God’s Mercy, Our Ministry

We are all the recipients of the mercy of God, which means we each have a ministry, and because of this simple fact, we must not lose heart. Those of us who have accepted the truth of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are termed “Christians”. As such, we have each (in our hearts) renounced those things that are shameful and hidden, because we chose to not walk in deceit, but we want to walk in truth. Doing so, we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of our God. If others cannot understand the gospel that we share, it is not because we veil the truth from them, but because their minds have been blinded to the truth by the god of this age, the god that they have chosen to worship.

Because of this choice, they are perishing. They do not believe for fear that the truth of Jesus, the image of God, might shine on them. When light enters darkness, darkness flees, and those things hidden are revealed.

We, as Christians, do not preach for the benefit of our own glory, but for the glory of Him, whom we follow, our Lord Jesus Christ. God, the Father, has commanded that light come out of darkness, and we are called to share that light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus.

Living in these earthly bodies, the power of the Lord is in us, and not of us. We may be pressured on all sides, but we will not be crushed. We may be perplexed, but we do not despair. We may be persecuted, but we are never alone. We may be struck down, but we will not be destroyed. We are part of the body of Christ, and the life of Jesus is manifest in our bodies. We are witness to the power that fills the name of Jesus, and we are delivered to death in Jesus name. Through our faith in the reward of death, the life of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh. The death of any Christian should bring the reality of the immortality gained through faith in the truth of Jesus Christ.

True belief in the truth of Christ causes one to speak that truth boldly, knowing that God raised Jesus up to sit at His right hand and that He will also raise us up with Him. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, dwells in each of us. We will be reunited with the Lord by the power of God’s Spirit raising us from the dead. All things are for our sakes, so that grace can cause thanksgiving to the glory of God.

Don’t lose heart, simply because your mortal body is perishing with age, because your inward man is being renewed each day. The afflictions we face in this life are light and only temporary, and they work us toward the eternal weight of glory. We must not look at the things we can see, but at the things which we cannot see. All the things we see are temporary, but the things we cannot see are eternal.

Have a great Monday and wonderful week!

2 Corinthians, Chapter 4

JUDGES – Chapter 9

The last few verses of Chapter 8 give a short introduction to Chapter 9.

“And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and they made Baalberith their god. And the children of Israel remembered not Jehovah their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all of their enemies on every side: and neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all of the goodness to which he had showed to Israel.”

Gideon was a good man. He had a lot of admirable characteristics, but he also had a flaw, just as most good men have their places of weakness. With Gideon we read that he had seventy sons. This was definitely a weakness. These sons were not all from one wife, they were from many different women. He had many wives, and he also had concubines.

One of his concubines was a woman from Shechem who was a Canaanite. She was not really of the tribes of Israel, she was a Canaanitish woman living in Shechem. From her, he had a son whose name was Abimelech. And after the death of Gideon, Abimelech, the son of Gideon…….

Came to Shechem unto his mother’s brothers,

Although this woman in Shechem was a concubine to Gideon, she also had children by other men.

And so he came to his mother’s family, the brethren, and communed with them, and with all of the family of the house of his mother’s father, he said, I want you to speak to all of the men of Shechem, Whether it is better for you, either that all of the sons of Jerubbaal, which are seventy persons, reign over you, or that one reigns over you? and remember this: I am your bone and I’m your flesh.

So, he made a proposal to them, and reminded them that they were the same blood. They were related. He was proposing that they not be ruled by 70 brothers, but that they agree on one leader, and that one should be a member of the bloodline of his family.

And so his mother’s brothers spoke of him in the ears of all of the men of Shechem these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, Well, after all, he is our brother.

Now, he is really half Canaanite, half Israelite.

And so they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him.

He went out and hired a group of robbers, bandits.

And they went to his father’s house at Ophrah, and they killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, being seventy persons, upon one stone: with the exception of the youngest son of Gideon whose name was Jotham; who escaped and hid himself. And all of the men of Shechem gathered together, and all of the house of Milo, and they went, and made Abimelech the king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem.

This is somewhat of a creation of a kingship, which is more of a Canaanite practice. Israel, at this time in history had never had a king, for they were ruled by these judges. We now see this group of people in Shechem, with Canaanite origin, yet they are a part of the whole territory encompassed by Israel. They kill the sons of Gideon with the exception of Jotham, the youngest son, and they set up Abimelech as king.

Now when it was told to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and he lifted up his voice, and he cried, and he said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.

So, the one son of Gideon, who was left, went to Mount Gerizim. Mount Gerizim rises directly above the city of Shechem. The valley below Mount Gerizim, with Mount Ebal on the backside, forms a type of natural amphitheater. So, from the top of Mount Gerizim a person can yell down, and the people can hear you in the valley. This is the place where when they came into the land, where the men of certain tribes stood and pronounced the blessings, if they would keep the law of God, to the congregation that was assembled in the valley below.

Here, we see the youngest son of Gideon upon on this mount, calling down to the men of Shechem, who had conspired against his family, to his other brothers who had slain them. Then, he gives them a parable, which actually becomes a prophecy, or a curse, on them. The parable is this:

The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them;

The people of Shechem are represented by the trees in the parable, and Gideon is represented as the olive tree.

…….and they said to the olive tree, Reign over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? So the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, to go and be promoted over the trees? Then they said to the vine, Come, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, to go and be promoted over the trees?

This is referring to the drink offerings that they offered to the Lord from the fruit of the vine. They would pour out the drink offering to God. ‘Should I leave this ministry, to be promoted over the trees?’

Now, bramble is a thorny bush, like a tumbleweed, Abimelech is represented as the tumbleweed.

Then said all of the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

Now, I have never seen much of a shadow come from a tumbleweed, have you? The bramble bush was used mainly for kindling, because it ignites in a hurry and flames up fast. This is why we see the reference here ‘let fire come out of the bramble, but let it consume the cedars of Lebanon.’

Now therefore, if you have done truly and sincerely, in that you have made Abimelech the king, and you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands;

Quite an “IF” here, isn’t it? ‘If what you have done is really right, if it’s honorable.’ He is speaking of the dastardly deed upon the family of Gideon.

(For my father fought for you, and put his own life in jeopardy for you, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian:

Pretty difficult to find that what he had done to the sons of Gideon is right, at this point, isn’t it?

……. you have risen up against my father’s house this day, you have slain his sons, seventy persons, upon one stone, you’ve made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, the king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother;) If you have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you: but if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Milo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Milo, and devour Abimelech.
And then Jotham took off running,

So, he tells them, if what they have done is right, then have at it. But, if not, let there be a problem that arises, and let that problem cause you to burn each other.

If you ran at top speed, it would take you about 20 minutes to get from the valley to the top of the hill where Jotham was preaching his sermon. It is probable that the men of the city started to pursue him, but he had a 20 minute head start. It’s a flat, plain area on top of the mount, so you can really move. By the time they got to the top of the hill, he had disappeared. He fled to a city called Beer, which means ‘well.’

