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

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 2 – With Don Stephens

JUDGES – Chapter 2 – Teaching Notes – Don D. Stephens
So the angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I swore unto your fathers; and I said, that I will never break my covenant with you. But you shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; you shall throw down their altars: but you have not obeyed my voice: why have you done this?
Here, I believe the Angel of the Lord is Jesus, simply because the language is speaking for Jehovah in the first person. And, the message from the Lord is that they have not obeyed Him, and He wants to know why. They are not conquering, they are not taking the complete victory. The Lord, Himself, is now rebuking them for this failure.
Wherefore as I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a snare to you.

The Lord is telling them that, because they haven’t fulfilled their part of the bargain, they are going to have a problem, from this point forward.

And it came to pass, when the angel of the LORD spoke these words unto all the children of Israel, the people lifted up their voices, and wept. And so they called the name of the place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto the LORD.

Bochim means “weepers”. This is amazing! They cried, had an emotional experience, and sacrificed to the LORD. However, they did nothing about their condition. They didn’t go back and drive out the inhabitants. Often, when a person is under the conviction of the Spirit, God is dealing with them on the issues of their life, and they see their failures. When this happens, they have an emotional experience, sometimes even weeping. The problem is that the weeping is of no value if they don’t change. Unfortunately, most people feel that the crying is enough. But, they do nothing after they cry. They don’t change the circumstances, they don’t repent, and they don’t change. The just continue doing the same thing. The children of Israel did the same thing. They cried and offered sacrifices, but there were no changes.

When the people of Israel had a time of great emotional distress, they would tear their clothes. It was a common practice to show grief, sorrow and remorse. Later in their history, God told them “Rend your heart, and not your garments.” God doesn’t want to see an outward show, he wants to see changes. I believe it is actually possible that a person can cry away the conviction of the Spirit on our hearts. God wants changes.

Because they just wept, but there were no changes, the people they let survive become a thorn in their side. Their gods became a snare to them, and they were drawn to worship the gods.

Now when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man to his inheritance to possess the land. And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all of the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen the great works of the LORD, that which he did for Israel.

So, as long as this generation was alive, they served the LORD. As long as these men, who saw the marvelous miracles of God, who saw the works of God in the wilderness, who were able to relate to them their eyewitness accounts, were alive, the children of Israel served the LORD.

When Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being a hundred and ten years old. They buried him in the border of the inheritance of Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all the generation were gathered to their fathers: there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.

Here is a great tragedy! There was a failure, on the part of the parents, to adequately communicate to the children what God had done. God said that they were to gather the children, rehearse it in their ears. They had all kinds of memorials, like the pile of stones down near Gilgal, next to the Jordan River. The idea of these memorials was for the passing down of stories of what God had done for Israel, to each of the new generations. When a child saw the pile of stones, they would ask about them, giving the parent or grandparent an opportunity to express the story of how that was where they first crossed over into the Promised Land. It was an opportunity to share how the river was stopped in flood time, allowing the folks to cross over on dry land. They could express that these very stones came from the center of the river and, most importantly, that God was with them. The whole idea was to rehearse to the children the marvelous works of God. But, somehow, they failed to communicate to their children.

This is a very unfortunate thing. Revival rarely goes into the second generation. God works among a generation, among a people.
There is a powerful, glorious work of God. The problem is that, rarely does that work of God go into the next generation. This is a sign of the failure of the parents to pass on the heritage to their children of the wonderful works of God.

Even in the early church we find the same thing. When the apostles began to die off, the love began to grow cold. The Lord said to the church of Ephesus, “You have left your first love.” So often, this is the case.

Here, in Judges, we see the failure of the parents to adequately communicate to the children the power of Jehovah, whom they served. They did not fully obey God in driving out all of the inhabitants of the land, settling for something less than total victory, which, in turn, brought the great sorrows to them.

As the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they began to serve Baalim: and they forsook Jehovah God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they followed other gods, the gods of the people that were round about them, and they bowed themselves unto them, and they provoked Jehovah to anger. And they forsook the LORD, and they served Baal and Ashteroth.

Baalim is the plural of Baal, just as Ashteroth is the plural of Astoreth, the goddess of the Ephesians. So, they began to worship these male and female deities of the people of the land over which they had conquered. It is truly tragic, that the Truth didn’t go into the next generation. Somehow, there was a failure of the transmitting of God’s power.

And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, he delivered them into the hands of the spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. [They deserted God, God deserted them.] And whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed. Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. And yet they would not hearken unto the judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: and they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so. And when the LORD raised up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of the enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; and they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.

This is the continuous tragic story of these people. This part is really the prologue to the book of Judges. This gives us a view into what we are going to be looking at, as we cover this sad period of history. Israel falls into the worship of the false gods, God delivers them into the hands of their enemies, God raises up a judge, who inspires the people spiritually to turn back to the LORD, and during the lifetime of that judge there is spiritual revival. When the judge dies, Israel turns back to these other gods, and they go back into captivity. This is that cycle, which we are going to follow, the tragic cycle of the history of the nation of Israel.

And so the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; he said, Because these people have transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, they have not hearkened unto my voice; I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: [‘okay, I’m through: I’m not going to drive out any more. You’ve disobeyed, you’ve broken the covenant.” And so, God withdraws His support and His strength] that through them they might be tested, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; and neither did he deliver them into the hand of Joshua.

God says He is through, He is not going to drive out any more nations for Israel. They have disobeyed and broken His covenant, so God withdraws His support and His strength.

Now, beginning in Chapter 3, we begin the prologue, with the first apostasy, the servitude, the first judge, followed by the second apostasy and the second judge. We will see some pretty gory stories in Chapter 3, when Eglon gets his message from the Lord.

What did you learn from Chapters 1 & 2? We learned to seek total victory, with no compromise with the flesh. We learned we need to live completely after the Spirit. We learned whatever we sow, we will, in kind, reap. We learned that we need to sow seeds of mercy, goodness, and love, so that we might reap the same.

May God lead us all into victory over those areas of the flesh that have held sway over our lives for so long. Don’t make a covenant with your flesh. Don’t decide that you’re just going to have to live with certain characteristics of your flesh. Though you’ve been troubled for a long time, and though you’ve tried so hard, turn it over and let God help you. Claim the victory through the power of God’s Spirit, and begin to walk fully after the Spirit. Strive for that rich, full, abundant life that God wants you to know as you walk in fellowship with Jesus our Lord.