Judges 6.1-10 Faithful Answer

May 20, 2012 Series: Judges | {Un}Faithful (Part 1 of 2)

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Judges 6:1–6:10

Intro: the rise of Gideon
The book of Judges is the continuing story of a faithful God saving an unfaithful people living in a world broken by sin. Led by an 80 year old fugitive shepherd named Moses, God had delivered Israel out of Egypt and brought them into the land of the Canaanites, a land he had promised to their great great great great grandfather Abraham centuries earlier. Judges is bookended by the conquering of that Promised Land under Israel’s first General (Joshua) and the establishment of the monarchy under Israel’s first King (Saul), the Book of Judges records what happens after Joshua and all of the leaders in his generation have died. Having conquered the land, God’s people are to fully possess their inheritance and live in it faithfully. Possessing their land fully will require driving out the remaining pockets of resistance—which God has promised to do if they will commit to fight in the land that is ALREADY THEIRS. Specifically, they must obey God’s command in Deut. 7 to annihilate the enemies, to make no covenants with them, to not intermarry with them, and to destroy their religious altars. Judges is the history of that failure.

It’s called Judges, but God is the only one in the book given the title JUDGE. Without a leader, Israel consistently falls into sin which leads to God judging his children and hands them over to an oppressor. Then, in response to his children’s cry, God raises up a deliverer to judge His enemies. There is one “deliverer” for each of the 12 tribes and up to this point, we have seen four. Today’s text signals the rise of the 5th deliverer, Gideon, one whose story extends over the next three chapters.

V. 1 Worldly Sorrow
The story begins with the chaos of the war with the Canaanites having subsided. During this time of rest and peace from war, the life that had ceased returned….for a time. They were broken over their situation, but never over the sin that got them there. Even though men cry about their pain, weep over those who we have hurt, even fight for a time, that doesn’t mean they are repentant. There may be freedom from the sin for a time but, if there is no heart-level healing of a man’s relationship with God, the oppression will return. Israel rebels again. As they have before, they abandon their relationship with God—forget who he is, forget what he has done, stop listening His Word, stop believing his promises, and stop heading his warnings. Instead of trusting the creator for security and joy, they do “what was right in their own eyes”, and worship his created stuff.

V. 2-5 God gives them
And this time, God’s actions make him seem as if he is losing patience, perhaps a bit exasperated by his rebellious kids. For the last few rounds of the cycle, God “SOLD” his people into the hands of a person, an oppressor. This time, God JUST GIVES his people over, abandons completely to a mob of people called the Midianites. Only God has the right to sell or give a people away because he owns everything. As Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’. This a very different way to view our lives. It’s not just that I am called to manage everything I might obtain in this life; that VERY LIFE I use to obtain it is OWNED by God. And God giving his people away sounds almost like placing his people at the end of his driveway with a “free” sign on them. It is like an exasperated Father asking, what are you doing?

“Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not.  Do you not fear me? declares the Lord.  Do you not tremble before me?  I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it.  But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away.  They do not say in their hearts, let us fear the Lord our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.  Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you."  Jeremiah 5.21-25

The Midianites
Because of their sin, God hands them over to the Midianites, a people with a colorful history with Israel. Descended from one of the wives of Abraham, they first appear as the travelling traders who rescue Joseph out of the pit his brothers put him, only to sell him to into slavery. The Midianites show up again, this time in a more positive light after the Exodus from Egypt. Moses had married the daughter of a Midianite priest named Jethro. Jethro was incredibly helpful in advising Moses how to lead the millions he’d led across the Red Sea up until after they left Mt. Sinai. Some Eastern Midianites show up as the Israelites are travelling toward the Promised Land. They join with the Moabites to attack Israel. They hireda soothsayer named Balaam who, at one point, had advises them to send Moabite women into the Israelites camp to the men of Israel into worshipping false gods (Num 25,31). It worked. Soon afterward, they paid Balaam a huge sum of money to prophesize curses upon God’s people—which God prevented, but didn’t forget (Num 22-24). Eventually, God takes vengeance on Midian and orders their complete annihlation all the kings, men, women, including Balaam. (Num 31).

The Midianite Oppression
So, God delivers his children over to a people who have a bit of a bone to pick with Israel. They were a nomadic people, wandering the countryside, unorganized and unmotivated beyond taking whatever they wanted to meet their immediate needs. They had no culture, no home, and no qualms about going from the place to place robbing and pillaging. This made the Eastern Midianites a despised people, considered to be like an unintelligent and undisciplined MOB without a king. For the people of God, who had defeated Canaanite King and his Mighty General Sisera with his 900 chariot army, the Midianites should not have been a problem. But without God, these wandering camel-riding Bedouins overpowered Israel. In fact, they scared Israel into the hills where htey made dens and caves to hide and cry in. Their sin had resulted in a, literally, dark oppression of isolation and self-imprisonment.

The Midianites, the Amaelikites, and the Ishmaelites would wait for Israel to plant their their crops every year. Then, at harvest, they would SWARM in and devour their harvest. They would come in like Locusts (big and fast) with their tents, families, their animals, set up camp, eat everything and then flee. They would lay waste to the land and leave nothing for Israel. And now, after seven years, they have no food, they have no money, they have no life. Every time they would work hard, replant the crops, set their defenses, only to experience another wipe out. For all the work they do, day after day, they get nothing, no fruit from their labor. Ironically, by forgetting all of God’s work on their, behalf, they had robbed Him of his glory. Now, their enemies rob them of their work.

