Continued Disobedience of the Israelites
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Judges, chapter six. At the risk of being overly repetitious, we want to remind you of the analysis of the book, which we have offered to you before.

The approach to the book of Judges is found in chapters one and two, where we are told the reason it was necessary for God to raise up the various judges, which He did. The book of Judges is a history of the apostasies, which we find described in chapters 3-16. Then there is what we call the appendix of the book, found in chapters 17-21.

By an appendix, we mean a section of the book in which various events from this particular period of Israel's history are taken and associated for the purpose of teaching a lesson. They did not occur in the chronological order in which they are presented, but they did occur for the purpose of emphasizing truth. We said that included in the appendix could well be the book of Ruth because the story, which is familiar to most of you, occurred during the history of the judges.

The history of the judges, as we have suggested to you, is primarily one of apostasies, chapters 3-16 being the section of the book in which these various apostasies are presented. By apostasy we mean Israel's departing from the faith. When they departed from the faith, it was necessary for God to discipline them. When they cried unto the Lord, God always delivered them. So we find the book of Judges made up of disciplines and deliverances.

Thus far we have looked at their discipline at the hand of Mesapotamia for eight years and their deliverance at the hand of Othniel, their discipline at the hand of Moab for eighteen years and their deliverance at the hand of Ehud, their discipline at the hand of the Canaanites for twenty years and their deliverance by Deborah and Barak.

At the moment, we are considering their discipline at the hand of the Midianites for seven years and their deliverance at the hand of Gideon. We have looked together thus far in our study of this particular discipline and deliverance from the standpoint of three basic stories which we felt needed special emphasis: the Angel of the Lord, Who is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself; the matter of putting out a fleece, whether or not it was proper and wise to put out a fleece; and compound names of Jehovah.

In this lesson we are ready to begin a consideration of this particular discipline and deliverance in the same order that we have followed in relation to all of the others. You will remember that we told you that every one of these stories will follow the same outline. There will be, first, a reference to the disobedience, then the discipline which God found necessary to impose, and then the deliverance and the deliverer which God graciously provided the moment the children of Israel cried unto the Lord.

Israel's Refusal of God's Command

We would like to remind you of the disobedience on the part of the nation of Israel at this particular time which brought the discipline that we will thinking about at this time. There is a general statement in the first verse of chapter 6, if you will look at it:

Judges 6

1And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD:…

You will recall that that is one of the key phrases that we find in the book of Judges. It's repeated over and over again.

The particular evil which the children of Israel did in this particular instance, if we want to be more specific than general, will be found in the paragraph that begins with verse 7 of chapter 6. Will you notice it, please:

Judges 6

7And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,
8That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage;
9And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land;
10And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: [and then you will notice particularly the last statement of this verse] but ye have not obeyed my voice.

As we talk about the disobedience of the children of Israel in this particular instance, going from the general to the specific, the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, and God raised up the prophet whom we are thinking about, who went about declaring the message of God to the children of Israel and brought about their deliverance, because they eventually responded to the message. Now the message which the prophet declared, of course, is summed up in the one last statement to which we called your attention, “Ye have not obeyed my voice.” This first act of disobedience, then, is the reason that God found it necessary to discipline them. God very plainly told them what to do, and they refused to do it.

The Extent of Their Idolatry

The second thing that was related to the evil they had done is described by the familiar word “apostasy.” This apostasy is almost unbelievable. If you will turn over to verse 25 of chapter 6, you will read:

Judges 6

25And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down [now notice very carefully] the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it:

Gideon's own father had gone off into the worship of Baal, and Gideon's own father had built a grove in which he had built an altar to the worship of Baal. God said to Gideon, “It is necessary for you to cut down the altar, the grove, the statue that your own father has made to Baal.” The extent of this idolatry, the extent of the departure from the faith, is indicated in verse 28 of chapter 6, where you read:

Judges 6

28And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built.
29And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they enquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing.
30Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it.

