Judges 6:1-32 (Part 5) – You Better Sweat the Small Stuff!

Posted: August 22, 2017 in Book of Judges

Judges 6:1-32 (Part 5 of 5)
Gideon Becomes Israel’s Judge

This past Sunday in the New Testament class that I am teaching this year (running from June 11-October 8, 2017 with a few Sundays off here and there), we began a two-week look at the Book of Acts. One of the powerful stories of Acts is the stoning death of Stephen. He was the real deal. He loved the Lord so much that he was willing to stand against the opposition to his belief in Jesus Christ. In Acts 6:12-15, we see him being accused of blasphemy against God. The charges are remarkably like those which were leveled against Jesus when He was arrested, tried and turned over to the Romans for crucifixion. Indeed, there is a correlation between these two events. Both were arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. Both are accused by false witnesses. Both were accused of speaking against the Temple and the Law. Both were put to death. Stephen is on trial for having taught what Jesus taught. And as he stands before the Sanhedrin, his countenance appears almost heavenly. Why? Because he is filled with the Spirit of Christ. His sermon to the Sanhedrin demonstrated how Israel had rejected Joseph, Moses, and Jesus – all of which were sent to be deliverers of Israel. He calls them to repentance for their rejection of Jesus Christ. What does he get for it? He gets stoned to death. But before He dies, He receives a vision of the Jesus. And even in his death, he, in the vein of his Savior, he asks Jesus to forgive the mob for stoning him to death.

Powerful story is this story of Stephen. His is a story of being willing to take his faith to the mat. He was willing to die for his faith in Jesus Christ. There are Christians all over the world right now, right now, in the 21st century that are doing what Stephen did. They take their faith in Jesus Christ more seriously than anything else in life. There are Christians in countries like North Korea and China that suffer because their governments forbid worship of anything other than the collective of the people themselves, the government. Those who express faith in something other than the communist ideal of the collective people (as expressed and enforced through the government) are singled out, charged with crimes against the state, and imprisoned and maybe even killed (by some kind of “accident” in prison). Then, there are Christians in predominantly Muslim countries that are ostracized, imprisoned, raped, murdered just because they refuse to convert to Islam. Islam is both a religion and a political machine in these countries. So, to offend Islam is more than just a church issue. It is an issue that becomes a governmental one as well. Not only does your Christianity offend the religion of the majority of the people, but also it runs you afoul of the government.

I have often wondered how I would react in that situation. Would I stand up for Jesus or would I stand out for Him. In the United States and other Western cultures, being a Christian is just beginning to cost you something. Right now, it is only ridicule and marginalization from the mainstream beliefs of society. However, God’s Word promises us that things will get worse for us as believers over time as people stray further and further away from God. I wonder what I would do if I really did have to choose between Jesus Christ and physical comfort. What would I do if I had to choose between Jesus and my own life. What would I do if I had to choose between Jesus and prison. And I think that answer lies in how we react right now even when things are not tough by comparison to other countries where persecution is at a higher level that what we experience now in the USA.

It all begins in the small stuff. It begins with little things. Instead of turning down your radio tuned to the local Christian contemporary station when others come around, you leave it playing at the same volume. It begins in the little things. Including God in the conversation about the weather wear it is clear that you believe God is the Creator and controls the weather instead of making random small talk about it. Sharing your faith with others instead of missing opportunities to share because of fear of being looked at like your have four heads. Standing on God’s positions on certain social and sexual issues when it is clear that it is easier to go along with the crowd (and their anti-biblical agenda). That’s how we grow toward Stephen-like behavior. It starts in faithfulness to the Lord in the little things. Then, as we have that boldness to stand up for Jesus in the little things, we can begin to grasp not betraying Him in the big things. The question remains though as to whether I would be willing to go to the death for the name of Jesus Christ.

Today, as we look again at Judges 6:1-32, we are reminded that we are going to face opposition if we stand on biblical principles in a society that no longer believes in God. We will have to make choices that could cost us our friends, our way of life, or even our life itself. Are you willing to stand up and stand out and be ridiculed and even murdered for the name of Jesus Christ. Let’s read the entire passage once more with an eye toward that thought. Here is the passage now:

6 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 them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.

7 When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”

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.”

13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”

And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.”

19 Gideon went inside, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah[a] of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak.

20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. 22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”

23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

24 So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

25 That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old.[b] Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole[c] beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of[d] 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[e] 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 townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.

28 In the morning when the people of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!

29 They asked each other, “Who did this?”

When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.”

30 The people of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”

31 But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.” 32 So because Gideon broke down Baal’s altar, they gave him the name Jerub-Baal[f] that day, saying, “Let Baal contend with him.”

In this passage, we see that after God called Gideon to be Israel’s deliverer, God immediately asks him to tear down the altar of the pagan god, Baal – an act that would test Gideon’s faith and commitment. Canaanite religion was very political. An attack on a god was often seen as an attack on the local government supporting that god. If caught, Gideon would face serious social problems and probable physical attack. Gideon took a great risk following God’s higher law, which specifically forbids idol worship (Exodus 20:1-5). After learning what Gideon had done, the townspeople wanted to kill him. This shows how immoral God’s people had become. The irony here is that God’s Word (in Deuteronomy 13:6-11) says that idolaters must be stoned to death but here we see that the townspeople wanted to stone Gideon for worshiping God (by tearing down and idol). When you begin to accomplish something for God, you may be criticized by the very people that you are trying to reach with your gospel-centered efforts.

Are you willing to stand up and stand out for Jesus? It starts right here in your hometown. If you are faithful to Christ in matters that seem small in the grand scheme of things, you will be more and more confident when it comes to standing against social pressure when it counts. Gideon started small. He was willing to obey God by tearing down the local idol. He was willing to face the wrath of the people to accomplish what God has in store for Him.

Are you a Christian that stands up for Jesus or do you turn your radio down because you are ashamed of Jesus?

Amen and Amen.

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