Cry and Response
After seven years of this, verse 6 says that Israel has been brought LOW. Their hungry, poor, tired, and living like cavemen. And so, THEY CRY OUT for HELP to God. And what do you think they are crying for? Relief. Change these circumstances. Get me out of this situation. . Give me so food. Give me so money. Give them some mad-camel disease. Do like you have always done; raise up a savior to deliver us from this situation. It seems as if Israel has begun to take God’s grace for granted, as if they can manipulate God: do what we want, get in trouble, call out to God, and get rescued.

But God breaks the cycle. He doesn’t raise up a deliverer to save them from their enemies. Instead, God sends them a prophet to scold them. An unfaithful Israel asks for relief from what they see as the problem, and a faithful God answers by addressing the real issue. Their life was not in chaos because of the Midianite mob. Their life was in chaos because their relationship with God was broken. And their relationship with God was broken because they had refused to give up their sin. More often than not, God is more interested in our understanding than he is in our relief (R.Davis).

Our pleas to God are not much different. We life is prosperous, fruitful, and satisfying—our faith is strong. But when life is hard, fruitless, and unsatisfying—we cry out to God. But we cry out to him for relief of our circumstances not faith in them. As my good friend Jim Fikkert said, we may not be a health and wealth church, but we certainly have a health and wealth theology in our approach to God. We approach God desiring easy, practical answer to our problems, and he reveals to us the depth of our sin and the breadth of his grace. We want fix, and God gives faith.

All is grace
Rebuke is probably the last thing you want to hear when you’re hungry, poor, and living like a caveman. But if we read how the prophet scolds Israel, we see that our God does not come laying out the HUGE RAP SHEET of capital crimes they have charged against them—he reminds them of His grace. This is not the kind of prophetic condemnation we expect. Typically, when a PROPHET shows up in Scripture, we expect them to provide a list of all the things they have done wrong and the end with – NOW HERE IS HOW YOU ARE GOING TO DIE. But here, we see God revealing to them not only WHY they find themselves in the cave, but HOW they can get out of it. He doesn’t list of ALL of their moments unfaithfulness, but reminds them of his faithfulness:

1) I LED you out of the kingdom of Egypt

2) I BROUGHT you out of bondage.

3) I DELIVERED you from your oppressors.

4) I DROVE out all the enemies and conquered everyone in the land of Canaan and I GAVE you their land, their fields, their cities, their wells, their flocks, their money, everything.

5) I TOLD you I am the LORD YOUR God, do not fear anyone—implying—I got your back! I did all of that. I did it all for you. You did nothing but come along for the ride.

And in 85 words of prophecy, only 7 words are actual condemnation. And the one condemning statement is to show that their response to this much grace is unbelievable--I have done all of these things…BUT you have NOT OBEYED MY VOICE. Not, now I am going to kill you but, HOW COULD YOU FORGET? . In fact, we see God raising up a deliverer in verse 11. This is grace. In his mercy, God does not give these men what they rightfully deserve—death. Beyond that, he gives us what we do not deserve—life. Someone who truly embraces grace, understands very clearly what they actually deserve—the depth of their sin.

Grace of Christ
And they also understand that God is just and wrathful, but it is not the fear of God’s wrath that draws someone to God. We need to fear God—Jesus said so. But it is the kindness, patience, and grace of God that leads someone to repentance. The truth is no one will ever be scared into heaven because fear doesn’t change a heart. Grace does. Faith begins with grace—seeing and savoring and trusting who God is and all that he has done for you, despite who you are. Faithfulness is a response to God’s grace.

I know that many of us here feel like we’re in a cave. We’re hungry, tired, poor, alone, and despairing. We work hard, but have nothing to show for it. And though I know you think the solution is a change of circumstances—a new job, a new house, a new relationship, a new ________ will make it all better. But I am here to say that a change of circumstances is not the answer—it won’t change the internal problem God is trying to reveal to you—what you need is faith in the grace of Christ. You need to remember the grace of God in Christ.

The book of Hebrews begins by saying, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… So, if God needed to give us more teaching about his grace, and if that could lead us to relationship with Him, he would have sent another prophet. But God spoke his final words when he sent his Son to do more than teach us about His grace. Jesus came to redeem us—to die the death I deserve to die, and to give me the sinless life that I don’t. That grace is the same, but greater, than what we see for Isarel:

1) Jesus LED you out of the kingdom of death and darkness—you are alive, with purpose, with meaning, with hope because YOU ARE a child of God, a citizen of the King

2) Jesus BROUGHT you out from your slavery to sin—you are free, you are not enslaved to your sin, through Christ, it no longer has the power to control you.

3) Jesus DELIVERED you from your oppressors—you are not defined by your sin, you have been forgiven, your accusers have been silenced, the judge has declared more than innocent—righteous

4) Jesus DROVE all the enemies, he cleaned house, he revealed the earthly riches of power, wealth, fame for what they were—meaningless and unsatisfying AND Jesus GAVE you an incomparable eternal inheritance--17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2Cor 4.17).

5) Jesus TOLD you I am the LORD YOUR God, do not fear anyone, keep moving, keep fighting, —I will be with you always.

Remembering grace should lead us to boldness—not timidity or fear. That grace should inspire us to be bold in our identity, bold in our suffering, bold in our love, bold in our mission, bold, fearless, and courageous! And though many of us claim to know God’s grace, a lot us remain sitting in the cave waiting for God to change everything. At some point, we’ve stopped looking beyond our momentary problems—we’ve stopped listening to his voice. Listen to God’s voice…he speaks about grace.

More in Judges | {Un}Faithful (Part 1 of 2)

July 1, 2012

Judges 9:1-57 {Un}Faithful Rule

June 24, 2012

Judges 8.1-35 {Un}Faithful Zeal

June 17, 2012

Judges 7.1-24 Faithful Odds