Think about the men of the city, so involved in the worship of Baal that when the altar was cut down, they wanted to kill the man who cut the altar down. This shows how involved they were with worship of a heathen god.

An interesting thing that we might call to your attention is that Gideon's father could have been so involved, because “Joash” means “Jehovah support,” which means that he leaned upon Jehovah for his strength; and yet someone whom we would call a very spiritual man fell easily into idolatry. Joash was called an Abiezerite. The word “Abiezerite” means “my father is my help.” Here again, a man who said, “Jehovah supports me; my Heavenly Father is my helper,” could turn into idolatry.

Joash's Change of Attitude

There is one good thing, and we must mention it to be fair, and that is found in verse 31 of the paragraph, where Joash had a complete change of attitude. In verse 31:

Judges 6

31And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar.

Joash finally came to his senses. It's good to know that sometimes God's children who wander off do come to their senses. And Joash said, “I have been thinking about something. You are so concerned about Baal. If Baal were really God, what could Gideon have done? If he were really God, why do you have to kill Gideon? Why doesn't Baal kill Gideon?”

You know, it is a good thing to know that when false doctrine comes, when things happen that indicate a departure from the faith after we have properly instructed, after we have given the truth, we don't need to don our armor and go out and kill Baal or kill the people who are the descendants of Baal. Our God can take care of those things. The battle is not ours; it is the Lord's.

Discipline Under the Midianites

We learned a while ago that when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord heard their cry and always provided deliverance from the discipline which He had imposed. The discipline which God imposed upon the children of Israel was one that could bring about their cry for help. There was, for example, what we might refer to as an animal-like existence on the part of the Israelites. If you will look at verse 2 of chapter 6:

Judges 6

2And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.

That is probably difficult for us to visualize, but it might be helpful if we tried to think about it. The Midianites came in in such numbers and their conquering power was so great that the Israelites had to leave their homes and live in dens and holes in the mountain. This was God's hand resting heavily upon them because of their sin. Not only did they have an animal-like existence to face, there was a destruction of the land with which they had to cope, because you read, beginning verse 3:

Judges 6

3And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them;
4And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.
5For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.
6And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites;…

If you get the picture, these Midianites with their cohorts entered the land, took all of the crops that they could carry for themselves, fed their army which was like grasshoppers, and then destroyed everything else so that there was nothing for the Israelites to live on save what they might, as we shall see, be able to sneak or steal away in some fashion and hide for themselves.

Just Recompense for Disobedience

Beloved, we should have learned by this time in our study of the book of Judges that every disobedience receives its just recompense of reward. God cannot and God will not ignore disobedience on the part of His children.

Don't relegate our thinking to a nation that lived hundreds of years ago in the Old Testament, and say, “Oh well, those things are related to them, not to us.” Recognize that they were written for our lessons; they were written for our admonition. God's disciplines, thank God, always contain an afterward. “No chastening for the present,” as we are told in God's Word, “seemeth to be joyous, rather grievious, but afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness.”

The Necessity of Conviction

Now, in other instances when God disciplined the children of Israel, the very discipline would cause them to cry out to God. But God would teach us another lesson in this particular apostasy, and that is that not only is it necessary to cry out to God, but there be must a manner in which one cries out to God. If you will notice chapter 6 again, the paragraph which begins with verse 7 and concludes with verse 10:

Judges 6

7And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,
8That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage;
9And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land;
10And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.

This is the story of the prophet whom God raised up as soon as the children of Israel began to cry out to the Lord, and the message of the prophet produced something that is absolutely essential if there is going to be deliverance, and that is conviction, conviction that the way which people are going is wrong. I would like to emphasize that oftentimes when we pray for those who are out of the will of God, when we pray for those who are unsaved, and we see no answer to our prayers and we become disturbed and distressed, we are forgetting that there must be time for the Spirit of God to convict; and God's conviction does not always come instantaneously, does not always come as quickly as we would want for it to come. It takes some time.

