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small dog April 4 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: 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. God can use those who start out small in faith; they (or we) just need to take the first step in trusting and obeying him.

At this time in Jewish history, Israel did not have a king; each man did what was right in his own eyes. When Israel got themselves into trouble and cried out to him in their misery, God sent judges (military leaders) to deliver them from the oppression of their enemies. In our last Bible study, we saw that 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, would have seemed (by the men) 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 were delivered from oppression by the Midianites in another unlikely way. The Midianites came each harvest season to destroy everything, both plants and cattle, to leave the Israelites with nothing to eat. When they cried out to God for help, he rebuked them for turning away from him and worshipping other gods. In his mercy, however, he sent a deliverer, Gideon.

Gideon was not a famous champion; he was from the weakest clan in the tribe of Manasseh, and he was the least important in his family. Gideon had the heart of a warrior, yes, but he was afraid. Gideon was 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) appeared to him and told him to save Israel. Gideon was doubtful. “The LORD turned to him and said, ‘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 asked for signs that it was really God asking him to do these things and not his own imagination.

God said “I am with you,” (Judges 6:16, NIV). When God demonstrated to Gideon that He had the power to do the impossible (Judges 6:20-22), Gideon took 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 test of obedience for Gideon was 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 was a difficult task that would threaten Gideon's life. By demolishing the idols of Baal and Asherah, God was showing Midian and Israel that he was more powerful than their false gods. Gideon was afraid, so he gathered ten of his servants and did the deed at night, but he still obeyed God. 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 came upon Gideon, and he called the northern tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali to arms. 32,000 Israelites came to fight against 135,000 Midianite, Amalekite, and other eastern enemies.

Gideon's spirit was willing, but his flesh was weak; he was once again uncertain, given the odds. He wanted to know, “God did you really call me to do this?” Gideon asked for a sign. He had a fleece of wool. One morning he asked 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 was really the LORD that was asking him to do these things. Perhaps, (though we are not sure) Gideon was not questioning God's will so much as he was looking for some assurance that he was going to do the right thing. Was it really him or God who called him to do this? God did not judge Gideon; God was gracious to assure Gideon with the signs he asked of Him.

Then God did something unthinkable in our minds: God pared down a small Israelite army of 32,000 down to 300 so that everyone would know that only the LORD could give Israel the victory. 22,000 men were sent home because they were afraid. Then, of the 10,000 men who remained, God had Gideon choose only 300 to fight. The odds were 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.

Though Gideon did not ask for it, still, once more God knew that Gideon would need another sign that He was with him. He told Gideon that if he was afraid, he should go to the Midianite camp at night. When he did, he heard a dream and its interpretation from some Midianites that gave him assurance. Immediately, he and his aid returned to camp and awakened the 300 remaining Israelite soldiers to attack. Each was given torch lamps and trumpets. They surrounded the Midianite camp at night, broke the lamps and blew the trumpets. In the confusion of the night, the Midianite army panicked and started slaying themselves. Did Gideon win the battle? Yes!

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 still 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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