than a bad day!  This lasted for seven years.  But can you see the benefit of this cycle in the lives of the Israelites?  Where does the cycle end?  They call out to God and He rescues them!

Now here’s the thing.  Sometimes bad things happen to you and me.  If nothing else maybe that circumstance forces us to rely upon God.  Maybe that bad thing that happens turns our eyes back toward the Lord!

Maybe the bad things are the good things…

Are you with me?

All the oppression and calamity suffered by the Israelites are like the trials in our lives…

The bad things in our life can become the good things if we respond to them in the right way and turn our hearts back to the Lord in greater dependence, obedience, and faith.

Remember this. It’s not about our circumstance in life, it’s all about our response to our circumstances.

What if the by-product of the circumstance you faced developed a deeper faith, and willing obedience to God?

The Israelites cry out to God.  God hears their cry and God sends a judge.

Wait a minute! A judge?

When you hear the word “judge” what come to mind? Maybe you picture someone in a black robe issuing out sentences, or putting people in jail.

But these judges God raised up were prophets, priests, mighty warriors and heroes.  They were political, spiritual, and military leaders.  In the reading you will read about three judges Deborah, Gideon, and Samson.  Each of them has fascinating stories of how God used them to rescue His people.  But these judges were not chosen because of their top rank in the military, their status, nor for their flawless traits.  God used flawed people, who were the most unlikely to save a nation, but the most faithful so His name would be great.

If you’re taking notes, here is a great place to begin.

1.  God uses unlikely heroes.

His story begins in Judges 6:11. Please turn with me to Judges 6:11.

11 The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.

12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior. ”

At this point, Gideon is not a mighty warrior!  Gideon is a farmer!  Who is found in the wine press threshing wheat.  He is fearful.  How do we know, because he is hiding under a tree in a winepress threshing wheat.  I am not an expert, but wheat is generally harvested in the open on a threshing floor so the wind can blow the wheat and separate the chaff leaving the wheat to be collected.  Out of survival, Gideon is found threshing the wheat in the wine press, because is was getting close to harvest time and the ruthless barbarians called the Midianites will show up at any moment and wreck any crops in their path.

The angel of the Lord shows up and gives him a nickname, “Mighty Warrior”.  Gideon basically say’s yeah right, mighty warrior!  I am the youngest in my family.  I am the runt!  My family, they are the weakest in the land.  I am sure if Gideon was in High School he would have been voted “least likely to succeed.”

But don’t miss this!  The Lord is calling Gideon.  The Lord gave Gideon a new name, and the Lord gives Gideon a promise. In Judges 6:16, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

You will find throughout scripture, when God calls you out and gives you a nickname, He means business.  It’s not like the nicknames we give our children and we hope they will live up to them.  No when God’s gives you a nickname, it becomes your mark.  What the Lord promises is true!  As you will see as the story unfolds Gideon becomes a mighty warrior, but that was not the first character trait God looked for.

2. God looks for those who are faithful.

God tests Gideon’s faithfulness immediately.  Sometimes we want to wait until we are ready to follow God.  But you will never be ready.  Remember faithfulness is being willing to obey and follow the Lord as He calls, not when you’re ready.  When you step out in faith, do not be surprised when testing follows.

That night Gideon’s faith was tested by the Lord.

25 That same night the LORD said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of altar to the LORD your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”

27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD told him.  But because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.

I would be afraid too.  What a test.  First go to your home and clean house.  Destroy the idols at home!  Take away the very things at home that create a barrier between you and me, pretty significant task.

Gideon follows the Lord’s command, but he chooses to go under the cover of night.  The Lord gave Gideon a mission but left the method up to Gideon.  Maybe Gideon was afraid and he felt more courageous to fulfill the mission at night.  What matters is that he followed the Lord faithfully.

3. The Lord honors obedience.  He looks for men and women who will step out in faith when He speaks.

Gideon passes the test.  Then God sends him out to battle.  Gideon gathers 32,000 men and the Lord say’s you have to many.  Sorry, did you say to few?  No, to many.  The Lord say’s, tell them to go home if their afraid.  Then 22,000 men leave for home.  Now, there are 10,000 men left.  Ok, 10,000 we can do this.  The Lord say’s wait, you still have to many.

This does not sound like a wise battle plan.  It does not make sense.

I Corinthians 1:27-29 reminds us,

27 God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. 28 God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, 29 so that no one[a] can boast in His presence.

Think about it, let’s send a boy into battle a giant named Goliath with just three stones and a sling, let’s march around a wall and blow trumpets.  Does not makes sense.  Where are the big guns?  A stone, a trumpet?

The Lord say’s whittle down the army to 300 men.  The Midianite army was made up of 135,000 fighting men.  By thinning out the Israelites army to 300, leaves them to fight with the odds of 450 to 1.  I would say calling them outnumbered is an understatement!    But remember they have something the Midianites do not have, The Lord.  The Lord told Gideon that they will be victorious.  The Lord said He would be with them.

If the Israelites went into to battle with a full army and won, who would get the glory?  Would they stand and say look at what we did?  The Israelites won!

But the Lord gave them unbelievable odds, against an unbelievable army, who were led by an unlikely hero, to make His Name GREAT!

From that day the nations would know that the Lord, God of Israel is GREAT and greatly to be praised!


I want to leave you with this challenge this morning.

Imagine. If God called you to do something for Him and promised you success, how would you respond?

How would it change you, your family, your community, or church, and how would it transform your relationship with God?

Let me pray for you.

Lord, thank you for this series as we read Your Story.  I pray that You will give us a hunger and thirst for more of Your Word.  I pray as we continue reading, You will speak to us and uses us, unlikey heroes to be found faithful to You and may Your name be made great through our everyday ordinary life.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

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