Gideon: The Strength of Faith
Understanding Oppression and Deliverance
About 1148 B.C., the enemies of Israel came pouring into their country. Yahweh, the God of Israel, had brought the people of Israel into that promised land, but now the enemies they failed to exterminate arose to plunder their population. The invaders ruthlessly oppressed the people of Israel. We can study how God taught His people to triumph and gain blessings for our lives.
The Seeds of Triumphant Faith
Yahweh told Israel that they were suffering because they had committed great evil. In Judges 6:1, Page 398, Yahweh said that Isreal did “evil in the eyes of the LORD” (הָרַע בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה). As we look at this indictment against Israel, we see first that God watched the behavior of His people. He knows how obedient we are and sin leads to consequences in our lives. In this case, the evil (הָרַע ) caused God to give the Israelites into the hand of their enemies, the Midianites, for seven years. The Midianites trace their ancestry to Abraham and his wife Keturah. They became a nomadic people, but the Israelites devastated the Midianites under the leadership of Moses. In Numbers 18, Page 248, Moses directed the warriors of Israel to burn the cities of the Midianites because the women of Midian, under the counsel of Balaam the evil prophet, had seduced Israel into idolatrous worship of false gods. During that campaign, the people of Israel killed tens of thousands of the Midianites, and enslaved their virgin females. They despoiled the Midianites of 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkeys, and 32,000 virgin females (Numbers 31:32-35). Now, the Midianites had regained their strength and sought retribution.
Triumph Principle One: Inventory
When things in your life are really going lousy, check out your sinfulness. Take a spiritual inventory and see if you are suffering the consequences of sin. If you have a drug habit (like tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, marijuana or prescription drugs), then you can count upon trouble coming into your life. If you eat too much, and weigh too much, then you can count upon trouble coming from your evil. If you are having sex with someone you are not married to, then you can expect problems. As you insist upon doing what you want with your life, then count upon your sin producing terrible consequences. Take heart, though, because as soon as you decide to change your ways, then you can count upon Yahweh to help you remove evil from your life. If you have friends with serious problems, and serious sin, then start with their need to inventory their life and come to grips with their sin.
You may think that you can do whatever you want with your life because you have received the eternal forgiveness of Jesus Christ. You no longer take your sin seriously because you rest in the comfort of knowing your sins, one and all, have been forgiven. Think again because your sins still bring consequences in your life here and now. As a believer, you will be eternally secure, but as a human on earth, your sin will still produce consequences.
Let me add a word of caution. Not every bit of oppression you face arises from sin. So, do not conclude your friends have sinned just because someone is oppressing them. Instead, we must individually examine our lives and see if we have become sinful in our behavior causing the oppression.
Triumph Principle Two: Hand Control
I am often surprised how often I meet people who do not understand that every life has a spiritual dimension. You live under the spiritual control of God. Ultimately, His sovereign control guides all of your life. As a believer, Jesus has placed you into His hand, and the Father too has placed His hand around you, and no one is able to snatch you out of His hand (John 10:28-29, Page 1676). Even so, God permits you to experience some of the earthly consequences of your behavior. Yahweh uses the term “into the hand (בְּיַד) to describe the control the Midianites exercised over the people of God. In your case, when you fall into a pattern of sin, then you can expect that you will fall into the hand of people who will oppress you. In the ancient Hebrew world, the term “hand” described the power someone exercised over another. Sometimes drugs can also exercise that same type of power over a person.
In this case, the Israelites fell under the power of the Midianites. The people of Israel fled into dens in the mountains and caves and strongholds. The Midianites left no sheep, ox, or donkey to the Israelites. They and their camels came like clouds of locusts and devastated the land.
Triumph Principle Three: Listening to God
In the midst of this devastation, God started talking to the Israelites through a prophet. He brought a message that Yahweh had delivered the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt, and dispossessed the land of Canaan from before them. He commanded them not to fear the Amorites who had lived in the land before the Israelites. Yet, these Israelites had not obeyed Yahweh and so He gave them into the hand of the Midianites. Sometimes our lives seem to be overwhelmed with problems and people making our lives miserable. We see Midianites all around us. The place to start will always be to see if we are practicing evil before Yahweh and remove it by confession and seek cleansing from Yahweh. Next, we should be careful to listen to Yahweh. He will be speaking to us, and He wants to deliver us from spiritual bondage.
