Signs for Life
Well we are in week 3 with the story of Gideon. We started out with a view of a coward, that an angel called a mighty warrior. It seems like positive reinforcement, tell someone they are good long enough that they believe it. The angel informs that it is He, Gideon that will save Israel from all the enemies over the last 7 years. The lesson for us was that we must come out of the protection of the winepress if we are ever to be used by God.
Then last week we watched in scripture when Gideon made an offering to God as a way of testing if it was really God doing the speaking. He witnessed a miraculous sign as the offering was consumed by a rock that gave off flames. Later that same day God gave Gideon some direct instructions. Destroy the alter to Baal and build a new one and offer a proper sacrifice.
The town folks find out who did the damage and confront Gideon’s dad. And dad protects his son and suggest that if Baal is a true God he will defend his own alters. Joash is a quick thinker and he says the perfect thing.
Our lesson was that we live in a Canaanite world and we also have housecleaning to do if we and our community are to be useful to God. We have to identify the Idols and clean house so that we can be fully empowered by God.
Listen to part of our scripture for today: Judges 6:33- 35
33 Now all the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. 35 He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them.
We don’t have any idea how long it has been between his action - tearing down the community alter and the multi-national invading force.
Perhaps the bigger question would be …Why is it Gideon that blows the trumpet? How did he get to be the one in charge?
Here is my thinking; the Angel prophesied that Gideon was to deliver Israel from the hands of their enemies. That means that Gideon by the selection of God, was a judge. However, he was not what we call a judge today. He was not hearing cases and deciding what was right and wrong.
He was not an early version of a King and he had no administrative duties and no line of succession before or after.
Judges were raised up by God to free Israel from their enemies. Most of them led a group of several tribes to defend Israel and free the people from oppression.
So it seems that because of the angel prophet of God, Gideon has received a little respect. Perhaps partly because Baal has not responded to the attack of the alter. Now we see in scripture that the Midianites, Amalekites and other Eastern people crossed the river Jordan and started setting up camp. The Jezreel valley is a large fertile plain with plenty of water that produces large amounts of food and also offers an easy route to the sea. It was a busy place even in ancient times.
These nomadic people have come again to gather all they can consume by force. They know how to fight and take what they want.
When word comes to Gideon, you might expect that he would head back to his winepress or head off to the strongholds that the community made in the hills. But, that is not what happens. He blows the trumpet….
“Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him.”
He does not run because the Spirit of the Lord empowers him. He grabs a trumpet and blows the call to gather the people. He dispatches messengers to go to the surrounding tribes calling to arms…. Not calling to hide…. Not calling to run…. CALLING to ARMS..
(TRUMPET) - Probably would have been a Shofar,– a ram’s horn that only made two notes. The pattern of notes sent different meanings. It seems that Gideon blew a repeated pattern for alarm, come and help.
Somehow, Gideon, has become strong….He has become a leader… He is willing to give orders and gather the troops…and it seems that people are listening.
Well not exactly troops. This Farm Boy calls for all the other farmers to grab their grandfathers swords and shields, axes, rocks and sharp sticks. This is a fighting force that has strength and motivation but not a lot of skill or training. They are used to raising families and crops and no doubt many are good people. But good people are not automatically warriors.
Gideon the super hero/judge rallies the people not to take the abuse anymore. However, it appears that he still has some doubts.
36 Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised- 37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said."
Gideon has met an angel. He has witnessed the acceptance of his offering. He has heard God’s instruction to destroy Idols and build a new alter to God and not been killed by the masses.
Even the special filling with the Holy Spirit wears off or perhaps he has time to think about this whole thing. Gideon has Doubts…..
After all that Gideon still has doubts if he really understands what God is calling him to do.
He has a plan to solve his doubts. He decides to place a Fleece on the threshing floor, on top of the hill and if it is wet he knows that God will be with him and Israel.
His fleece is not done out of strength (MARINE Fleece blanket) As if he had a confidence in his ability. It is requested out of weakness, fear and the known inability to do anything with his strength and power.
Folks, there is not a single person in this room that has not had moment has doubts about God and what he wants us to do. The Canaanite world not only offers a variety of interesting choices but often is the biggest source of the seeds of doubt, about life and the people around us.
I don’t think I know a single preacher that can claim a doubt free life. Everyone has periods of strength and weakness. Times of feeling close to and separated from God.
Have you ever asked God to give you a sign?
Have you ever pulled out your own fleece and asked God to give you direction?
I have, I have begged for a clear statement many times and normally felt pretty disappointed when nothing seemed to happen.
