Gideon and the will of God – Judges 6:12-14
Open your Bibles to Judges 6; we continue with Gideon. One of the things about Gideon, there are probably two major chapters in the Bible that people go to whenever the subject of the will of God comes up. Judges 6 is one of those; Jonah is another. Before we get too much further into out study of Gideon we have to stop and look at what the Scripture teaches about knowing the will of God. For some of you there may be some correction or fine tuning in your understanding of the will of God; for others of you this is going to be a much needed and necessary review.
Judges 6 is the first chapter of three in what is called the Gideon cycle; the story of Gideon and then Judges 9 is what happens to his son, Abimelech. This is the crux event in the history of the Judges period, so to speak, for everything that leads up to this turns with Judges; from this point on the judges are, shall we say, more confused and more apostate than the judges who went before. And Gideon exemplifies many of the problems in Israel at the time because he reveals in this interchange with the angel of the Lord who comes to him that he is basically ignorant of doctrine; he doesn't understand God's plan and purposes for Israel; he doesn't understand the five cycles of discipline that God had promised Israel if they were disobedient so he is unable to look around and discern what is going on culturally and historically in his own time. Unfortunately that is true of so many believers even today because we are ignorant of Biblical principles, because we are ignorant of God's plan and purposes in human history and that history is the outworking of the plan of God, because we don't understand the various trends and cycles that are going on in the ca that we do not have the discernment to properly evaluate even our own times.
So it is important to pay attention to doctrine just so we have the wisdom in our souls to discern what is taking place and why. That is one reason this study in Judges is so important because it is a picture for us of how a nation, how the nation Israel in the Old Testament went from being a nation of spiritual maturity under the leadership of Joshua when they went into the land, obeyed the Lord consistently, there were a few instances of disobedience but for the most part they were trusting God and they defeated the Canaanites who possessed the land under the generalship of Joshua and of course Jesus Christ as the angel of the Lord was the commander in chief of the Jewish army as they went into the land. But there we see a picture of Israel as a mature nation, at least a nation that is trusting God consistently.
By the time we get to the end of the judges period, Joshua and that generation dies off in the first couple of chapters, by the time we get to the end of the book we see the last judge is Samson and Samson's life, Samson's value system, Samson as a leader of the nation has a major problem with his relationship to women, he is basically portrayed as nothing more than someone who is out to fulfill all of his own lusts; he is consumed with self-gratification, a gratification of his own desires and he is basically a sexual predator. We see that the picture of the nation Israel at the end of this period is that they are no different from the Canaanite culture that surrounds them. So it is a portrayal of how a nation moves from spiritual maturity to apostasy and a picture of how a country, a culture, a people become apostate and how they become pagan.
There are many, many lessons for us as a nation and as believers as we look at this because one of the things that we see again and again is that the symptoms of a nation that is becoming paganized, the symptoms we see in the history of Israel are no different from the things we see around us and even in our own lives; it's amazing, if we're objective, and remember true objectivity only comes from studying the Word, if we're objective we're going to see that we have assimilated in our own thinking many ideas from our culture, from education, from family members, from favorite professors in college or teachers in high school or elementary school, but we have just sort of absorbed these ideas in our own thinking and part of the responsibility of believers in spiritual growth is, according to Romans 12:1-2, to renovate our thinking. And we only do that by taking in the Word of God, and we hold up the mirror of the Word of God in order to give us that objectivity to see what kinds of things are going on in the thinking of our soul and realizing that well, we've got some things in there that no matter how much we like them, no matter how comfortable they make us feel, we have to pull those things out and we have to replace them with the divine viewpoint of God.
One of the sad things we run into sometimes is that people who are in spiritual apostasy are what I call spiritual vampires. A vampire lives off of the bloodsucking that he gets, the nourishment that he sucks out of a victim. You always run into some Christians who show up at churches and that's how they live; they operate on approbation lust, they always want attention, they are always out there trying to get with people and get attention and they live off of that; they feed off of that. The other thing, if you remember your vampire movies, you hold up a mirror to a vampire and he doesn't see anything. And these kinds of people accumulate a tremendous amount of knowledge; they're on a knowledge trip and that's the problem of Gnosticism in 1 John, but they also tend to hold up the Word of God and they don't see anything. They see how it applies to everybody else around them, but even when… and I've done this in counseling, you get in their face with the Word of God and say this is you, they absolutely deny it. There's no objectivity whatsoever and it's amazing, no matter what you do, how you talk to them, no matter how much you try to show them that they are in 100% violation of the Word of God, they're in such arrogance and such self-absorption from their whole approach to life as approbation lust that they can't even see that they are the ones that are in trouble; they just think it's everybody else. So if you have a tendency to sit there and think boy, I wish so and so were listening to this, then maybe you're the one who needs to be paying attention to the Word.
