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Monday, May 12, 2014

The Six Gifts

Judges 6

In this chapter of Judges, the writer of judges, most likely Samuel, introduced his readers and hearers to Gideon, his family, the Israelites, and their plight of Midianite oppression. As we read about Gideon in chapters 6-8, we learn several things. First, we learn he was a faithful son of his father Joash. Gideon thought of a way to fool the Midianites and keep food for his father and the entire family. Second, we learn that Gideon's father called him Jerubbaal, which means “let Baal plead.” Third, we learn Gideon’s name means “hewer” or “cutter down.” The latter we will learn is an apt name for him. Fourth, we learn the Midianite kings killed Gideon’s brothers. Fifth and most important, God used Gideon for His purpose. Before you begin to read this Bible study, I recommend you read Judges 6-8 to recall what occurred. This study covers mostly Judges 6:11-24.
The preliminary verses, Judges 6:1-10, give us background of what occurred during that time. The Israelites chose to worship Baal, the god of the Canaanites. When Yahweh gave the land to the Israelites as the Promised Land, He told them through Joshua not to worship the gods of the land, the gods of their fathers, or the gods of Egypt (Joshua 24:11, 14-15). After Joshua’s speech, the people chose and testified they would serve the LORD (capitalized LORD stands for Yahweh in the Hebrew language). As we return to Judges 6, we read the Midianites ravaged the land of Israel, took their grain harvest, and took their animals. For seven years this occurred. The people despaired and thought God left them to perish. When the people cried out to the LORD, He sent a prophet to them who said in verses 7-10,
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.’ [NASB]
This prophet sent by God explained to them why God’s hand of protection left them. An angel of the Lord appeared as a wayfarer, a stranger to the area to speak to them. He came to speak with Gideon, specifically.
            The angel of the Lord gave Gideon six things from the LORD. First, before we learn what the angel said, we need to understand who or what the angel of the LORD is. The Hebrew word used here is mal’ak yehwah. The mal’ak yehwah is a supernatural being bearing a message for God. In the Old Testament, the angel of the Lord was part of the Godhead, while in other passages a distinction occurred between the Lord and the angel. Generally, though, the terms “angel of the LORD,” the “Lord,” and “God” are synonymous (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology). The angel of the Lord brings messages of good and evil (Genesis 16:7-14, Joshua 5:13-15, 2 Kings 19:35, and Zechariah 1:12). A connection exists between the angel of the LORD and the pre-incarnate Messiah (Judges 13:9-22). The New Testament makes no mention of the angel of the LORD because the Messiah is this person. When we look at the Judges 6 passage of our study, we find the angel of the LORD speaks to Gideon in verse 12 and the LORD speaks to him in verses 14, 16, and 23. Gideon recognized the angel of the LORD as Yahweh in verse 22 and feared being in His presence and having looked at Him.
            Let us now consider what the Lord gave to Gideon. First, the LORD gave Gideon courage. In verse 12, the angel of the LORD said, “The LORD is with you, oh valiant man.” It appears Gideon did not do anything about which the LORD would proclaim him valiant. When we look at the life of Gideon in hindsight, we see otherwise. First, Gideon supported his father after the slaying of his brothers. Second, he became the sole son to ensure food and other provisions were available for the entire family. He hewed a wine press out of rock and beat the wheat against the rock to get the grain. By doing it in this way, he hoped to thwart the Midianites taking their grain again. Third, the LORD knew Gideon would be valiant in the future. He helped rout the Midianites, Amelekites, and the armies of the east. Hence, the angel of the LORD gave Gideon courage.
            Next, the angel of the LORD gave Gideon a command. Verse 14 says, “The LORD looked at him and said, ‘Go this in your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?’" Gideon spent the previous seven years with other Israelites who suffered hunger as the Midianites pillaged their towns and villages. He was downhearted about this knowing, as every Jewish child did, that the LORD gave them the Promised Land and promised to be their God. Gideon wondered, as each Israelite did, why God took His protective hands from them. God provided an answer through His prophet and through the angel of the LORD. He chose Gideon, a valiant man, to bring His deliverance to Israel and remove the hands of Midian from them. God answered Gideon and He commanded him.