For example, if the children of Israel were living in the dens of the caves for pure safety, they couldn't very well congregate in a public meeting place for this prophet, whoever he was, to preach to them as we might preach to people who gather in our churches. This prophet had to go from cave to cave, hole to hole, and declare to the people the message that is recorded here, and conviction came upon the whole nation so that they cried out unto the Lord.

Conviction Followed By Action

God said unto them, by illustration here, not only is it necessary for conviction to come, but conviction should be followed by action which indicates sincerity of heart. Sin must be judged. I have used the words “self judgment” because Gideon, who was to be raised up as a deliverer for the children of Israel at this particular time, could not deliver the nation unless he straightened things up in his own home. And we have read to you for other purposes here in chapter 6 the manner in which Gideon cut down the family grove and destroyed the family altar which was dedicated to Baal. That's the reason we call it “self-judgment.” Gideon's name means “a cutter down.” He cut down the grove. He cut down the altar. It isn't enough, in self-judgment, to cut down. Oftentimes there is a need for something else. There is a need for open, active, contending with the sin itself, because the cutting down does not always accomplish the purpose. So we find in verse 32 that Gideon was so active in dealing with the sin with which his people were afflicted that his name was changed from Gideon to Jerubbaal , which means “contender with Baal.” You will notice there in verse 32:

Judges 6

32Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.

“Jerub” means “contender with Baal.” He became a contender with the sin that had broken the fellowship of his people with their God. These were the first two steps in the deliverance which God provided, and I would like for you to keep them in mind: first, a definite conviction that all is not well, that sin should be dealt with, and second, the actual dealing with the sin.

This is what we are told by the Spirit of God is God's order and God's plan. In I Corinthians, chapter 11, we are told of the manner in which the Corinthian believers should deal with sin. First, they should judge their sin. They had the opportunity. If they did not judge their sin, they must accept the chastening at the hand of God; but if they would judge their sin, they could escape the chastening or they could escape further chastening, as the case might be.

Here in relation to the nation of Israel, God's deliverance consisted of conviction, then self-judgment, and we would like to say that this is God's plan and purpose eternally.

The Courage of Gideon

Now, there cannot be deliverance without a deliverer. In every instance recorded here in the book of Judges, God raised up a deliverer. The deliverer that He raised up at this particular time was a rather unusual character. Will you look at chapter 6 again, and notice verse 11:

Judges 6

11And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
12And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.

Now notice in verse 14:

Judges 6

14And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?

The first thing that we would like to emphasize about the deliverer whom God raised up is that this deliverer was a courageous man. The very fact that he was threshing wheat by the winepress would indicate that he was courageous. You would say, “Well, that indicates to me that he was cowardly.” No, he was using the better part of wisdom, as we are going to see before we are through. While others were hiding in dens and the holes, he said, “While these Midianites are gone, I am going to reap what little grain that I can, and I'm going to thresh that grain, and I'm going to hide it for the time of emergency.” The Angel of the Lord found him in the place of courageous action and said to him, “Thou mighty man of valor. Thou art going to deliver this people. Go in this thy might.”

You know, God rarely chooses inactive people for any real task. He chooses those who are already active. So often individuals sit about and say they wish they had something to do for God. You stop and think about it, they never do; but the individuals who look like they have more than they can possibly do are always called upon to do more. The individuals who are really active for God do not find enough hours in the day. Gideon was a courageous man, and so must every servant of the Lord be.

Gideon's Question to God

Interestingly enough, he was also a questioning man, and I would suggest that you keep that in mind, because so often Gideon is presented as a man without real faith. He is presented as a man who always had to have something proven to him. I think that there is ample evidence to indicate that he was courageous, but I like the fact that the Spirit of God places the emphasis upon the fact that this courageous man did not understand everything that was happening to him.

Notice in chapter 6, verse 13:

Judges 6

13And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.

