Preached by Dr. Gene Scott July 11, 1976
And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto
Him, The LORD is with thee. . .And 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 . . . but now the LORD hath forsaken us . . . And the Lord looked
upon him, and said, Go in thy might . . . have I not sent thee?
TAKE YOUR BIBLE please and turn to Judges 6. It is an old and familiar story, but my prayer is that you won’t just hear the words of a preacher today. I would like the Holy Spirit, because of the experiences that you have had as an individual, and for this church, to let you come to know the truth of Gideon’s life. These men of God in the Bible were men into whom God intruded His own life, until their life histories wrote a deeper truth that is eternal. Gideon is one of those “heroes of faith” catalogued in Hebrews 11, who went before us. His example is one that reaches to the most ordinary kind of man.
Let’s start with his circumstance. Judges 6:1 says of Israel, the people of God in the Old Testament, “The LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.” Fix that in your mind. Seven years they were in the hand of Midian. It takes time for some things to be accomplished, including the lessons that God wants to teach us. “And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianties the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.” Put flesh and blood on these Bible people. These were the select of God, the ones who had been the recipients of His favor. Now they are oppressed.
“And 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; And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza…” Gaza is at the jumping-off point south of Tel Aviv into the desert area. Beyond that, the desert stretches down toward Egypt and the Red Sea. You couldn’t grow much south of there. In essence, everywhere they had planted was destroyed. These enemies “left no substance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox. . .” Their animals and grain were all gone. Ask if your circumstance is analogous: oppressed, with no seen way out. “For 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. And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord.”
Prayer did something. “And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD,” He started acting. “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.” (Judges 6:7-11)
I want you to look at this man Gideon. You don’t thresh wheat in a winepress. A winepress is in a grape vineyard. He was there because if he had threshed wheat in the wheat field, he would have been exposed. He was hiding, and in a winepress, which was a sunken area in the ground where they would put grapes and tread them with their feet. So he was getting as low as he could get in that vineyard, hidden beneath the vines threshing wheat, trying to get just enough to eat for one day. He had no hope of riches. His highest hope seemed to be just trying to “get by,” and not getting caught in the process. Gideon is called a “hero of faith,” but he doesn’t look like it here.
“The angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.” (Judges 6:12) The Septuagint version was a translation of the Old Testament into Greek prior to Jesus’ coming. It is called the Septuagint because it is said to have been translated by 70 scholars. It translates the passage this way: “The LORD is with thee, the mighty man of valor,” or “the One who is mighty in valor.”
The old Syriac versions put it in these words: “The LORD is with thee, He who is mighty in valour.” It is very important that you see that, because the translators of the King James Version, drawing upon existing manuscripts and working diligently, will sometimes change a meaning a little bit. The words here lend the impression that it is Gideon who has valor. “The angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee,” not “thou mighty man of valor” because he wasn’t! He was hiding in a vineyard. Does that look like a mighty man of valor, hiding in a vineyard threshing wheat?
If you read the story in a hurry and race to the conclusion, he does look like a mighty man of valor before he gets done, but the original will not support it. It is the Lord who is mighty in valor! I would like you to write the correction in the margin of your Bibles. For those of you not comfortable with making corrections to the King James, let me say that this is the Bible you find me preaching from all the time. This King James Version is pretty hard to beat. But I won’t go quite as far as the lady who said, “The King James was good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for me.” I haven’t done anything to God’s Word. The original puts the valor on the Lord who is with Gideon, not Gideon who is hiding in the vineyard.
Notice the language of Gideon: he doesn’t sound like a man of valor. The context will back up what the Septuagint translators did. One scholar has called this the “vocabulary of doubt.” Recognize here what you have to eliminate before you can ever become a Gideon. As long as you are going to talk like this, you’re not going to make it. I want you to circle these words in your Bible. The Lord appeared to him there in the winepress, pressed out of shape in his circumstances,
And 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.
Now, the Lord talks to Gideon a second time. The Lord is patient, as He will be with you. “And the LORD looked upon him, and said, “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites.” What is his might? “Go in this thy might… have not I sent thee?” That was his might. The Lord mighty in valor was with him, and his might was the Lord sending him.
