Summary: Sermon looking at the life of Gideon
Cowards, Clay Pots, and the Power of God
What do we think about when we think about the story of Gideon? (Besides the Bibles in hotels!)
We may remember the way he tested God with the fleece. We may remember his army of torch bearers and trumpets. But do we remember the rest of the story?
Gideon lived in the time of the judges, when God’s people were living in the promised land. In the book of Judges we see a cycle: God’s people forget God, God sends a foreign army to oppress them, God’s people cry out for deliverance, God sends a leader (a judge) to rescue them, the people praise God, then they forget God again and the cycle begins again.
As we read the story of Gideon, one word keeps jumping out at us: FEAR. Over and over again we see people that are afraid.
When the story of Gideon begins, the Israelites are hiding from the Midianites, who have been oppressing the Israelites for 7 years (Judges 6:1). If you had been an Israelite at this time, you would probably have spent a lot of time hiding in a cave, looking out at the world from a hole in the ground or the mountainside. This was the world of Gideon.
Like his fellow countrymen, Gideon lived a life of fear. We see this numerous times in Judges 6 and 7:
1. When we first see Gideon, he’s hiding in a winepress. (Judges 6:11)
2. When Gideon realizes that he has spoken with an angel, he is overcome with fear. (6:22-23)
3. When Gideon tears down the idol, he does it at night out of fear. (6:27) And when the other people come to complain about what he has done, it is not Gideon that faces down the crowd; it’s his father.
4. The test of the fleece was done because Gideon was afraid. (6:36-40)
5. Gideon went to spy in the Midianite camp because he was afraid. (7:10-11)
Yet look at the way the angel greets Gideon in 6:12! “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior!” That could be one of the most comical scenes in the Bible, considering that the angel was talking to a man who was hiding in a hole in the ground. Mighty warrior? Gideon must have looked over his shoulder to see if there was someone else in the hole with him.
We learn an important lesson here. GOD SEES US NOT AS WE ARE BUT AS WE CAN BE. He looks at me and calls me saint, even when I’m so aware of my humanness. Yet he knows that I can grow to be the saint that he has called me to be. If you’re feeling just a little too ordinary for some task in God’s kingdom, remember Gideon--the “mighty warrior” threshing wheat in a winepress.
Another thing to look at in the story of Gideon is his army. The army Gideon led was not a formidable one. Look at Chapter 7, starting in verse 1.
1. 22,000 went home when offered the chance. (7:3) Gideon announced that anyone who was afraid could go home. And he had to be careful not to be trampled in the ensuing stampede! Two thirds of his soldiers ran home to continue hiding.
2. From the 10, 000 that were left, God selected only 300. (7:4-6) This is the sort of thing that only our God does. Gideon is about to fight an enemy whose troops are described as “uncountable.” And God says he has too many troops! So God tells Gideon to take them to the river to reduce the size of the troops. Now some of you may have heard that God selected there the 300 who knew how to drink like good soldiers, that the ones who knelt to drink were sloppy and unfit for battle. That’s not what God was doing here. He wasn’t about to send in the special forces. He merely wanted a small number. If only 300 had knelt to drink, God would have selected those.
3. The army went to battle with clay pots, torches and trumpets. (7:16-18) Incredible, right? A small force goes to face a huge enemy army, and they take no weapons! That’s because God was their weapon.
And there’s the next lesson for us: GOD WORKS THROUGH HIS POWER, NOT OURS. Sometimes we try to be too smart and too clever and too cute. When what we really need is a dependence on God’s power. With the power of God, Gideon’s army of torch bearers and trumpet blowers routed their enemy.
And do you know what? God still puts light inside of clay pots. Look at II Corinthians 4:6-7:
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”