Why? Where? What? These were what Gideon was asking. You say the Lord is with us. If He is with us, then why, why, why did this happen to us? In this particular instance we know that it happened because of their sin, but how many believers do you know today who are, in their hearts, asking God why? Or if they themselves are not asking the question, others are asking it for them. Why? Why did this have to happen? And did you notice that there is not a word of rebuke to Gideon for asking these questions? Not a word of rebuke. And did you notice there is not an an answer to the questions either? Rather than any answer to the question is the instruction in verse 14:

Judges 6

14…Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites…

A word of comfort. Was there any? Oh yes.

Judges 6

14…have not I sent thee?

Beloved, underline that in your minds, if not in your Bibles. The important thing is not the answer to your question of why. The important thing is not the answer to your question of where or when. The important thing is this: Has God sent you? If He has, go. Has God called you? If He has, then answer the call.

I ask this question only to provoke your thinking. Has God called you to a specific task? Has He? If He has, what are you doing about it? Are you trying to answer all of the questions before you answer the call? If you are trying to answer all of the questions before you answer the call, then you're not going to get done what needs to be done, because the questions will never be answered. Are you being detoured from something that you think is good, but still not the very thing that God has called you to do? You see, the angel said to Gideon, “Gideon,” if you permit the paraphrase, “don't worry about these things. They are really not essential. Worry about whether or not you're going in the power and the might of God.”

The Cautiousness of Gideon

Now, even though the Angel of the Lord said this to Gideon, I want you to notice that He ordered this third characteristic about him. Gideon was courageous, yes. He was questioning, but he was also cautious. Gideon believed in the Scriptural injunction of the New Testament in I John, chapter 5. Even though it had not been written, the principle was established. Gideon believed in trying the spirits to see whether or not they were of God. We have touched upon some indication of the cautiousness of Gideon, so we will make only brief mention of them. Glance at verse 15:

Judges 6

15And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.

We have mentioned to you that in the book of Judges, it is constantly emphasized that God uses the simple things to win His victories that He might have the glory. Remember, He used an ox goad, and He used a javelin made out of a shepherd's rod. Oh, such simple things He used, and now he is choosing a man who realizes his own insufficiency when he cries out, “My family is poor in Manasseh, and I am least in my father's house.”

This is a tricky statement, and it has given a bit of subject matter for the critics to howl about, for later you find that Gideon's house was really not a poor house materially. Even in the sad days about which we have been speaking, they had ten slaves, so they could hardly be called a poor family. You must be able to compare Scripture with Scripture, and when you do, you find that Manasseh was the tribe that was the least equipped for war, the tribe that had the least taste for war. Gideon spoke to the Lord and said, “My family is poor in Manasseh; my family is the least of all the families of the world where war is concerned. We are not good warriors; and on top of that, I am the youngest in my father's house. We are not only not good warriors, I am the youngest. I don't know how to fight. I don't know how to carry on a battle.”

Look at verse 16:

Judges 6

16And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.

What He said, was “Gideon, don't talk about how weak you are. I know that. You don't need to tell Me that, but I'm going to be with you, and when I'm with you, that makes a difference.”

Gideon has been accused of a lack of faith. In this instance right here, I don't think it's a lack of faith; I think it is this spirit of cautiousness that was about him. I believe if it were a lack of faith, God would have rebuked it. Instead, He honored it. You will notice in verse 17:

Judges 6

17And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.

“Don't leave,” Gideon said, “until I do something.” And as we have read for purposes of other discussions here in this paragraph down through verse 20, Gideon prepared a sacrifice for God, and he put it on the rock, and God consumed the sacrifice with fire, which indicated that it was accepted of the Lord. The thing that interests me most about this is of what the sacrifice was made. Gideon went in and made ready a kid and unleavened cakes of an epah of flour. Remember, this was in a time of famine. This kid, this young goat, could have supported him and his family, could have fed him and his family for several days, likewise the bread; but he was willing to sacrifice it all to be absolutely sure he knew what God wanted him to do.