So Gideon, we see, has some of these same problems, not to the extent that perhaps some of you might have them, but he does have some of these problems. Let's review where we are with the episode here.
"Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD," the Lord doesn't go into detail here, that was analyzed in chapter 2-3 as to what that evil was. They were succumbing to the apostasy, the false religions, the idolatry of the Canaanite culture around them. They were consumed with agricultural prosperity, as an agricultural society and so they wanted to be prosperous, be successful, so that meant fertility in the agricultural realm and the Canaanites had a fertility religion that was based on the phallic cult which was prominent throughout the ancient world, and so the Jews in Israel succumbed to that and in each of these cycles they become more and more dominated by Canaanite religion.
So "evil in the sight of the Lord" doesn't mean that they sinned. This is a technical term to the fact that they succumbed to the false religious system of the Canaanites surrounding them and what we have seen is that this was viewed as slavery, that they became enslaved to this system. The word 'abad in the Hebrew is used which indicates to serve or to work, and is the same word that is used to indicate slavery. The principle is that once you become a slave spiritually, and that happens every time we operate on the sin nature, once we become a slave spiritually then we will become a slave in our soul and it will not be long before a nation of soul slaves become economic, political, or military slaves.
That's what happened to Israel. What they were doing is they were trying to solve the problems in their culture, in their lives, through human viewpoint means; whatever appeared to be successful for the Canaanites and believe me, when you get into passages in 1 Corinthians and other passages in the New Testament which inform us that what underlies all idolatry is demonism, that there is in Satan's world a certain amount of success that he brings to those who operate on his systems of thinking. Satan is no fool; Satan does not promote systems of thought, systems of problem solving, that don't work. Nobody would do them, so the problem with Satan's systems is not that they are 100% wrong or 50% wrong but they're about 2% or 3% wrong but it is that crucial 2-3% of error that distorts everything else. But there's always a certain amount of truth in any good counterfeit, and a certain amount of validity and that's why human problem solving approaches seem to work.
The problem is that Scripture says that any time we attempt to solve our problems apart from exclusive and total dependence upon God and His Word, any time we attempt to make life work through whatever system it may be, whether it's through reliance on the details of life, whether it's through success, whether it's through trying to make a name for ourselves, whether it's trying to have a good family, there is a form of family idolatry in our nation today that puts such a strong emphasis on the importance of the family that it's almost to the exclusion of everything else. Any detail of life can be so emphasized that it becomes an idol in and of itself.
The Scripture says that anytime we're operating apart from dependence upon God the Holy Spirit then we are operating on the sin nature and the sin nature produces both good deeds and it produces sinful, what we call evil deeds, or immoral deeds. And one of the greatest distractions is good things that seem to work and people to get enamored with all sorts of systems that appear to solve their problems and appear to work and one of the ones that we see in our society today is psychology. Psychology is one of three evils that the world system has developed around us that has integrated itself into the church over the last hundred years.
The first is Darwinian evolution; it's no chance that all three of these systems had their origin in mid-19th century rationalistic and idealistic thought. They all started within basically ten years of one another. You had Darwin and the birth of modern scientific Darwinian evolution; you have Freud and the birth of modern psychology and you have the birth, also of Augusta Compton and some others, the birth of modern sociology, and these three systems have attacked the church, and of course evolution attacks the whole foundation of the first 11 chapters of Genesis and its historicity, and we don't have time to go into all of that but if you take out the historical validity of the first eleven chapters of Genesis you destroy everything else in the Bible because every other doctrine in the Bible has its roots in what takes place in the first eleven chapters of Genesis because every other doctrine in the Bible has its roots in what takes place in the first 11 chapters of Genesis. And without that historical foundation everything else is false. God always works in history and grounds his work in the objective realm of history and so we have to accept that.
The second thing is in psychology and a lot of people have problems with that because we have become a therapeutic society. Many, many historians recognize that and I think because the emphasis on psychology in American culture has produced what Christopher Lasch calls the narcissistic society and we our self absorbed. One psychologist, by the name of Paul Vitz, who's professor of psychology at NYU stated in his book, Psychology is Religion, that: "psychology as a religion exists I great strength throughout the United States. It is deeply antichristian yet is extensively supported by schools, universities and social programs, financed by taxes collected from Christians." See, his point is psychology, the very term says the study of the soul, and psychology comes along and claims that on the basis of pure empirical data they have authority to determine how the soul functions and how it can solve problems. The problem is the Bible claims to have exclusive domain over defining what the soul is, what the problems are, i.e. sin, and what the solutions are which began with Jesus Christ on the cross who died as a substitute for our sins that we might have eternal life. And so all problems ultimately flow from sin and unless you deal with the solution to sin there is nothing…all you do otherwise is just sort of deal with symptoms and you never deal with the underlying solution.