So Jotham ran away, and fled, went to Beer, and he dwelt there, for the fear of Abimelech his brother. Now when Abimelech had reigned for three years over Israel, then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech: that the cruelty done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, who slew them; and upon the men of Shechem, which aided him in killing of his brothers. And the men of Shechem set liars in wait for him in the top of the mountains, and they robbed all that came along that way by them: and it was told Abimelech.

About three years into Abimelech’s reign, the problems (fire) began to develop between the people in Shechem and Abimelech. This problem that arose, was of God. So, these guys become a sort of pirate group. They would rob anybody that would come along the road towards Shechem, and this was reported to Abimelech.

And then this fellow Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren, and they went over to Shechem: and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him.

Here, we see this guy, Gaal, come into the picture. He’s a Shechemite, but evidently he hasn’t been around. He comes with his brothers, and he gains the confidence of the people, who are already somewhat at odds with Abimelech.

And at the time of harvest they went out into the fields, gathered their vineyards, they tread the grapes, and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and
they cursed Abimelech.

They begin to get a little drunk, while celebrating the harvest. They are eating and drinking, and cursing Abimelech.

And then Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? is he not the son of Jerubbaal? and Zebul (who was the governor of the city of Shechem) is just his officer? serve the men of Hamor

In other words, he was suggesting that they serve the true Shechemites. He wanted them to go back to Hamor, who was a Canaanite. He had inhabited and established the city of Shechem, about the time of Jacob.

For why should we serve him? And would to God that I was ruling over these people! then I would remove Abimelech.

And so begins the bragging. “Too bad I’m not in charge, because I would kick him out.”

And then he sent a message to Abimelech, and it said, Gather your army, and come out and let’s fight.

Now, he is stating all this, within this circle of men. “Where’s Abimelech? Let him come out and fight me. Get his men, and come out and fight me.” His bragging is influence by the wine, I am sure.

Now when Zebul who was the governor of the city [appointed by Abimelech] heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.

He wasn’t strong enough to put down the rebellion himself.

So he sent messengers unto Abimelech privately, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brothers are come to Shechem; and, behold, they have fortified the city against you. Therefore come by night, you and the people that are with you, and lie and wait in the field: and it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, you shall rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against you, then you may do to them as you shall find occasion. So Abimelech rose up, and all the people that were with him, by night, and they laid in wait against Shechem in four companies. And Gaal the son of Ebed went out, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and Abimelech rose up, and the people that were with him, from lying in wait. And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, Behold, there are people coming down from the top of the mountains. And Zebul said to him, You’re just seeing the shadow of the mountains.

He was suggesting that he might be seeing things, perhaps shadows, as the sun is rising, looking like me. Zebul, of course, knew what was going on, but he was trying to hold Gaal back as long as possible.

And then Gaal spoke again and said, Look there are people coming down from the middle of the land, and another company is along the plain there. Then said Zebul unto him, Where is your mouth now, where you said, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that you have despised? go out now, I pray you, and fight with them.

He is now being called a big mouth. “Where is all your bragging at this point? If you’re such a man, have at it. Go out and fight with them.”

And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem, fought with Abimelech. Abimelech chased him, and they fled before him, and many were overthrown and wounded, even as he pursued him back to the gate of the city. And Abimelech dwelt in Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, so that they should not dwell at Shechem.

With his forces now decimated by the battle, Zebul was powerful enough to expel Gaal out of the city.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people went out into the field; and they told Abimelech. And he took the people, and divided them into three companies, and he laid in wait in the field, and looked, and, behold, the people were come forth out of the city; and he rose up against them, and smote them.

Evidently, the folks who were still in Shechem figured that Abimelech had taken care of Gaal, so the danger had passed. There was no more problem. So, the next morning, as the gates were open, they went out into their fields to work. At night, the folks would come into the security of the city, most of them having small farms outside the city walls. At daylight, they would leave the protection of the wall of the city and go out to work their fields. This day, as they went out of the city, Abimelech attacked them, because there is still the bad blood between them.

And Abimelech, and the company that was with him, rushed forward, stood at the entering of the gate of the city: and two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and killed them. And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and killed the people that were in it, and he beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.

He conquered the city of Shechem. The sowing of the salt was to destroy it, so that they could not plant. It was really just to lay waste the city.

And when the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, they entered into the fortress of the house of the god Berith. And it was told Abimelech, that the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together. So Abimelech got to mount Zalmon, he and the people that were with him; and he took an ax in his hand, and he cut down a bough from the trees, and he took it, and laid it on his shoulder, and he said to the people, Do what you have seen me do. And so the people also cut down every man his bough, and they followed Abimelech, and put them against the fortress, and they set the fortress on fire upon them; so that all of the men in the tower of Shechem were cremated, about a thousand men and women that were in the tower. Then Abimelech decided to attack Thebez,

Thebez was about 6 miles away. He most likely believed that they were evolved in the conspiracy against him.

…….and he encamped against Thebez, and he took it. But there was a strong tower within that city, and all of the men and women of that city, fled to that strong tower, and they shut it up, and got in to the top of the tower. And so Abimelech came to that tower, fought against it, and he went hard against the door of the tower to burn it with fire.

He attempted to use the same strategy that worked in the tower of Shechem.

But there was a certain woman who cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and crushed his skull.

I love this story. The millstone referred to here was probably one of the hand held millstones. Some millstones can weigh up to 300 or 400 pounds. No doubt, this wasn’t one of those. The woman wouldn’t be able to toss it off of the roof. They also had these smaller stones, similar to what the Indians used to grind their ears of corn. They used these pestles to pound their ear of corns, which were usually about ten inches long. These were long enough, so that they could do a lot of damage, if they were thrown off a tower and landed on the skull of someone. So, here is Abimelech, trying to beat down the door, and this woman heaves the rock over the side and hits him in the head, but it didn’t kill him. He was still alive, but he was fully aware that his time had come.

And he called hastily unto his armourbearer, and he said to his armourbearer, Take your sword, and kill me, I don’t want men to say, That I was killed by a woman.

It amazes me that pride ruled this man’s life, and now it rules his death. He keeps his pride, up to the end. It will get you every time. Amazing!

And the young man thrust him through, and he died. And the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, and they departed every one to his own place. And thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did to his father, in the killing of his seventy brothers: and all of the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads: and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.

The ‘fire’ came out and devoured them. It is interesting that he did cremate one thousand people or so that had found refuge in the tower. So, we see somewhat of a literal fulfillment of the curse that Jotham had pronounced against Shechem and against Abimelech for their treachery.

Teaching Notes:
Don D. Stephens

The Eagle Flies

Deuteronomy 32:11
As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, so the Lord alone led him, and there was no foreign god with him.

THE EAGLE
Many of us are going through difficult situations in our lives. Many of us have friends or family who are going through difficult situations in their lives. I couldn’t number all the times, when I have had folks come to me, because they are going through difficult times, and the first statement I hear is “Why is God doing this to me?” “Why is God allowing this to happen?”

You know, I actually believe that God allows tests, and even tests us Himself, BECAUSE He wants us to mature. He wants us to develop in our walk with Him. You see, our walk with God is based on our personal commitment to God, not on some emotional high or low.

