3/18/12 Gideon Lays Out Fleece

3/18/12 Gideon Lays Out Fleece

Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF 3-18-12

Judges 6:33-40    Lesson 8
Key Verse 6: 36-37

“Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised— 37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.”

In today’s lesson we find Gideon being changed from a fearful farmer, into the mighty warrior that God hoped he would become. Holding onto God’s promise he was filled with the Spirit of God and rallied his people to battle to free them from oppression. God also confirmed his will and his promise to be with Gideon as he stood up as the leader of God’s people. There are times when we know the will of God, but need some strengthening and encouragement to live out that will in our lives. That is what this passage is all about. Let’s see…

Part l: The Mobilizing Of Four Tribes (33-35)

The enemies of the people of God were at it again. Look at verse 33, “Now all the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel.” This was a yearly occurrence that caused a lot of suffering among the Israelites. Their suffering is revealed in 6:1-6, “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 2Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.”

The Midianites were a people dwelling in the desert north of the Arabian Peninsula. Their original ancestor was Midian who was the fourth son of Abraham by Keturah (Gen 25:1-2). He was one of the children shipped to the east with gifts from Abraham so not to interfere with the growth and development of Isaac. There, they had transformed themselves into camel-riding nomads. They were the first people to domesticate the camel on a large scale, which gave them desert mobility. The Midianites and Ishmaelites intermarried, roaming the northern part of the Arabian Desert. They chose to attack the Israelites when the harvest was ripe, and destroying the land. They came because they wanted food and resources. It happened every year. Their numbers could have been more than 135,000. (Judges 8:10) They were formidable in their vast numbers and in their hunger. Many alien invasion movies today follow this theme.

God’s people were not fighting them but cowering. They were simply trying to survive while hiding in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. They were hungry and despaired because all they ever worked for was repeatedly taken away. We can see this by how Gideon was living out his daily life. Look at 6:11, “The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites” Gideon was a strong man. He was leadership material. And yet he is succumbed to the situation and was hiding from Midianites instead of rising up to resist them and driving them out by the power of God.

This is a perfect illustration of the power of sin. Sin occupies our hearts like a swarm of locusts, devastating our heart soil. The power of sin causes us to be fearful and “hunker down” in an attempt to survive. It causes us to hunger spiritually. It robs us of spiritual fruit and causes us to despair because it strips us of everything that we hold dear and have been working hard to build up. Think about the affects of sin on our relationships that we hold dear, marriages, careers, ministry, good fruit in our lives, and the image of God within us. All this and more can be laid to ruin…devastated by the power of sin. But this is where our faith in Jesus and his life-giving gospel must kick in. Let’s see how God intervened in this instance to discover how God will work in ours.

First, it is important to note that God intervened when he saw his peoples’ suffering. Look at verse 34a, “Then the Spirit of the LORD came on Gideon,…” God intervened because he cares. If his didn’t care he would let them remain in their suffering and die out and begin with another line of people. But like a good parent, God cares and intervenes when he hears the cries of his children. God sees our situations and our condition of heart and he works. Sometimes he works directly and sometimes in other peoples hearts to raise them up as leaders at critical moments.

The spirit of God had a wonderful affect on Gideon. Look at verse 34b, “…., and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him.” He came out from hiding in his wine vat. He went public, even at the cost of his life. He stood up as a leader; rallying his own people to battle The Holy Spirit is God in us. By the grace of Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit of God when we repent and believe. Jesus himself makes his home in us. Where the spirit of God is there is power. God did not give us a spirit of timidity. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of self discipline. (2 Tim 1:7). We need to respond to the work of the Holy Spirit. Our response can be listening more to the word of God, seeking to be strengthened and encouraged in following Jesus, interacting more with the living God and being led by the spirit of God. For some it may be to stand up as a leader in the spiritual battles of this generation.

The important thing is that we make some kind of response. The peoples’ lack of response was one of Jesus’ lamenting topics. In Matthew 11:16-19, Jesus says, “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others. 17 “‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” Jesus was saying that the kids should have been responsive. Happy music from a flute should have inspired them to dance. A sad funeral song should have caused them to mourn. But they did nothing. There was no appropriate response. Gideon responded to the prompting of the Spirit of the Lord. Will you?

The spirit of God also brings about unity. We can see some beautiful examples of co-working and unity in these verses. Look at verses 34-35 , “34 Then the Spirit of the LORD came on Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. 35 He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them.” Under the leadership of Gideon, four tribes including his own family tribe, rallied to together and sprang to his side. They came out of the clefts of the rocks, their caves, strongholds and their wine vats and took up arms. They were delivered from their fear, despair and their individualism and rallied together as one to fight a common foe.

