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Sun, Dec 17, 2000

23 - Enslaved by Paganism

Judges 6:1-11 by Robert Dean
Series:Judges (2000)
Duration:49 mins 28 secs

Enslaved by Paganism – Judges 6:1-10


Open your Bibles to Judges 6 and we're going to begin a study of the Gideon cycle; the Gideon cycle covers Judges 6-8 and is, I think, one of the more fascinating episodes in the Old Testament and in the book of Judges.  Gideon, in fact, is sort of the center piece of the book of Judges; we have seen that there are six key judges in the book.  The first is Othniel, the second is Ehud, the third is Deborah and the fourth is Gideon.  Gideon is the turning point; from Gideon on the judges become more and more pagan and less and less spiritual.  All of this is a testimony to the grace of God and should be an encouragement to us that even in those times when we are more carnal than spiritual, when we are in rebellion, God does not turn his back on us but still continues to extend grace to us.  Grace means that God does everything for us on the basis of who he is and what Christ did on the cross, not on the basis of who we are or what we do.  It is never based on what we do, that's legalism. 


A lot of times there's confusion over the meaning of grace orientation and legalism.  In fact this question came up recently in a discussion I had.  Sometimes people get the idea, mistakenly, that legalism or lack of grace orientation is an emphasis on telling people what you can do and what you can't do.  That's not legalism.  Legalism is saying that the blessing of God is dependent on who we are or what we do.  To say, when somebody emphasizes the mandates of Scripture, and I'm talking about the mandates of the New Testament, commands like "pray without ceasing," there is an implication of a command in 1 John 1:9 to confess our sins.  Jesus told the disciples a mandate to "abide in Him," that is, to maintain fellowship with Him.  There are numerous mandates in the New Testament to emphasize those.


It's not legalism to say that the obedience to those commands brings the blessing of God is legalism, because what happens at salvation, we have to go back to understand the whole concept of justification.  Man is born lacking right­eous­ness.  We are condemned now not for our sin, because at the cross Jesus Christ paid the penalty for every single sin in human history, so that all of our sins were poured out upon Him on the cross, and "He who knew no sin was made sin for us, that the righteousness of God might be found in us."  So at the instant of faith alone in Christ alone God's perfect righteousness is imputed to us and we are viewed as being +R.  When we are born we are born with the imputation of Adam's original sin; we have a problem of a sin nature and we commit personal sins.  All of this is paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross so that sin is no longer an issue at salvation.  What we have at salvation then is that we're… after…since the sin penalty was paid for at the cross, we're left with –R; we can't have fellowship with God who is perfect righteousness. 


God is perfect righteousness which is the absolute standard of His character and God is perfect justice which is the application of that perfect standard so that perfect righteousness cannot have fellowship with relative righteousness, and it is only on the basis of the imputation of Christ's perfect righteousness to us that God then can look at us and have fellowship with us based on the propitiation of His righteousness and justice by the work of Christ on the cross.  So that blessing then is free to flow to us on the basis of our possession of Christ's imputed righteousness, not on the basis of what we do.  What we do is related to spiritual growth but not related to divine blessing.  What we do is related to developing capacity.  God has already determined what blessings He is going to bestow upon us, and give to us and they are not based on what we do but on His character.  However, the activation of those blessings to us is dependent upon capacity.  It's dependent on capacity and we must grow spiritually to develop capacity or God will not distribute those blessings. 


The same thing might be analogous to you as a parent.  You look at your four or five year old son, you will not give him the keys to a brand new car, whether it is a Geo or a Ferrari you will not give him the keys because he has not developed the capacity, either physically or emotionally to be able to drive and to handle responsibility.  So even though you're going to give it to him eventually, and you've made that decision that he will receive a car not based on who he is but who you are, you wait until he has grown enough and matured enough to have the capacity to handle it responsibly.  And since some believers never mature enough to handle things responsibly and on the basis of God's Word they never receive the blessing because it would destroy us if God gave us those things too soon.  And it would not be a blessing but it would turn to cursing and we would end up in pride or arrogance or some sort of self-destructive behavior.  So that's the difference between grace and legalism.  Grace emphasizes the fact that everything we have that is good comes from the Lord and is not based on who we are or what we've done.  Legalism is the idea that what we do determines and is the cause of God's blessing.  That's the difference; it doesn't have anything to do with whether or not you emphasize the mandates of Scripture because the Scripture itself emphasizes thousands of mandates throughout the New Testament. 


