Summary: God uses imperfect people! That's the message of the book of Judges. In the first sermon in this series we see Gideon was a coward, a catalyst, and a conqueror!
Judges: Ordinary People in the Hands of an Extraordinary God (Gideon)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 7/5/2014
Video: Flaws of Biblical Proportions
As much as I love the Grove, I would never call it a perfect church. No church is perfect because every church is made up of imperfect people. The Bible itself is full of imperfect people, isn’t it? Scripture isn’t exactly what you’d call a list of “Who’s Who in Purity and Sainthood.”
In fact, many of their antics and attitudes would make you think of the Saturday night crowd at the county jail, rather than the Sunday morning church crowd. What few halos there are among them could probably use a bit of straightening and polish. Yet, strange as it may seem, it is this very humanness that makes them refreshing. They may have had flaws of biblical proportions, but thankfully God uses imperfect people.
No section of Scripture demonstrates this better than the book of Judges.
Judges is set shortly after the conquest of Canaan. Moses and Joshua are both dead and buried. The great kings like Saul, David, and Solomon are yet to be born. The Bible describes the situation like this: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6 NASB). Unfortunately, it seems most of them were a little shortsighted. Without strong, stable leadership, Israel went astray. They started worshipping false gods, mimicking the pagan practices of the surrounding Canaanites, and indulging in every kind of immortality imaginable. So in order to prod them back to himself, God allowed Israel’s enemies to hammer and harass them. When the oppression became unbearable, Israel would cry out to God for help and God would raise up a hero, a champion to lead the people to victory and spiritual renewal. These spiritual, military leaders were called judges.
If you ever need a reminder of God’s tolerance and love, you’ll find it in the book of Judges. If you ever wonder how in the world God could use you to change the world or make a difference, look at these people—flawed people in the hands of a flawless God.
For the next five weeks, I want you to get to know their stories, because we find our stories in theirs. We find our hope where they found theirs—in the hands of God. I’d like to start with the story of Gideon. Gideon isn’t the first of the judges, but he’s my favorite and since I’m preaching the sermon, I get to pick.
Gideon’s story takes place in Judges 6, the first verse of which says, “The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. So the Lord handed them over to the Midianites for seven years. The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves, and strongholds.” (Judges 6:1-2 NLT). The Midianites were a nomadic tribe that would wait until the Israelites had harvested their crops and raised their cattle, and then swoop down and raid their farms—stealing what they could and destroying the rest. They were the quintessential neighborhood bullies. And, after seven years, this routine was starting to get a little old. Finally, when the Israelites had nowhere left to turn—they turned to God, who in turn called a young man named Gideon to rescue his people.
But Gideon wasn’t what you might expect from a mighty hero at first. In reality, when we first see Gideon, he was somewhat of a coward.
• GIDEON WAS A COWARD
The Bible introduces us to Gideon, saying, “The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak tree at Ophrah that belonged to Joash, one of the Abiezrite people. Gideon, Joash’s son, was separating some wheat from the chaff in a winepress to keep the wheat from the Midianites” (Judges 6:11 NCV).
Even to this day in the Middle East, you can still see people threshing wheat by harvesting it, then laying it out on a large flat slab of rock where they beat the wheat with a winnowing fork and throw it into the air—separating the grain from the chaff (seed coverings and other debris). The last place you would want to do this is at the bottom of a winepress. Threshing floors were usually wide open spaces where the wind could blow freely. A winepress is just the opposite—a hollowed out stone pit, into which grapes were packed and then danced on in order to squeeze out the juice. Within the small confines of a winepress only a very minute amount of wheat could be threshed at a time. Yet, Gideon was attempting to thresh his wheat inside the winepress because he was afraid of the Midianites. Another translation says, “Gideon, had been threshing wheat by hand in the bottom of a grape press…for he was hiding from the Midianites” (TLB). This isn’t exactly the picture of heroism, is it?