In James, Chapter 1, we are told, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

eagle

You see, if you want your endurance to grow, you need to have your faith tested. We need to let our endurance grow, and when it is fully developed, we will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

A mother eagle takes some extremely drastic steps, in order to teach the little eaglet to fly. She actually just pushes it out of the nest and lets it fall toward the ground, which can be near 100’ high. As the small bird is falling, the mother will wait until it is almost near the ground, then suddenly swoop down, snatch it out of the air, take it back to the nest, and then repeat it all again. This is repeated over and over, until the eaglet begins to use its own wings. Eventually, the eaglet begins to fly and is complete, no longer needing to be kicked out of the nest. This may seem extremely cruel to most, especially when our current system of teaching our children leans so much into the philosophy of letting them move into life at their own pace, while we, as parents, are held accountable for any errors along the way, but this is how eagles learn to fly. It works, and the young eagles grow and thrive to soar in solo flight, eventually using the same method to teach their own young.

You see, as Christians, God will sometimes kick us out of our nests. We may be in our own comfort zone, with all things happening in a safe and orderly fashion. All of a sudden, God decides it is time for us to grow up, time to stretch our faith, time to spread our wings and find that perfect flight. We are all subject to trials, it is just a matter of time, before the next one hits.

Luke 22:31-32 says, “And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Here is your question: When these tests come, will you pass or fail?

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens

JUDGES – Chapter 8

And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why have you treated us like this, why didn’t you call us, when you went out to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply.
Enter the troublemakers chiding him about why he didn’t call them. Had Gideon been defeated, it would have been a different story, you can be sure of that. But, being victorious, here they come chiding with him, and they are really getting on his case. Gideon shows some real diplomacy here.

He said unto them, What have I done in comparison to what you have done? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim?

Gleaning is going in, after the harvesters are finished, and picking or gathering the grapes that remain.

Are they not better than the vintage of Abiezer?

The vintage is the first picking. Gideon is being diplomatic by praising what they had done. “Wow. You guys! Your gleanings are more than our vintage. What have we done compared to you?”

God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: what was I able to do in comparison to what you did? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he said that.

birds This was a very diplomatic move, on the part of Gideon, to be sure. Gideon does show some depth of character. The men of Ephraim are going to do this again, as we move through Judges, but they’re going to be dealing with a different kind and they’re going to wish they hadn’t done it. They did it once too often. Gideon was gracious, the next guy won’t be.

And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, and they were fainting, still they were pursuing. And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, some loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they are faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.

These are some interesting names, aren’t they? Zebah, Zalmunna, Zeeb, and Oreb. Actually, these names a bit terrifying. My wife would say I am guilty of the same, with the naming in our family, Kiier, Kiiler, Kiiedon, Kiilan, and Kiilys.

And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread unto your army? And Gideon said, When God has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I’m going to tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with the briers.

Gideon and his troops came to the men of Succoth. At this point, they are tired, worn out, and they were needing supplies for the troops. These guys are now trying to play it safe, when they said, “Hey, you haven’t conquered them yet. What if they defeat you? Then they’re going to come back and get even with us.” And, so, they refused to help.

Gideon warned them of what was to come, once God had delivered Zebah and Zalmunna, and it wasn’t pleasant.

And so he came to Penuel, and they answered him the same way as the men of Succoth: and so he said unto the men of Penuel, When I come again in peace, I’m going to break down your tower. Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their host were with them, there were only about fifteen thousand left, of all of the children of the east: they had already slain about one hundred and twenty thousand of them that drew the sword. And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in the tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and he smote the host: for the host was secure. And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and he took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and he discomfited all of their host. And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up. And he caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and he inquired of him: and he said, Describe to me the princes of Succoth, and the elders of the city, even seventy seven men. And they came to the men of Succoth, and he said, Behold, Here is Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom you did upbraid me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give you bread for your men that are weary? And he took the elders of the city, and he took the thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught them a lesson.

So, delivering on his threat, Gideon picked up some cacti type plants, and some thorny briers, and taught these guys a lesson. It would be pretty miserable.

And then he came to Penuel, and he beat the tower in Penuel and slew the men of the city. And then he said unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom you killed at Tabor? And they answered, They are a lot like you: each one of them resembled the child of a king. And he said unto them, They were my brothers, they are the sons of my mother: and as the LORD lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you. And he said to Jether his oldest son, Kill them, son. But the youth did not draw his sword: for he was afraid, because he was still just a young boy. Then the kings Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise up, and fall on us: for as a man is, so is his strength.

JudgesIn other words, ‘Be a man.’

And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels’ necks. Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule over us, and your sons, and your son’s sons: for you have delivered us from the hands of the Midians. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, nor will my sons rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.

Here, again, we see the depth of the character of Gideon. This guy had a tremendous character. Here, they want to elevate him and his sons to rule over them, to set up his own dynasty. Gideon tells them that is not happening, because the Lord will rule over them. Easy to see this tremendous character of Gideon.

So Gideon said, I will just have one request, I would like to have all of the earrings that you took off of those guys that you wiped out. So he laid out a blanket, and they willingly gave the earrings on the garment. And the weight of the gold in these earrings was about fifty pounds of gold; besides all the ornaments, and collars, and the purple raiment that were on the kings that he took, beside the chains that were about their camels’ necks. So Gideon made an ephod.

An ephod is sort of a divining instrument. The priest wore the ephod. And, they would often come to inquire of the ephod. It is spoken of in the Old Testament as a divining instrument, an instrument by which they could ascertain the will of God. It could be that Gideon’s purpose in making this ephod was to ascertain God’s will. He made the ephod out of the gold that was taken, but it became sort of an idol to the people of Israel.

birds
He put it in his city, in Ophrah: and all of Israel went there whoring after it: and it became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.

It became a real problem, because it became an object of worship.

And thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, and they lifted up their heads no more.

That was the end of Midian’s power.

And the country was in quietness for forty years during all of the days of Gideon. And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house. And Gideon had seventy sons begotten of his own body: for he had many wives.

This is actually the beginning of the period in Israel where there was a multiplicity of wives. Gideon had 70 sons!

He had a concubine that lived in Shechem, and she also bore him a son, whose name is called Abimelech.

This guy, Abimelech, was a very treacherous guy. In the next chapter, we will see his treachery.

Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, there at Ophrah of the Abiezrites. And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god. And the children of Israel remembered not Jehovah their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side: and neither showed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all of the goodness which he had showed to Israel.

After this, we will see the treachery against the sons of Gideon, and the rise of Abimelech.

There are important lessons that we can learn from the story of Gideon, like never worrying when God thins the ranks. If God is cutting down the numbers, He’s doing it for a purpose. God had to thin the ranks of Gideon’s army to ludicrous levels: 300 men against 135,000 that ‘drew a sword.’ God made the odds so impossible that there was just no way that any man could boast.

Sometimes God lets things get so bad that only He can deliver, and I believe He does that, so that you can’t possible take any credit or glory for what happens. It’s a head-shaker. “Wow! The Lord had to do that, man! There was nothing I could do!”

