Gideon's First Test – Judges 6: 24-40
Judges 6 and I want to review what is taking place in this terrible period of time in the history of Israel. We have seen that it is a time of spiritual apostasy and reversionism in the nation. It is seen especially in the decline of the leaders and the impact of the pagan culture on them. It begins with the first judge who was Othniel; nothing negative was said about Othniel or his wife, Achsah and they are presented, as it were, as sort of the standard, the benchmark of the spiritual maturity that was present in Joshua's generation and the generation of the elders that came into the land and conquered the Canaanites. But they also began to fail because it was that same generation that began the policy of compromise and assimilation of the value system and the thinking of the Canaanite culture that surrounded Jews that had previously possessed the land.
From Othniel there was a period of rebellion against God afterward and spiritual apostasy and people were brought under a time of oppression from a foreign power, which is how God was disciplining the nation at that time, and He delivered them through Ehud, who through a series of deceptive tactics was able to assassinate Eglon, the king of Moab, who was oppressing Israel at that time, and once again the nation is delivered. But it doesn't last long, they continue to go into apostasy and idolatry and once again they go through a period of oppression and they are delivered by Deborah, and specifically Barak, her general.
Then we have another period of decline and again they are oppressed by the coalition of Midianites and Amalekites, for seven years, and then God raised up Gideon and it is in the midst of this Gideon episode…the Gideon cycle covers 3 or 4 chapters, chapters 6-9 all cover Gideon and the consequences of Gideon's judgeship. Gideon is really the turning point, as it were, in this book. From this point on the judges are more apostate and are more pagan than they are spiritual. We see even in Gideon that he doesn't have a true understanding of doctrine. He is a believer but he is biblically ignorant, he is operating on pagan concepts more often than not and we'll see a little more of that this morning. This is followed by Jephthah who is even more paganized than Gideon, and culminates with Samson who, though he is a believer and though the Holy Spirit is empowering his judgeship, his life is no different at all from the surrounding pagans. In fact, it is in some ways even more degraded and more perverted than that of the pagans. And all of this tells us that it is very possible for a believer, a genuine believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, to give in to human viewpoint thinking and the temptation of the sin nature and the lust of the flesh, and to go into spiritual rebellion, spiritual apostasy, and think, live and operate no different from the pagan culture around us.
One of the sad points is that unfortunately in too many churches in our country today the people are not being taught how to think critically about these things, so they spend a lot of time learning the Bible, almost in an academic sense. They end up learning a lot of things about what God can do for them but it's almost as if it is compartmentalized and it doesn't have an impact on how they think in every other area of life, whether it is more personal areas, such as marriage, family, personal relationships or whether it is something more academic such as the study of law, the study of economics, the study of literature, history, etc. but yet the Bible tells us the Word is sufficient for everything that there is a framework for understanding every arena of thought that derives from the Scripture. And that's what we call divine viewpoint, and that is in contrast to what I call human viewpoint or pagan thought. Pagan thought is not a pejorative term; it is a technical term for the kind of thinking that is not Biblical. To make something Biblical doesn't mean that somehow you come along and you find verses in the Bible that seem to support what you're saying and then you tack those verses on.
It's important to develop from the text a Biblical view of all the different areas in life and that's one of the things that I hope we will be able to do as the years go by and time permits. It takes a tremendous amount of study. That's why I think it doesn't happen in a lot of churches because the pastors just get so caught up in all kinds of other things, administrative functions, they get involved in trying to build a church, they get confused with the fact that Jesus said I will build My church and their job is to feed the sheep and they think that somehow it's the Sunday school teacher's responsibility to feed the sheep and their job to build the church, and that distracts them and so they don't spend the time in the Word. I probably spend somewhere around 40-50 hours a week directly involved in reading, studying the Word, and I think that's about half what it ought to be but you can only do so much and God's only given us so much time. We just have so much that's here and so much that can be developed from the Scripture.
Gideon, like so many today, is not even sure of how God operates. He's confused, he has absorbed so many ideas about "God," (quote) from the pagan culture and its worship of the Baalim, the Baals, which is the Canaanite fertility culture, and the Asherah that in some ways, we're going to see he treats God in the same way that the pagans treated Baal and interacted with Baal. You see the same thing today; we have our version of the fertility cult, which was a prosperity cult of the ancient world and we see that today with the health and wealth gospel. As I was channel surfing looking for news, I briefly watched a preacher at the close of his message saying that if you would send in or visit his website you could learn all the principles you needed to be wealthy, wealthy and prosperous. And that is our version of the fertility cult of the ancient world. We are promising things and interpreting the Scripture in light of pagan categories, pagan vocabulary and pagan concepts. And the result is you end up with a church that might have 5,000 people in it but they think just like the people who are outside the church, outside of grace, who aren't saved and don't have a clue about doctrine.