Third, the LORD gave a covenant to Gideon. God promised in verse 16, "Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man." This promise is the second one He gave Gideon. The first promise we find in verse 12, “The LORD is with you.” This second covenant is a more emphatic statement. Yahweh Himself spoke this time. He promised His presence with Gideon as he defeated the Midianites and their allies. God is always faithful to His covenants/promises. This covenant shows the Midianites that God’s hand remains on His people.
The fourth thing the angel of the LORD gave Gideon was comprehension. God caught Gideon’s attention. Gideon felt the wayfarer was more than a mere man. He felt he might be hearing from the LORD Himself. Gideon asked to prepare a meal for the messenger and begged the man to stay until he returned from his preparations (vs. 18). When Gideon returned with the meat, broth, and bread, the LORD told him to place it on a rock and pour the broth over it (vs. 20). The LORD then placed His staff on the meat and bread and fire sprang from the rock and consumed them. Gideon knew for sure at that point he was in the presence of the LORD. If the messenger were a man, he would have eaten the food. The LORD has no need for food. The food Gideon brought to the LORD was an offering to Him, not sustenance. The LORD consumed the food with fire as a fragrant offering, which is what Gideon learned from his past teachers. This messenger was not a mere man, but the LORD. Gideon understood/comprehended. He feared for his life because he saw the LORD’s face.
Fifth, the LORD gave calm and peace to Gideon. He said, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die” (vs. 23). Gideon needed God’s peace for two reasons. He needed His peace to face the Midianites and their allies. Most importantly, at that moment, Gideon needed peace that God would not strike him dead instantly because he saw the face of God. Remember Moses covered his face when he came before the LORD at the burning bush (Exodus 3:6). Elijah covered his face when he went to the mountain and heard God’s voice in the quiet after the strong wind, earthquake, and fire (1 Kings 19:13). The LORD taught Moses that humankind cannot see His face and live (Exodus 33:18-20). Moses and his descendents taught the Israelites this lesson. Gideon feared for his life after seeing the LORD’s face, but the LORD gave him calmness and peace within himself.
The final gift the LORD gave to Gideon was consecrated commission. Being consecrated means being set apart for God’s purpose. The LORD commissioned Gideon to destroy the altars to Baal and Asherah. He commanded Gideon to build an altar to Him from the wood of the Asherah. Gideon reminded the people who Yahweh is when he shattered the altars. He showed the people Yahweh was real and Baal and Asherah were not when the gods the people worshipped did not retaliate. Gideon showed Yahweh’s supremacy and built an altar to Him as He required in verse 26. Yahweh said, “And build and altar to the Lord your God on top of this stronghold in an orderly manner and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of Asherah, which you shall cut down.” Gideon became God’s anointed leader for Israel for that time.
God saw a valiant man. Gideon played a role in God’s eternal purpose, received a covenant from God, comprehended God talking to him, and received calmness of spirit from God. God’s work did not end after Jesus’ apostles died. He continues to call out and set apart people today for His purpose. God continues to give courage, covenant, and calm to His people. God is ever-present, non-ending. Time does not contain Him; thus, He continues to work in our lives and world today.
If you are a follower of Jesus, are you reading the Bible and praying every day? Would you be able to hear God’s voice if He spoke to you? He has a purpose for everyone. God calls His children to “go and make disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the farthest parts of the earth” (Matthew 28:19-20). He consecrates and commissions every Christian to tell others about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God not only calls us to go out and tell, but He gives us courage, His covenant, and calm. We have to decide if we will listen to Him. We must seek Him in Bible reading, in prayer, and in listening to sermons and teachings from the Bible.
God gives each of us the choice to turn to Him or go our own way. He will not force His will upon us. We must choose. God gave Gideon courage,
                                                                     a command,
a covenant,
                  and a consecrated commission.

These go hand in hand when a person chooses to follow God. 
Each person can answer God’s calling and purpose for his or her life and receive these, too.

 You must choose