After the victory over Ai, Joshua led the people on to many divinely aided victories in the conquest of Canaan. The people were faithful to God under Joshua right up through his death. His final words to them were to continue the conquest without making any peace treaties, compromises or intermarrying with these other nations. Joshua 23:12-13 He left good promise to them if they obeyed. He also left a warning of disaster if they should disobey. Sadly, the Israelites intermarried and began worshipping foreign gods. Judges 2:1-3
Partial victory always
leads to total defeat.
Moral decline and divine disaster soon followed.
The time of the Judges show us a cycle of human disobedience: God’s blessing, followed by sin, devolving into idolatry, which brings God’s judgment, which in turn prompts pleas for mercy resulting in rescue through a Judge or a deliverer. Then prosperity returns and the cycle starts all over again.
See Christ here: We are all part of a human race that is hopelessly aimed at wrongdoing. From Adam to us:
“There is none righteous, no, not one. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:9-12
And can we also say, “not even me?”
Yet into this human race of continually falling men, Christ comes. He is a rescuer and deliverer in the same model as the saving Judges. He doesn’t come to save the good or the spiritually healthy (for they do not need a doctor), He comes to save the sinner in his sin while he is doing his sin! Romans 5:6
Who is greater than this?
Read Judges 6:1-6
“Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord…”Judges 6:1
In Pixar’s “Bug’s Life” the ants gather and prepare for the winter. When they have worked so hard and long and piled up their grain, it is then that the locust arrive, with their leader Hopper, to seize their harvest.
“It’s a bug-eat-bug world out there. Now let me tell you how things are supposed to work: the sun grows the food, the ants pick the food, the grasshoppers eat the food.”
Hopper, Bug’s Life
So it is with the Israelites. They have sown and reaped but all of the fruit of their hands is seized and enjoyed by others. The only difference in the two stories is that the ants were innocent and the Israelites were not. The Israelites had turned to Baal worship which had vile practices that went with it. Sometimes ants are more to be pitied than men.
We remember a man once commenting on evolution, “To say that we have come from apes is an insult to apes. They are generally gentle. They don’t need to be continually policed so that they don’t rape and murder like progressive man.”
The heart of man is not a good place. Jeremiah said:
"The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked."
Jesus was even more descriptive of man's heart: "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person, Mark 7:21-23
The Israelites had done evil in the sight of the Lord. They had given offerings from their harvests to other gods like Baal. They cast the Lord behind them for a cheap imitation god that would encourage their love for sin. Now they are reaping, judiciously, what they rightly deserve. They are sorely afflicted by God's hand through the Midianites.
Before, when they were serving the Lord, they plundered what others had sown. Now the shoe is on the other foot.
“I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’” (Joshua 24:13)
Now that God has forsaken them, others have reaped what they have sowed. After seven years of crying out to Baal who failed them, now they turn back to the Lord of their fathers.
Nothing is more impoverishing than sin.
Think of the prodigal son. Sin took more from him than he could ever imagine or possibly ever regain on his own. Luke 15:14
But see Christ here: the sinner, once broken, seeks a savior who is greatly merciful and amazingly compassionate to, not only to people, but to people who have done great evil.
In response to their broken cry, the Lord sends to them a man with a message—a nameless prophet.
There are several nameless prophets in the Bible. A nameless man of God came to the priest Eli when his sons were abusing the sacrifices and acting in sexual immorality with several women. 1 Samuel 2:27 A nameless man of God spoke a rebuke to an evil king and predicted destruction to his altars. 2 Kings 13:11 There are many more.
These prophets seem to come out of nowhere to set the things of God aright and to set up that which is upset. They have no fear of men because they fear God. This nameless prophet is sent of the Lord in answer to their broken prayer. He speaks plainly to them, “You have not obeyed the Lord’s voice.” In the end, this mighty servant who has come from a place of obscurity is on the scene to inspire them with the assurance of divine presence. God is working through him to bring a great deliverance for His people.
“The function of a prophet has almost always been that of recovery.”
T. Austin Sparks
Some of us have had nameless people come before us at a time when we needed a voice from the Lord: a radio broadcast, a preacher we don’t know, or even a stranger who speaks to us boldly. They are like angels to us. Not the ones with wings but rather the ones with a message. They must be received. Hebrews 13:2
See Christ here: The prophet, like John the Baptist, prepares us for the Lord Jesus Christ. “For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’ ”” (Matthew 3:3, NKJV)
He came first with a message of repentance. The Lord was soon to follow.
Read Judges 6:11-24
First the prophet visits Israel and now Christ, the Angel of the Lord, visits a nobody named Gideon while he is threshing what grain he can keep from the Midianites in a hidden winepress. “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” The Lord says this to a scared and hiding man.
The Lord sees what he will make him, not what he is.
Gideon is, if anything, real. “If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” Where are all the miracles our fathers told us about?” The Lord tells him what he is going to do and it is truly mind-blowing. “…you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”
Small faith and small strength are the ingredients of victory when God, Himself, has sent you.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NKJV) This is how God gets the glory.
Gideon, like so many of us, has a block between his ears. He is from a small family of Manassah and he declares himself to be the least in his father’s house. The Lord doubles down, “Surley I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” Vs 16
Gideon asks for a sign.
Seeing your own wretchedness, your own inability and your own moral weakness is a pre-requisite for usability to the Lord.
Gideon didn’t lay a fleece before the Lord to make a decision. He had already been given direction (16). What Gideon needed was a supernatural confirmation of what he had already been divinely directed to do.
He was a man of small faith who pressed the Lord concerning this overwhelming call to increase his faith. “And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”” (Luke 17:5, NKJV)
Christ, as the Angel of the Lord, was merciful and miraculously “confirmed” the command.
This enlarged the faith of a very small man.
If Gideon had a life verse from the New Testament, it would be, “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NKJV)
Read: Judges 6:25-33
Gideon’s own father had an altar to another god—the detestable god of Baal. The Lord calls Gideon to tear it down and to replace it with an altar to the Lord on top of the rock where the Baal altar had been.
Many of us come from families that were pretty messed up. Those messed up families messed us up more than the sin we came into this world with.
See the power of God’s grace in us as it is in Gideon. The Lord is able to raise up a reformer and a deliverer from the family of a ring-leader in idol worship. Gideon, once captured by grace, makes a break with his family religion and family ways.
Let us see Christ here: He breaks the family curse. Our family tree, without Christ, is rotten from the root. We rise from the stump we come from in the same addictions, anger, adulteries, broken promises, and broken families. The sin of Adam and the sins of our fathers infect us wholly. Without a remedy, our children will branch out into their own rebellion and rotten fruit. What we need is a new family tree.
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”” (Galatians 3:13, TNIV)
Cursed on a tree, He became a blessing for us. Now we are sons and daughters in the family of God. That means we have a new family tree. The curse and cycle of sin is broken.
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—” (John 1:12, TNIV)
We find it sweet that though Gideon tore down his father’s altar, thinking it would bring him displeasure, but his father is not angry. We soon see his father defending his son’s actions when all rise up against him for the act. Yes, it may be that it was from fatherly affection. But it also might be that his father was inspired by his son’s courage, virtue and changed life. A son’s new faith may have stirred a new experience in the life of a parent who is tired in sin.