Let us look at Gideon again. In verse 15, “He said unto him, Oh my Lord. . .” How many of you have ever said, “Oh my Lord?” That’s not worship!
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.
The Lord talks to him for the third time: “The LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianties as one man.” And here goes Gideon: “And he said unto him, If. . .” Are you getting bored with the repetition? I’m sure God does, too. This is what He has to put up with from us. After all that, Gideon said, “If now I have found grace in thy sight, then show me a sign. . .” If I were that angel, I would’ve said, “A sign? What do you think you are looking at?”
Gideon said, “Don’t you go away now until I bring a present!” “. . . And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out unto him under the oak.” The angel of the Lord consented, and a flame of fire consumed what Gideon had placed before the angel. Then, after the fire and the visible sign that he had asked for, “Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! For because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face.” (Judges 6:22)
How often have you said, “Oh my Lord, if. . .why. . .where be... forsaken. Oh my Lord, wherewith. . . I am poor. . . show me a sign?” Gideon would never have become the example of faith, and he would not be in the book of Hebrews if he had not eliminated that language. Don’t miss it! Through His grace, God was willing to put up with Gideon’s doubt and keep coming back again and again. But Gideon didn’t come out of his winepress until finally he gave way with his mind, recognized what was happening, and said, “Alas, the Lord is here.”
We have a New Testament illustration of this. Many were praying for Peter to get out of prison. When he was at the door, they didn’t believe it! (Acts 12:12-16) The children of Israel had cried unto the Lord, but Gideon wouldn’t believe it when the Lord was there. Eventually he did, saying, “Alas. . . I have seen an angel of the LORD.”
Verse 24 says, “Then Gideon built an altar. . .” Where? There. Where is “there?” Right in that vineyard where he had been hiding? Right in that winepress area, where he had been trying to thresh some wheat, “Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD.” And what did he call it? He called it Jehovah-shalom: “The LORD is peace.”
When you meet people in Israel today, they say shalom when they meet you and shalom when they go. Among other things, it means peace. Why did Gideon call that altar Jehovah-Shalom? We need to demystify spiritual things. Some people make the things of the Spirit so far out you can never reach them. What is peace? Go to the ordinary sense of the word, and you understand what peace is. I made up an expression for it: peace is “cessation of against-ness.”
You are not going to get peace by praying long enough for it to somehow drop out of the sky in a funny color and land on you and clothe you with it, so that you can walk out thereafter and say, “I have peace.” You have peace when the fighting ceases. You have peace when surrender occurs. You have peace when opposition is over. You have peace when against-ness ceases.
I want you to notice what went on at that winepress: Gideon built an altar, and it was an altar symbolizing peace. An altar is always a place of death. An altar is a place where rights are reconciled, expressed or positioned. An altar before God is always a place where surrender occurs: you recognize God’s rights and you recognize man’s rights, which are none. At an altar, death occurs to symbolize the dying of that in us which is coming into submission. Something dies at an altar, and that brings the peace. What died was Gideon’s questioning mind. It is as simple as that! When he finally quit arguing and positioning his sight on the circumstances and his mind against what God had said, he gave up. Then the Lord became the Lord of his life, including his mind and his questions. He symbolized it at an altar of peace.
Do you know what he is saying at that altar? “Okay, God, I’m going to finally get rid of this vocabulary of doubt.” You are going to see it doesn’t last, because these crocks of clay in the Old Testament are like us. They have to die the same death over and over again. But when you die that death the first time, at least it gets easier the second time. He began to become a hero of faith when he made an altar in the place where he was, quit arguing, and made peace. That is the way it will happen to you.
The Lord will deliver you with a promise first, and “faith is the substance of things hoped for.” That which is hope is not yet fact; it doesn’t take faith to believe in facts. Nothing has changed since that day until now. The heroes of faith in God’s book are those men and women who were willing to take God at His Word when He said something, to hang their lives on it despite what they see. It didn’t look like the Lord was with him. He didn’t look like he could save Israel. I dare you to find one change in his circumstance. The vineyard was there, the winepress was there and the Midianites were there. And the Midianites got worse. They clustered with more enemies until the threat became bigger as the story progresses. But Gideon built an altar, without one change in his circumstances. The only thing that had changed was a promise from the Lord. You may say, “Well, if the Lord had talked to me that way, I would build an altar, too.” He has! In 2nd Corinthians 1:20, “All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen.”