God's Provision of Assurance

Sometimes we talk about being anxious to know what God wants us to do. We talk about desiring assurance, but we're really not interested in paying a price for the assurance. What has it cost you to know the will of God? What has it cost you to do the will of God? It cost Gideon something. The cautious Gideon is also described in verses 36-38, at which we have already looked in times past, when Gideon put out a fleece, and twice put it out. Because his faith was weak? No, because he was a cautious man. He said, “I don't want to move unless I know for sure that God is leading me.”

Look at chapter 7, please, and notice the little paragraph that has always been a great blessing to my heart. You know, sometimes we know we need assurance, and we seek it. Sometimes God knows we are going to need it, and He provides it. Did you get that? Sometimes we know we need assurance, and we seek it, but sometimes God knows we are going to need it, so He provides it. We don't seek it; He just provides it. Notice the paragraph which begins with verse 9 in chapter 7:

Judges 7

9And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.
10But if thou fear to go down, [if you're still not sure] go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host: [that is, where the Midianites camped]
11And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host.

“Gideon,” He said, “when the battle really begins, you are going to be a little bit frightened, so I'd like to give you one more assurance. You go down there tonight with your trusted servants where the Midianites are camped. They are asleep. You go down there. There is something I want to show you.” So they went down. Verse 12:

Judges 7

12And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; [think about that. What a tremendous crowd that was!] and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude [they could not begin to number the camels that these Midianites had] .
13And when Gideon was come, [that is, when he got down there where the Midianites were, within hearing distance] behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, [remember this is one Midianite talking to another] and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along.

Get the picture. “I had a dream last night that a cake of barley bread [the cheapest kind of bread, the kind that you get to feed to the fowl ordinarily] came rolling down the hill against the tent and knocked that tent all the way over to the ground.” Funny dream, and his friend said, “I don't think it's funny. I believe that God is trying to tell us something.” Notice verses 14 and 15:

Judges 7

14And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.
15And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.

Whatever doubts he might have had which, I repeat, were not due to a lack of faith, but were due to a cautious spirit, were dispelled because God provided this assurance.

This is what I want you to get today. This assurance Gideon did not ask for. He asked for the other assurances; he didn't ask for this. This was the assurance God gave. And though God did not rebuke Gideon for asking assurances, though He will not rebuke us for asking assurances, I have found that the blessed assurance is that assurance that He gives because He knows our needs and we haven't asked Him for it.

A Personal Illustration

I have to say this in relation to our year verse. The year verses that the Lord has given in years past have been blessings, and there have been reasons for them, but–some of this you have to accept by faith, because I can't tell you all that is in my heart. Some things I just can't talk about. I'm not at liberty to talk about them–God, without my asking Him, gave me Isaiah, chapter 30, verse 41, for this particular time because he knew that I would need it in a way that I never dreamed I would. He knew that I was going to need to wait upon the Lord–and not only was, but will in the months to come–as I never have before. He was gracious enough to give the assurance that I will mount up with wings as eagles, that I will run and not be weary, and I will walk and not faint. How good, how gracious, God is to give the assurance when we need it most.

Gideon's Consecration

I would like to suggest to you that Gideon was also a consecrated man. I use the term “consecrated man,” because Gideon was willing to follow God's request no matter how foolish it might seem to him or to anybody else. If you have read these chapters here, you read how Gideon went about selecting an army. Look back to chapter 6, please. Remember now, he was sure that there was a battle to fight and there wasn't any question in his mind that there was such a battle. He had to have an army, so in verse 35 we read:

Judges 6

35And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh; who also was gathered after him: and he sent messengers unto Asher, and unto Zebulun, and unto Naphtali; and they came up to meet them.

