Summary: Gideon has been coaxed and prodded to and through a battle for the Lord (and Gideon ...) Now, he's in the mop up operation and deals violently with two towns that don't help him out. What are we to think of these actions? Where is the Lord in them?
Well, we’ve finally come to Judges 8:4-21
Note to self: Be familiar enough with this segment of the story so that you can tell it in your own words with confidence.
The main battle is over the original odds of 300 to 135,000 has been reduced to 300 to 15,000 or from 1:450 to 1:50.
The 300 are in pursuit of the remnant of the invading army. They are exhausted and hungry. As they chase the Midianites they pass through two towns, Sukkoth and Penuel. In each of these towns they stop and ask for food for their men. In each of the towns they are rebuffed.
Judges 8:6 says
But the officials of Sukkoth said, “Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?”
What does that mean, "Do you already have the hands of ...?"
Judges 8:6 (ISV)
“Do you have Zebah and Zalmunna in custody already, so that we should give food to your army?”
So, both towns reply with basically the same answer and so Gideon threatens them with torturing them with thorns and briers and tearing down their tower, their stronghold when he comes back through in victory.
Gideon then takes the army up to the Midianite encampment using a route that the enemy does not expect. It’s like the Midianites are watching for the Israelites from the south and Gideon attacks from the north. He has snuck up behind them.
So, they engage in battle. The Midianite army is defeated. Zebah and Zalmunna try to escape but they are captured.
As Gideon and the army head back to Ophrah (Gideon’s home town) they pass through Sukkoth and Penuel but on the way they capture a young man from Sukkoth and he writes out for them the names of the leaders of the town of Sukkoth.
When Gideon arrives in each town he repeats with the two kings in tow he repeats the words of each city back to them.
In Sukkoth he tortures the city leaders with thorns and briers
But in Penuel he not only tears down the tower but executes all of the men of the city!
Why? Because they did not trust him and give him bread.
Now, Gideon had confidence in what he was doing because he had knowledge of what the Lord had guided him through.
The Angel of the Lord meets in when he’s threshing wheat in the wine press
He has seen the Angel of the Lord vaporize the bread and meat of the offering
He has put the Lord to the test with two “fleeces”
The Lord directs him to overhear the dream and interpretation of the Midianites
Gideon has some history to go on.
What do the people of Sukkoth and Penuel have to go on, Gideon’s word? They may not even know who he is!
These people have been ravaged by the Midianites and their gang for the past seven years and they expect the same thing will happen this year.
They’ve seen the overwhelming host of foreigners and they’ve probably even seen this army of 15,000 moving past them and here comes an “army” of 300 chasing them.
I know exactly what the people of Sukkoth and Penuel are thinking. “They may be chasing the Midianites today but tomorrow most likely we’ll see the Midianites obliterating Gideon’s rag-tag group and then the Midianites will hammer us because we gave bread to Gideon and his gang.”
The men of Sukkoth and Penuel haven’t had the luxury of a visit from the Angel of the Lord. They haven’t taken the time to test the Lord with fleeces. They haven’t overheard the enemy prophesying of their own destruction!
All they have is Gideon’s word. Not much to go on.
It’s an entirely different thing when you have doubts and when someone else has doubts.
Aren’t you glad that we have a patient God?
How do we know we have a patient God? Just check out the apostle Peter! He's up and down and all over the place in his spiritual walk.
Jesus said to Peter - “Come follow me” - Peter left the boat and the nets and followed Jesus (Good)
The disciples in the boat - Jesus walking on the water - Peter walks on the water and then sinks (Good/Bad)
Peter says, “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God” (Good)
After Jesus had given a difficult sermon Jesus says, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." (Good)
Peter prepares the Passover meal for Jesus (Good)