Another writer has stated that "psychology sits at the very center of contemporary society as an international colossus whose ranks number in the hundreds of thousands. It's experimental animals are obliging, even grateful human race. We live in a civilization of such as never before; man is preoccupied with self. We've become narcissistic. As a Protestant ethic is 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." That's a quote from Martin Gross, The Psychological Society.
Well, that's one attempt to try to solve problems by taking empirical data and making a system out of it for solving problems.
The third way in which our society is attacked is sociology and that happens in the church growth movement—let's go out and basically analyze a certain culture, certain segments of society, why they're not going to church and on the basis of sociological principles then we're going to build a church that will fit those needs that this society has determined they want in a local church and that's basically…to me the analogy is of a school board saying okay, let's poll all the kindergarteners and nursery school kids and find out what they want in a curriculum, then we'll devise our curriculum based upon what they want. You don't let the children run the household. Parents and educators should know what kids need to learn and you don't let the, especially a carnal apostate society dictate what the church ought to look like and what they ought to be involved in. But that's what happens in an apostate culture, is our value system completely shifts, we call right wrong and wrong right, and we've lost faith and confidence in the Word of God and because we are spiritually ignorant and Biblically ignorant then we continuously make bad decisions and the result is that our lives are destroyed.
Now in Israel at this time they are overwhelmed by a foreign power as part of the fourth cycle of discipline as outlined in Leviticus 26. Judges 6:2 says "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 they had to run and hide up in the mountains.
 "For it was when Israel had sown, that the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites," and once again we see the Arab alliance. These are the same people groups we see today involved with the Palestinians in the Middle East, the Jordanians, the Syrians and all of the various Arab groups. We don't know them today by their ancient names but they are still the same groups. "… the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites and the sons of the east and go against them." Although this battle destroys the Midianite culture and Saul will wipe out the Amalekites in 1 Samuel.
This gives us the genealogy to show the relationship, where the Arabs come from. Joktan, the son of Peleg, was the father of 13 Arab tribes; his son, Nahor, is the father of the Chaldeans, he also gives birth to Terah who is the father of Abraham. Abraham is the father of Ishmael, through Hagar, the Egyptian woman, who is the progenitor of the Bedouin Arabs. Then he gives birth to Isaac, who is the line of the promised seed, and then Abraham had six other sons from Keturah, and one of those was Midian, and the Midianites descend from Abraham through Keturah, but they are not Jews just because they are related to Abraham, and we saw in our study that a Jew is related to Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. It's not just because you're the seed of Abraham, but the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Now the Midianites are coming from this area to the east of the Dead Sea. This is the area of Midian, here's Moab, the Midianites operated north of Moab, they come across the Jordan into the central highlands north of Jerusalem and towards Bethlehem. We know that Gideon is from the tribe of Benjamin, which is in the area just to the west of Jericho and north of Jerusalem and it is to that area that they would come, crossing the fords of the Jordan, coming in and basically splitting the nation in two, following good and ancient military tactics.
Judges 6:4, "So they would camp against them" that is the Midianites, "and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza," so they would go all the way across to the Mediterranean; they would "leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey." So there's famine in the land, there is economic collapse, the people have lost all that they have and still they are not sure why this is happening. It took them three years to figure out what the Midianites were dong according to Josephus.
Judges 6:5, "For they would come up," that is the Midianites, "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." See the Jews did not have camels, the Midianites developed the use of camels as a form of cavalry and what we see is that the Jews always seemed to lack the latest technology for conducting military warfare. We've seen that the Philistines kept them from having any blacksmiths in the land so they didn't have iron for weapons, so they're always, as it were, outgunned because they just don't have the right kind of material for weapons and they don't have camels, the camel moves very rapidly so they would be down on the Jews before they knew what was going on. And this seems to always be typical, Christians never seem, believers never seem to be able to quite use the latest technology as effectively as the world uses it. So we always seem to look around and say why is it that the world always seems to be three or four steps ahead of us. But that seems to be the way it is.