Gideon, though, gives us hope because God uses him despite the fact that he is so confused about the truth and so ignorant about so many things, and despite the fact that even though Israel is crying out to the Lord for deliverance there's no real change in the way they're thinking, they just want God to take away the suffering, they're not saying Lord, we recognize that our problem is idolatry and we're going to take care of that. In fact, this is the point of the passage from verse 25 on. Last time we stopped at verse 24 where Gideon had sought confirmation from the Lord, the angel of the Lord had appeared to Gideon and commissioned him as the deliverer of the nation. In order to get confirmation Gideon was going to bring out an offering.
We're told in Judges 6:19, "Then Gideon went in and prepared a young goat" now think about this, he says to the angel of the Lord, wait a while, I want confirmation, and he prepares a kid. Now that takes a while, to go out into the field or maybe into the sheep pen in the backyard, grab a kid, slaughter it, skin it, prepare it as a meal, "and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour;" he has to go get the flour, he has to bake it, "he put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot," so he fixes a whole meal, this probably took 2 or 3 hours before he brings it out and puts it on the altar and then it is consumed by this fire from God that consumes everything on the rock, and that is his confirmation. So once he has confirmation then the Lord gives him a particular task to perform and this is given in verses 25-26.
Judges 6: 25, "Now on the same night the LORD said to him," that is to Gideon, so now we've gone to the daytime when the Lord first appeared to Gideon and evening has come. "on the same night the LORD said to him," so nighttime has come, we've seen a lot of time go by, and God is going to commission him, He says, "Take your father's bull and a second bull seven years old," this is a bad translation, we'll come back and look at the correct translation, "and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it; [ 26] and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down."
What we learn from this is that Gideon's father has a Baal temple in his backyard so that Gideon's family is deeply immersed in Baal worship, in fact, his father is the lead promoter of the Baal religion and the Canaanite religion in their region. So God is basically saying to Gideon, okay, we handled the first part, I gave you a commission, we're learning a few things about doctrinal orientation, but it's not just academic truth. You don't just learn that I have a plan for your life; that plan involves application and before you can function as a servant of me you must first start applying some truth.
You see, God is demonstrating a basic principle here that doctrinal orientation is not just learning academic truth, it is application for spiritual growth, and that if you are going to be involved in Christian service then it begins first by your own spiritual growth. Christian service is a result of spiritual growth, it is not a cause of spiritual growth, so that the believer needs to first get involved in spiritual growth, learning and applying doctrine before they're put, especially in any kind of position of leadership, whether that involves teaching in Sunday school, or it involves any other level of leadership in the local church. That Christian service should flow as a result of spiritual growth and that means that before you start getting involved in doing something in a local church you need to spend some time learning basic doctrine and applying it in your own life.
God is instructing Gideon that his first task is to start dealing with the internal problem, the root problem in Israel. The root problem is not that they have an inadequate military that is unable to protect them from the onslaughts of their foreign enemies. The basic problem in Israel is not that they have, perhaps, poor agricultural techniques or technology so that they can't produce enough crops to support themselves and the foreign invader at the same time. The problem is that they have succumbed to idolatry; they have rejected God, they have rejected the Mosaic Law, and they have followed after the false religion of the Canaanites and until they deal with the core problem treating the symptom isn't going to solve anything. And that principle holds true both for us as a nation and for us as individuals.
So often somebody comes in for counseling, they want to talk to the pastor and they have a lot of problems in their life and all of a sudden everything seems to be falling apart. Those are the symptoms; the problem is that doctrine is not a priority in their life and they haven't been consistently applying doctrine in their life, so when everything falls apart suddenly they start wanting to show up at Bible class and learn just a few things so that they can get their lives stable again. That's not how it works. What you have to do is start dealing with those basic issues of making God the focal point where there is no fundamental compromise in life in relationship to doctrinal priority.
So Gideon has to start making application in the realm of doctrinal orientation and this flows from the first two commandments in the Mosaic Law. In Exodus 20:2 we read: "I am the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before Me," that is the first commandment of the Ten Commandments. Verse 4, "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth."
