Summary: God meets us where we are and empowers us to become who we are to be.
Title: From Worrier to Warrior
Text: Judges 6:11-12, 25-32 and 34 (Scripture Reading 6:1-16)
Thesis: God meets us where we are and empowers us to become who we are to be.
Series: The Bible in 90 Days Whole Church Challenge
Last week we wandered with the people of God on their journey of faith through the desert. In our story today, they are living in the land God promised to Abraham and his descendants. In our reading we went with them as they, under the leadership of Joshua, conquered the peoples living there and settled in the land. In the middle chapters of Joshua the conquered lands were divided up and assigned to each of the tribes of Israel so that each tribe had its own territory or region. They were a loosely organized federation of tribes, so to speak.
Our story today takes place during what we call the “Era of the Judges.” During this time, Israel had no elected or appointed leader. What they did have were “judges.” These judges were not judges as we think of judges or political leaders… they were individuals whom God called out to lead the people of Israel during times of crisis and oppression which generally followed what may be thought of as a cycle of sin and restoration.
During times of prosperity the people of Israel would slip into sin. God would then punish them which would lead to their repentance and prayer that God would rescue them. God would then call out a judge who would defeat their enemies and restore them in God’s favor and blessing.
The judge in our story today is Gideon. Gideon was an unlikely candidate for the role to which God called him, but he is a model of how God meets us where we are, tests or proves us and then empowers us to overcome the obstacles in our lives.
In order to appreciate our story today we need to understand what may be called a cycle of sin and rescue. In the book of Judges we read that following the death of Joshua, the Israelites had no specified leader. The Lord was their leader.
And people being people, the Israelites soon fell into a cyclical pattern of behavior. They would begin with the blessing of God upon them and they would enjoy a period of peace and prosperity. Then they would sin and God would make them suffer the consequences of their sin, which generally meant they would be oppressed by another people. After a period of oppression the people would come to realize their folly, repent of their sin and cry out to God to rescue them. Then God would raise up a “judge” who would lead the Israelites to war against their oppressors and God would free them and restore them to a time of blessing, peace and prosperity.
So the cycle ran as a loop every few years…
• PROSPERITY: The Israelites enjoy prosperity and peace.
• SIN: The Israelites fall into sin.
• PUNISHMENT: God punished the Israelites.
• REPENTANCE: The Israelites repented of their sin.
• RESCUE AND RESTORATION: God rescued them and restored them… another period of prosperity and peace would ensue and so on.
The story of God’s dealing with Israel should be a sobering reminder that the God of Grace we know in the New Testament does not just sweep sin under the rug. Christ died for all the sin of all men of all time, I Peter 3:18. In Romans we are reminded that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and that the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ. (Romans 3:23 and 6:23) God takes sin seriously. And the clear teaching of Galatians 6 regarding our reaping what we sow ought to be sobering as people and as a nation.
While we each may ponder our own short-comings with considerable unease – when one gives thought to our corporate sin as a people there is cause for alarm. If God were to exact the same expectations on us as he did with the Israelites, we would likely find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of the punishment cycle.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see that corporate and individual greed is rampant in our culture. Our culture is marred by deep seated anger, incivility and violence. Racism remains alive in all its ugliness. Unborn innocents are aborted on demand. Sexual immorality in all its forms and perversions are prevalent with the open practice of pre and extra-marital sex, pornography, homosexuality and same sex marriage. We chalk the death of innocent civilians up as “collateral damage” in wartime. We would never bow before foreign gods but we bow before the god’s of power, influence, materialism and pleasure. As we have been reading through the Old Testament I have been sobered by the numerous references to God’s concern for the poor and the alien who lived among the Israelites and wonder how we stack up in our provisions for the poor and the strangers among us. God’s penchant for justice is evidenced in his expectations regarding the forgiving of debt and the restoration of property and the creation of “cities of refuge” or sanctuary where people were safe from vengeance and retribution until there was a fair trial. It could be said that there is more justice in our country for some than for others.