So should we ask for signs from God?
In Gideon’s story, maybe the question can really be answered by looking at what did happen compared to what should happen. Gideon after a list of amazing signs, took a fleece and asked God to give him assurance that the actions he was planning were correct and that God would give Israel the victory.
Now, the Angel already said at the first meeting, that he was sending him (Gideon) to save Israel with the power he already has. That was pretty clear and now he wants another test…He wants God to do a little trick so that he can feel comfortable.
What should have happened, he should have taken the information already presented and moved ahead knowing that he was already selected and empowered by God.
Should he keep testing God? I don’t think so….
I also don’t think that it is the best thing for us either.
So what is wrong with a fleece? For one thing is can be a way of testing God and in (Deuteronomy 6:16) "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test" So asking God to give you a sign is a bit like a test, God if you want me to take this job, or to make up with so and so, let them call me. Or some other manifestation of your choosing.
That is putting God in a box and saying you can only talk to me like this…..
A fleece that is limiting to God is inappropriate if not sinful.
What is Gideon’s problem? Is it a Lack of Faith? No , Gideon has faith and it seems to be very genuine but, it is immature. He believes and has seen with his own eyes, but he has never interacted directly with God and does not know..realy know that God is faithful.
He says’ “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised.”
He has a faith in God but not a full understanding of God. He knows what he said but he still needs more assurance. So He knows what the messenger said, however: he is worried about God keeping his promises.
How is our faith? Are we mature enough to read the promises of God in the Bible and to understand that God does NOT lie or forget what he said. When God says that our sins are separated from us as far as the East is from the West it is true.
-If we have needed to ask God for proof of the things he has already told us…our faith is immature also.
-If we have a fear of death, life, or calling then our faith is immature.
-If we fail to follow the direction from Jesus to go into the world and make disciples, our faith is immature.
-If we ignore the signs already presented and prefer to hide away from the world our faith is immature.
Gideon thinks he has it all figured out. He is asking out of his personal weakness and fear. He places the wool on the floor and God graciously responds.
The scripture continues after the fleece was placed:
38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.
It seems like he should be excited but he is not done. He feels the need to tighten the box he created for God a little smaller. Maybe he was thinking again, wool absorbs water and maybe this was a fluke. You know, science, the wool naturally would be wet and everything else dry. So, he has another request:
39 Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew." 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.
Why didn’t God just move on to a better specimen? Perhaps an older brother or some crippled or blind guy in the town. Gideon just can’t seem to get on board no matter how much encouragement he is given. He asked for another test and again God Graciously gives him the reply that he asks for.
God really likes this Gideon fellow. And from what I can tell when He claimed to be the least of the least he was being completely honest. Gideon is still not over the idea that he was chosen by God to save Israel because he is not qualified. He has faith but, it is not strong enough for him to have confidence in God’s choice. Confidence in God’s ability and power. And no confidence in God’s plan.
I don’t know about you, but I still have tons of Questions about my life and how to deal with all kinds of issues. I need help figuring out all kinds of things. Like, how do I make the right choices in raising my kids? Is a biggie but I having tons of smaller things, like the best way to handle disagreements and projects for the church.
So, if Gideon’s method is not the way to get assurance, what is?
I don’t really believe giving a fleece is directly testing God, It depends on how small the box YOU make really is. In other words, how tightly you limit how God can communicate his will to you. The more you try, perhaps not on purpose, your faith ends and manipulation and testing of God begins. The more limits you have the less mature your faith.
So, if we can’t use a box, what is left….How about the Holy Spirit? Gideon had it at last for a while and it told him what to do….Blow the trumpet… until he quenched it or allowed how doubts to take over his thoughts.
We can ask God for direction for our actions and choices but we need to let him speak in his own way to us. God has unlimited ways of speaking to us if we let Him choose the method and time.
Perhaps our prayers should ask God to confirm decision by opening and closing doors and not telling him which it should be. To request that the Lord show us in some clear way if we’ve made or are about to make a decision that is not in accordance with His will is not the same as demanding a particular sign from God. The Lord does not play games with us. He desires that we make right decisions, and He wants to confirm us in these decisions! We do not have to put out fleeces to remind our heavenly Father that His well-loved and intimately known children need His perfect confirmation in their walk of faith.
We really can trust His promise: "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:6).
I find a comfort in Gideon’s story, because it illustrates that our God loves us enough to put up with our test and boxes. He does not abond us if our faith won’t carry us all the way. He really is the force that brings al of us along on the path that he has for us.
All Glory be to God!