And what we see in Judges 6, more than any other lesson, I think, is the lesson that Paul learned with the thorn in the flesh demon in 2 Corinthians, and that is God saying "My grace is sufficient for you," and "My grace is made perfect in your weakness," because what we see in this Gideon episode is God demonstrating that it is not man's ability that solves the problem but it is God's sufficiency that solve the problem and it is God's grace despite human failure and human inability.


Now this episode with Gideon is quite important and central to the history of Israel.  Turn to Psalm 83 and we see the significance of this episode.  The psalmist, it's a Psalm of Asaph, it's turning to God for help, it is a lament psalm as we have studied the various types of psalms, it is a lament psalm that is calling upon God to solve the problems and to rescue the nation in some time of catastrophe.  And in doing this, this is an interesting, just sort of a side note, that when you pray and you are going through times of adversity it is interesting to note how Asaph argues to God, and I use the term "argue" not in the sense of having some sort of conflict but in the legal sense of presenting a case because in the prayers of many of the Psalms you see the psalmist present a case to God as to why God should intercede on behalf of the psalmist and why he should come to the aid of the nation.  So we see the nation going through a time of adversity.  We don't know what it is so that helps us to apply it even more in our lives, whatever their adversity was, it could have been military, it could have been economic, it could have been some sort of weather disaster, who knows what it was but we have similar adversities in our lives. 


And so the Psalmist cries out in Psalm 83:1, "O God, do not remain quiet, do not be silent, and O God, do not be still.  [3] For, behold, Thine enemies make an uproar; And those who hate Thee have exalted themselves.  [3] They make shrewd plans against Your people, And conspire together against Thy treasured ones."  So we see a situation where Israel is obviously under some sort of attack, whether it's physical or whether it is propaganda or ideological it's not necessarily certain.  Psalm 83:4, "They have said, Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation;" so we see the anti-Semitic philosophy here and anti-Semitism is always wrong, and their desire to wipe out the name of Israel.  So it's not too different from the time of Gideon.  Notice in verse 5, "For they have conspired together with one mind," it is a group of people and we will see in verse 6 that these are Arabs.  Once again we see the Arab conspiracy that runs throughout history to try to destroy Israel.  We will see it in detail in Judges 6 because once again we see the Midianites allied with other Arab groups going against Israel and it's the same groups that we see today.  For example, in verse 6 it says "The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagarites, [7] Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; [8] Assyria also has joined with them; They have become a help to the children of Lot."  That would be Moab and Ammon.  And Moab and Ammon are over in the Transjordan area just east of the Dead Sea and that is the area known as Jordan today.  And they have entered into an alliance against Israel.


Now notice how the psalmist pleads with God; he has a historical argument.  That's why history is important; you can't do away with history.  Once you attack the historical foundations of the Scripture then you basically do away with everything in the Scripture.  That's why liberal theology and that's why non-Christian continually have attacked, attempted to disprove the historical basis for the Scriptures.  In Psalm 83:9 the psalmist says "Deal with them as with Midian," it's a reference back to the battle that takes place in Judges 7 because this is such a monumental defeat of the Midianite alliance in Judges 7 that we don't hear about Midian again.  As a threat to Israel they are never again mentioned; they are wiped out at that point.  We don't even see them listed in the alliance of enemies back in Psalm 83:6-7.  "Deal with them as with Midian, as with Sisera and Jabin," as in the case of Deborah and Barak, "at the torrent of Kishon."