Judges 6:6, "So Israel was brought very low," that means that they were just about decimated, "because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the LORD." They finally recognize their sin and cry out to the Lord in confession. And then the Lord sends a deliverer to them. Look at verse 7, "Now it came about when the sons of Israel cried to the LORD on account of Midian,  that the LORD sent a prophet to the sons of Israel," the prophet reminds them of what God had done for them in the historical past; he reminds them of the objectivity of God's work in history, and he says, "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." And  "I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians" and the word that is translated there for "deliver" is a hiphil imperfect of the verb which means to remove, pull or tear out and it shows how God is the One who tore them out from the hands of the Egyptians.
I also want you to notice this phrase, "the hands of the Egyptians," "the hands of your oppressors," it's used of the fact that God gave them over into the hands of the Midianites. This concept of the hand is an idiom for power and control, it is not that they were literally in the physical hand and that's important because that same idiom is used by Jesus in John 8 when He is talking about the fact that we are in the hands of the Father and no one can take us out and He holds us in His hand. It is a picture of the power of someone and in John 8 it is a picture of the omnipotence of God and the omnipotence of the Lord Jesus Christ in keeping us saved. We do not keep ourselves saved by continuing to believe in Jesus, we do not keep ourselves saved by continuing to be obedient, we trust in Christ who died on the cross as a substitute for our sins. Once we express faith alone in Christ alone we are saved for all eternity and at that point God is the One who keeps us in His hand and nothing can take us out of His hand. There is no thought, no action, there is nothing that you or I can do that can ever cause the loss of our salvation. We are saved, not because of what we do so we cannot lose our salvation because of what we do. Salvation is based exclusively on the grace of God. So God reminds them of what He has done to redeem them in the past just as in the Church Age we go to the cross to be reminded of all that God did for us in delivering us from the bondage of sin when Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins.
Judges 6:10, God reminds them, He said, "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." In other words, you don't have to respect the problem solving techniques of the pagans around you; they really won't solve your problems. It might appear that way to you; you might look and watch somebody else and they seem to make their life work without having to go to Bible class 2 or 3 times a week, without having to take in the Word of God, without having to apply it in their lives, but we don't see what's going on in the soul, we don't see whatever misery there might be in their lives, whatever unhappiness there might be, we can't necessarily see the frantic search for happiness that is dominating their soul but we are to focus on the Lord, so the idea of "fearing the gods of the Amorites" is the idea of respect. Fear is an idiom for respect, "you shall not respect the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not obeyed Me." This is where we ended last time.
Judges 6:11, "Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah," now what we see here is this personage that we have seen again and again in the Scripture referred to as "the angel of the Lord." Now the "angel of the Lord" is not just another angel; this is not an angel in the classification of the cherubim or seraphim. It is not another archangel; the angel of the Lord is not like Gabriel or Michael. The angel of the Lord is a class unto himself and one of the key passages for understanding the identity of the Lord is in this passage.
If you look down to Judges 6:22 you see the significance and identification of the angel of the Lord. There we read, "When Gideon saw that he was the angel of the LORD," in other words he realizes as a result of what happens in verse 21, that the angel of the Lord puts out his staff, see at this point the angel of the Lord has appeared as a man, so when he first addressed Gideon, Gideon is not sure who he is, his identification, he looks like any other human being. He has taken on an appearance of all of the physical attributes of a human being. He has a physical body, so to speak. The angel of the Lord has transformed his immaterial presence into a material presence so that he looks and operates like any other human being. Well, he holds out his staff in verse 21 and touches the meat and unleavened bread that he puts on the rock there and it's consumed by fire and the angel vanishes, and at that point Gideon recognizes that this is a unique personage. And he says in verse 22, "When Gideon saw that he was the angel of the LORD, he said, Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.  And the LORD said to him, Peace to you, do not fear, you shall not die." It is at that point that we realize that the angel of the Lord is in fact deity. He is worshiped in this passage by Gideon as deity. That means the angel of the Lord is God.
Look at Zechariah 1:12-13, what we see in the background of this verse is that there is a personage there, the angel of the Lord in the previous several verses. "Then the angel of the LORD," and we've just identified the angel of the Lord in Gideon as the Lord, He is worshiped as the Lord, He is called the Lord, and then here we see the angel of the Lord addressing another person as "O Lord of hosts," that indicates that there are two distinct personalities here. There is the angel of the Lord addressing another personage as God and saying, "O LORD of hosts, how long wilt Thou have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which Thou hast been indignant these seventy years?"  "And the LORD answered the angel who was speaking with me with gracious words," now the point in that passage is to show that even in the Old Testament there is evidence of the Trinity, that there are distinct persons in the Godhead, although it is just evident in the Old Testament it is never developed in the Old Testament and it is not until you get into the New Testament that you have a clear presentation of the doctrine of the Trinity. And you see it first evident when Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist at the River Jordan, at the inauguration of his ministry, that you have Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, incarnate, being baptized; you hear the Father's voice from heaven; and the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus in the form of a dove. And there you see Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But even in the Old Testament there are many passages that indicate that there is a plurality in the godhead, that God is one in essence and three in personality.