Now I just want to make a comment there because of a question that was raised regarding the lifting up of the bronze serpent in the wilderness, when Israel was going through the wilderness and they came to a place where they were attacked by the fiery serpents because of discipline from God and God said to Moses to make an image of the serpent and put it up on a post. This is not a prohibition of art; this is not a prohibition of making representations of created objects because there certainly were representations of different things in the creation. For example, they were to make images of the cherubim to place over the Ark of the Covenant, and there were other decorations of animals and other creation objects in the tabernacle and in the temple so it's not a prohibition against art or sculpting or anything of that nature. It is a prohibition of making something for the purpose of worshiping it. That is the concept here; so they're not to make anything as a worship object, as a representation of God for the purpose of worship.
Exodus 20:5, "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me." So this is talking about the fact that this can lead to a generational problem, to the fourth generation because of the rebelliousness of previous generations. Verse 6, "But showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.  You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain," now this is the fourth commandment, "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain" is usually applied in a rather superficial concept in our culture, mostly because the original languages aren't consulted. Taking the name of the Lord your God in vain is usually related to using the name of Jesus or God in sort of profane explicative. That might be part of this but it certainly doesn't catch the main idea of this prohibition. The word translated "in vain" in the Hebrew is the word that means to seek false, wicked, empty light or vain; it has the idea of attaching wrongly or falsely the name of God to a cause or a person's life when that person's cause or life is not biblically validated.
For example, if you decide that God wants you to do something just because that has somehow stirred your emotions and you've gotten excited about something and you say well, God wants me to do X, Y or Z, and God has not appeared or spoken verbally to you since He doesn't do that in this generation, believe me, then what you have done is violated this commandment; you've taken the Lord's name in vain; you've said this is God's will for my life and you have no basis for saying that, you've attached God's name falsely to that, you've taken the name of the Lord in vain. There are false religions and cults who use the name of Yahweh or Jehovah in attachment to them and is taking the Lord's name in vain; it is attaching it in a false way to a cause or purpose and it is deceitful because God has not authorized that. It also can be applied to the life of a person who claims that they are a believer and they are actually just more concerned about learning a lot of doctrine and not really applying it and so in common everyday language they are talking the talk without walking the walk. They are talking a lot about the Bible and about God and that religious verbiage peppers their language and they present an overt façade of Christianity but their life doesn't reflect it at all and people around them see through that external veneer of Christian verbiage and recognize that there's something missing. That's taking the Lord's name in vain; it is applying the Lord's name in an inappropriate way to a cause or a person's life.
This means that you can't get involved in Christian service unless first of all there are the beginnings of spiritual growth and application of doctrine in the life. It means that you can't hide behind principles like "it's the message, not the man," and that's a valid principle, but sometimes people use that to justify a life of antinomianism so that they can go on some sort power trip or head trip and they can be in a position of teaching and academic authority without having the Word transform their own life personally. This is one reason why we have policies in this church insisting that if someone is going to teach Sunday school or be involved in Christian leadership that they need to be in Bible class consistently and that we have a time of observing them and getting to know them before we ever put them in such a position.
The basic principle underlying this command of God is verse 25 is that before the believer can start functioning in the role of Christian service there needs to be a time of learning and application in the believer's life. The second principle we see here is that God does not tolerate compromise; He is going to address the core problem of Israel before He starts dealing with the symptom. The symptom is that they're being overrun by the foreign oppressors; the core problem is idolatry and God is not going to solve the external problem or the symptom of the oppressor before He starts addressing, but he will first start addressing the problem of idolatry in the nation.
So he starts with Gideon at his own home, and this is also a stepping stone for Gideon's spiritual growth. See God is not going to come to Judges 7 and say Gideon, okay, we're going to send you against 200,000 Midianites with 300 men right out of the shoot. That's a little overwhelming sometimes for an immature baby believer so God is going to give him a smaller task and in that smaller task God is going to demonstrate His sufficiency and His ability to solve the problem and protect Gideon and then once Gideon has learned that and had that level of experience with God then Gideon can move to the next and higher level of trusting God.