It’s really a sign of our times, that we sometimes force God’s hand, and we end up in such dire straits, before He can work. God knows our hearts. He knows how we like to glory. We are always ready to bring glory to ourselves. But, God will not allow any flesh to glory in His sight.

Sometimes, we just make it so tough on ourselves, BECAUSE of our desire to glory. So, God just lets it get worse, and worse, and worse. He thins the ranks, until there is literally nothing we can do. It gets out of hand and out of our hands. When things get hopeless, that is when God works. It leaves us with nothing to say, except “God did it. I was at the end of my rope. There was nothing I could do. It had to be God.” That is when God gets the glory. That is how it works.

We need to keep our eyes on God, rather than on the problems, or the enemy. When we look at the enemy, fear sets in. When we look at God, faith will fill your heart. Whatever we let take our attention, grows. If we look at problems, they grow. If we look at the opposition, it grows. If we look at God, He grows. If we look at anything, away from God, God will get smaller in our lives and in the situation. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by our problems. We need to keep our eyes on the Lord.

We need to be on a constant alert, even when doing the necessary things of life, like drinking water. We must know that we are in a battle, we’re facing an enemy, and we must be alert! We need to live in that sense of urgency. We should have a constant urgency for prayer, for reading and studying of the Word, the urgency of getting the gospel out, the urgency of witnessing. We must live in a sense of urgency, for these are desperate days.

We must make sure we are in the will of God, open, flexible, ready to change, not set in my ways. We need to give God the glory for any and all of the victories that come. All of them are a direct result of His deliverance over the enemy. We must not take credit, but give God the glory.
Finally, pray without ceasing! These are important lessons. I pray that the Lord hide these lessons in each of our hearts.

Don D. Stephens
Teaching Notes

ARE YOU A FROG?

We have been living in extremely desperate days, a time in which the church (and those of us, who call ourselves Christians) was not yet desperate. Satan has been slowly anesthetizing the church into not being desperate, many of which don’t even recognizing the desperation of the times in which we live. If, 50 years ago, we were thrown into the future of today, I guarantee that we would all be shocked at what has happened. Today, we are not shocked, simply because it has taken a 50 year process to get us to the point of anesthesia, where we don’t notice the evil world in which we live.

Recent administrative leadership was successful in putting policies in place, where we are expected to, not only abide by political correctness, but also to accept and even give special status to morally unacceptable acts, even though they are specifically identified as sin in the Bible. Some of them are even called ‘abominations’ by God. Even though the administrative leadership has recently changed, not much has been changed related to political correctness. It continues to move forward, with Christians constantly being attacked and damaged by simply standing up for their moral beliefs. It’s not a pretty picture.

I guess I can understand the normal everyday citizen choosing not to cause any waves to rock the boat, but I am amazed at the inactivity of the church. We seem to have become oblivious to the situation to a point where some pulpits are preaching that God wants you rich, homosexuality is an acceptable practice and has all but been removed from the list of sins, and some churches are sharing their fellowship areas with practicing Muslims and the like. We have become a church of moral weakness, blinded to the truth of scripture, simply because we don’t want to cause others to feel uncomfortable or hurt their feelings by calling sin for what it is…….sin!

I have been told, if you put a frog in a pan of cold water, and turn the heat on under the pan, that the frog will just continue to swim in that water as it is heating up, until he boils to death. He doesn’t notice, because it is just a gradual heating of the water. His body becomes used to the gradual changes, and he does not object, until it is too late. If, on the other hand, you toss a frog into a pan of water that is already boiling, the frog will simply leap out to safety.

This is exactly what is happening to us today, both in the church and in our nation as a whole. Satan is very clever. The first major move was to get prayer out of our schools. Then we saw a move to get the commandments of God moved. Now, they are being replaced by a code of “if it feels good, do it!”
bull frog

In the Book of Judges, we read several times “There was no king in Israel. Every man did what was right in his own eyes.” We are told in Genesis that the same condition of action was in place, just prior to the flood.

We have been slowly decaying, just enough, so as not to bring notice, until it is too late. Satan has turned up the fire, and we are swimming around in boiling water, suffocating, without really noticing, eventually coming to wonder what has gone wrong.

It is truly time that God’s people call upon His name, humble ourselves, pray, and seek His face, until we see a revival. Without it, we will continue to boil, until we simply boil to death.

I am a believer in the pre-tribulation rapture, so I am praying that we will soon escape this mess. I fear that many, even Christians, might be near the point where Satan will be looking for the melted butter.

Time to speak out the truth, folks. I personally would hate to leave in the rapture and have to think about someone back here, to whom I had an opportunity to witness but backed off, because I might have been rejected or seen as politically incorrect, or even being called a racist, homophobe, etc.

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens

Infidelity

In the Book of Hebrews, Chapter 13, we read in verse 4 that “Marriage is honorable in all…….” In other words, you should get married instead of being an ascetic. In the days of Paul, there were folks who felt if they were ascetic, they could be more spiritual. So, they lived a life of asceticism, thinking that they could better serve God. The point here is that there is nothing dishonorable about marriage. It is not something to be shunned.

We are told that “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled…….”. If God brings along the right person, there is nothing evil or wrong about sex. After all, if it weren’t for sex, you wouldn’t be around. Right? There in nothing wrong with sex within the marriage. Within the marriage. Within the marriage! In the past, we didn’t have to emphasize that, but now, in our current culture, it is absolutely necessary to emphasize the fact that it refers to WITHIN THE MARRIAGE! We are suffering the consequences of infidelity with the current breakdown of the family and the rise in single parent families. The whole social order is being disrupted because of the careless, loose attitude that we have towards sexual relationships.

wedding
So, marriage is honorable and in marriage the bed is undefiled, “…….but whoremongers and adulterers, God will judge.” Interesting that he threw that part into this scripture, don’t you think? He drives home the importance of being married and not having sex outside of marriage.

In 1 Corinthians, Chapter 6, we read “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” Our bodies have been joined unto Jesus Christ. Paul told the Corinthians that the church is a body of Christ, members in particular. We’ve been joined to Christ, in the body of Christ, the church of Jesus Christ, being the body of Christ. And, Paul tells us not to yield our members as instruments for unrighteousness, but yield our members as instruments of righteousness unto the Lord. This means that we should yield our bodies to God for His use, not for the fulfilling of our sexual drives.

Paul then asks them a question. Since your bodies are the members of Christ, “Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot?” He then answers his own question by adding “Certainly not!” We see here that our body is a member of Christ. It’s to be used for Him. We are to yield it as an instrument for Him to use for His purposes.
Should I then take this body, which is a member of Christ, and go out and have an affair? God forbid, Paul said.

We are then asked “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her?” Because you are a member of Christ, when you take this member of Christ body and join it to another outside of marriage, you are literally bringing Christ into that relationship. Paul said that this is unthinkable!

For “the two shall become one flesh”. To me, this is simply shocking! You see, the Lord has said, concerning this sexual union, the two become one. So, an affair is actually joining Christ in the relationship.