So the person that we have here in Judges 6 is the preincarnate Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ before He was incarnate on that first Christmas about 4 or 5 BC. So we see Him appearing to Gideon and giving him instructions; this is special revelation. There are two categories of special revelation in the Scripture. When we talk about revelation as a whole, the revelation of God, we talk first about two categories of revelation; there is general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is nonverbal revelation. Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth His handiwork." This is nonverbal revelation. What the Scriptures testify to is that as we look at creation we look at the trees, we look at the animal kingdom, we look at even a snowflake and we see its intricate design and that tells us something about the nature of the Creator and His ability. That is general revelation; it doesn't give us specifics, it doesn't give us content but it does tell us something because we can come to certain conclusions about the Creator of something by looking at how it is created. That is called general revelation and it is always nonverbal and nonspecific.
Then there is special revelation. Special revelation is verbal and specific. There are two categories of special revelation; there is non-inscripturated special revelation, that is when God addressed certain people in the Old Testament, either directly or to a prophet, it was not always recorded in the Scripture. There were things that God said to Adam and Isha in the Garden that were not recorded. There were things that God said subsequent to that that were not recorded, things that God said to Enoch; remember Enoch lived in the Old Testament, prior to the flood, he was the father of the oldest man in the Old Testament, Methuselah, and yet Methuselah died before Enoch did. That is because Enoch never died physically; the Scripture says he walked with God and he was not. He just had such close fellowship with the Lord and the Lord communicated many things to Enoch and we know from some other passages and some tradition that Enoch had a fairly good understanding of God's prophetic and timetable and one day Enoch was just translated directly from his physical human existence right into heaven. And we don't know what God told Enoch, we don't know all that Enoch knew and all that God had revealed to him. That is special revelation, but it is non-inscripturated special revelation. There were a lot of things that God revealed to Daniel and yet at the end of Daniel we're told that some of those things were sealed up. There were things that John saw in the Revelation that were not necessarily inscripturated.
So we have special revelation that is not in Scripture and then we have special revelation that is in Scripture. And that is confined to the 66 books of our English Bible, 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books that have been given through the prophets of the Old Testament or apostles in the New Testament, that have been given as the sum total of God's revelation to man that is sufficient for everything we need, for life and godliness, according to 2 Peter 1:3.
Now this is an example of special revelation; God is specifically appearing objectively. There are objective things that happen. Gideon is not having a mystical experience with what he thinks is God. There are objective things that are happening here that are going to revolutionize Gideon's life. Remember, we see Gideon hiding in fear of the hordes of the Midianites and Amalekites comeing through and he's down in the threshing floor hoping nobody will see him and he'll be able to get just enough wheat to get by until the next harvest. He is operating on fear, he's not trusting God, and yet as a result of what happens he is transformed. It reminds us somewhat of the transforming power of the resurrection on the attitude of the apostles; they all ran in fear with the exception of John and it was after they saw the physical resurrected Christ that they once again had tremendous courage to go out into the world, and with the exception of John, they were, according to tradition of what we can glean from extra Biblical sources they were all martyred for their faith; they were willing to all die for the fact that Christ rose from the dead and not one of them, even under the most excruciating pain and torture was willing to change his story. It was the reality of history.
That's what we see here, and the angel, in verse 21, and the fact that he stuck out his staff and the offering immediately burned up and was consumed, that he gives historical verification; he gives objective means of validation to the revelation of God. That is important because today we live in an age of mysticism. People want to say oh, well God told me to do this and it's God's will for me to do that and I just know God wants me to do this other thing, and all that's happening is they're having a love affair in their mind with what they think is God and whenever that idol of their mind, which is really their own emotion, makes them think that something is attractive and they want to deal with it, then what happens is they justify it by saying this is God's will and God spoke to me. But the phase, God spoke to me, or God told me to do this is a term restricted to special revelation. And God is no longer speaking today; this is clear from Hebrews 1:1, that "in past times God has spoken to us through His Son and the apostles." It is past tense, God is not presently giving special revelation and anyone who says God spoke to me or God told me to do this is blaspheming God, and they are basically creating in their own mind their own concept of what God wants them to do in order to justify or rationalize some decision.