So God commands him to take his father's bull, and a second bull seven years old. Now the interesting thing here is that this second bull is, in the Hebrew it's what's called a homophone or a homonym, it's a word that is similar to, looks like another word. It is the word sheniy, which is the standard word for second, but why, the question should occur to us, why is he to take this second bull. There's also an indication that this is a seven year old bull, that it's a son of the older bull, why this second bull, what's going on here, because it's the second bull that is sacrificed. What's the significance of it being "second?" From cognate studies, those are related languages, it appears that there was another word, spelled the same way, in Aramaic and that tells us by looking at other languages like Aramaic and Phoenician and Ugaritic and Akkadian we can learn some things about the Hebrew language because the only surviving documents that we have on ancient Hebrew is the Hebrew text and sometimes there are words that are used only one time, or two or three times, that have certain meanings and we're not aware of them because we just don't have enough documents from the ancient world to come to a firm conclusion so we look at how these cognate languages use a similar word. There is a homonym in Aramaic spelled the same way that refers to that which is superior, that which is of high rank, that which is of high quality and so that would seem to fit the context better because it's not just the second bull that's sacrificed, what's significant of second, but what is sacrificed is a bull of high quality, of sacrificial quality. Just like the lamb that is without spot or blemish, this is a prize bull, this is not just any old bull that he pulls out of the herd.
So he is to take his father's bull and a bull of high quality that is seven years of age. Now why is it supposed to be of seven years of age; what does that have to do with it. Well look back at Judges 6:1, "Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD gave them into the hands of Midian for seven years." So this bull is as old as the time of the oppression, so this bull is identified in his life with the period of discipline in Israel's life. So therefore it is fit to be a substitute, a sacrifice for the people. In the same way the Lord Jesus Christ was a true man, He was fully human, He was undiminished deity, united with true humanity in the hypostatic union so that He could go to the cross as our substitute, and that's the function of a sacrifice, is to serve as a substitute.
So he is to take a bull of sacrificial quality that, in its lifetime is identified with the period of rebellion and oppression in Israel, and that will be the bull that is sacrifice. It is not the first bull; it is this second bull that is the sacrificial bull. So Gideon then takes these two bulls, harnesses them together and goes out to pull down the stronghold or Baal. He is to pull down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah, [Judges 6:26] "and build an altar to the LORD your God on top of this stronghold," and the Hebrew word for stronghold is maoz, and this refers to a Canaanite temple sanctuary that is fortified with both walls and towers. Now that doesn't mean it's a large area, probably not half the size, from what we know of archeological remains it's probably but not half the size of this meeting house, but it was built up, there were clearly walls that were 8 or 10 feet tall and there were towers on the corner and so there was more to this than just coming up with a couple of bulls and pulling a few things apart. It involved other men as well.
We are told in Judges 6:27, "Then Gideon took ten men of his servants" we noted last time the fact that he had at least ten servants, probable had many more, it indicates that he is from aristocracy and from a wealthy family and he is not the poor down-trodden man that he made himself out to be in order to avoid responsibility. So Gideon takes these ten men and he does this in the dead of night. We're excited about the fact that he has instant obedience to the command of God but then we discover it instantly because he doesn't want to wait until morning when all the neighbors and everybody around him will see him taking on the task of challenging Baal. See, he knows that when he takes a stand for the truth that there's going to be opposition, and so he is fearful of that opposition. Now he takes the ten men, he probably took five of them and placed them out as sentries to make sure that nobody would come up and interrupt their job and then he took the other five and the two bulls and began to dismantle this altar. It took him most of the night but he tore it all down, and then on top of the stronghold he built an altar to Yahweh.
So what we see here is that human viewpoint must always be challenged by the believer. And this pictures the kind of challenge that should take place in our own thinking and in our own soul. This is in Gideon's own household, he has to challenge his own assumptions; he's been brought up in a household where the Canaanite religion is promoted, this was taught him, we don't know how he became a believer in Yahweh, in the Old Testament concept, we don't know when it happened. Obviously he didn't get much more than that but he is at least a believer, but he has been inculcated in the Canaanite pagan religion and what this is showing is that before he can go forward in any kind of position of responsibility in the plan of God he has to challenge the human viewpoint in his own surroundings and that's what we need to do as believers. As we learn the Word of God we realize that there is a conflict between what the Scriptures teach and what is going on around us. Application often is difficult and we have to take a stand in such a way that it makes us vulnerable to assault to those around us, maybe from family members, maybe from friends, maybe we are ridiculed, we might lose a job. I've run into people in other countries who have lost their jobs, lost nearly everything they had because they were believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. But we are involved in a battle; in a battle for what goes on in the mind.