It goes on to say “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. So, flee sexual immorality.” It is important that we have purpose in our hearts to live a life of moral purity. We read in the book of Daniel that he purposed in his heart not to defile his body with the king’s meat. That’s the purpose. I’ve purposed in my heart. I’m not going to do it! We need to make these kinds of purposes in our hearts. I’m not going to commit fornication.

You see, the time to make your decision isn’t when she is standing there before you naked. You don’t, at that time, make a decision to do it or not! That isn’t the time the decision is made. The decision is made long before a person gets to that situation. If you have gotten to that point of infidelity, your action has already been predetermined. I purpose not to defile myself with the king’s meat. I purpose not to commit fornication. I purpose not to have an affair or commit an act of infidelity. To purpose long in advance, is an act that needs to be a part of our whole process of thinking, concerning our body.

With my body being an instrument of God, to be used by God in the accomplishing of His purposes, I choose not to defile my body, because I’m not going to bring Christ into some kind of an ungodly relationship. We must, in all things, “flee sexual immorality”!

In the story of Joseph in the Old Testament, he had established and purposed in his heart. I’m God’s child. I’m a part of God’s people. So, when Potiphar’s wife sought to entice him, and even grabbed him with the intent of forcing him into bed with her, he fled. He had predetermined not to bring God into an immoral action.

holy matrimonyPaul wrote to Timothy and he said, “Flee youthful lusts!”

“Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” So, sexual immorality is within the body.

He goes on to add “Or, do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, who you have from God, and you are not on your own?”

The Holy Spirit is dwelling in you, God’s glorious gift, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. When, on the day of Pentecost, the people were all gathered together, as Peter preached, they came under conviction, by the Holy Spirit. They began to say men and brothers, what shall we do? We blew it! We crucified the Lord of glory! Peter said, repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. You shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit! So he is of God! You have the Holy Spirit from God. God’s gift to you! He is dwelling in you.

So, you are not on your own. You can’t say the things that we hear every day on TV, on the internet, in movies, like “It’s my body. I can do as I please.” The current day thing of “If it feels good, do it” is not different from the words used in the days of Noah. That may be true of the person in the world, but it is not true of the child of God. It’s not your body anymore. It’s been redeemed! You’ve been bought with a price. You were once a slave, enslaved to the lust of your flesh. But, Jesus purchased you with His own blood. He redeemed you from that lost, enslaved state, that you might be free to serve Him and to worship Him.

The text goes on to say “For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” I’m not my own! I’ve been bought with a price; therefore, I live to glorify God and to please Him because He owns me! I have no right of my own. I have relinquished that right to Him. He has redeemed me from that old life of destruction, of death, of misery, of indulgence. He has delivered me that I might live now unto Him in the newness of life in Christ Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Oh, God, help us! These are vital, important, issues that we need to give careful attention to as the children of God. May God help us to realize that we belong to Him. This body in which we now live is now the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is dwelling in me. I’m not my own! He bought me with a price; therefore, it is my duty, my obligation to glorify Him through this body.

The apostle Paul declared his desire that Christ be glorified in His body. That’s my desire, he said, whether by life or by death, I don’t care. It’s just that I want Christ to be glorified in my body. That was his purpose of living. For me to live is Christ! To die is gain! But, as long as I’m living in this body, I want Christ to be glorified in this body.
That should be the desire of each of us, that Christ be glorified in our bodies because they are really His!

So, any form of sexual immorality, whether it be sex outside of marriage, adultery, internet porn, or any other immoral relationship, the Christian needs to keep in mind that we are the body of Christ and that, in any relationship in which we choose to engage, we are not alone. Christ is being dragged into that relationship, also.

If we keep that in mind, when predetermining what to do, it makes for an easy choice.

I pray that the Holy Spirit will impress these truths upon our hearts that we would not just be hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word, lest we just deceive ourselves. We are warned over and over again in the Scriptures about self-deception. I pray that the Lord will guide us, that we might live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit and come into a full recognition that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, which dwells in us, which we have from God. May we commit ourselves, our bodies, as living sacrifices. May they be holy and acceptable to God!

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens

JUDGES – Chapter 7

Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod:

The well of Harod is at the foot of Mount Gilboa, toward the center, approximately 8 miles from Bethshemesh.

…….so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley of Jezreel.

So, from the spring of Harod, they could look out across the valley and see the mass of Midianites.

And the LORD said unto Gideon, the people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, My own hand hath saved me.

At this point, Israel was heavily outnumbered. We know that 135,000 Midianites were slain, and there were only 32,000 Israelites. However, God knew that, if He were to deliver the Midianites to the 32,000, they would get proud and credit themselves with the victory. They wouldn’t give the God to glory.

When God works, He desires to receive the glory for the work that He has done. He deserves to receive that glory. Man has no right to take credit for what God has delivered. Yet, it is so easy to fall to temptation and accept the accolades that may come for a success, for which God was the true Deliverer. God doesn’t want man taking the glory that belongs to Him. There is now, and has always been, a prevalent danger of men taking the glory for what the Lord has done. God does not appreciate that. God did not want that. So, in this story, God wants to reduce the number of Israel’s army, so that there can be no doubt that God was responsible for the victory.

Go out to the men, and proclaim to the ears of the people, saying, Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return and depart early from the mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty two thousand; and there remained only ten thousand.

God is thinning out the forces, so that He might get down to the men that will bring the victory to Israel in such a way that God will get the glory for the victory. So, the first ones God eliminates are those that are afraid. They were disqualified. God knows that those that are fearful are looking at the enemy rather than looking at God. God knows that those that are fearful, in the midst of the battle, can turn and run, and create a panic among the rest of the troops. God knows that those that are trembling are weak, and cannot stand up to the fight. So, He sent the fearful troops home.

And the LORD said to Gideon, The people are still too many; bring them down to the water, and I will try them for you there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, These shall go with you, the same will go with you; and whosoever I will say unto you, These shall not go with you, the same shall not go. So he brought the people down to the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that laps the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shall you set by himself; and likewise every one that bows down upon his knees to drink. And the number of them that lapped, putting their hands to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all of the rest of the people bowed down on their knees to drink the water.

Again, God reduces the number of troops. This time, the division was made between those that would cup the water in their hands to drink, and those that just got down and put their face in the water. The number that cupped the water were 300.

By these three hundred I will deliver the Midianites into your hand: and let the rest of the people go home to their own villages.

Those who were not alert, those who did not have the sense of urgency, those that just buried their faces in the water were sent home. God kept only those who had the awareness of the urgency of the hour. Those that cupped the water in their hands and lapped it out of their hands, did so to remain alert to the things happening around them. They were the more alert of the troops.

So the people took victuals in their hands, and their trumpets: and they sent home the rest of Israel every man to his own tent, and they retained the three hundred men: and the host of Midian was beneath them in the valley. Now it came to pass that same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, and go down to the host; for I have delivered them into your hand.