Now the angel of the Lord here does objectively appear to Gideon. Judges 6:12, "The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, Yahweh is with you, O valiant warrior." I just love this whole episode because we get a tremendous glimpse into the sense of humor that God has because at this moment Gideon is anything but a valiant warrior. He's cowering in fear down in the winepress trying to thresh out the wheat and God looks at him in terms of what he is going to be and calls him by that name. Now I imagine Gideon was looking up and whoever this was who appeared and thought who in the world do you think you are and what kind of pills did somebody slip you in your morning coffee. But this is the angel of the Lord, and he announces to Gideon what he is going to do through him.
Then Gideon turns and he says…and you can see that Gideon has a number of problems here with this announcement. I think that in this situation as in others in the Scripture more was communicated but God the Holy Spirit abridged the conversation so that we would catch the true gist of what was said. It's just like things in the Sermon on the Mount; you read the Sermon on the Mount out loud you'll read it in about seven minutes. I think that Jesus spoke much longer than that but God the Holy Spirit comes along and abridges it for us and condenses it for us so we get exactly what we need to get from it. It is a divinely inspired summary of the conversation and that's what we have here.
"The angel of the LORD appeared to him and…" [Judges 6:13] "Then Gideon said to him, O my lord, if the LORD is with us," so he's responding to that first statement, "the Lord is with you," then he says "if the LORD is with us," if He's really with us, and here we see that Gideon just doesn't have any doctrine in his soul and he's confused and he probably represents the general confusion of Israel. You see, they cry out to the Lord but they don't have any doctrine behind it. They're crying out to the Lord mostly in pain and misery from the discipline that they're going through but there's not any real doctrine in their souls to understand and interpret what's going on around them. That's what we see in this decline; we have two more judges to go through, Jephthah and Samson; by the time we get to Samson they don't even cry out to the Lord any more, they don't even turn to the Lord and at the end of the book of Judges they are still under the heal of the Philistine oppression. They don't understand the dynamics of what's going on and so all they have is what somebody told them that happened two or three hundred years ago and they're not even sure that that happened, maybe that was just some legend, maybe somebody just told us that, how in the world can we trust in God who will let all of these things happen around us. That has a contemporary ring to it; how can we trust God who lets evil go on in the world like this, lets suffering like the holocaust and some other things that have gone, how can God really love His creation if He's going to let these things happen.
Gideon goes on to say if the Lord really is with is, "why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles" we heard about the miracles that Jesus performed, we hear that today, Jesus did this and you hear about that but nothing happens today, God must have left us, He must be on the other side of the universe being concerned with something else or maybe He's just taking a nap. You hear this kind of objection today just as much because we don't understand the Scripture. "…if the LORD is with us, then why is all this happening to us? Where are all these miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, 'Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian."
So Gideon's mental attitude is not one that inspires confidence. It's not one that tells us that this is a man who has been studying the Word; in between hiding out in the winepress he's not going back and studying Scripture; this is not a man like David who is spending his time meditating day and night on the Word of God. Gideon is not a spiritual giant. I want to make sure you understand that. These men, too often they are just like we are and that's why I think we can gain tremendous hope and confidence from them because God still deals with them in grace and meets them where they are, no matter how badly they fail, no matter how badly we fail, as long as we're still alive God has a plan and a purpose for our life and there is always a grace solution to our problem.
Judges 6:14, so "The LORD looked at him and said, "Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?" What he means by "this your strength," he's not talking about Gideon's strength because what we see in the development of the episode in verse 7 is he's going to take away of the things that Gideon would rely upon. By "this your strength" he's referring to Himself, that He is our strength, that it is God who provides us everything we need to be delivered from the problems around us, whatever problems they may be, whether they are simple or complex, whether they have to do with extreme horrible abuses or different horrible things that we might encounter in life, you can just imagine the kind of sexual abuse or child abuse that took place with the Israelites when they were enslaved in Egypt. Slavery is not a pleasant thing and yet God told them that no matter what they encountered in Egypt that God was sufficient to solve all their problems and to heal all of their wounds. And this means that the only solution is God's solution and the human solution is no solution.
So "The LORD said, "Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?" In other words, isn't this the will of God. Now Gideon is going to come along in verse 15 with some objections and we'll hold off looking at those objections but we're going to stop here and get into the doctrine of the will of God. We have to look at the doctrine of the will of God in order to understand what the applications are from this passage. How do we know God's will for our life? That's usually the question that you hear people ask. People tend to ask that when they are in the midst of crisis situations in their lives. You hear it more and more from younger people than you do from more mature folks because we seem to make more of our crucial decisions when we are young, when we don't know a whole lot and we don't have a lot of experience at making decisions and we know that the decisions we make may have serious ramifications.