Paul refers to this in 2 Corinthians 10:5; we are to "destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God." What he means by speculations and lofty things are lofty thoughts, high thoughts, abstract thoughts, the abstract thinking that was present in the pagan or human viewpoint systems of Greek philosophy and mystery religions that dominated the culture of that time. And it is our job as believers to engage the enemy. The enemy is thought, it's not people; it is the thinking of human viewpoint and it starts with identifying and rooting out the human viewpoint thinking that we have absorbed in our own souls. See, we are born, all of us to one degree or another are born into environments that have been loaded with human viewpoint thinking. Even if you were raised in a Christian home there is still a certain amount of human viewpoint thinking in that home and you imbibed that as you were growing up; you learned it from the value system of your peers as you were going to school, you learned it from the teachers that you had in the classroom in high school and college, you learned it from reading the newspaper, watching TV and movies, all of these ideas in our culture are present and we pick them up. And it is our job to think. That's why I keep insisting that the Christian life, the spiritual life is a life of thinking, and it's not just a life of doing but our actions should result from the way we think; if we just change our actions on the outside without changing the way we think on the inside then we reduce Christian to nothing more than an ethical system and we reduce it to something that is merely superficial and not something that changes us from the core thinking, which the Bible calls the heart, the kardia.
So this is an illustration of how this transpires. Gideon has to challenge the human viewpoint thinking in his own home and challenge the paganism that's there before he can go forward in the plan of God. It also reminds me of Romans 12:2 where we are told not to be "conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind," the renewing of our thinking, "so that you can demonstrate what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." So we are involved in a task and that task includes a battle for the mind. That's what spiritual warfare is all about. Throughout the Scripture there is that metaphor of spiritual warfare and it is not the idea of going out and engaging spiritual forces in battle. That is not the thrust, even though that is how it is being misrepresented in many places, in many theologies today. Spiritual warfare involves the battle for the mind. Spiritual warfare doesn't take place by going out and rebuking Satan, casting out demons or any of that kind of thing; it involves a battle between your ears for what is going to dominate your thinking, divine viewpoint or human viewpoint.
Gideon, though he is cautious, though he is fearful, though he is somewhat hesitant and he wants to avoid any real overt conflict with his neighbors and the others who live in the village, at least he is willing to take those faltering steps forward under the cover of night to tear down the altar.
Judges 6:17, "Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had spoken to him; and because he was too afraid of his father's household and the men of the city to do it by day, he did it by night." So even though he is still struggling with the mental attitude sins and the emotional sin of fear, he recognizes that, but he still carries out the task. That tells us something; a principle here is that there are times when we are fearful but we still trust God. There are times when we have certain emotional responses to what God wants us to do but we go forward anyway. It's analogous to what happens to the soldier on the battlefield. There is no soldier in any battlefield situation that does not experience some level of fear but courage is the ability to go forward and perform your job despite how you feel. That's the same thing we could say about faith. Faith means that we are going to do what God says to do no matter how we feel, no matter what our experiences might be, and no matter what the consequences might be. When the Word of God is more real to us than our experiences, than our emotions, than our circumstances, that's when we are trusting God. That is the beginning of the faith rest drill.
So in light of this I want to review the basic principles of fear and the snowballing effect of fear and its consequences in the spiritual life. The first point; in fear we put our focus on real or imagined dangers, consequences or calamities. We're focusing on the details of life, their absence or their presence, and not the power, provision, promises and plan of God. We're putting our focus on the details of life and not God's plan; we're more concerned about things or people or events than we are about the reality of God's plan. So fear is a sign, it is always an indication of a failure to trust God. Faith means that God's Word is more real to us than our emotions but when our emotions become more real to us than the Word of God then we can end up in some sort of emotionalism then that can affect spiritual life and decision making in one direction and it can also cause us not to trust God and to not do what we're supposed to do on the other hand. Fear means that we have failed to understand the grace of God. The grace of God means that He has done everything for us. His grace is sufficient, that means it's enough, it's more than enough; it's provided everything we need to live the spiritual life and to do what God has told us to do. So when we are afraid it means that we don't understand grace. We have to realize it's not us, it's not our power, it's not our ability, it's God.
Now we may have a natural response of fear, that's what happened with Gideon, all of a sudden he's got to step out on faith, he's never done this before, he's a baby believer but he's going to trust God despite the fact that he has this fear of his neighbors and his friends coming out, and the mob coming to lynch him, because he's torn down their "church" as it were. So he is going to do it at night, but the point is he still does it; he does it despite the fact that he is afraid. So we learn one thing, that fear means that we aren't grace orientation…[tape turns]…doctrinal orientation. Part of doctrinal orientation is that we have a mastery of the details of life; we realize that doctrine is more important than the details of life but when the details of life become more important than doctrine, that's when we become slaves to the details of life. So the first point is that in fear we put our focus on real or imagined dangers, consequences or calamities, the details of life become more important than obedience to God.