At this point, God tells Gideon it is time to go down and wipe them out. I find it interesting that, at this point, God tells him “If you are afraid…….”, because He sent those home that were fearful. Here, he tells Gideon, if he is afraid, to take his servant down with him to the enemy camp and his fears would ease. It is also interesting that Gideon did just that. He took Phurah, his servant, down with him, so it is obvious that Gideon WAS fearful.

But if you are afraid, go down with Phurah your servant to the host: and you will hear what they are saying; and afterwards your hands will be strengthened to go down unto the host. So he went down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host. And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east were laying along the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; their camels were without number, like the sand by the sea side for multitude. And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream to his friend, and he said, Behold, I dreamed a dream and, lo, there was cake of barley bread and it tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all of the host.

In the camp, Gideon witnesses a guy sharing a dream to another guy, who interpreted the dream. The interpretation includes Gideon’s name and the interpretation of the dream. It included the words ‘That’s Gideon the son of Joash, and God has delivered Midian into his hand.’

And so it was, that when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation, he worshipped, and he returned to the host of Israel, and he said, Arise; for the LORD has delivered into your hand the host of Midian. So he divided the three hundred men into three companies, he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers. And he said unto them, Now watch me, and do as I do: behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, and it shall be, as I do, that ye shall do. When I blow with a trumpet, and all that are with me, then blow with your trumpets also on every side of the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; because they had just newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and broke the pitchers that were in their hands.

Now, the middle watch was from 12:00 midnight until about 3:00 in the morning. These guys had just newly set the watch, so it was just about midnight. The trumpets blasting woke the Midianites, in the middle of the night. When they looked, and saw these flaming torches, while the trumpets continued to blare, and confusion came upon them. This is a common way God delivers enemies. He confuses them, until they begin to battle each other. This will happen again, when troops from Russia and Iran moved toward Israel. God will confuse them. I have no doubt of this.

And the three companies blew their trumpets, broke the pitchers, held the lamps in their left hands, trumpets in their right hands: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and the host ran, and cried, and fled.

Panic struck the Midianites.

And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man’s sword against his fellow,

They started swinging their swords at anything that moved, and they were wiping out each other in the darkness.
…….even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and unto the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath. And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and they pursued after the Midianites. Then Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying to the tribe of Ephraim, Come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan.

In other words, he wanted them to cut them off at the pass, so that they couldn’t cross over the Jordan River and escape.
And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. And they took the two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb on the rock, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and they pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side of Jordan.

So, they caught two of the princes, they beheaded them, and they brought the heads to Gideon.

Don D. Stephens
Teaching Notes

JUDGES – Chapter 6

But, the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. Now, we move into the next cycle, the 4th apostasy, and Gideon, who is raised up as the sixth judge.

Scripture says “These things were written for us as examples so that we would not fall into the same errors.” This story is one of man’s failure to keep covenant with God, man’s failure to heed the warnings of God. It is the story of the tragedies that befall a person who turns their back on God and begins to worship and serve other gods. In today’s society, the gods would include the gods of materialism, the gods of knowledge, the gods of pleasure, the gods of money, and the gods of power. If these become the gods of your life, if you turn from serving the true and living God, then you are flirting with disaster. Your life will go into bondage. You will become a slave to your possessions, to your knowledge, to your own pleasure. These scriptures are written, so that we might be warned against the dangers of turning our backs on God, so that we might live for God and serve God will all of our hearts, with all of our souls, with all of our mind, and with all of our strength.
In the 5th chapter of Judges, we read the song of Deborah that rose out of the victory that God had given to Israel over Jabin, the king of Hazor, and the captain of his army, Sisera. The 5th chapter ends with, “And the land had rest forty years.”

Chapter 6 begins with the words “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years.”

We see the becoming of the pattern. This is the fourth apostasy and the fourth servitude that Israel has gone into as the result of their apostasy.

The hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made dens in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds. And so it was, when Israel had planted, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; and they encamped against them, and they destroyed the increase of the earth, till you come unto Gaza.

Gaza is in the south coastal area of the land. So, the Midianites would be coming from the north, so they really took the entire land, all the way from the north down south as far as Gaza. The Midianites were nomadic, so they did not build cities, they lived in tents. They moved from area to area. This was also true of the Amalekites. These folks pretty much just moved in and invaded the land, ripping off the harvest of the crops planted by Israel.

They encamped against them, destroyed the increase of the land, all the way to Gaza, they left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor donkey.

They had completely devastated all of the crops and all of the animals.

They came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitudes; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.

They came like a plague of locusts, covering the ground. We know that just from the forces of Midian there were 135,000 men, who were killed as part of the army, those who were able to draw a bow. So, the total number had to be into the hundreds of thousands that came into the land.
Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.

Here is that pattern, again. God blesses them, they turn their backs on God, God turns His back on them, and they are oppressed by their enemies. Finally, they cry to the LORD, and God delivers them. They serve the LORD and prosper. They forget the LORD and go back into captivity.

And so they cried unto the LORD. And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites, that the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of all that oppressed you, I drove them out from before you, and gave you their land; and I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but you have not obeyed my voice.

Here, we see the people crying to the Lord, and God sent a prophet to rebuke them for breaking the covenant with God. The prophet declared to them that their calamity had come because they had not walked in the way of God.

As we look at our own lives, we find that this is so often true. Our calamity comes, because we forsake the Lord. Whether we admit it or not, we begin to worship other gods, whether that be material things, sexual perversions, knowledge, or other things. We get into all kinds of problems and, in our difficulties, we cry to the Lord.

Here, in the scripture, the Lord is rebuking them through the prophet, calling their attention to the reason why they’re experiencing their calamity. It is interesting that God doesn’t just rebuke us. He is so good that He tries to instruct us. He tries to teach us through these things. It makes you wonder, why don’t we learn?

There came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was at Ophrah, that pertains to Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.

Gideon is the son of Joash, an Abiezrite, which is the family name of the tribe of Manasseh.

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto Gideon, and said unto him, The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valour. And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD is with us, why then is all of this befallen us? and where are all of the miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and has delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.

The beginning of this conversation, between Gideon with the angel, is really quite interesting. The angel call him a mighty man of valour. I know Gideon did not perceive himself that way, but that’s how the Lord looked upon him. The Lord’s perception of him was better than his own.
It would be nice to realize just how valuable we were in the sight of God. Many times, I think we deprecate ourselves, we put ourselves down.
Yet, the Lord places such tremendous value on us.

When Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, he told them how he prayed for them. One of his prayers for them was that they might know His exceeding rich inheritance in the saints. In other words, he was telling them, ‘If you only knew how much God prized and valued you.’

God looked at Gideon and said ‘You are a mighty man of valor.’ Gideon said ‘Hey, now, I’m nobody.’ Yet, that was how the LORD perceived him.

The second part of the conversation that I find interesting is the fact that Gideon was arguing with the angel. The angel told him “The LORD is with you.” Gideon replied ‘Hey man, if the LORD was with us, then why are we having all of this trouble? where are the miracles that our fathers told us about? He wanted to see the miracles of God to deliver them from the oppression under the Midianites.

