December 24, 2013
Sunday – December 15, 2013 – Read the Word on Worship
Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.” But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.”
We are not told exactly when it was that the men of Israel asked Gideon to be their king, but it would seem that it was not long after the victory over the Midianites. What they are really proposing is that Gideon accept the position of being their king and that his ruling over Israel would result in a dynasty. This would assure the Israelites of a strong military leader as well as a continual line of succession. One cannot read this request without thinking ahead to 1 Samuel 8, where the Israelites demanded that Samuel appoint a king for them, a man who would go before them into battle.
On the surface, it would appear that Gideon (rightly) rejected this offer. He seems to do this in very plain words: “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” The right words for the right time. And so we continue to think of him as a hero, looking at his recent conduct as a momentary lapse in conduct and character. But in just a moment – just a couple of verses, actually – our optimism regarding Gideon will go up in flames when we read that he created an ephod that he then set up in his home town as an object of worship. Obviously, something bad happened to Gideon after the miraculous victory God achieved using Gideon and this negative change in Gideon persisted for the rest of his life, nearly forty years.
Gideon’s refusal to be Israel’s king is the right answer theologically speaking but that, in reality, he hypocritically lived a king’s life. For all intents and purposes, Gideon had a harem. The average Israelite certainly did not have many wives and concubines. Not to mention the tax and contributions from each of the soldiers’ collected spoils of war. He may not have taken the title of king but he certainly acted like a king. All the right words were spoken but all the wrong actions were taken.
Gideon reminds us how easy it is to stumble and fall and how few there are who truly “finish well.” That is what makes me so sad when I read about Gideon – he did not finish well. And we should be warned when we realize that many of those who once did well did not finish well. This would include people like David, his son Solomon, and Hezekiah as just a few examples. It does not get easier and easier to live the Christian life as you get older; it gets harder. How important it is to recognize our weakness and to cling to our Lord throughout our lifetime, so that we may finish well.
Sunday – December 8, 2013 – Read the Word on Worship
“Then Gideon said to God, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken, behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.”
Now let’s be honest with one another. Isn’t Gideon’s unbelief something that is familiar to all of us who have come to trust in Jesus as our Savior? We believe in the Lord Jesus, and we know that we are eternally saved, safe and secure in His keeping. We believe that God’s purpose is to proclaim the good news of the gospel throughout the entire world. We believe that God is going to bring many to faith. We even believe that God may bring revival to our country, and perhaps even to our neighborhood. But we have our doubts when we consider the possibility that God intends to accomplish these great things through us. God may use a Billy Graham but surely He will not use me in any significant way! That is what this test is all about. Gideon wants God to confirm His promise to achieve Israel’s deliverance through him.
It seems to me that in this “test,” there is both good news and bad news. The bad news is that Gideon is reluctant to take God at His word. He knew what God had said; he just didn’t quite believe it. The good news is that Gideon is not proud, arrogant, or confident in his own abilities. Gideon is scared to death and clinging desperately to God. That is a far better place to be than confident in one’s own abilities. Or is it? Our culture says otherwise, and so many Christians think otherwise. Much like the secular world, we think that those most likely to succeed are the ones who have great intellect and healthy self-esteem, are good looking and aggressive. In God’s world, it is the weak and helpless He uses to achieve His purposes. Or, putting the matter in the terms of our sermon title: “Less is More.”
God’s deliverance comes to men because they are desperately helpless to save themselves. That was true of the Israelites of old. It was not because those who were needy did something great to win God’s favor; it was because God is gracious to those who cry out for His help. This is still true today. Everyone is a sinner, in bondage to sin and unable to save themselves. In His great mercy, God sent the Perfect Deliverer, Jesus Christ. He came to save those who were helpless and hopeless. Just as Gideon was not intended to get the glory for the deliverance of his fellow-Israelites, but only God, so it is only God who should get the glory for our salvation, not us. Have you acknowledged your bondage to sin and your helpless state? Have you cried out to Jesus for the salvation He alone can give? If you have, give Him the glory He alone deserves.
December 1, 2013 – Read the Word on Worship
Now it came about when the sons of Israel cried to the Lord on account of Midian, that the Lord sent a prophet to the sons of Israel, and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel,’It was I who brought you up from Egypt and brought you out from the house of slavery. I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land, and I said to you, I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not obeyed Me.”
There are two very important forces that affect faith in our culture; pluralism and privatization. Pluralism is the process by which our culture accepts a wide diversity of beliefs and practices as having equal merit. Considering the free society in which we live, this tolerance of other views is necessary for the functioning of the nation. In terms of religion, our nation is made up of many faiths, and our system of government allows people to believe and practice their faith as they see fit, provided they are not a danger to themselves or others.
It is necessary in a democracy to accept the reality that many faiths can coexist and be embraced in our nation, but this does not mean that all these faiths are equally true and valid. According to the Bible, and particularly the Lord Jesus Christ, Christianity alone is true faith, and faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins is the only way to heaven. People have the freedom to believe and worship however they wish, but only Jesus Christ saves, and only the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
Privatization not only embraces pluralism, it seeks to promote it. Our culture wants to believe all religions are of equal value and all of them will eventually get you to heaven. So pluralism says you can believe whatever you want, but privatization insists that you must not hold your belief as exclusively true. And so in the culture the only unpardonable sin is to attempt to impose your belief on someone else. Privatization insists we keep our faith – whatever that may be – to ourselves. This is the opposition we as Christians see in society towards evangelism.
Our text exposes these modern beliefs as false. The Israelites did not have the freedom to worship whatever they wanted. They were commanded to believe in the God who saved them from Egypt and had given them the land of Canaan. God told them through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 42:8 “I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.” The Great Commission demands we share our faith with others who are lost apart from trusting in Jesus Christ for their salvation. Gideon must tear down his father’s idols and publicly worship the God of Israel. Our text challenges us to confront the pluralism and privatization of religion in our lives. There should be no such thing as “secret Christians” for those who follow Jesus Christ.