Faith Principle One: You Must Trust Yahweh’s Truth about You
The Bible has many verses that describe who you are, from God’s perspective. Yahweh often gave a new name to a man, just to emphasize how that man fit into God’s plans. In this case, the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, the father of Gideon, while Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press to hide it from the Midianites. The angel of the LORD spoke directly to Gideon: “The LORD is with you, valiant warrior.”
Gideon certainly did not think of himself as a valiant warrior. He saw himself as a man hiding in a wine vat to get some wheat to eat. Gideon learned a valuable lesson all at once. Yahweh speaks to people, sometimes when they least expect it. In the New Testament, we learn that Jesus abides with us all the time as believers, and the Holy Spirit continually indwells us. Yet, Gideon wanted more confirmation from Yahweh.
Faith Principle Two: Be Honest with Jesus
Gideon had the same response to a message from Yahweh that many people have today. Gideon could not see beyond the physical world of devastation to believe anything God was saying. The angel of Yahweh was talking with him, but Gideon could only hear the cries of the people of Israel in their distress.
Gideon was honest with the angel. He said, “if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” In this question, Gideon shows that he did not comprehend the principle that God brings consequences for evil behavior. Gideon had no understanding that God had delivered Israel and Gideon into the hand of the Midianites because of sin. Perhaps you have not yet realized that sin brings consequences.
Gideon had another question for the angel. “Where all the miracles?” He had heard about the LORD delivering the people from Israel, but now Gideon feels the LORD had abandoned the people of Israel. Maybe you feel that God has abandoned you, right in the middle of oppression.
Faith Principle Three: Count upon Jesus To Deliver You from Sinful Oppression
Instead of abandoning you right in the middle of your sin, God intends to restore you and remove the sin from your life. He started here with a new vision for Gideon when Yahweh called him “valiant warrior.” Now God listens to the questions of Gideon. Always bring your questions and doubt straight to Yahweh in prayer. You will never hide them from the omniscient God, so tell Him everything. But as you tell God, be careful to listen to His answer.
Are you facing enemies in God’s strength? Are you expecting God to help you or abandon you? Only when you understand the truth that God never wants to abandon you to sin, will you turn to Him for deliverance.
Faith Principle Four: Jesus Displays His Strength Through Your Faith
Yahweh said to Gideon: “Go in this your strength . . . .” Gideon’s strength lay in Yahweh and not in himself. By himself, Gideon hid in a wine vat trying to get some food. With God, Gideon became a valiant warrior. This relationship with the living God would utterly transform Gideon. Gideon had begun the process of listening to God, talking to God, and believing God. God, by faith, had become the strength of Gideon’s life.
Yahweh started the process of transformation in Gideon’s life by changing his thoughts. Instead of confirming that Gideon was a weakling, trying to eke out a living, Yahweh called Gideon a valiant warrior and told him to live in that strength. In our lives, God sees us as valiant warriors, and we wage war against oppression by faith alone. Faith activates the power of God in our lives by removing the confidence we place in ourselves and shifting that confidence to God working in us. We learn to believe God when He calls us valiant warrior, because we know in ourselves we would be hiding in a wine vat from the enemy, but with God’s strength we will be living as a valiant warrior.
Faith Principle Five: God Sends Deliverance through His Servants
Yahweh selected Gideon to deliver Israel from the oppression of Midian. Today He still selects people to lead other folks out of oppression. People rarely deliver themselves from sinful oppression, but God uses a friend, relative, or other spiritual servant to lead others out of sin. We need each other to bear burdens with us.
God commissioned Gideon to be deliver God’s people. Gideon understood from the beginning that God would do the deliverance, and he would be the instrument God used. Even so, Gideon had more questions for God. As he asks God about the ministry before him as God’s servant, Gideon had doubts about himself.
Gideon had no idea how he would deliver Israel. He asked: “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in the Manesseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” Gideon had not learned how God works, yet. But Gideon will learn that God does not choose people from the right family, of high social status. No, God can use even those lowly born and of no social privilege. You do not have to be somebody in order to become God’s servant. Always remember where Gideon started. From a human point of view, and from his own perspective, he had no idea why God would choose him to deliver all of Israel. So, instead of saying to God you have a low self-image, or lack personal power to do such a big job, please read the story of Gideon again. God delights in using people of no human power to display His full divine power. No one will be confused about where the power and deliverance came from.