Summary: The differences in the way God communicates between old & new testament, and an encouragement to listen
War with Midianites 6:1-9
About 50 years have passed since the story of Deborah in Judges 5. Under the Judges Israel is a loose confederation of tribes – coming together when required, but mostly independent. In the last half century they have drifted away from God and once again are worshipping the gods of those around them.
The Midianites were the forerunners of the Bedouin. They had been attacking Israel like swarms of locusts and destroying crops and livestock. This had been going on for seven years. Israel had been largely defenceless, and now suffering extreme hunger they had cried out to God to save them. God sent a prophet to remind them of their past – all the amazing things that God had done for them. Especially reminding them of the Exodus miracle.
Slide 3 - An Angel 6:10-24
Then and Angel of the Lord comes to see Gideon while he was in hiding, threshing wheat. The Angel introduces himself with the phrase “The Lord is with you mighty Warrior”. We'll come back to that statement in a minute. Gideon looks back to the past wonders, and just assumes that God has abandoned them. The Angel does not argue, but responds “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” Gideon reminds the Angel who he is - “My clan is the weakest” and “I am the least”. This time the response is more direct “I will be with you” Now Gideon begins to realise that this is serious, and asks for a sign so that he can believe that he is talking to God.
He prepares a offering – a young goat. An offering of this nature would represent a considerable expense. There has been war for seven years, and Israel is short of food. Gideon remembers his history - he has certain expectations of the outcome. After Moses offered a sacrifice in Lev 9:24. “Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell face down.”. So fire consuming the offering was essential now, or Gideon would not believe that it really was God.
Whether Gideon knew it or not he had made the sacrifice for the unintentional sin of a leader. It's detailed in Lev 4:22-26. Before anything can be achieved with God it is essential that the sin of the people involved is first forgiven.
Once the sacrifice is accepted Gideon thinks “I have seen the face of God – I'm a dead man”. - in Exodus 33:20 God says to Moses “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
A sacrifice & a step forward 6:25-32
The next sacrifice will be a test for Gideon. Now he has to take some action. This is the point of no return. Ripping down the alter to Baal is going to get him noticed. Taking one of the prize bulls as an offering will also get him noticed. Gideon is fearful and still unsure of God. So he does this all at night, where it will be unseen and unchallenged until it is complete. In the morning he is as ready as he will ever be to face the music.
How would you react do you think if you had arrived at church this morning and found the building in ruins, the communion table smashed, and the building set up for another faith.
You can understand why there might be a lynching about to happen, but Joash comes to Gideon's rescue, and he escapes to fight the fight that God has planned.
He is now known amongst the people as one who is against Baal. He has made a very public statement and has set the course of his life in a particular direction for now.
Gideon starts to assemble his army. It is just in time, the enemy is gathering. All Israels enemies – the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples – have come together. He is still unsure that God will save Israel through him, so asks for more proof.
If I put out this fleece overnight let the dew only form on it, and the rest of the ground stay dry. OK – that worked.
If I put out this fleece overnight keep it dry while the rest of the ground is covered in dew. OK – that worked too.
More 'proofs' from God 6:33-40
The Army is too big! 7:1-9
Now the army is ready, Gideon has no doubt worked hard to convince people that God will deliver them from their enemies. He has assembled a large army.
God, as ever, has other ideas.