What had been said to Gideon? “The LORD is with you. . .This is your might. . .I have sent you,” and “Surely I will be with thee.” Has the Lord promised to be with you? The promise is “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) Has the Lord sent you? I don’t have to look any further than the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19-20) That’s why we make the world our parish. That’s why we believe that as long as we are going out with the Word, and as long as we are discipling, and as long as we make the world our objective, we are in that Commission frame and the Lord has sent us. That’s our might! There are no losers in that camp. You have more promises in this book to apply to your circumstances than Gideon had. Yours is the same choice now. You can make peace and quit arguing. Gideon had made his peace. I don’t know what your problem is, but it isn’t any worse than Gideon’s. You can make your peace with God.
“It came to pass the same night,” the minute he made that peace, “that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock. . .” (judges 6:25) The Lord told Gideon to cut down the groves and the images to Baal. Baal was the sun god, and idol worship had come into the land. After Gideon made his peace, the Lord told him to cut down those groves and images and to create another altar and offer another sacrifice. On this second altar he was to offer what is known as a “burnt offering.” A burnt offering was a dedication offering, a thing of beauty to God. It was a “sweet savour” offering. The animal that was a burnt offering was slain, and the blood, which contained the life, was captured in a vessel. Then the whole sacrifice was placed on an altar and burned with frankincense, consumed for God’s pleasure.
The burnt offering always symbolized the giving of a life to God’s will. It was ultimately to be fulfilled when Jesus, as the perfect burnt offering, was obedient unto death, pouring His life out. As the believer offered his burnt offering and watched it being consumed in the fire, he was in essence saying to the Lord, “I want this life that lives to be consumed for You. I want to recognize at this altar that as You claimed every element of that animal in the fire, You have a right to claim every part of this living being.”
In the New Testament, Paul said to the Corinthians: “And that he died for all,” speaking of Jesus, “that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (2nd Corinthians 5:15) He died. He poured out His life unto death in the perfect burnt offering. We live. But when you offer that sacrifice, whether you do it in the New Testament frame of a dedication, where with the heart you believe and with the mouth you say it to God, or in the Old Testament frame, where you actually offered an animal, it was a recognition that God has a right to have all of you.
God made Gideon offer a burnt offering, which was to say to his Lord, “You have a right to have every bit of me, even to the point of taking me unto death as You take this consumed animal.” Once Gideon recognizes God’s rights, that God has a right if necessary to take his life, God asks him not to give his life but to do something he can do. God didn’t say, “Now go out and prove it and die.” He said, “Go cut those images down. Deal with the first thing that you clearly know violates My Word. You’ve made peace; you’re going to take Me at My Word.” In that frame, God had expressed Himself about the worship of idols, about anything that came between God and those worshipping saints. Do what you obviously know you should do that God has said.
Some people are forever hunting for God’s will; they want a special revelation. We would turn our communities upside down if we would just go out and start doing what we already know God has told us to do. Someone has said you will never receive the unknown will of God for your life, which is a special revelation, until you are acting on the known will. This is the clear Word for all of us. There are exceptions, but the one who said it made a very profound point. Amos says, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3) If you get far enough away from our transmitters, you can’t pick them up. God is going to be where His Word is expressed. When you start walking in this Word and taking the simple steps that the Word has already told you to take, even though it may not apply to your problem, then you are in a place where God will give the special revelation. You are close enough to the transmitter that He can talk to you.
God didn’t tell Gideon to go out and tackle 120,000 Midianites. God said, “Go cut some wood down.” (Judges 6:25-26) Do you know what I like about this verse? Verse 27 says, “Gideon took ten men. . .and did as the Lord had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night.” A “hero of faith,” scared! God had told him to do it, but he was so scared of what might happen to him that, even though an angel had spoken to him, he did it by night.