Now what's interesting is while I was at the Pre-Trib conference last week Arnold Fruchtenbaum was talking about the stages of the battle of Armageddon and he had pictures because Arnold has been in Israel many times and like to illustrate his talks with on-sight pictures and we got a shot of looking across the Valley of Jezreel which we normally think of in our times as the valley of Armageddon; Armageddon comes from the Hebrew Har-Megiddo, the hill or mountain of Megiddo, which is one town on sort of the west southwest side of the valley.  And so he had pictures from different vantage points all around the Valley of Jezreel, which is enormous and Mount Tabor was there, which isn't that tall, it's a little over 2,000 feet high and it's a very abrupt hill, as is Moreh, which also sits at the eastern edge of Jezreel, but he had a picture of the Kishon River and the Kishon River looked to me, it was a dirty muddy brown, reminded me of the Colorado River down in Texas and it was about as wide as the distance from the back of the first pew to the back of the third pew, just a thin little strip of water running down through the Valley of Jezreel.  So this became torrent because of rains upstream that had a flash flood down through that valley that wiped out the chariots of Jabin. 

It goes on and it says Psalm 83:9, "Deal with them as with Midian, as with Sisera and Jabin, at the torrent of Kishon, [10] Who were destroyed at En-dor," En-dor is on one side of Mount Moreh which is at the eastern end of the Valley of Jezreel, "who became as dung for the ground.  [11] Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb," these are the military leaders of the Midianites that Gideon defeats, "and all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna," these are the political princes who led the Midianite alliance.  [12] Who said, Let us possess for ourselves the pastures of God."  Now that emphasizes the fact that Israel is the land that has been promised to Israel from the time of the Abrahamic Covenant and is promised to them as an everlasting covenant.  And that real estate has been given to them, even though they have been taken out of the land temporarily due to divine discipline, the fifth cycle of discipline which came upon Israel in 70 AD. 


They are returning to the land and it appears as if this is preparation for the ultimate establishment of the tribulation nation Israel.  In order for the tribulation so begin…what begins the tribulation is the signing of the peace treaty, according to Daniel 9, between the antichrist, called in that passage "the prince who is to come," and the nation Israel.  So there has to be some political entity in the land at the time of the tribulation for a peace treaty to be signed and that initiates Daniel's seventy weeks.  The interesting thing is that there is a gap between the rapture and the signing of that peace treaty.  It could be six weeks, it could be even six years, we don't know but I think it depends on how much the stage has been set for the tribulation.  That's why we always emphasize the fact that the rapture is imminent; it can occur at any time, there's no prophecy in the Bible that has to be fulfilled before the rapture can occur.  That's why we are challenged in Titus 3 to look for the blessed hope of the coming of the Lord.  Nothing happens between now and the coming of the Lord prophetically.  We are to anticipate and look forward to the coming of the Lord; that is our blessed hope. 


And once that happens and the church is raptured, then God will work to bring about whatever needs to be brought about politically in order to begin the tribulation.  So we look out on the scene today and everybody says oh, it could happen tomorrow, look at all the things that are happening, but everything could change next week.  Many things could change, Israel could get involved in a major war over there and be absolutely wiped out by a coalition of Arabs and we're back to a situation there there's no state of Israel.  I don't think that will happen but it is possible because this is not the fulfillment of prophecy, I think this is just setting the stage.  But we're going to see in this end times this same alliance come against Israel.  There will still be an Arab alliance and that is referred to by Daniel as the king of the south. 


So this becomes a paradigm in Israel's history for the gracious deliverance of God and how He can solve the problems that face Israel.  Another passage that refers to the episode in the Gideon battle is in Isaiah 10:24-26, again we see the prophet encouraging the nation as they face the threat and the hostility of the Assyrian who is coming against the northern kingdom and will destroy the northern kingdom, and the prophet comforts the southern kingdom by saying, "Therefore, thus says the Lord God of hosts, O My people who dwell in Zion, do not fear the Assyrian who strikes you with the rod and lifts up his staff against you the way Egypt did.  [25] For in a very little while My indignation against you will be spent and My anger will be directed to their destruction.  [26] And the LORD of hosts will arouse a scourge against him like the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb; and His staff will be over the sea, and He will lift it up the way He did in Egypt."  That is a description of how God wipes out the Assyrians and it's reminiscent of His destruction of the Midianites.


Another passage that relates to this is Isaiah 9:4, which again is a statement of how God will protect Israel under military threat.  The prophet says, "For thou," referring to God, "Thou shalt break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian."  So the battle of Midian, what God does with Gideon in defeating the Midianites in Judges 6 becomes a pattern, becomes a paradigm as it were of an example that God refers to over and again to show that He is able to solve the greatest problems, greatest threats that come into our lives.