Point number two; the more things you surrender to fear the more things you will fear. Once we start succumbing to fear and we begin to get worried about certain things it develops like a snowball, it builds as it goes downhill. Today we worry about one thing; tomorrow we worry about two or three things, the next day it's five or six things, until like the proverb says, we're afraid to go out of the house because there might be a lion in the streets. In the context of that proverb there really wasn't going to be a lion in the street, it's that this person is so afraid now that they're making up excuses why they won't do what God would have them to do because it just might happen that something terrible would take place. What happens is that as we succumb to fear is that we become more and more afraid of other things until our lives are controlled and dominated by mental attitude sins.
Point number three; the extent to which you surrender to fear the greater becomes your capacity for fear. So as we begin to fear we will fear more things; as we surrender to more fear then our capacity for fear grows and as we continue we are on the process of reversionism; we are reversing in our spiritual growth and we are living our lives on the basis of fear, on the basis of mental attitude sins and as a result of that, it destroys our capacity for love, for life, for happiness, and for blessing. See, there are no circumstances in life that are going to make us happy. We can't base our happiness on the approval or acceptance of people around us. All of a sudden people become more important than God. All of a sudden circumstances are more important than doctrine. The only way we can have any kind of stability in life, any kind of real happiness in life is based on our emphasis on God, making doctrine the number one priority and then everything else works out.
It's amazing how lives are really systems; there's a whole systemic thing that goes on here and once we succumb to negative volition and we get away from the Word and we quit applying doctrine, then a lot of things start happening under the law of volitional responsibility. We make bad decisions and there are negative consequences, but these things tend to have a cumulative effect till all of a sudden one day we wake up and our lives just all of a sudden turn to garbage and everything is going wrong. Well now what we want to do is solve the problem, so what do I do to solve this problem, solve that problem, and we start taking everything apart, not realizing that it is a systemic collapse and all the problems in our lives are merely the result of an internal failure to make God and doctrine the number one priority in our life. All we have to do to start straightening things out is to get back with doctrine and once we get back with doctrine, making our relationship with God the number one priority, then we start making right decisions. We realized we've failed so we confess our sins and now instead of operating from a position of weakness on the sin nature we are not operating from a position of strength on the basis of doctrine and the Holy Spirit. And even though we may now be in prison, even though we may have some terrible disease, even though we may have cause a loss of everything we once had in terms of material possessions, we are still alive, God still has a plan for our life and now we can face and handle those negative circumstances on the basis of doctrine, so suffering is turned from suffering for cursing to suffering for blessing.
That's what happened in David's life, after his adultery with Bathsheba when God lowered the boom on him in terms of divine discipline, and he had a four-fold divine discipline, even though that was not taken away from him and his family life was horrible, he had one son rape his half-sister, another daughter of David's, and then another son killed that one and then Absalom revolted, all of these things happened but David had confessed his sin, he was back in fellowship so that he still went through the suffering, he still went through the consequences of his bad decision but he was able to handle it on the basis of doctrine so it became suffering for blessing and he was able to maintain his stability in the midst of those horrible circumstances, despite the fact that they were pretty miserable. He was miserable, he cried out in grief when Absalom died but he handled it and maintained his stability in a fantastic way despite the grief because he knew it was God's plan and he was oriented to the plan of God. So the problem is that when we surrender to fear we develop a greater capacity for fear.
Point four; the greater your capacity for fear the more you increase the power of fear in your life. I want you to realize that fear in the Bible is often the starting point for all the other mental attitude sins or emotional sins such as worry, anxiety, bitterness, all of these things are interconnected with fear. So the greater our capacity for fear, the more we increase the power of fear in our life, and that affects other mental attitude sins.
Point five; the more you increase the power of fear in your life the greater your mindset as a failure in the spiritual life and shame at the judgment seat of Christ. See, what happens is when we're dominated by mental attitude sins, we're dominated by fear, we put our focus on the details of life rather than on doctrine and now we have a mindset that produces failure in the spiritual life and when we're a failure in the spiritual life we're going to be a failure at the judgment seat of Christ and experience shame at the judgment seat of Christ.