Glory to God! That tells me the Lord can get it done even with our weaknesses. You can criticize Gideon for being scared all you want, but he got it done. He did it by night because he was scared, but he did it! Was the Lord any less able to help him in daylight than nighttime? It’s that same man with his faltering steps. Gideon shut up with his questions, but he hadn’t cut the root out. Do you find it hard and difficult? Is the residue of doubt still in you, and are you still a little fearful? Do it anyway! Quit asking the questions; make your peace. Do an obedient act! Start lining up with what the Lord has said, no matter what you want, and do it.
What happened? By morning, it was done, and the people of the city said, “Who did this? We are going to kill him!” Then Gideon’s dad suddenly found some courage and stood up for his son. He hadn’t been doing anything, but now when he saw what his son had done, he said, “Anybody that does anything, I’ll get on them. Let Baal fight for himself. It’s his idol that has been cut down.” Gideon’s father stood up and was counted.
If you carry that negative voice in your circumstance: why, wherefore, if, where be, pretty soon you will suck all your family into the vortex; you will never get out of your problem. But even though you stumbled and crawled when you started, drive a stake in the ground today and say, “I’m going to take God as His Word. I’ve made my peace, Jehovah-shalom, that’s behind me. I have everything at my disposal to give to God such as I am. He has a right to take my life, But Christ died for me. The very least I can do is start obeying Him even if I’m scared and stumbling.” So you know what will happen? When you do it, somebody else will stand up. It will happen every time.
“Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel.” The devil always overplays his hand. The enemies of God got beaten up so many times in the valley of Jezreel that you would think common sense would tell them not to go there. But there they were. And “the spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon.” The angel of the Lord was with him in his circumstance; he had made peace. The Word of the Lord told him to obey and dedicate himself and do something he could do. And after he had walked, when it came time to run, God was on the corner before he got there.
Now, after the beginning steps, the big task is on him. All the enemies of God are in the valley of Jezreel. When it came time to meet the enemy in its full strength, “the spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon.” The literal is “the spirit of the LORD clothed himself with Gideon.” (Judges 6:34) The Spirit put him on like a garment. God was on time. Gideon didn’t need the Spirit of the Lord clothing him to cut a piece of wood in half. He could do that simple step without all this enablement.
God is always there. If you will make your peace in your circumstance today, and if you will just start doing what you know God has told you to do, and if you will eliminate the negative and hang yourself on God’s Word one step at a time, when the big task comes, the Lord will be there in His Spirit.
This ought to comfort you. There are lots of people who would like to rewrite this story: “And Gideon became a saint with no flaws thereafter.” But right after “the spirit of the LORD came on him, and he blew a trumpet,” he sent messengers all through the land; and then Gideon, the same Gideon who had the Spirit of the Lord come on him, “said unto God, IF.” If I were the Spirit of the Lord, I would have unclothed myself in a hurry and left this man. Same root coming out!
I am a realist. As the Pastor of this church, I expect that the symptoms of the flesh and the doubts of the past and the impediments to peace with God and victory will reoccur, but they have to be dealt with every time. Don’t expect it to change in a stroke. You still have to deal with the “old man.” Glory to God, I see it here. It gives me hope!
“Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if in the morning the dew comes down and the ground is dry and the fleece is wet, I will know you are going to go with me.” The next morning he got up and wrung a bowl of fluid out of the fleece and the ground was dry. Wouldn’t you expect that to be enough?
Gideon said to God, “Don’t get mad at me now, God! I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece. Next time I’m going to put it on the ground. . . let the ground be wet and the fleece be dry.” It is just like us, isn’t it? That is the way we are. “And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.”
Most of you know the story thereafter. They went to a little brook that runs through a valley that is down under Mount Gilboa in the valley of Jezreel. You can still find it there. He had 32,000 men with him. God says, “There are too many of them, Gideon. There are hundreds of thousands of the enemy over there on the hill of Moreh,” now called Little Hermon, “but lest this people think that they have done it instead of Me, I want you to cut the size of your army down. Tell them to go home, a bunch of them. If they are scared at all, go home. Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him go.”
Billy Graham once preached about the need of “backdoor revivals.” There needed to be the elimination of a wrong attitude. Do you know how many Gideon lost? “And there returned the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.” (Judges 7:3) That is about 69 percent! If some ministries lost that percentage of followers, their congregations would have a heart attack. God says, “That is still too many. Go down to the brook and drink, and you watch them. If they drink a certain way put them over here, and if they drink another way put them over there.” When he finished, 300 qualified. God said, “Send the rest of them home.” (Judges 7:7) From 32,000 to 300!