It seems to me it's been mostly high school age, college age, young adult age that are consumed with the question, how do I know God's will for my life because they're making those foundational decisions, they're trying to decide whether to go to college or not, what to major in, what their career should be, sometimes they get romantically involved at too early an age and they're trying to decide whether or not they ought to get married. They ought to put that off as long as possible, I think, because today we realize that people mature much slower than they did even a generation ago. A sociology class I had in college, the average age of a male that got married was 24 and a woman was 22. A hundred years ago the emotional maturity of a man was reached at about the age of 15 and for a women about the age of 14, women sometimes mature emotionally a little quicker than men do. By 1988 men did not reach emotional maturity until they were about 23-24; just a generation before that it was about 3 years earlier. So just between the late 60s to the late 80s men, the maturity age at which men on the average reached emotional maturity was bumped up about two years and the same thing happened with women. And what happens is you go out and get married before you're emotionally and it's a recipe for disaster. People need to find out what they're going to do in life and what they want out of life before they make crucial decisions like getting married. But that comes from something called wisdom, which comes from doctrine and not too many people want to apply it, especially when they start getting emotionally involved with somebody because they just become overwhelmed with their emotions.
The will of God also comes to bear when you get a little older sometimes when you have to face decisions about retirement, when you have to make decisions about maybe some career changes as you got from one career to another, I think they say today that most people will go through six different career moves in their life and hold different jobs. These questions always come to bear.
So let's start off with some basic definitions. The term "will of God" relates to three aspects of divine volition in relation to His creation. Too often we think subjectively; we think in terms of what is the will of God for my life but we have to get beyond the subjectiveness of our own situation to think objectively in terms of what the Bible says. We have to think what is God's will overall, and that relates to His own volition in relation to His creatures and in relation to His creation.
Just one principle that we ought to note here in terms of making decisions because that's the unstated aspect of the will of God, whenever you talk about the will of God or divine guidance the point is really how do I make decisions; how do I take Biblical principles and Bible doctrine and make crucial decisions in life and know that somehow I'm making good decisions, because we all know or should know that bad decisions limit our future options. If you make a bad decision when you're seventeen years old and you decide not to go to college or you decide to go out and have fun and party, then when you're twenty-five years old it's much harder to go back to college and retrace those steps. And when you're thirty-five it's much harder; when you're forty-five and four kids its almost impossible and now you realize that you can't get certain jobs and certain opportunities bypass you because you just don't have a college degree. So it is crucial to make good decisions when you're young because they will affect the rest of your life. We won't even talk about making bad decisions when you're 17 or 18 and getting married because we certainly know that that will mess up your life later on.
Point one, three types of divine volition: The first is God's sovereign volition, His sovereign will and this is defined as God's sovereign volition with regard to His creation, where He brings to pass what he wills and what He has decreed. God's sovereign will relates to what He has decreed to occur in human history, what He has determined to bring to pass in human history. It is secret; we do not know what His sovereign will is. His sovereign will includes the acts of sinful creatures; it includes evil, it includes the negative volition of His creatures, it includes everything that comes to pass in human history but we do not know what it is. Therefore, it is secret, it is unknowable and when we ask the question, what is God's will for me to do in this situation, we're not talking about God's sovereign volition because we can't know it until after the fact.
If we draw it out the sovereign will would look like this circle; this would encompass all the aspects of God's sovereign will, everything that He has decreed to take place in human history. It includes evil; it includes the fact that God's sovereign will allowed for, and this is where we use the term permissive will, sometimes, in talking about God's sovereign will, that He permitted creatures to have volition, free will, and therefore to make bad decisions. So it included in it evil; it includes good. This does not mean that God is the author of evil or that God is morally responsible for evil but that in God's sovereign will He allows for creatures to make wrong decisions. It is the negative decisions, the simply decisions of creatures that introduce sin and evil into the world; it is not God's will that introduced sin and evil to the world. So God's sovereign will includes all that is, all that actually comes to pass in human history and the history of the universe.
This is different from God's moral will. Sometimes we call God's moral will His revealed will. This refers to what God has revealed that man is to do. For example, God's moral will to Adam was "thou shalt not eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day you eat from it you will certainly die." That is God's revealed will; don't eat! But God's sovereign will, which is also His permissive will allowed for Adam to make a bad decision and to eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and thus plunge the human race into sin. So God's moral will, which we sometimes call His revealed will, refers to what God has specifically revealed for man to do. So what we have here in Judges 6 is God's revealed will for Gideon is to "go in this your strength, and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian."