Now let's begin with a look at Judges 6:1 and we see a continued theme in the book.  "Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD," now again and again we read this refrain in Judges and the point is that God wants us to make sure that we understand that the reason the nation goes into decline, the reason they go into economic, political and military slavery, is not because they have a bad political philosophy; not because they have an inadequate economic concept, it's not because they have bad leadership or corrupt leadership, though they had those things at different times those were simply symptoms of the core problem.  We can't solve problems in a nation by simply addressing symptoms and that's a trap that too many Christians fall into today, is thinking that somehow the election of a certain political figure, the empowerment of one party over against another party will turn things around.  We must remember that those leaders are all products of our culture, whether they're liberal or conservative is not the issue because there are conservatives who are just as evil as liberals.  And there are liberals that are, though I think misguided in some points, believers and trying to fly establishment principles in some areas.  It is not that that is the problem, not the political philosophy.  It is that the nation needs to gets its priorities right in relation to doctrine.  Until that happens, no matter whose political agenda is in power it will all lead to the same self-destructive solution because the problem is not being addressed, only symptoms.  And the problem is one of spiritual idolatry.


"The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD," what were the dynamics that were taking place in Israel at this time?  We've gone over this before and each time we go over it again I'm expanding our understanding of the background.  The problem was that the average Israelite on a day to day basis was just trying to make a success of his own life.  He was trying to make things work; he was trying to be a good farmer.  Remember this is an agricultural economy and so success is defined in terms of agricultural success and prosperity.  Well, they have come into the land, they've assimilated with the Canaanites; instead of annihilating the Canaanites and every vestige of Canaanite religion they compromise and they failed and because they did not obey the Lord completely God allowed these nations to survive in their midst.  That is like the sin nature that survives in the midst of the believer.  We have a sin nature that is continuously tempting us, continuously offering us ideas and concepts to try to make life work apart from God.


What we see in verse 1 is that Israel once again succumbs to the idolatry that is pervasive, that is in the culture around them, the Canaanite culture and in the worship of Baal and the Asherah you have what is called in the ancient world the fertility religions or the worship of the phallic cult.  And the point was that Baal, who is the storm god and Asherah and at the sacred groves where they worshiped up in the hills they were surrounded and even in their temples there were a number of cultic prostitutes and so by engaging in sexual relations with the cultic prostitute it was a symbol of encouragement to the god to fertilize the land and to make it prosperous and successful.


Today we don't engage in such overt forms of fertility worship; we're much more subtle.  We have more cerebral idols today that we focus on in terms of trying to make our lives successful and in handling problems in life so that we can have success.  Ultimately what we learn from analyzing this is that all approaches to problem solving in life, no matter what the problem is, whether it's something overt, whether it's something mental, whether it has to do with economics or whether it has to do with your job or career or just personal family problems, every approach to problem solving, when you break it down into its parts, has to do with an understanding of what man is in his immaterial essential components.  Every problem solving philosophy, whether it's psychology, whether it is a Biblical approach, whatever it is, is going to be based on a certain understanding of what makes man function; what are the core elements of man and how does that work.  That in turn is going to say something about the ultimate realities in the universe because when you start breaking it down and problem solving you have to deal with a value system that will under gird your problem solving approach.  That brings in an ethical framework, so you are going to bring in a view of man, called anthropology; you're going to bring in a view of ethics, ultimately when you deal with that you have brought in concepts that reflect an ultimate view of reality.  That's what philosophers call metaphysics and what Christians call the study of God.  Ultimately you're going to say something about God in your problem solving approach, whatever it might be.  And that is why the Scriptures make it clear that God has given us everything we need to solve any and every problem in life, whatever the adversity might be. 


We have done an intense study on the difference between adversity and stress, that adversity is the outside pressure of negative circumstances on us, and stress is the inside pressure in the soul.  Adversity is inevitable but stress is optional.  Adversity is what circumstances do to us and stress is what we do to ourselves.  And stress is equivalent to sin nature control of the soul because we are trying to solve our problems in life through ways other than exclusive dependence upon God and application of doctrinal principles in our life.  So ultimately every approach to problem solving can be reduced to some sort of religious statement and statement about the nature of God and God's provision for man. 