Then God said to Gideon, “Today I am going to deliver you.” But He had already figured out this man Gideon. God knew he would get scared, so He said, “If you are going to be afraid, I want you to go down to the camp and take this servant Phurah with you and go into the camp.” So Gideon went to the camp of the enemy and sneaked up by the hill of Moreh. He had his servant with him and landed, some would say by chance, outside the tent where a couple of the enemy soldiers were talking. One of them talked about a dream, about something crashing down on the camp. The other soldier interpreted the dream. He said, “That is Gideon; he is going to come and smash us.”
How is that for timing? Gideon went to the tent where the soldier had the dream and the interpretation was there. It is almost as though God had said, “This fellow has to be led by the hand and spoon-fed.” But He did it! God gave him the vision, and then Gideon knew it was right. Gideon told the men to get a pitcher, a lamp and a trumpet. And 300 of Gideon’s men gathered around the camp that night, and at a certain time, in the dead of night, they broke their pitchers, and the light shined. Put flesh and blood on these Midianites: imagine that you are one of those asleep in the tents. Gideon’s men started blowing their trumpets and shouting at the top of their voices. The Midianites must have torn the tent pegs loose running out of their tents as Gideon’s band descended on them. The Midianites got so confused that they started fighting against each other in the middle of the night! Gideon and his band pursued them clear across Jordan and killed over 120,000 of them; and 40 years of peace were ushered in to the land with 300 dedicated men of faith.
What is the message? Why don’t you make peace here and now? Don’t wait until your circumstance changes and the Spirit comes along and gives you those visions. Do it now. Eliminate the vocabulary of doubt! Decide here and now, “I am going to go by God’s Word.” Then start doing what you can do, even if you are scared and stumble, and then watch God do the rest. When the big job comes, He will clothe us with His Spirit. He will be there before we get there. The battle is the Lord’s.
-From Dr. Gene Scott’s The Pulpit, Volume 2
Re-printed and published with Pastor Melissa Scott’s permission.
Prayer Requests for November, 2013
For Robert Casto’s (Cushing, Oklahoma) wife, for finances and health to improve.
For Dennis Martin (Lexington, Oklahoma) who will be having heart surgery soon.
For Willie Scott (Grady, Arkansas) who is still battling pneumonia.
For Isaiah Robinson (Menard, Illinois).
For Willie Clark (Lubbock, TX), who is still in medical being treated for cancer.
For Wade Miller (Wewahitchka, Florida), who wants to get approved for a “faith based program.”
For William Holland (Joliet, Illinois), for health. He has Sciatica nerve pain and needs cataract eye surgery, also.
For Rodney who also has Sciatica nerve pain.
For Frank Williams, Jr. (Death Row, Grady, Arkansas).
For Robert Russell’s (Sumner, Illinois) Mom, Billie Rose, for health. Also his sister-in-law has spine cancer and has been told she only has a few months to live.
For Michael Small’s (Illinois) step mother Suzanne. She is still being treated for vision problems.
For John Crutcher (in Oklahoma) who needs a liver transplant.
For Anthony Grayson (Elmira, New York), that his health gets better, and that he finds legal assistance.
For Mike Long (Larned, Kansas), for health.
For Sister Ann & the Carmelite nuns in Little Rock.
For Freddie Lee Lott (Robinson, Illinois), to stay “cancer free.”
For Robert Heffernan (Grady, Arkansas), that DNA evidence will prove his innocence.
For Pastor Scott & her ministry in Los Angeles.
For all of us at Wingspread.
In Memory of Johnnie Dunnum September 25, 1953 - June 7, 2013
Our old friend, Johnnie Dunnum was promoted on June 7th, 2013.
Johnnie wrote to Billie in 1995 and had continued to stay in touch with us right up until June of this year. His last letter talked about getting out of prison next year. And To our knowledge, his death was totally unexpected. One day his newsletter came back marked “deceased.” His passing should remind us to stay “ready,” because we are not promised tomorrow.
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