On Sunday, August 9, Rev J T Raja, took a break from his regular ministry at the village church to be with the city church. The following is the message he preached in the city church.
Throughout biblical history God called and used people, both individuals and group to do great things for Him. Very often He used ordinary men and women to achieve His purpose. He used Joseph an ordinary boy sold as a slave. He became governor of Egypt to save that nation and his own people from severe famine. He used Moses the son of a slave woman, took him to the palace of Pharaoh and made him learn all the skills that were needed to bring His people out from slavery and to the Promised Land.
He used Esther a captive woman, Elijah a settler, Elisha a farmer; in the New Testament He used 12 ordinary fishermen. God has been using people to achieve His purpose. The greatest thing in life is to be used by God.
Today we will look at the life of Gideon whom God used greatly (Judges 6:11-16). He was an ordinary man like us. He was struggling in his faith as we do; he had doubts, unbelief and fear. God met him again and again helped him in his doubt and used him. We will look at two incidents in his life.
Encounter with God
The angel of the Lord came and sat down to the place where Gideon was threshing wheat secretly in a wine press to keep it from the Midianites. Normally the threshing was done in an open area. They toss the wheat up in the air and the air blows away the chaff and the grain falls to the ground.
Here he was threshing it in a wine press. The wine press is about three feet deep pit. Very often it is cut out on a rock. The pit is big enough for many people to stand in it. They put the grapes, and the people stand and crush it with their bare feet. The juice flows through a channel to another pit where it is stored for fermentation. He was inside that pit so that no one could see him.
He was a frightened and a confused man. He was frightened of the Midianites because they suppressed them so much. He was a confused man because his forefathers had told him that the Lord had done great wonders to deliver them from the Egyptians and brought them to this great land. His confusion was: if God is so great, if what my forefathers said is true then why do we struggle as we do now. Why is He not helping us anymore? In fact, he thought that God was not with them anymore. He had abandoned them.
This is the main reason for his fear also. When we think that the Lord is not with us then we will be afraid every time we face a problem. Here Gideon was a frightened man and in this situation the Lord appeared to him and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” God says two things here. “You are a mighty warrior and I am with you.” His main problem was that he thought the Lord is not with them. But here comes the Lord and tells him I am with you.
This is God’s promise to us. In the Bible in many places God says “I am with you” or “Fear not I am with you.” Our problem is like Gideon we don’t realize that God is with us when we go through trials. Lack of faith and fear go together.
Gideon’s immediate reaction was, if God is with us why are all these things are happening to us. Like Gideon we too have felt like this many times. Whenever we go through trials our faith is shaken and we think the Lord is not with us. This thought is so terrible.
Two years I went through the same problem. Every time I knelt down to pray the thought would come to my mind saying ,”He is not with you, He has forsaken you, no point in praying to Him”. It was so strong that I was not able to pray. Those days I would just go on my knees and cry. It took long time for me to come out of that. The Lord spoke to me through Isaiah 41:9, 10: You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
I read those verses many times. Later, I realized that the main reason for that problem was that I neglected spending time with the Lord.
You know God is with us all the time whether you believe it or not. He is with us each and every moment. Because HE has given us the promise “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
The Lord was with the Israelites also. Judges 6:1 says “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and for seven years He gave them into the hands of the Midianites.”
Seeing all the trials Gideon thought that God was not with them but the above verse says that it was the Lord who put them under those trials. God was always with them and watched all they did and they did evil in the eyes of the Lord. The Lord was with them each and every moment, but they never realized His presence in their lives and lived as they liked. The trials they faced were God’s way of reminding them of his presence among them. Except for these trials they would not have come back to Him. (Verse 6 says,” They cried out to the Lord”) God is always with us and we should remember this fact as we live. Once you become a child of God you can’t live your life the way you want to. Don’t let Him remind us of His presence in our life. Recognize His presence in our life as we live.
In verse 13 Gideon was questioning God so much without acknowledging the fact that the people had brought the calamity on themselves. It is easy to overlook our personal accountability and blame God for all our problems. But it neither helps us to solve our problems nor bring us closer to Him. So when problems strike us the first thing we should do is to look within us and confess the sins that may have created those problems.
In verse 14 The Lord turned to him and said,” Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of the Midianite’s hand. Am I not sending you?” Gideon must have thought that the Lord will do some miracles like He did before and save them. It never crossed in his mind that God would ask him to do that and for this very purpose He revealed Himself to him. He said you don’t need any strength I am sending you and I will be with you. It was God who would accomplish His purpose but would do it through Gideon.
This is exactly what God has been doing throughout the history. He uses people to accomplish His purposes. All God wanted was his commitment and the willingness to do what God asked him to do. But Gideon was giving excuses. “I am small and I can’t do it.” God says,” I will be with you and you will strike down the midianites. I will be with you and help you in your weaknesses and will give you strength to do it. God revealed Himself to him for this purpose to save his nation.
Encounter with the Midianites
Gideon was a man who had his doubts and fear. He wanted God to clear his doubts by miraculous signs. (In verse 17 he asked for a sign and again in verses 36 to 40 he asked twice for signs) This shows his lack of faith in God’s word. When Gideon asked second time for a sign he thought God may get angry. But our God is very slow in getting angry. (Exodus 34:6) He is a long suffering God. When we doubt Him and turn our backs to Him He suffers and suffers long. But never gets angry.
God did whatever Gideon had asked and cleared his doubts. Can we today seek guidance by putting out a fleece like Gideon? In Gideon’s time, they didn’t have the complete Word of God with them and they had to depend on prophets and some miraculous signs. But today we have the Word of God with us and God wants us to trust His promises. He wants us to read it, study it and spend time with Him in order to know His will in our lives.
I personally believe that the people who ask for signs are the people who do not spend enough time with Him. Putting a fleece out is easy but it doesn’t work all the time. God want s us to spend time with Him to know Him and His will in our lives.
All Gideon had to do was just trust the Lord and go forward and the Lord would have led him but he delayed two days because of his doubt. In chapter 6 God is dealing with Gideon to get him ready for the task. In chapter 7 God is dealing with Gideon’s enemies through Gideon. It was God who delivered His people through Gideon and a small army of three hundred committed men. Nothing is impossible to God. When we commit ourselves to Him, God can use us to do great things. Are we willing to be used by God?