January 2013 - Heroes of Faith

Heroes of Faith.  Week 3 Gideon
Judges Chapters 6-8

Judges chapters 6-8 tells a story of an ordinary person who followed God.  Gideon lived in the time of Israel’s judges (about 1300 BC), during which time the Israelites fell under the hand of the Midianites due to the evil they did in the eyes of the Lord (Judges 6:1).  The Midianite oppression was so severe and cruel that many of the Israelites had moved into caves in the mountains to escape (vv2-6)
God needed a man to deliver His people. No one who knew Gideon would ever have guessed that he was the man … in fact he himself didn’t believe it (v15)!  The narrative is built around God’s accommodation of Gideon’s need to be convinced.
And Gideon certainly needed convincing! The story of Gideon’s fleece relates part of the process God used to assure Gideon of His sincerity. Twice Gideon asked God for miracles to prove that He would follow through with His promises.  But Gideon needed still more confirmation, so God convinced him two more times (7:7,9).  After three miracles and six direct statements affirming God’s call, Gideon was still sceptical!  Finally, God sent him to the Midianite camp, where he listened in the shadows to a soldier’s dream (7:10-14).  Gideon accepted his assignment with timidity but ended it in strength.  He courageously defeated the Midianites and faced down his rebellious countrymen (7:15 – 8:21).
Interestingly God spoke powerfully to me personally through the story of Gideon when I was asked to be Rector of Ashtead over 14 years ago!!  God gave me Judges 6:14 in my reading the day after my interview … “Go in the strength you have …”  Interestingly, it was only after I had been here a while that I was told that at a prayer meeting about the appointment of a new Rector, God spoke into the meeting that the person He had chosen was reluctant to come!  The rest of that story is history but God has confirmed the rightness of being here time and time again!!
Gideon is, in a way, like every one of us. God commissioned him … much as He commissions us … to live in a way that honours Him.  Some view Gideon’s need for reassurance as evidence of weakness. But think about it: don’t we all have doubts and questions about many of life’s great decisions? We pray for God’s help but then doubt the sincerity of His promises to help.  We pray for God’s guidance and then waver in our belief that He will guide us.  But Gideon was honest about his doubts.  He faced down his fears, asking his questions and wrestling with his torments.  He succeeded because he was a person convinced by God … and a person convinced by God is a person possessed by God and used by God.
Gideon teaches us how to address our doubts about God’s promises to help.  Putting God to the test as Gideon did is rarely legitimate, but we have open to us many avenues to help us discern God’s will: reading the Scriptures; praying for God’s direction; talking to other Christians; sharing in a small group; reading good Christian books.
Gideon had doubts. That doesn’t make him different from us. But Gideon addressed his disbelief and became an effective leader.  Remember, a person convinced by God is a person open to be used by God; and an ordinary person used by God is one who can do extraordinary things for God!
Discovering the Word:

  1. Gideon called the people to battle (6:34-35) before he laid out the fleece (6:36-40).  What do you think would have happened if he had asked for the proof first?
  1. Many people have sought spiritual guidance by asking for a specific sign based on the story of Gideon.  What does Gideon’s experience teach you about “fleecing”?
  1. How would Gideon have felt when over two-thirds of his men went home (7:3)?
  1. How were Gideon and the Israelite army like a barley loaf (7:13-15)?
  1. How was Gideon changed by these events (7:15-25)?
Applying the Word:
  1. How do you seek God’s guidance?
  1. In the past five years what have been two “sure” signs of God’s presence with you?  What are two present signs?
  1. Where are you uncertain, afraid, or overly cautious of God’s call to you right now?
  1. How has God given you encouragement when you have wavered in your faith?
  1. Gideon built an altar and tore one down overnight!  What would you like to “tear down” in your life, if you could?  And what would you like to “build up” to the glory of God?  How can your small group get started in this “overnight” project?
Responding in Prayer:
  • Pray that God will give you faith to carry out the tasks He has for you.
Bob Kiteley  10/1/13

Bob Kiteley, 14/01/2013