He gathered the army together for the purpose of fighting the battle we are talking about. We do not have time to look at all of the Scriptures, so let us recognize right to begin with that when everybody responded to the call that Gideon made, the total army numbered 32,000. That was a pretty good army, but it was not anything to compare with an army that was nearly five times that big. It took a lot of courage to go with an army that big; but of all things, can you imagine God being impractical enough to say to Gideon, “Now Gideon, there are just too many people here, 32,000.” Gideon might have said, “Now, God, wait a minute. They are already five or six times bigger than we are, and You still say there are too many?” “Yes,” God said. Notice verse 1 of chapter 7:

Judges 7

1Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.
2And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.

“Too many men, Gideon. If I let you go out to battle with 32,000 men–I've already said that you are going to win, I've already said that nothing can change that–you all will be bragging over what you have done, and I can't have that. I must have My glory.” God says that He is jealous of His glory, and God said, “My glory I will not give to another.” It's amazing what God will let men get away with, until they try to take the glory that belongs to Him, then He always deals with them.

The Test of Unbelief

You think about Herod sometimes. He let Herod get away with murder, as we would say, literally and figuratively. Think about it. One day the people began to say, “Herod is a god.” He stood there and smiled and took that, and God killed him because He will not give His glory to another. So He said to Gideon, “I want you to put these men to a test.” I have called it “the test of unbelief.” It's given there in verse 3:

Judges 7

3Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead…

“Let him depart if he is afraid.” The only reason in the world that anybody would have departed fearful was a lack of faith, in the light of everything that had been said and done up to this time. So God said, “If anybody does not have any faith, then go back,” because unbelief is like a disease–it spreads. If one man is fearful, then it won't be long until others are. You will notice in verse 3:

Judges 7

3…and there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.

After the test of unbelief, 22,000 people left, and there were remaining but 10,000, and God said, “This is still too many.” Ten thousand against something like a 160,000 or 170,000 and God said, “Yes, it's still too many, Gideon, and I want you to put them to another test.” This is the hardest test. It is the test of self. It's related to the way they drank water. He said, “You take them across this brook, and you watch the way they drink the water. If they get down on their hands and knees and drink, don't take them, but if they run through that stream, and lap the water with their hand as they go, take them.” The man that gets down on his hands and knees looks at the water, typically speaking, and can see only himself. He's more interested in his comfort. He's more interested in the provision of his own needs than he is in the battle he has to fight. He's so interested in self, he can't see anything else. But the man who laps the water puts his own needs as secondary.

When the test of self was completed, there were only 300 left. That's all. God said, “With these 300 men, you go out to battle, and I'll win the victory for you.” And God did.

We will stop here, because our time is gone. In our next lesson, we are going to talk about how God won the victory. We're going to talk about the man He used, something I have not mentioned up until now, something most people don't mention about Gideon. Then we are going to talk about the weapons that are used, and we are going to see how a real spiritual victory is won when God fights and not man.

Conclusion

May we be reminded today of what has been repeatedly emphasized. First, sin for which God finds it necessary to chasten must be judged and put away before we can expect the blessing of God. Not only should we confess our sin, but the Word of God says, “He that confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall prosper.”

I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say. I know how easy it is to get out of fellowship. I know how easy it is to get in fellowship, and it is so easy to get out, and it is so easy to get in that sometimes we Christians talk about, “I'm always in and out of fellowship.” Well, I thank God for His grace and His forgiving power, but I want to say to you that God can't use effectively a life that is always in and out of fellowship. I'm glad that you can get in after you get out, but I would like to remind you that God's Word says, “He that confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall prosper.” There are a few things that God expects you to put off, a few things that God expects you to mortify, a few things God expects you to do away with. It's time for you to grow up and cease being carnal. Then I hope you remember that God will never rebuke the sincere heart who wants to be sure it's headed in the right direction, but He doesn't have time to answer the unanswerable questions of why and where and when. The important thing is first to rest upon the promise, “I will be with thee,” and then pursue the task that is laid out.


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