We live in an age today when problem solving is usually thought to be the purview of psychology.  One writer, Paul Vitz who was a psychology professor at NYU wrote a book called Psychology as Religion, The Cult of Self Worship.  In there he says: "Psychology as religion exists in great strength throughout the United States.  It is deeply anti-Christian; it is extensively supported by schools, universities and social programs, financed by taxes collected from Christians."  See, the average Christian thinks psychology is another neutral thing that is used to help people make their life somewhat successful and stable and I always say anything that is used by people to think that they can make their life work apart from exclusive reliance from the Word of God and the God of Scripture is a form of idolatry and is false.  And as a believer and especially as a pastor I cannot authorize or legitimize dependence upon any system like that.  It sounds very harsh to say I would rather have a drunk, an alcoholic die drunk in the gutter than to give him the sense, by sending him to AA or some other system, that he can solve his problems apart from dependence on God's Word because then what I've done is said okay, you can solve your problems and it's human good and I've just supported the idea that somehow you can solve problems and make life work without God.  And that's contrary to the Scripture.  As a matter of fact I think the statistics are such that AA is only successful in about 17-20% of all cases.  So I just don't think that we can really solve problems apart from anything except the Word of God.


In another book written by Martin Gross called The Psychological Society, which is an evaluation of modern culture, he writes: "Psychology sits at the very center of contemporary society as an international colossus whose ranks number in the hundreds of thousands.  Its experiment animals are an obliging, even grateful, human race.  We live in a civilization in which, as never before, man is preoccupied with self.  As the Protestant ethic has weakened in western society, the confused citizen has turned to the only alternative he knows, the psychological expert who claims there is a new scientific standard of behavior to replace fading traditions.  Mouthing the holy name of science, the psychological expert claims to know all.  This new truth is fed to us continuously from birth to the grave."  So that has created a society where we think we have problems, from marriage problems to social problems, we think that the solution is to turn, not to the pastor, not to doctrine, and it's interesting, pastors used to be called doctors of the soul…doctors of the soul, because it was understood that it was only the Word of God and the grace of God that could solve the problems that man faced in the soul.  But then along came Freud and others in the late 19th century and into the 20th century who developed something called psychology; if you break it down it's the study of…[tape turns]


…is the Greek for soul, psuche, is the Greek for soul and psychology therefore means the science or the study of the soul, but the Bible claims to have the soul as its exclusive domain…exclusive domain.  And it is not to compromise with the teachings of man that are derived from empirical studies which are often flawed by presuppositions that are brought to the analysis.  So once again we see that our society compromises at a religious level by attempting to solve problems apart from the Word of God. 


And the same thing that was happening in Israel is they were trying to solve the problem of agricultural uncertainty by adopting the practices of the pagan society that surrounded them; so they got involved with Baalism and with the prostitutes of Astarte and began to seek success through pseudo religious systems.  So there's not a whole lot of difference there.  Another problem that we find today, especially in business seminars and in business situations, there's a lot of emphasis on positive mental attitude.  Now mental attitude is something that is important; what I'm talking about in terms of positive mental attitude is sort of a philosophy or an approach to motivation that undergirds, that goes back to the mind science cults of the 19th century and it's not just the idea of having an optimistic attitude or a confident attitude. 


But there is a lot that goes along with that and one quote I have from the late consultant to the L.A. schools system, named Beverly Galion wrote in her book on education about human potential, and she says: "Human potential is inexhaustible and is realized through new modes of exploration, meditation, guided imagery, dream work, yoga, body movements, sensory awareness, energy transfer," which is a metaphysical term for healing, "reincarnation therapy and esoteric studies.  Meditation and guided imagery activities are the core of the curriculum."  And what we see there is that there are folks out there who are in influential positions in education and in companies that don't know a thing about the Word, in fact they're anti-Christian and they are promoting metaphysical approaches to problem solving that are 180 degrees opposite what the Word of God teaches, and this stuff filters its way down; these are just some more extreme quotes that I've pulled out, but their ideas filter down to us.  And they are very similar or part of what's come to be called the New Age movement today.  I remember several years ago a man I had in my church in Dallas was working for the phone company, Southwestern Bell, and had to go to one of these positive mental attitude type of seminars that the company forced everybody to go through and it was nothing but a lot of creative visualization, guided imagery type of techniques in order to handle the problems in life, in order to be more in touch with yourself and to be a more sensitive boss or leader or whatever it was to solve problems and become more successful in life. 


