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small dog April 4 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Judges 6, 7
(to review the chronological order of Judges, see more...)

Overcoming Small Faith

  • “I couldn't do that.”
  • “God couldn't possibly use me.”
  • “If you only knew my past.”
  • “I'm not talented like....”

These are all excuses which people use when faced with challenges greater than themselves. Yet if God calls us to a challenge, it means we have to depend on him to get the victory. If we only attempt the things which we can do, we don't need God and he will not get the glory. The LORD delights to show himself strong even in the most unlikely circumstances with some of the most unlikely people. Remember that not too long ago we discussed how God used the prostitute, Rahab, to hide the Israelite spies from the leaders of Jericho. The LORD can use those who start out small in faith. They (or we) just need to take the first step in trusting and obeying him.

We read from the book of Judges the reason Israel gets herself into trouble: she does not have a king; each man does what is right in his own eyes. When Israel gets herself into trouble and cries out to the LORD in her misery, God sends judges (military leaders) to deliver her from the oppression of her enemies.

In our last Bible study, we saw Deborah was used by God to be a judge of Israel; and the woman, Jael, was used to get the final victory over Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army. These two, being women in a male dominated society, seemed to be unlikely candidates which God would use, but he did use them because women have value in his eyes.

In today's Bible reading the Israelites are delivered from oppression by the Midianites in another unlikely way. Israel's enemies swarm in like locusts each harvest season to destroy everything, both plants and cattle, to leave God's people with nothing to eat. When the Israelites cry out to the LORD for help, he rebukes them for turning away from him to worship other gods. In his mercy, however, he sends a deliverer, Gideon. Gideon is not a famous champion; he is from the weakest clan in the tribe of Manasseh, and he is the least important in his family. Gideon has the heart of a warrior, yes, but he is afraid.

In fear and wisdom he is threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the marauding Midianites (Judges 6:11,15,27,36-40; 7:9-11). The Angel of the LORD (probably a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ) appears to him and tells him to save Israel. Gideon is doubtful. “The LORD turns to him and says, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?” (Judges 6:14, NIV). Like many of us when we are afraid, Gideon asks for signs that it is really God asking him to do these things and not his own imagination.

The LORD says, “I am with you,” (Judges 6:16, NIV). When by fire God consumes a meal prepared for him, he demonstrates to Gideon that the Almighty has the power to do the impossible (Judges 6:20-22). Gideon then takes courage.

When we are weak in faith, the LORD wants us to go in the strength he provides. Everything is possible when he is with us (Mark 10:27), so consider what great things God may do if we trust him. We must, however, take the first step of obedience to experience him working through us.

The first step of obedience for Gideon is to demolish the idol of the false Canaanite god, Baal, construct an altar to the LORD in its place, and use the wood from the Asherah pole (Baal's accompanying female goddess) to light a fire for an animal sacrifice to the one true God (Judges 6:25-27). This is a difficult task which will threaten Gideon's life. By demolishing the idols of Baal and Asherah, God is showing Midian and Israel that he is more powerful than their false gods. Gideon is afraid, so he gathers ten of his servants and does the deed at night, but he still obeys the LORD. God does not call us to smash the idols in our land, but are we willing to do his will? Will we be faithful even if the task could involve risks?

After destroying the idols, the Spirit of the LORD comes upon Gideon. He calls the northern tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali to arms. Thirty-two thousand Israelites come to fight against one-hundred and thirty-five thousand Midianite, Amalekite, and other eastern armies. The odds are overwhelmingly against Israel.

Gideon's spirit is willing, but his flesh is weak. He is once again uncertain, given the numbers of troops allied against Israel. Gideon asks for a sign. He has a fleece of wool. One morning he asks God to make the wool wet but the ground dry, and the next morning to make the wool dry but the ground wet, if it is really the LORD asking him to do these things. Although God could have judged Gideon for testing his patience, he does not. Instead, he is gracious to assure Gideon by confirming his will through the signs.

Then God does something unthinkable—he reduces the small Israelite army so everyone will know only the LORD can give Israel the victory. Twenty-two thousand of the thirty-two thousand men are sent home because they are afraid. Then, of the 10,000 men who remain, the LORD has Gideon choose only 300 to fight, and the rest are sent home. The odds are overwhelming against Israel except for their one ally, God. Martin Luther, the famous 15th century theologian, rightly said, “One with God is a majority.” He is All-Powerful.

Although Gideon does not ask for it, once more the LORD provides Gideon assurance that he is with him. He tells Gideon that if he is afraid, he should go to the Midianite camp at night. When he does this, he hears a dream and its interpretation from some Midianite soldiers. This gives him courage. Immediately, Gideon and his aid return to camp and awaken the 300 Israelite soldiers for an attack. Each is given torch lamps and trumpets. They surround the Midianite camp at night, break the lamps and blow the horns. In the confusion of the darkness, the Midianite army panics and the soldiers begin to slay themselves. Did Gideon win the battle? Yes, with the LORD's help. God gets the glory for the battles only he can win.

Lessons to Live By

  • Perhaps you do not have faith in God at all. He is the Almighty Creator of the universe and he loves you. He offers you forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...)
  • Our past background, connections, or talent do not matter; God can use those who are obedient.
  • When we are weak in faith, the LORD wants us to go in the strength he provides. Everything is possible when God is with us.
  • We must take the first step of obedience to experience God working through us.
  • The LORD want us to obey him in faith. We may ask the LORD for assurance, but we should not test him. Our will should be directed to obey him.
  • Obeying God involves risk.
  • God can deliver by great armies or small armies. His ways may seem foolish to men, but he is All-powerful and gets the glory. We can trust him.

Focus Verse

Exodus 15:11 (NIV) “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you-- majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?”

praying hands Write a private prayer response to today’s Bible study:

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A Look Ahead: God gives the victory to those who trust him, even if they are small in faith. However, there are Perils of Leadership. How do we overcome them? Find out in our Next Lesson.

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