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 that people use when faced with challenges greater than themselves. Yet if God calls us to a challenge, it means we will have to depend on Him to get the victory. If we only attempt the things that we can do, we don't need God and He will not get the glory. God delights to show Himself strong even in the most unlikely ways 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 Him 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 used by God to be a judge of Israel; and the woman, Jael, 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 that God would use, but God did use them because women do have value in His eyes.

In today's Bible study the Israelites are delivered from oppression by the Midianites in another unlikely way. The Midianites swarm in like locusts at each harvest season to destroy everything, both plants and cattle, to leave the Israelites with nothing to eat. When the Israelites cry out to God 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. Gideon 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.

God says,“I am with you,” (Judges 6:16, NIV). When God demonstrates to Gideon that He has the power to do the impossible (Judges 6:20-22), Gideon takes courage. When we are weak in faith, God wants us to go in the strength He provides. Everything is possible when God is with us (Mark 10:27). Consider what great things God may do if we trust Him. We must, however, take the first step of obedience to experience God 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 that 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, and 32,000 Israelites come to fight against 135,000 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 with the signs asked of Him.

Then God does something unthinkable: God reduces the small Israelite army of 32,000 so everyone will know only the LORD can give Israel the victory. 22,000 men are sent home because they are afraid. Then, of the 10,000 men who remain, God has Gideon choose only 300 to fight. 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 God knows Gideon needs more 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 Midianites. This gives him courage. Immediately, Gideon and his aid return to camp and awakened the 300 remaining 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 trumpets. 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: (overcoming small faith)

  • 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, God 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.
  • You may ask God for assurance, but do not test Him. Your will should be directed to obey Him.
  • Obeying God involves risk.
  • God can deliver by great armies or small armies. God's ways may seem foolish to men, but He is All-powerful and gets the glory. Just trust Him.

Today's Bible memory verse:

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

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