So we are assaulted from every direction with idolatrous concepts and pseudo religious concepts that are wrapped up in the guise of science and modern psychology and corporate policy and if we don't have our doctrinal discernment glasses on to be able to perceive what is going on, we even see these things promoted in movies, you see them exemplified in movies and television shows, hear them bandied about on afternoon talk shows, that we hear this enough it begins to desensitize us to what is actually going on in our culture. 


And what we see is our theme in Judges is that our nation, just as the nation Israel at the time of the Judges is being overwhelmed by pagan concepts of problem solving.  And once we give in to that, and we have as a nation, we become a nation of soul slaves because we're operating on carnality, letting the sin nature and sin nature techniques dominate our thinking, even that of believers, and the result is that a nation of soul slaves soon becomes a nation enslaved externally.  And that's what happened to Israel.


Judges 6:1, "Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD," they had succumbed to idolatry, to compromise and then idolatry, "and the LORD gave them into the hands of Midian for seven years."  Now they had just enjoyed forty years of rest after the victory of Deborah and Barak at the Valley of Jezreel over Sisera and the Canaanites.  Now after those forty years, and it didn't happen overnight, there was probably a time at the beginning of those 20 years when they were grateful to God for their deliverance and had returned to a worship of God.  But then because of the influence of pagan culture around them and the lack of positive volition they gradually succumbed more and more, compromised more and more until finally it reached a point where God needed to discipline them through the fourth cycle of discipline as outlined in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26.  So He gives them over "into the hands of Midian for seven years."


Now the Midianites are Arabs; we need to go back and review our chart of the genealogy of the Arabs.  We go back to Genesis 10-11; there we have the genealogy of the nations, sometimes called the table of nations, from Noah to Abraham.  And there we see that Noah had Shem, Shem was the father of Arphachshad, who was the father of Eber who was the father of Peleg; now Peleg is the father of Joktan who then becomes the progenitor of 13 Arab tribes.  Peleg is the ancestor of Nahor who is the grandfather of Abraham.  Nahor becomes the father of the Chaldeans.  Nahor's son is Terah; Terah is the father of Abraham and has two other sons, Nahor and Haran also.  Abraham gives birth to his first son through Hagar, the Egyptian slave of his wife and that first son is Ishmael who becomes the father of the Bedouin Arabs.  Isaac is his regenerate son and becomes the line for Israel and then Abraham has six other sons from a second wife, Keturah and they become the progenitors of the Midianites and the other Arab tribes. 


Now the Midianites have a positive relationship with Israel at the time of the Exodus.  It is to Midian that Moses went from Egypt; he had a Midianite wife and Jethro, who is his father-in-law, is a Midianite.  But later Midian became hostile to Israel so that by this time there is a major problem with the Midianites.  Now they operate east of the Dead Sea, in that area, and then there is another group that's in the same general area, the Ammonites, who are the descendants of Lot, who is Abraham's nephew, and Lot became the father of Ammon and Moab who operated…these three groups operate in the same area east of the Jordan and Ammon and Moab, the progenitors of the group, are the sons of an incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughters.  They got him drunk one night and had relations with him in order to continue the family line.  So that's the background for the Arabs.  Also Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob; Esau becomes the father of the Edomites and it is out from that line that you get Amalek who is the father of the Amalekites.  So these are the basic Arab groups that line up against Israel. 

Notice in Judges 5:2-3, "The power of Midian prevailed against Israel.  Because of Midian the sons of Israel made for themselves the dens which were in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds."  So their power is so great and they overrun Israel so much that the people are forced to flee from their homes and to find places to hide up in the mountains.  [3] "For it was when Israel had sown," so it came about in the spring after they had sown their crops, "that the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites and the sons of the east" which is just a technical term for other Arab groups, "and go against them."  So here we see the same coalition we've seen before, the same group, each time there's a different tribal group that is the ascendancy; earlier it was Moab; before that it was the Mesopotamian group that came down from the north.  So here we see just another coalition, each time a different group becomes the ascendant power.  So here it's the Midianites aligned with the Amalekites; almost every time we see the Amalekites lurking in the background as a major player in the hostility.


