Summary: God’s power at work in our daily life
Text – as readings
It is not easy, is it, to stand up and be counted as a Christian? Perhaps it’s more difficult in some situations than others. It may not be too difficult when you are with Christian friends; but when you are on your own at work or at school or college – perhaps even sometimes at home – that’s when the going gets tough.
That’s why, this evening, I want to address this question by, as it were, opening three windows: the first will open to reveal an Old Testament character called Gideon. The second will open onto the world of a New Testament character, Paul. Through the third we will look out onto our world today.
It is my hope that the things we see and hear as we open these three windows will help us to understand how God gives power to Christians for everyday living.
So, without further ado, let’s open the first window.
Through the FIRST WINDOW we see and hear
Looking through this window takes us back more than 3000 years to events recorded in Judges 6: 11-16. The main theme of this book is that of failure through compromise. The people of Israel simply were not living up to their calling as the people of God. Again and again they wandered away from God and worshipped idols.
God would have been just if he had left his people alone to die in their sin – but he did not do so. Instead, he raised up rulers called Judges – hence the title of this book. These Judges were called by God to deliver his people from their enemies, and call them back to the worship and service of the one true and living God.
Gideon was one such leader. He would become a mighty warrior. But that was certainly not how he saw himself when God called him. But before we come to his story let’s paint in a little more of the background.
Judges chapter 6 opens with the oft repeated words: Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. After suffering for a while they cried to the Lord in the midst of their oppression. Having first sent them a prophet to rebuke them, the Lord then called Gideon to deliver them from the hands of their persecutors.
But how did Gideon react to this call? Did he immediately obey and take up his task? Not a bit of it. He protested – although it has to be said that his protest was one of incredulity rather more than disobedience.
Look again at Judges 6: 11-15.
11The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
13“But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”
14The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
15“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
This encounter with the angel of the Lord caused Gideon all sorts of problems. First, he wanted to know why, if the Lord was with them, they had experienced seven years of tragedy? The answer, of course, was that they had suffered because of their sin. Even so, it was because of their suffering that they had turned again to the Lord, seeking his face in prayer and repentance.
But Gideon was not sure that he liked the way God seemed to be responding to the people’s prayers. And that accounts for his further protest: (Judges 6:15) “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” “Surely”, he was saying, “God can’t want me as a leader”. As he looked at himself and his family the idea that he was, or ever would be, a mighty warrior seemed laughable. He came from a poor family and he was the youngest member of it. Actually, he wasn’t that young: he was probably about forty years old at this time but you can hear him say, can’t you: “Surely, Lord, you don’t mean me”. But God did mean him. What is more, God promised that Israel’s enemies would be defeated through his leadership at this time.