Where is God?

by Rich Bregitzer
(St. Louis, MO)

Judges 6:1, 7-14


1 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites.
 7 When the Israelites cried to the LORD because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, 'I am the LORD your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.' But you have not listened to me."
 11 The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior."
 13 "But sir," Gideon replied, "if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian."
 14 The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?"
 15 "But Lord , " Gideon asked, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family."
 16 The LORD answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together."

Prayer – May we glean from your word, dear God, those things that help us to live life to the fullest. In Jesus name. Amen.

STORY

Tiki – Aunt/Uncle’s dog
Shepherd/Lab mix
Huge, mean, did not like me
Aunt L. always telling me that he is just a dog, I’m the person – show him whose boss
In my aunt’s eyes I should be the dog’s master.

In my mind I looked like lunch to Tiki
Growl at me when she would leave room
Chase me/barking all over back yard
Growl at me until I’d give him food
Then how we made nice w/rubber ball

QUESTIONS

I wonder how many people see themselves as:
a. Victims
b. Oppressed
c. Unable
d. Incapable

Situations and circumstances often dictate our self-perception.
We break up with boy/girlfriend
and start to think we are unlovable/unattractive
We get fired
and we start to feel inadequate.
We flunk a test
and think we are stupid.

OVERCOMING STORIES

AL
Was awkward, shy, insecure.
Al had a rough childhood.
Did poorly in grade school.
Teased by family and friends.
Must have felt the weight of their judgment.
He was even treated badly at the Roman Catholic school he attended because of his Jewish roots.
At one point a teacher told Al that he would never hold down a job.
Excelled in college.
Albert Einstein

MIKE
Was also awkward, shy, insecure.
Born in the slums of Memphis.
Mother was a crack and alcohol abuser / Father in/out of prison.
Failed first/second grade.
In/out of foster care programs / would run away
Homeless.
Adopted by a family that loved him.
Struggled w/school, but eventually improved.
Played football.
And eventually Michael “Big Mike” Oher went on to be drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2009
Made a movie about his life: Blindside

Gideon
Lived in a land dominated by the enemy of his people; the Midianites.
Lived in clefts in the rocks or in caves.
Considered himself to be from the weakest clan in Manasseh
And himself to be least in his family.

What was God’s idea of Gideon?

I love that the Angel of the Lord doesn’t address Gideon as wimp, loser, runt.
God didn’t see Gideon the way Gideon saw Gideon
He calls him “mighty warrior”. Other Bibles: “man of valor”
Might something similar be true for us?

Where we may see ourselves as victims
God sees us as victors.
Where we see our circumstances/situations as too much
God sees those things as surmountable.

Notice what the angel says before he addresses Gideon as “mighty warrior”?

He says God is with you.
When life comes at us in a bad way we often feel forsaken.
Gideon asks God where he was when all the bad things that happened.
He wonders about the miracles of old
Asks where were those wonders that he heard about when his people needed them.
In v. 13 he says that the Lord had abandoned his people
Yet we know that’s not true.
God was present.
He was right there talking to Gideon.

But Gideon/Israel were not focused on God.
V.1 says they had been focused on doing evil
And then their enemies attacked.
They became focused on their dilemma.
All along God was there, but they weren’t focused on Him.

Notice the dynamic tension and conflict between the grace that God is trying to get Gideon to recognize and Gideon’s self-perception.

I say “grace” because these Israelites did not deserve God’s help.
God is showing them unmerited favor, but helping them out.

So, God is making himself known to Gideon and…
is saying: I will now deliver you and Israel from your circumstances.
Yet Gideon is busy making excuses about how he can’t be a vessel for that grace.
Gideon has allowed the circumstance to chip away at his resolve.

Had I done that with my aunt’s dog
I may live in fear of dogs today.
Had Albert Einstein believed his critics
we would know so much less about space and time and physics.
Had Michael Oher believed his circumstances
he might be dead?

WHAT ABOUT YOU???

Will you let the circumstances and hard knocks of life define you?
Or will you recognize that God is present with you
And that who you are is
someone that Jesus felt was worth saving?

WHILE THIS SERMON HAS MOSTLY BEEN ABOUT NOT LETTING SITUATIONS DICTATE HOW WE PERCEIVE OURSELVES…..THERE IS ALSO THIS….

The name of this message is “Where is God?”
Gideon asked that question
And perhaps Einstein and Michael Oher asked it too.
Maybe you do.
When the bills pile up.
When the hospital visit turns into a stay at the hospital.
When loved ones die.
When the break up happens.
When you turn on the news.

The truth is tragedy happens in the world and our little corners of it.
As Gideon and the Israelites suffered at the hands of the Midianites and Amalekites they undoubtedly asked the question.

I hope you notice…from this scripture
That waiting for God to do something is not always the answer.
We see God engaging Gideon telling him that he has something for him to do.

See, while God is present / with you
He may be waiting for you to repent or…
God may be waiting for us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves.
He may be waiting for our pity to turn into a spirit of humility.
Whatever the case may be…
You can be certain that your role involves acknowledging God…
And following Him.

CLOSING

So, find yourself in Christ, not in what others say about you.

When tragedy does occur my prayer for you is like Paul’s in Ephesians 3

Ephesians 3:16-19
16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

According to this: If we can cast off the definitions we have of ourselves God can:
a. Strengthen us with his power.
b. To the point that it permeates our spirit
When we toss out the insecurity
Christ can reign in that place vacated by those insecurities.

When that happens our problems cease to overwhelm us.
Fears diminish.
Perspective changes for the better.

When you, so loved by God, realize just how wide, long, high and deeply you’re loved.
That is just a glimpse; because, according the verse, this is a love that surpasses knowledge.
It’s a love like nothing you have ever known
And when you’re filled to the measure of all the fullness of God:
You’ll be transformed.

You’ll go from living in fear like Gideon was
To being transformed like Gideon was.
To becoming a person boldly serving and following God like Gideon did.

Not because of anything you have done
But because of who you now realize you are in the eyes of God.
You are someone he has never forgotten about
Even when you ask: Where is God?

AMEN

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