Lessons from Gideon Week 2: The Test

I hope most of you were here last week as we opened with an introduction to the book of the Judges, and specifically-the time of Gideon. We learned about the disobedience of the Israelites and the consequences thereof; most importantly, however, is that we learned about how the Israelites called upon God and He immediately answered their call and called forth a deliverer by the name of Gideon. Gideon was hiding in the wine press when an angel came to him and called out of the coward a hero. We left off with Gideon finally understanding that God truly called him to deliver Israel and Gideon built God an altar named, “The LORD is Peace.”

So today we pick up on the very same night which we left and are going to jump right in and read Judges 6:25-27:

25 That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” 27 So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night.

While we left off last week with Gideon believing God had called him, Gideon never actually answered God’s call. What we find in this passage is Gideon’s answer; God gives him a specific task, and if Gideon is willing to take up the task, essentially he is telling God that he is willing to rise up as the judge God has called him to be.

The task God gives Gideon in vv25-26, is to take a bull from his father’s herd and another 7 year old bull to be sacrificed. It is assumed that the bull from Gideon’s father’s herd was taken to pull down the altars of Baal and Asherah and then the second bull was sacrificed to God on the altar Gideon was to build on top of the stronghold, as God said in v26.

I want to point out where the altar of Baal and the Asherah pole were located. It was owned by Gideon’s father! No wonder Gideon had no faith in God and God’s faithfulness towards him, and instead believed that God had abandoned Israel-he was brought up by a family who built the altars of false gods.

Therefore, before you think that this was a small task, remember that Gideon had to either ask his father for a bull or steal it without his knowing in order to tear down something his father himself had built. God’s task isn’t just that of tearing down an altar, it was a request to put God before Gideon’s family. God was testing Gideon’s resolve right out of the gate with the question, “Will you follow me with courage, or will you follow your family in fear?”

Over and over again we see in Scripture that God tests his people, or allows his people to be tested. In Genesis 22, God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac; in Genesis 32, Jacob wrestled with God; in Genesis 39-40, Joseph is tested through his brothers and false imprisonment; in Job, God allowed Job to be tested by Satan; and in Luke 4, Jesus was tested in the desert. The Bible is literally full of narratives where God allows his people to be tested. Why?

God cannot strengthen our faith without allowing us to be in circumstances that cause us to question our faith.

Each time we are tested, God teaches us something about ourselves and He teaches us something about Him. Each trial we face shows us the depth of our strength-it shows us how strong we can be with Christ-it shows us that we truly can face down any struggle with God’s help. Not only that, but it shows us God’s faithfulness to us. Each time we face something we believe we can’t overcome, God brings us through it and shows that we can trust Him 100%.

When my dad passed away, issue after issue arose with my mom and how she would live financially without my dad. Every problem that arose from my dad’s death – time after time after time – God took care of my mom. Every single time. It was a time of trial and testing, and my mom clung to God long enough to see that He was faithful at every turn. The times when we are tested are our times of growth. James 1:2-4 puts it like this:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of various kinds. For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness; and let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

When we face trials, James tells us to count it as the utmost joy, because we know that we are going to learn so much in this time and we will get to see God go to work for us! It is the time when we learn how to persevere in our faith; James tells us that perseverance has its full effect by making us perfect – which to James, meant completed in Christ – and it is perseverance that fills us so that we lack nothing in our spirits. So why wouldn’t we rejoice? The times God allows us to be tested are times when our spirits will be completed and perfected. These are the times we grow closest to God and we feel His presence wrap around us, pouring His love and comfort into us until we overflow with it.

Gideon was tested, and God was perfecting him for the upcoming battle. As we can see in the v27, Gideon still was full of fear. He had courage enough to fulfill God’s task, but he did in in secret, hiding in the dark, so that no one would know it was him who pulled down the altars.

I think about the ones who were baptized in church today, and those of you who have been baptized before – publicly admitting Christ as your Savior. Like Gideon, each one of you is asked to cut down every false idol whose altar you have built in your life. Like Gideon, your dedication to God may be in direct opposition of you family, your friends, your loved ones. He has called you to a mighty, daunting task. And it is ok to be scared about how this new decision will change your life. Do you think that our actions are any more discounted when we do them, even as we fear? When God gives us a specific task, it is completely ok to be scared witless about it. Actually, most of the things God asks of you will scare you witless. It is how He knows that you will have to rely on Him to get it done. And it is ok to be scared. It is not ok to be so scared that you allow fear to rule over you and don’t do as God asks. The first time I taught my Bible study, Impartial, live to the adult class, I was seriously a hot mess. I almost had a panic attack – I questioned everything I thought I knew about the subject: I questioned myself and my preparedness: I questioned what right I had to be  teaching these incredible people: I questioned why I thought I had any right to “teach” anybody. I was in tears, shaking, and just a hot mess. Jonathan, the youth pastor I serve with, prayed over me and told me that I could do it. Then, I got on my face before God and told Him there was no way I could do this unless He was with me all the way. I asked for His peace and His anointing. And you know what? I immediately felt a sense of calm wash through me and I knew it was God. He had called me to this study and He was going to equip me with everything I needed to get it done – not because I knew anything or had anything to teach, but because the God who lives within me did.

When God calls you to witness, to share your testimony, to pray for a person or a group of people, to tell someone that you are a Christian and to share the gospel – you are going to be scared. God does not allow us to stay in a comfortable place, but pushes our boundaries into places where we are not able to do it without Him. We are called into a partnership with God. We have to be willing – we put in the work and God makes it possible.  Gideon was willing, so let’s find out what God’s part was in vv28-35:

28 When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.

33 Now all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East came together, and they crossed the Jordan and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him. 35 And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, and they too were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they went up to meet them.

Gideon was in trouble. Somehow the men found out that Gideon was the one who tore down the altars and they wanted him to pay for it with his life. But his father defended him – even though Gideon took a bull from him and tore down the altars that he had built – and said to let the gods defend themselves. Gideon’s father, Joash, basically challenges the existence of the false gods and convinces the townspeople to let the gods contend for themselves. Obviously, they can’t do anything because they’re not real and Gideon escapes the situation unharmed.

When we do the work God asks us to do, we will face trial and persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a Godly life in Jesus Christ will be persecuted.” But, unlike the gods Joash told to contend for themselves, we serve a God that is very much real and alive- One who will absolutely take up for Himself and His children – until His plan for our lives are completed. He doesn’t promise that we won’t be persecuted and killed for Him – He only promises justice and vengeance. God took up for Gideon; in vv33-35, we see Gideon clothed in the Spirit of God and calling the peoples of Israel to his side in preparation for war.

This is not the last time we will see Gideon question and test God, but it is the first time we see Gideon take up his God-given role as leader and deliverer of Israel. The men are preparing for battle; God has come to save them once again. He is a God of mercy and unfailing faithfulness. Praise His holy Name! Next week we will return and see how God prepares Gideon and his army for battle; I hope you join me! With so much love and so many blessings, Audrey L.

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