Stories of Five Judges, Part 8

Gideon Gets Good News, Judges 7:9-15

In our last session together, we looked at God’s sifting process; how God chose the army that He would use to defeat the Midianites. It was to be by 300 men that God would achieve victory over an army of 100,000. In Scripture there is always a “faithful remnant” that works for the Lord. A faithful and creative minority has always served the cause of righteousness more effectively than the careless masses.

In this sifting process that we looked at last time, we also saw a picture of how God’s election works in relation to human freedom. God in His sovereignty has chosen those who would serve Him and be saved. But as was demonstrated in how God worked in thinning out the ranks of Gideon’s band, an individual’s response to the conditions set down by the Lord will determine whether or not that individual will be included in God’s elect. In other words, as it relates to the Gospel of salvation, God has elected to save only those who by faith respond in repentance to the calling of God. Salvation is a work wholly of the Lord, but at the same time contingent upon the obedience and faith of the individual.

As we resume the story, God has left Gideon with less than 1% of his original army. Is it any wonder Gideon’s faith began to waver again? Remember, Gideon didn’t have these words to fall back on:

[H]e who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:6b)

We may speculate that Gideon, when he saw the size of the original army, was greatly encouraged that he was able to inspire that many men to fight by his side. But now, he must have wondered what in the world God was doing now? Had God called him, brought him a sizable army, only to take most it away from him? Remember this: God is concerned with quality, not quantity. What God desires is not an impressive outward appearance at all. The Psalmist wrote this:

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. (Psalm 51:6)

Not only Gideon, but all in his army needed to learn this, and Gideon learned it because of the events of this chapter. Gideon was encouraged by the:

1. The promise of God, 7:9

During that night the LORD said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands.

This will the third time God came to Gideon to reassure him. Why did God give what amounted to three signs to Gideon? For us today, that doesn’t make sense. Surely fire out of the rock would have done it for most of us. The whole wet fleece/dry fleece was pretty powerful too, but God came three times to boost Gideon’s faith. This was because in Jewish culture, any promise of action repeated three times was considered an absolute certainty.

God had already won the forthcoming battle, but now Gideon was being called upon to be obedient and jump into the purpose of God to accomplish His will. Gideon was called to trust in God and His promise of victory.

What are some of the promises of God to His people? There are many of them, but let’s examine just five,and as we do, consider your responses to those promises.

  • Philippians 4:19: And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. God has promised to supply every need we have. Note, God has literally obligated Himself to meet our needs, not the many things we think of as needs. “Needs” would include things like: food, shelter, companionship, love, and salvation in Jesus Christ.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God has promised us grace upon grace.
  • Jude 24: To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—God is able to hold you up, sustain you, keep you in grace. In fact, in a practical application of this we read 1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
  • Romans 8:13: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Of course, there are issues of context involved with this promise, but it basically means exactly what it says. It may be difficult for us to see and understand how this is accomplished at times, but God has promised it, and He will deliver.
  • John 10:27-28: My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

Great and glorious are those promises, but while they are given freely by God, they must be accepted by us. God doesn’t force His gifts on anybody; they must be accepted.

2. The providence of God

When we are living for God and walking according to His will for our lives, then we are the fortune few to whom this verse applies:

If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)

God is in the process of doing this this with Gideon. God made Gideon’s steps firm and upheld Gideon in three ways:

A dream, verse 13:

“I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”

In God’s providence, Gideon, with his armor bearer Purah, happened along just as an enemy soldier was describing his dream to a friend. Everybody dreams, but this one was written and directed by God Himself. What Gideon heard gave him a strength and a courage he never had before. Certainly God came to Gideon miraculously in his call and commission, but this time God’s sign of His presence was striking. Here God had given a dream to a man, not for his benefit but for Gideon’s benefit! And this man being used of God was an enemy soldier!

What are the odds that Gideon and his friend should show up at the exact moment this man was recounting his dream to his friend? This is God’s providence at work. “Providence” has been defined as:

The foreseeing and guardianship of God over His creatures…a manifestation of His divine care or direction.

Perhaps a better definition would be this:

The divine intervention in the affairs of man within the confines of natural law to bring about God’s objectives.

All this means is that for the child of God, there are not coincidences. God uses the things of this world; people and events, to accomplish his will in the lives of His people. It’s not always identifiable, like “Look, God opened up that parking space for me!” In fact, providence is seen best in hindsight; rarely do we see it at the moment it happens.

The interpretation, verse 14

“This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”

The soldier hadn’t seen Gideon and his friend standing there, he was referring to the dream, he was giving an interpretation of the dream to his friend and Gideon overheard. Barley bread probably represented Israel. The key to the interpretation of verse 14 are two words in verse 13. First, the Hebrew word translated “collapsed,” mithappek. It is also applied to swords, as in the flaming sword at the entrance to the Garden of Eden. The other important verb is “overturned,” which is taken from the same root and described the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah. The “overturning” or “overthrow” of the tent represented the collapse of the nomadic forces.

This dream to the enemy of God produced fear and trembling and self-condemnation. But these exact same words to Gideon produced courage and self-confidence.

Response of Gideon, verse 15:

When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped God. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.”

This whole scene was what Stephenson referred to as a “divinely ordered coincidence.” God planned the whole thing, and this was the last bit of encouragement Gideon needed. He paused after he realized what he had just seen, and silently worshiped God. This must always be our response after we witness the finer of God at work.

This was all Gideon needed. So sure was victory, in fact, that when Gideon returned to his camp, he spoke in the past tense, as though the victory was already won. It was, in God’s way of reckoning.

3. Our response

The Lord is gracious to give us providential evidences of the truth of His Word to us. However, that should be the exception, not the rule. His Word to us should be enough. What God heard that day didn’t make the promise of God any more sure. Remember the words of Paul:

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

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