Judges 5:4, "So they would camp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey."  So they would come in and just rape the land and steal all the livestock and destroy the sustenance of the people.  And it took Israel a while, a couple of years, according to the rabbis it took about three years before they realized what was going on and what the cycle was.  If we look at the map, here's the Dead Sea and it is this area down to the south that's the area of Moab, and north of that is Edom and it's up in this area that is the area for the Midianites.  And they put together this coalition and they would invade from the east and come across into Israel, they would then head south, to the southwest, down to Gaza.  Now this area along the Mediterranean, which is called the Gaza strip today, it's where you had the five cities of the plains where the lords of the Philistines had established their toehold as they were seeking to establish a colony on the coast of the Mediterranean, Ashkelon, Gaza, other cities along here were the Philistine enclave.  So in effect the invasion of the Midianites is cutting the nation in half.  And it brought economic collapse, economic adversity to the land, hunger, famine and all the things that went with it, plus the tremendous loss of life as families were assaulted, husbands, fathers were killed and it had a tremendous devastation to Israel.  [5, "For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locusts for number, both they and their camels were innumerable; and they came into the land to devastate it."]


 So much so that in Judges 6:6 we're told, "So Israel was brought very low because of Midian," the word there for "brought low" is the Hebrew word which connotes a lowness as a state or a goal, it's used some 62 times in the Old Testament and is used to describe a state of deprivation, a state of extreme depression, a state of hopelessness; physical despair is emphasized, they are finally put on the ropes, as it were, so that there's no hope, there's no alternative, they have no solutions left, they've tried every human solution they can think of and nothing works and so they do the only thing that they can do, and that is that "the sons of Israel cried to the LORD."


Judges 6:7, this is tantamount to the use of 1 John 1:9, "Now it came about when the sons of Israel cried to the LORD on account of Midian, [8] that the LORD sent a prophet to the sons of Israel," now what's happened here is that they cry out but there isn't really a turning to the Lord yet.  They know that the Lord is their only hope but they haven't figured out…they're not really dependent, they're in such reversionism, they're in such a state of apostasy that they've lost all concept of the content of what God can do for them.  So the Lord then sends them a prophet, that is always how God answers our problems, is He addresses them with His Word, so He sends a prophet to give a direct address to the nation and to challenge them with their disobedience. 


Judges 6:8, "The LORD sent a prophet to the sons of Israel and he said to them, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'It was I who brought you up from Egypt and brought you out from the house of slavery.  [9] 'I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land, [10] and I said to you, "I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live.  But you have not obeyed Me."  So God is confronting them for their disobedience but at the same time He is reminding them of what He has done for them in the past.  This is like the a fortiori argument in Romans 8, that if God is for us, who can be against us, that "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things."  And the point that God is making is that if I solved the greatest problem in the history of Israel, which is the slavery in Egypt, then I can solve any other problem you can face. 


And that's the same point that He is making to us in Romans 8 and throughout the New Testament; that is if God solved the greatest problem, the greatest adversity we'll ever face, which is sin and the sin nature, then God can solve any other problem that we face in life.  The issue is not how great is the problem, the issue is how large is the omnipotence of God and how sufficient is His provision.  And yet if we fail to trust Him exclusively, as with the gospel, faith plus anything destroys faith.  That is why the church today is so impotent, is because we have failed to trust in the sufficiency of the grace of God, the sufficiency of the cross of Christ and we are constantly trying to compromise and merge the world's problem solving techniques with the Bible solving techniques.  So the Scripture makes it clear that it is God exclusively in the life of the believer to solve our problems and only then can we advance in spiritual maturity.


We will stop here at verse 10 and we will see the angel of the Lord's interesting encounter with Gideon as he cowers in the winepress trying to beat out a little wheat for the family and we're going to see how the grace of God transforms Gideon from a cowering coward to a military hero.