Friday, April 26, 2013

Gideon: Faith, Fear, and Fleeces

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Friday, April 26, 2013: Judges 6:1-40

11 Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!”  Judges 6:11-12 (NKJV)

Gideon had a FEAR problem.  Even though he became one of the great warrior-deliverers in the history of Israel, he did not start out that way. God found him cowering down in a winepress hiding from the Midianites (Jud. 6:11). 

Here's the background:  Israel had moved into Canaan under Joshua but it was an incomplete job of possessing the land.  Many enemies still lived there and from time to time rose up and dominated these new Israeli occupants.  The Midianites were a nomadic tribe that actually invaded Canaan from the east.  They were a foe Moses had defeated years before (Numbers 25) and they came back now to get revenge.  The Midianites were robbing God's people of their harvests.  Just about the time the crops would come in after a hard year of labor, they would rush in and take the produce.

God always has an answer to the attack of the devil.  He will raise up someone who will stand against the plundering work of the enemy.  That man in this story was Gideon.  But Gideon had a FEAR problem. 

Fear is one of the great enemies of God's work in your life.  Fear does four things:

1. It undermines your faith.
2. It drains you of power.
3. It walls you in and isolates you.
4. It distorts your thinking.

That is exactly what was going on with Gideon.  No sooner had the Lord spoken his name than all kinds of INSECURITIES started kicking in.  Gideon starte making excuses for his fearfulness.  Because of his fear, he had lost confidence in God.  He was questioning the faithfulness of God.

The Angel of the Lord found Gideon in a winepress.  This was an enclosed, hollowed out vat in which grape juice was pounded out of grapes.  It was a confined, stuffy, isolated place.  But, the Angel saw in Gideion more than he saw in himself.  "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!" (Jud. 6:12)  Immediately the insecurities surfaced and the excuses started flying.  "O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?  And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about?" (Jud. 6:13)   

Gideon was afraid of failure.  He was afraid that God would not come through for him.  He was afraid that he himself was not good enough.  He questioned God's faithfulness and he then pointed to his own weaknesses.  "O my lord, how can I save Israel?  Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house."  (Jud. 6:15) 

Four robs us.  It takes away our future.  It stands as a road-block to the great things God has planned.  It does this by first UNDERMINING OUR FAITH.  Gideon was more controlled by his fears than he was by the Word of God.  Even when the Angel of the Lord spoke directly to him, his fears were yelling more loudly.  As a result, Gideon saw himself as POWERLESS.  He saw himself as a victim rather than a victor.  His fear cause him, like his kinsmen years before, to see himself as "a grasshopper" (Num. 13:33).  Those fears deposited Gideon in a hole in the ground -- a wine vat.  He was cut off, ISOLATED, fearful, and hiding.  I know many individuals today who are so bound up by their fears they refuse to be around anyone other than strangers.  They live lonely lives afraid to break out of their isolation.  Fear DISTORTS reality.  Gideon stood on the threshold of a wondeful future, but he could not see it.  His mind was filled with a wrong way of thinking.  Fear does that.  It causes us to see defeat even while victory is being offered to us.

Fear also causes us to do crazy things.  How much does God have to yell at you to get your attention?  How many times does He have to speak to you in order to get you to listen?  How many confirmations does it take for you to finally get His message?  For Gideon it took three.

First, Gideon prepared a sacrifice (Jud. 6:19-22).  The Angel of the Lord merely extended the tip of the staff He was holding, touched the meat and bread, and POOF! it all was consumed in fire from heaven.  You would think that was enough to seal the deal for Gideon.  Not so.  Gideon proceeds to "lay out a fleece" before God.  In fact, he lays out two fleeces.  (He is certainly a slow learner)

Some have used the story of Gideon and the fleeces to encourage using this method to find divine guidance.  I remember over the years hearing folks talk about "laying out a fleece before the Lord" as a means of obtaining divine confirmation.  Is this a good method? 

There may in fact be times that any of us ask God for some sort of sign to confirm to us what He is saying.  That can be ok if we don't take it too far.  In Gideon's case, his need for confirmation was an expression of his FEARS not of his faith.  God had ALREADY spoken to him and made His plan clear.  Sometimes we lay our fleeces not because of an honest desire to hear from God, but as an excuse to hesitate and delay the obedience God has already called for. 

Fleeces are not God's best plan.  They are at best a tool for young believers to start growing in their faith.  But the older you are in the Lord, God simply says, "Do what I told you."  He does not like begging us to do His will.

The call of God to each of us OVERCOME YOUR FEARS.  Scripture says that we are called to walk in love, in faith, and in power.  So here is a little of what God says about that:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. I John 4:18 (NKJV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  II Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

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