Point six; fear is the central emotional sin which first characterized the mental attitude of fallen man. It's the central mental attitude sin that first characterized the mental attitude of fallen man. When Adam and Eve sinned, first Eve sinned, she was deceived, but Adam was the head of the race; he sinned knowingly. When he ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the race fell at that point. Then God showed up; God showed up on a daily basis to have and enjoy fellowship with His creatures. When God showed up they hid. Why does it say they hid? Because they were afraid. You see the core emotional sin of the fallen creature is now fear. It is a fear related to loss of everything. So fear is a central emotional sin; everything else flows from that, and it's only corrected through understanding grace as an expression of the love of God.
Now here's something that will probably startle some of you. Most of us, when we think of love we think that its opposite is hatred. That's not how the Bible presents it. In 1 John 4:18 John contrasts fear and love; it's not hatred, it's fear. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." Perfect love is related to the grace of God; the grace of God is the expression of God's perfect love and when we understand the love of God, then fear is removed. That's what happened in the Garden; when God confronted Adam and Eve in grace they became aware of His love and His provision of salvation. "…fear involves punishment and the one who fears is not perfected in love." That's the rest of verse 18 but the main point is that "perfect love casts out fear," so the starting point for dealing with fear and mental attitude sins of worry and anxiety is understanding God's grace and His sufficient provision for us.
Well, Gideon begins to understand this now in the midst of this entire scenario, and the next morning after they have torn down the altar everybody shows up to have their morning sacrifice to Baal and the temple is torn down, and so all of the men of the city come out and they're antagonistic.
Judges 6:28, "When the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was torn down, and the Asherah which was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar which had been built.  They said to one another, "Who did this thing?" And when they searched about and inquired, they said, "Gideon the son of Joash did this thing.  Then the men of the city said to Joash, "Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has torn down the altar of Baal, and indeed, he has cut down the Asherah which was beside it." They're ready to lynch him. But listen to what Joash says in verse 31, "But Joash said to all who stood against him, 'Will you contend for Baal," and here we have the word rib in the Hebrew which is a legal term for making a defense, "will you contend for Baal," is it necessary for you to defend Baal, why doesn't he defend himself, "or will you deliver him? Whoever will plead for him shall be put to death by morning." This is Joash's point, "If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar."
Now this is the point, this is extremely confusing the way it's translated in the English and I'm just beginning to understand what's going on here, the writer is extremely subtle and the Hebrew is very difficult. Much of Judges is written in a very ancient form of Hebrew and so it's a little difficult to handle at times. His basic contention is look, Baal is going to contend for himself, you don't need to get involved. He's using that to save his son's life.
And then Judges 6:32, it's almost parenthetical, "Therefore on that day he named him Jerubbaal, that is to say, Let Baal contend against him, because he had torn down his altar." Now it sounds like this is a positive thing, that he's naming his son Jerubbaal, which means that he contended against Baal, but in the form of the word in the Hebrew the root is the word rib in Hebrew, it's what called a hollow verb, it looks like this in Hebrew, "r" and this is an "i" and this is pronounced like a "v," it's a soft "b." Now it's called a hollow verb because it has this vowel point in the middle and this turns to a "u," so this is the r-u-b in the middle of Jerubbaal and it's given a "j" or y" at the beginning as an imperfect. See, the way it's translated in English, "let Baal contend" would take that as what's called a jussive form, but there is no example of a jussive form of this verb anywhere in Hebrew literature. So that presents a problem. Also the verb is to contend and the subject of the verb in the name phrase is Baal, and it's kind of a sarcastic statement, almost has a double meaning here, and what Joash is saying is that Baal is going to contend for himself.
Now the interesting thing is, I've always been fascinated by the use of Biblical names and how they are used to communicate certain things. Everywhere else in the Bible except for Judges and the reference to Gideon in Hebrews 11, Gideon is referred to by the name Jerubbaal, but when you get into other passages, sometimes the Baal is changed to bosheth, where it's changed to Jerubbesheth;, Jerubbesheth means let shame contend. We have other examples of compound names with Baal, like Ish-baal is changed to Ish-bosheth; Merib-baal is changed to Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 4:4. All of that seems to suggest that Jerubbaal is Gideon's real name. He wasn't named Gideon; Gideon means to hew down or to cut down, that Gideon was his second name but the name that his father had given him from birth was Jerubbaal and that here his father is referring to that and this is all an ironic statement that's saying just let the kid live, Baal will contend for himself and it'll all work itself out.
