Chapter 19: An Angel Sends Gideon to Deliver Them - Page 5 (series: Lessons on Judges)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Also God chose a man by the name of Elijah. Elijah was not a weak man, but he had to become weak. God had to put that man through a series of tests. He schooled him in the desert and finally forced him to listen to the still, small voice of God. And Elijah did not much care for still, small voices. This is the man who liked the three–ring circus, the fireworks, the noise and the fanfare, but God had to train him and let him know that He chooses the weak things of the world. After Elijah walked into the court of Ahab and Jezebel, he told them it would not rain for several years. Then God put him out by the brook Cherith. There as he saw the brook dry up, he found out that his life was no more than a dried–up brook. Later he looked down into an empty flour barrel, but he could sing the doxology. When he did, God fed him and the widow’s family out of that empty flour barrel. Why? Because God chooses and uses weak things.
Then consider Simon Peter. Whoever would have chosen him? Why, everybody knew he was as weak as water, and our Lord said, “You are going to be a rock–man. I will make you as stable as a rock.” I imagine everybody laughed when He said that. Even Simon Peter gave up on one occasion and said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). What he is really saying is this, “Why don’t you give me up and go get somebody else? I am such a failure.” But the Lord Jesus said, “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men” (Luke 5:10). In effect He said, “You are the very one I want. You are going to preach the first sermon on the day of Pentecost which will bring three thousand people to Me. I am going to demonstrate that I can use the weakest thing in the world.” God always does that, my beloved. The interesting thing is, someone has said, that Nero was on the throne while Paul was being beheaded. At first glance, it looked like Paul had lost and Nero had won. But history had already handed down its decision. Men name their sons Paul and call their dogs Nero. This is quite interesting, is it not? God is choosing the weak things of this world.

Did you notice that Gideon immediately began to make excuses for himself. He raised the objection that his family in Manasseh was poor, and that he was the least in my father’s house (i.e., he was the youngest son of his family, and they were an insignificant family from a militarily impoverished tribe). In essence, he was saying that he was not qualified for this task, neither was his family, and neither was his tribe.

And I am the least in my father's house; perhaps the youngest son; though some claim he is, and others his father, the Chiliarch, or head of the thousand; but by these words of his it does not seem as if either was true; but he may have been a man with wealth and substance, power and authority. I believe he was such a person, because Judges 6.2727 says that he took ten servants with him, however, it is clear from his description of himself that he has great humility and modesty, having no high thoughts of himself and family, nor any dependence on his own strength, and on an arm of flesh. He is The least — Either for age, or fitness for so great a work.

And he said unto him, oh my Lord. Whether he had yet suspected who he was, or took him still for some eminent person, is not certain; it is very probable he began to think he was some extraordinary person sent of God, and speaking in his name, and therefore expostulates with him about the work he put upon him :
wherewith shall I save Israel? In what way is it possible for me to do it, who had neither men nor money sufficient for such an undertaking? Wherewith shall I save Israel?—I have neither men nor money. Gideon made a very modest objection against this commission: O my Lord! wherewith shall I save Israel? This question shows that he is either,

1. Distrustful of God and his power, as if, though God should be with him, yet it was impossible for him to save Israel. True faith is often weak, yet it shall not be rejected, but encouraged and strengthened. Or,
2. Inquisitive concerning the methods he must take: "Lord, I labour under all imaginable disadvantages for it; if I must do it, thou must put me in the way.’’ Note, Those who receive commissions from God must expect and seek for instructions from him. Or rather,
3. Humble, lacking self-confidence, and self-denying. The angel had honored him, but see how poorly he speaks of himself: "My family is comparatively poor in Manasseh’’ (impoverished, it may be, more than other families by the Midianites), "and I am the least, that have the least honor and interest, in my father’s house; what can I pretend to do? I am utterly unfit for the service, and unworthy of the honor.” Note, God often chooses to do great things by those that are little, especially that are so in their own eyes. God delights to advance the humble.

behold, my family is poor in Manasseh. Tribes were anciently divided into tens, and fifties, and hundreds, and thousands; the thousands therefore marked the largest divisions, and consequently had numerous families; his tribe, and the "thousand" in it, was the poorest of all the thousands in that tribe; some render it, "my father": My family — Heb. my thousand: for the tribes were distributed into several thousands, with each thousand having its particular governor. His thousand is poor — That is, weak and contemptible. Gideon here intimates that the families of which he wasmade a part of were very much diminished, that is, this tribe is greatly reduced, and can do little against their enemies.

Have you ever compared that little Baby in Bethlehem with Caesar Augustus who could sign a tax bill and the whole civilized world was taxed? Which would you pick? I would take the tax–gatherer every time because he seems to have a lot of power, but God took that little Baby in Bethlehem, for He was His Son. God always chooses that way.

Although Gideon was a very weak individual, God told him that he was the one who was going to deliver Israel. Yes, God is going to use Gideon, but first He must train him. Gideon had to overcome his fear and develop courage. He needed faith to help strengthen his feeble knees and make him patient. I want you to notice some of the training that he went through. He immediately, you see, was afraid; so God gave him his first lesson.

16 And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man. (KJV)

16 The LORD replied, “I will be with you. You will defeat Midian as if it were {only} one man.”
Judges 6:16 (GW)

And the Lord said unto him, surely I will be with thee. The Targum is, “my Word shall be thy help,” which was sufficient to answer all objections taken from his humble condition, unworthiness, and weakness; such things have indeed often hindered men in great enterprises, but what are they to a man that has the presence of God with him, which will make up all the deficiencies of honor and estate.

Surely I will be with thee, to direct and strengthen thee, and make your reputation such that you will have soldiers enough to follow thee.

and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man; all together, and as easily as if thou hadst but one man to deal with, and the destruction will be so complete and general that no one will be left. All the thousands of Midian shall be as if they had but one neck, and thou shalt have the cutting of it off.

In spite of this promise, Gideon still asked for a sign to confirm the angel’s message. He was requesting a supernatural event to confirm the fact that this was no mere angelic being, but an appearance of God Himself! That is the next lesson.

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