Growing in Christian unity and being filled with God’s strength and courage is part of the proper response to the moving of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ prayer is always for the unity of believers. Listen to Jesus’ prayer in John 17: 17-20, which reads, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” There is a growing disunity among Christians. According to Dr John Armstrong, there are 39,000 different Christian denominations and sects in America. Even within a church there is lack of unity. Our fast food, internet culture has promoted this. You can watch what you want, whenever you want, on the internet. You can start and stop any program according to your schedule. You can buy what you want, cheap and fast. It is all about you and your will and your time. Our own lives become more important than the gospel, more important than the church, than knowing Jesus and the mission of the church. We need to look at the example of the four tribes and Gideon’s family. We must recognize our spiritual enemies and rally together under the banner of Christ. A good chance to do this is rally together for the upcoming Easter Bible School with DuPage UBF.

Part ll: Gideon’s Desire For Encouragement (6:36-40)

Even though Gideon was strengthened by the presence of the Spirit of God, and even though he summoned Israel to arms, he was still lacking confidence. And so he presented a test to God. Look at verses 36-38, “Gideon said to God, ‘If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised— 37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” 38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.’”

This is an aside note. But there is a good reason for putting out fleece on the threshing floor. It was a dry floor, full of dry powder that absorbed moisture readily. If the fleece was wet, when the ground was dry, it would be a real miracle. Also, the Canaanites worshipped Baal, who was the god of the harvest. The threshing floor would have been considered part of Baal’s domain and according to their theology, they would have felt that the God of the Israelites would never communicate to and rally the Israelites from a threshing floor. But we know that God can and does communicate and do his work even in the domains of other religions. He is working powerfully in the Middle East, India and even in China. He is working the hearts of adherents of other faiths…even in the hearts of atheists. Locations, whether within or without, can not stop Jesus from doing his will.

God’s will had already been clearly revealed in 6:14-16. “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?’ 15 ‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family. 16 The LORD answered, ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.’” Through divine revelation, he already knew that he was appointed to deliver Israel. But Gideon had no confidence in his own strength. Nor did he have confidence in the strength of his people. His fear and doubt were keeping him from moving foreword. He wanted confirmation of the Lord’s presence and power to enable him to accomplish the task. He also wanted physical evidence that would convince the people that he was really calling him to lead them.

Though it is true that we need facts to make good decisions, it is also true that we need strength and encouragement from God to carry through with what we know is true. Gideon had all the facts, but still he hesitated. He delayed obeying God because he wanted even more proof of God’s presence. God obliged him and we will see the wonderful affects in the next study.
This is not to be taken as the usual method of discovering God’s will, but God graciously reassured him anyway. We should not use this fleece passage to find out the will of God. This passage is for people who know the will of God, but have no confidence that God is with them and lack strength or resolve to carry through with the will of God. To make this passage practical it would be a good idea for us to first discover the will of God, through much Bible study, prayer and thoughtful reflection and then accept it and then put out your fleece in order to receive confirmation that God is with you.

It is amazing that Gideon still asked for another confirmation from God, but he did. Look at verses 39-40, “Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.” Gideon may have thought that he had asked the wrong thing since wool attracts dew. And so he asked God to let the dew fall on the ground but not on the fleece the next night. God obliged him a second time, confirming that God was indeed with him, and would grant him victory as He had promised. Gideon’s faith was further strengthened. God is very gracious and eager to encourage his people. James 1:5 reads, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

The best way to receive confirmation of God’s will and guidance is through his word in the Bible. Listen to what 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We can always trust the council we receive from the word of God. Psalm 119:105 reads, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

If we are fearful and hesitant concerning the will of God, we must realize that Jesus has already confirmed that he is with us in the world mission command. Matthew 28:18-20, “18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus promises us, that as we step out to do his will, he is with us to the very end of the age. He is will be with us to strengthen us, encourage us, inspire us, teach us, counsel us and open locked doors for us. (According to his will.) Is that not what Gideon wanted from God by using his fleece? Don’t let “fleece” become a substitute for God’s wisdom that comes from Bible study and prayer.

The problem is that the promises of God in the Bible are not enough for us. We do not just simply believe. We want more. We want signs to accompany the call of God. God understands us. To accept the will of God and the calling of God directly from the word of God in the Bible is the ideal. But we are human beings. Gideon was a human being. God meets us where we are and helps us where we are to accept and move forward with the revealed will of God in our lives.

Today we must ask ourselves, “Have I allowed myself to be oppressed under the power of sin?” There is a way out. Cry out to God, like the Israelites. Receive a renewed strengthening by the Holy Spirit of God. Respond to his leading. Then your situation will be changed. God will free your heart. He will accomplish great things in and through you. There will also be a unity among us so that we can serve Jesus more effectively. This begins when we have unity with Jesus first. Are you still not convinced? Then put out your fleece? Not to find the will of God, but to be convinced that Jesus is with you each step of the way as you seek to obey his will. God will meet you where you are in this. But when he confirms the “fleece” you have put out then be ready to move.

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