And this is a real subtle point. The reason the writer brings this in, this is why it's so fun to get into the text sometimes. See, Gideon is going to lead the nation right back into idolatry when it's all over with. And this is foreshadowed by this episode. His father recognized, he said look no matter what happens, this is what's going to happen eventually and so there's this foreshadowing of what happens under Gideon. Gideon has this great victory in the next chapter but when it's all over with Gideon is going to lead the nation back into idoaltlry. And to get through all of this you just have to know the Hebrew. When everything is said and done, after he has the victory over the Midianites the people want to make him king. And Gideon says no, no, no, I'm not going to be king. And I that at first he really is truly humble, I'm not going to be king. But there's also this element there, this subtle element that he also wants to be king, but he knows he shouldn't, so he's torn. We know what happens, who eventually wins because when he has a son he names his son Abimelech and Abimelech is the story of Judges 9. And Abimelech in the Hebrew means…it's a compound word, abi-melech, my father is king.
So there are all these subtleties going on in the text showing us that Gideon is not this great spiritual hero but he is just a baby believer, just stumbling along, but God still delivers the nation, despite their failures, despite their inabilities, despite their compromise. Why? Because God is a God of grace and grace is not dependent on who we are or what we do but it's dependent on who God is and His plan. And we see this in the next episode, verse 33 down to the end of the chapter we have the famous episode where Gideon once again wants to challenge if this is really God's will or not, and the Midianites come in, look at the map, here's Mount Gilboa here, the hill of Morah up here, and here is Mount Carmel. In between here is the great valley of Jezreel, which we usually refer to as the valley of Armageddon. That gives you an orientation, the Midianites are going to come across this way and invade and this is what the valley of Jezreel looks like, it's an enormous valley, wide open, and it covers from the Jordan almost all the way across to the Mediterranean, so it's a vast area and it just seems like there's no defense and the Midianites and the Amalekites just do whatever they want to.
So we're told that the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet and all the troops gathered together. [Judges 6:33, Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the sons of the east assembled themselves; and they crossed over and camped in the valley of Jezreel.  So the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him.  He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him; and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they came up to meet them."]
But then, Judges 6:36, we see this waffling back and forth, back and forth from Gideon, in one sentence the Holy Spirit comes on him and all the troops gather, even though they are hostile to him they respond and I think the reason they respond is because it is the Holy Spirit calling everybody together. "Then Gideon said to God, If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken,  behold, I will put a fleece" now from verses 37-40 we have the famous fleece episode. First he puts a fleece out and he says if this is really what you want me to do, "if there's dew on the fleece only, and the rest of the ground is dry, then I'll know," well he already knows, we saw that back in verse 16-17, he knows what God wants him to do, he's trying to avoid responsibility, he's trying to make something so hard that nothing will happen because he really doesn't trust God. But the next morning he gets and there's so much dew on the fleece that when he squeezes it out there's a whole bowl of water there, a gallon of water comes out of the fleece, but that's not enough, he wants to test God again.
And he tests God again and he says okay, this time if it's really what You want me to do make the fleece dry and everything else wet. And the next morning the fleece was dry and everything else was wet so Gideon just can't avoid it any more. But the whole episode here of challenging God to this sort of test is indicative of what the pagans did in Baal worship. In fact, there is a Ugaritic text that reads: "If Baal, the almighty is alive," this is the kind of bargain with God, trying to get God to prove Himself, "If Baal, the almighty is alive, if his highness, the lord of the earth exists in a dream of the benevolent, El the good-hearted in a vision of the progenitor of creation, the skies will rain oil, the wadis will run with honey,," in other words, this guy is praying, Baal, if you're alive you'll make the skies rain oil and the wadis run with honey, "and then I will know that Baal is the almighty." See, it's this kind of thing.
So even in this whole fleece episode Gideon isn't trying to find out God's will for his life, he already knows it, he's trying to confirm it and his whole approach is pagan. He approaches God on the basis of pagan methodology, but we see that God is gracious, God is more concerned with delivering Israel than He is with all the little peccadilloes and problems in Gideon's theology, and God in grace always meets us where we are and solves our problems, and that's what we're going to see next time is the tremendous way God solves the problem of Israel, making it clear that it's God's solution and not our solution that turns the tide.
[Judges 6:37, "behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.  And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water. Then Gideon said to God, 'Do not let Your anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground.'  God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground."]