Then a third category of God's will is what I call God's overriding will. This takes place when God tells us to do something and we don't do it and then somehow God overrides our wrong decision. It can also take place, I think, when God tells us to do something or we want to do something that is right, for example we have a responsibility as believers to contribute financially to the local church to support the ministry of the local church and to support foreign missions. And there are times when we have a desire to give and to support, we really would like to support a missionary or a particular church, and yet to the degree that we would like to do that God overrides and limits us. Maybe we just don't make the kind of money we ought to make or maybe …now this is not a means to justify rationalizing not giving but sometimes the Lord may put us in a situation where we just don't make very much money or perhaps we go through difficult times and we lose our job, that God is overriding our will. Our will is if I had the money I would give it. God says I'm going to override that decision for whatever reason and you're not going to have the financial resources to contribute to the ministry. So that's another example of how God's overriding will may override our own decision. Now that does not mean that God forces our will in one direction or another but He does not allow us to bring to completion some decision that we have made for His sovereign will.
Some key verses for God's sovereign will are: Daniel 4:35, "And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He," that is God, "does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and no one can ward off His hand, or say to Him, 'What hast thou done?'" God's will is overriding. He is in control of His creation therefore we need not fear what man can do to destroy the earth, to destroy creation because we know that Jesus Christ controls history.
Proverbs 21:1, "The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD, He turns it wherever He wishes." Now that doesn't mean that God necessarily is interfering with his volition, although it may. For example, the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, now that came after Pharaoh had hardened his own heart; it came after Pharaoh had already rejected the gospel. The only critically free area that anyone has to have is in relationship to the gospel and in relationship to spiritual growth. I do think there are other times when God does move a person's will, perhaps, in one direction or another. He clearly speaks of how He hardened Pharaoh's heart; once Pharaoh had made his negative decision God just reinforced it in a particular direction. "The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD," so even when you have a king who is evil God is the One who still controls history despite bad government policy. "He turns it," that is the will of the king, "wherever He wishes."
Revelation 4:1, "After these things I looked, and, behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things." God's sovereign will controls history so that He can tell us exactly what will take place in human history.
Ephesians 1:11, "Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose, who works all things after the counsel of His will." What His criteria are, why He makes the decisions He does we do not know but we do know that His will is the ultimate factor in all of the universe.
Proverbs 16:33, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD," the first clause recognizes the reality of chaos and chance in the universe, that there is freedom. One of the greatest things that I think helped me understand the relationship between real freedom in human history and the sovereignty of God which is the question of the sovereignty of God versus the free will of man, it's the major question that plagued theologians for centuries, was to recognize the fact that when God created the animal kingdom in Genesis 1, He put within all of the DNA structure of all the creatures a certain amount of flexibility to handle the chaos that would occur as a result of sin. That flexibility is the flexibility of what happens in terms of free will but yet there are still boundaries that are set and still a control factor that it would not go beyond limits and that control factor relates, by analogy, to the will of God. So there is true freedom within certain boundaries. And God overrides and God rules as to what the results of that are. So the lot cast into the lap, which is rolling the dice, it's pure chance, but it's every decisions is from the Lord, it's not that the Lord reaches down and moves somebody's volition one way or the other, but He overrides it in a certain way to prevent things going apart from His will.
Romans 9:19, "You will say to me then," this is an objection, "Why does God still find fault?" if every decision is from the Lord, "For who resists His will?" Paul then makes it clear that there is still human freedom and human volition because God has decreed that His sovereign will coexists in human history with human volition. That is what makes mans truly free decisions his own; they are not God's decisions. Man truly makes decisions and he is accountable and responsible for those decisions and yet God is the One in ultimate control. So in human history God's sovereign will is not antithetical to human volition.
The third point; the specifics of God's decreed will are secret, unrevealed, and unknown. They cannot be known until after the fact. We don't know what God has decreed to occur this afternoon until after it happens. So I am truly free to make whatever decisions I will make because there's nothing that is forcing or determining my decisions. Human history, once transpired, is the outworking of God's ultimate decree.
And finally, we can only know the specifics of God's revealed or moral will. We can't know God's sovereign will till after the fact. We can only, therefore know the specifics of God's revealed or moral will which includes all the precepts, mandates, and prohibitions of Scripture. We will stop there and finish next week.