So the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this your might, and you will save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have I not sent you? And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewithal shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.

God has the hardest time getting men to do His work. When God called Moses at the burning bush, Moses felt he couldn’t do it, because he was not eloquent in speech. When God called Jeremiah, Jeremiah felt he was too young, and folks wouldn’t listen to him. Gideon is doing the same thing. He feels his family is poor, and he is the least in the family.

When Samuel instructed Saul that God had chosen him as the first king of Israel, he made similar comments. It is obvious that God, many times, chooses a man who is humble to do His work. It is probably this very attitude of humility that God looks for, when He is seeking a servant to go out and to do His work. Looking at this from the back side, the level of pride in many of the television evangelists today, could lead one to believe that they may be self-chosen, and not truly selected by God. On the other hand, we are all selected of God, to do what is in His plan for our lives and the lives of others, even when that role is just a minor one.

The LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with you,

This is God’s answer to his cry of weakness, “I will be with you.” That is all I need. If God is for us, who can be against us?

I will be with you, Surely you will smite the Midianites as one man. And he said unto him, If I have really found grace in your sight,
Gideon was asking the Lord if this was for real, or if it was just his imagination. Then he asked God to wait a minute, so he could go get a sacrifice.

Let me go get a present for you. And he said, I will wait. And so Gideon went in, and he made ready a little goat, and unleavened cakes (no time to let the dough rise) out of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and he brought it out unto him under the oak, and he presented it. And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon the rocks,

So, Gideon came out with this basket, and a shish kabob from the little goat, and the unleavened cakes, and the broth, and God tells him to set them on the rocks and then tells him ‘and then he said, pour the broth over it.’

This turned out to be a burnt offering and a peace offering. The cakes were a meal offering which was a peace offering. The burnt offering was the goat. The drink offering was the broth, to be poured over the offerings. “pour the broth over it.”

And so he poured the broth over it. And the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and he touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there arose up a fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight.

This was quite a manifestation, causing Gideon to recognize that he was with an angel of the Lord. Gideon wanted proof, and he got it.
And when Gideon perceived that it was an angel of the LORD, and he said, Alas, O Lord GOD! because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face. And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: you will not die.

All through scripture, both Old and New Testaments, God shares the message “Peace be unto you!” All through scripture, God tells us to “Fear not!” We need to take heed to these words from the Lord in our daily lives. We’re fearful of the uncertainty of our future, God is saying to us ‘Fear not. Peace be unto you!’

Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and he called it Jehovah-shalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

Gideon picked up on the statement from God, and he called the altar Jehovah-shalom, which means “Jehovah is our peace.” Gideon has been drafted to go to war. In fact, he has been called to lead the people of God against the Midianites. So, by faith in the promise from God, he built the altar and called it ‘Jehovah-shalom.’ He looked beyond the war to the peace that God would bring, after the fighting was ended.
Gideon’s whole experience is one of faith, as he looks beyond the conflict that is coming to the peace that God gives. By faith, he called the altar, in faith, ‘Jehovah-shalom.’

And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take your father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the grove that is by it:

The grove was the pillar to the goddess Astharoth, who is the female counterpart to Baal. Gideon is told to take this bullock, and to break down his father’s altar unto Baal, and the grove that was by it.

And build instead an altar unto Jehovah your God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove thou shalt cut down.

So, this wooden pillar that was worshipped as a monument to Astharoth was to be used to kindle the fire on the altar.

And Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city, he could not do it by day, so he did it by night.

It seems the folks were pretty heavy into the worship of Baal. They were committed to this idolatry. They were so committed to it that had Gideon tried to do this during the day, there would have been one big confrontation and probably a battle. So, Gideon decided to do it at night, while they were all asleep.

So when the men of the city arose early in the morning, and behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built. They said one to another, Who has done this thing? And they asked around, and they said, It was Gideon the son of Joash who has done it. So the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out your son, that he may die: because he has cast down the altar of Baal, and because he has cut down the grove that was by it. And Joash said unto them that stood against him, Will you plead for Baal? will you save him?

Do you have a god that you have to rescue? Isn’t your god able to take care of himself?

He that will plead for him, let him be put to death

This really demonstrates just how deeply entrenched was the worship of Baal in the hearts of these people. They are ready to kill Gideon because he broke down the altar of Baal.

while it is yet morning: if he is a god, let him plead for himself, because one has cast down his altar.

In other words, ‘let him defend himself.’ I think how many times we find ourselves foolishly caught in the position of trying to defend God as though God needs defense. We don’t have to defend God, He’s perfectly capable of defending Himself. And, this was the same logic of Joash, Gideon’s father: if Baal is a god, let him defend himself.

Therefore on that day he called Gideon Jerubbaal, saying Let Baal plead for himself, [Jerubbaal literally means, ‘let Baal plead’] because he has thrown down his altar. Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and they went over, and they pitched in the valley of Jezreel.

Jezreel is the valley between Mount Gilboa and Mount Moreh. It is in the eastern part of the valley of Megeddo. It is known as the valley of Jezreel, the valley of Megeddo. They all more or less run together. It begins at Bethshemesh, which is just up out of the Jordan river at the northern end of the Mount Gilboa range. The valley is about 15 miles long and 12 miles wide, and it is extremely fertile. It is the valley where the final battle will be fought, the battle of Armageddon.

Coming up from Bethshemesh is the natural way to invade the land of Israel, if you’re coming from the north. It’s a natural pass into the valley, and it goes all the way to Haifa on the Mediterranean.

Here, we see the Midianites, the Amalekites, and these people from the east had come into this valley of Jezreel.

But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.

We need to take notice here that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon. Throughout Judges, we will be reading about this, as God’s Spirit begins to move upon these men, the judges of Israel.

And he sent messengers throughout all of Manasseh; who also was gathered after him: and he sent messengers unto the tribes of Asher, to Zebulun, to Naphtali; and they came up to meet him.

So, Gideon sent messengers to all the tribes that were in the northern section. There is no mention of messages down to Judah, or Simeon, or Benjamin, or even Ephraim, only those that were in the northern portion.

And Gideon said unto God, If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew is on the fleece only, and it is dry upon all of the earth around it, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.

So, Gideon has a second test to insure that it is God talking to him. The first was the sacrifice. Evidently, Gideon is still uncertain if God is really in this. So, Gideon put the fleece out on the ground.

And on the next day, he thrust the fleece together, he wrung out the dew out of the fleece, and there was a bowl full of water.

At this point, Gideon probably thought that there might be some rule of physics, of which he was not aware, that caused the dew to gather on the fleece and not on the ground. So, he wanted one more chance, and this time they would reverse the process.

in the morning let the ground be covered with dew, and let the fleece be dry.

So, the next morning, the ground was covered with dew and the fleece was dry. From this, Gideon determined that God had called him, and would deliver the Midianites into his hands.

Because of Gideon’s putting out this fleece, a practice was instituted by a lot of folks, where a kind of fleece was used to attempt to ascertain the will of the Lord, or the plan of God.

Even in the New Testament they sought the will of God by casting lots, to determine which of the two disciples should take the place of Judas Iscariot, whether it would be Barnabas or Mathias. When they cast the lots, the lot fell on Mathias and he was numbered with the twelve.

We do not read of this practice taking place in the New Testament after the day of Pentecost. There is no further mention of people seeking to ascertain the will of God by the casting of lots, or by drawing straws, or by any other method. God’s Spirit began to direct the early church.
“And the Spirit spake and said, Separate unto me Paul and Barnabas for the ministry wherein I have called them.” There began to be a more direct leading of the Spirit that they understood, with the elimination of the need to check or test to see the will of God.

It is vital to any Christian to know where God stands on an issue, and the best way to do that is to pray, trust God to answer that prayer, and to not force the issue. Jesus said “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” So, we should ask, knock on a few doors, and see which one opens.

We need not try to force doors open. Many times, we get something in our minds, and we act and push for what, in our own mind, we believe is the right thing for us. This is a mistake. If we are in God’s will, they right door will open. As the Lord said to the church of Philadelphia, “I have set before thee an open door that no man can shut.” If God is in it, God is going to bless it.

Whether we are trying to make something happen, or if we are trying to keep something moving, if God is not in it, or if God is trying to kill it, we can really mess things up. If a system in the church cannot support itself, without artificial support, it needs to die. We can’t force things to keep something alive, when God wants it gone. God will open or close doors, as he sees fit. We need not push.

God is able to take care of things. It is when we get into forcing issues that we can easily get out of God’s will.

I don’t use fleeces, I just pray, trust God, and get out of His way.

Don D. Stephens

(Photo credit to Colm Verhoeff)

JUDGES – Chapter 4 – Teaching Notes – Don D. Stephens

And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead. And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin the king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; —

This is the 3rd apostasy. As long as the judge, who God raised up, lived, the people obeyed the Lord. As soon as he died, people quickly forgot the Lord.

Israel had already taken Hazor in an earlier battle, when Joshua was alive.

However, they evidently didn’t follow instructions by cleaning it all out, because they allowed the people to remain there. Jabin has now become strong, and Jabin puts them to a tribute. This, again, was the direct result of their failure to follow God’s instructions.

It would seem that it would be the northern tribes around the Galilee that were more affected by this king, because Hazor is just north of the Sea of Galilee, probably 5 to 7 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and then up into the area of the upper Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is approximately six hundred feet below sea level. The upper valley is above the Sea of Galilee. Hazor is north towards Hermon, not a long distance.

Historically, Hazor was a very powerful city. There are vast excavations there, including a huge tell. It would be an exciting time for me, to visit this area.

So God sold them into the hand of Jabin the Canaanite, who was reigning in Hazor; and the captain of whose host was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and for twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.

As we discussed in previous chapters, chariots of iron were equivalent to tanks in battle in those days. They were formidable weapons against the infantry. Pulled by the horses, an infantry wouldn’t have a chance against the chariots. And 900 chariots of iron is no small armament. It makes for a powerful brigade.

Deborah, the prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, who judged Israel at that time. She dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel would come unto her for judgment.

This woman was a prophetess. She was a judge in Israel, and they would come to her for judgment. She is, indeed, a prophetess, so she speaks the work of the Lord.

And so she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and she said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into your hand. And Barak said unto her, If you will go with me, I will go: but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.

This was not a very brave gesture, by this man, was it? He wouldn’t go to fight, unless she went with him. Again, we see man unwilling to trust the promise of God for delivery. He turns to the flesh for help.

And so she said, I will surely go with you: notwithstanding the journey that you take shall not be for your honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And so Deborah arose, and went with Barak unto Kedesh.

Again, this lack of trust in the LORD cost Barak the honor of the victory. The honor of this victory went to a woman, according to Deborah.

So Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him. Now Heber the Kenite, who was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.

Heber was a descendant of Moses’ father in law. These people came into the land with the children of Israel but, for the most part, they settled in the wilderness around Arad and Beersheba. They were nomadic type Bedouin people, who chose the southern country to settle. However, this one guy had moved up to the northern areas.

In Israel, today, the Bedouins live all over Israel. Most of them are in the wilderness area, with many Bedouin tents and encampments between Jerusalem and Jericho. If you go up to Galilee, you will find them encamped near Galilee, and you’ll find them encamped in an area near Mount Carmel. It’s amazing that this group of people still exist today, in much the same way they did, historically, in tents, with their livestock all around them. So, it is not unusual to have a Bedouin in the northern part.

In this story, this one Bedouin had left the normal habitat down in the wilderness area, and had come on up towards the upper end of the Sea of Galilee, near Kedesh, and he warned the king. Evidently, he had a good relationship with the King of Hazor, with Jabin, and he warned him that the children of Israel had gathered together at Tabor.

Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the rest of the Kenites, pitched his tent in the plain, which is by Kedesh. And he showed Sisera [the captain] that Barak was gone up to mount Tabor. So Sisera gathered together all of his chariots, all nine hundred chariots of iron, and the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river Kishon.

The river Kishon really isn’t much of a river. It’s more like what we, in Missouri, would call a stream. There is not much water in it, today, so it is really hard to see. You can see the green trees that grow along the banks, but there isn’t really much water in Kishon. So, he gathered together, with his 900 iron chariots, at Kishon.

And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the LORD has delivered Sisera into your hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, with the ten thousand men after him. And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all of his chariots, and all of his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet.

In the song of Deborah, we find that God did this by sending a kind of flood. The chariots got bogged down in the mire and couldn’t move. So, the troops became easy targets for Barak’s infantry, who came pouring down out of Mount Tabor and attacked them. This happened right there by the Kishon. Barak attacked them and destroyed them, but Sisera jumped out of his chariot, and began to flee.

But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all of the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left. Howbeit Sisera had fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite:

This is the tent of the same guy, who had warned Sisera about where they were camped. Jael is his wife.

…….for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; and don’t fear. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle. And he said unto her, Give me a drink, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him a drink, and covered him. Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and inquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No. Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took a hammer in her hand, and she went softly unto him, and she smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. And so he died instantly.

That is a pretty gruesome scene, isn’t it? He must have fallen asleep, because he was so tired from the running. She snuck in and drove a nail through his head.

Ouch!

Now, there is some question as to the deceitfulness of Jael. There are a lot of possibilities here, one of them being, because there was a friendship involved, that when Sisera first arrived, she recognized him, because her husband had warned him that Barak was in Mount Tabor with some troops. It could be that she was genuine in her offer of hospitality, but when, through his fear and telling her to like about where he was, while he hid, she may have realized that he had been defeated. So, being determined to get on the winning side, she took the action. I don’t want to get too harsh on Jael, because there is that very real possibility.

And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet, and said unto him, Come, and I will show you the man that you are looking for. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples. So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel. And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin the king of Canaan.

It’s interesting that Barak, himself, was chasing Sisera. I can’t even imagine the excitement that would come with such a complete victory over such huge odds. It would be obvious to Barak that God’s hand was in all this. Based on that, he kept pushing forward to complete the mission, with the promise of complete victory from God.