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Intro: For some time now we have been looking at the lives of the Judges of Israel. For the last few months, our attention has been focused on Gideon the Reluctant Judge.
As you may remember, Gideon was a fearful young man when the Lord selected him to lead the nation of Israel into battle against their enemies the Midianites. While Gideon was reluctant to obey the Lord’s call on his life at first, eventually he did as the Lord commanded. Gideon led a tiny force of just 300 men into battle against an overwhelming army of 135,000. God intervened and gave Gideon and his men an astounding victory. The Midianites were put to flight and suffered terrible losses. Only 15,000 men were left of the originally 135,000 men that began the battle, Judges 8:10. This chapter records the events that occurred in the immediate aftermath of the conflict.
Apparently, not everyone in Israel was excited about the great victory God had given Gideon and His men. It seems that some of the people in Israel were more concerned about their personal profit and pride than they were about what God had done for their nation. They failed to grasp the big picture. They were too focused on their own interests.
This passage allows us a glimpse at both sides of human character. On the one hand we can see the pride of those who cared for nothing but personal pride and glory. On the other hand we see those who are motivated by the glory of God. We see some who cared for nothing but themselves, and we see some who persisted in the face of opposition, criticism and overwhelming odds.
I want to examine this text and preach about Pride, Politics, and Persistence. I want to point out the types of people that present themselves in this text. As we consider these different types of people, let us also consider ourselves. As we do, may we find ourselves on the right side of the issue.
I. v. 1-3 SOME WERE PRIDEFUL
A. v. 1 The Criticism Of Ephraim – After the Midianites were defeated and were on the run, Gideon sent messengers to the men of Ephraim to pursue after them. The Midianites did this and they killed two of the princes of the Midianites and brought their heads to Gideon, Judges 7:24-25.
When they met up with Gideon, they began to criticize him. They want to know why they weren’t asked to join the battle. The Bible says they “chided with him sharply”. The word “chided” has the idea of “bitter, strong and cutting words”. They attacked Gideon because he had not called them to the battle.
It might be helpful to take a minute to talk about the tribe of Ephraim. Ephraim was the largest of all the tribes. At this time, the Tabernacle was located in Shiloh, which was in Ephraim. The Ephraimites descended from Joseph and his Egyptian wife. They were a tribe that was proud of its heritage, proud of its influence and proud of its power. They wanted the respect of the rest of the tribes.
Ephraim was often on the wrong side of spiritual matters. Later, during the reign of the judge Jephthah, the tribe of Ephraim would again complain that they had been left out of a battle, Judges 12:1-4. In Hosea 7:8, God says that Ephraim is “a cake not turned”. That is, they were overcooked on the bottom and raw on the top. They were hot toward the world and cold toward God. Ephraim was a tribe marked by trouble, pride and selfishness. Another powerful rebuke to the pride of Ephraim is found in Psalm 78:9, which says, “The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.”
In this case, they are jealous of Gideon’s victory. They are sorry that they missed out on the spoils of war. They are angry because they were not the object of glory, so they turned on Gideon.
If Ephraim had been truly concerned about the oppression of the Midianites, they could have gone to war by themselves. Or, they could have volunteered for Gideon’s army. But that never would have worked! When Gideon asked for the fearful to leave the battlefield, or for those who bowed to drink to leave, their pride would have kept them from submitting to the will of the Lord. In this case, all they are concerned with is the wealth and glory they think they missed out on.
(Note: The Ephraimites are typical of those who are full of self. Like prideful peacocks they strut around calling attention to themselves, but when trouble comes, they are the first to flee. Like peacocks, they won’t do anything, but they are quick to lift their voice and squawk and criticize those who do. They won’t make a decision, take a risk, or join in with others as they seek to follow the will of God, but they do not hesitate to find fault with the actions of those who are attempting to do something for God. There are plenty of people still around who think and act just like the Midianites, but that is an attitude the church could do without!)
B. v. 2-3 The Control Of Gideon – Instead of reacting in anger to their criticism, Gideon responds very graciously. In verse 2 Gideon reminds them that the Lord has blessed them. They already possess more than those around them. Gideon says, “The leftovers from your harvest is greater than what we get in our harvest!”
Gideon then reminds them that God gave them the Midianite princes. He turns away their wrath because he swallowed his pride and thought about what was best for the nation. Gideon was not motivated by his own feelings; he was motivated by submission to the will of God. Also, Gideon gave them the glory they wanted, and they were satisfied!
(Note: When you are doing something for the Lord, you can expect to be criticized by those who do nothing. When they attack you, your motives and your efforts, it is easy to get sidetracked and allow anger to rule in your heart. It is easy to lash out and tell them off or put them in their place. When the attacks come, and they will, we should do like Gideon and exercise control over our emotions, Pro. 15:1; 16:32.
Instead of getting sidetracked by our critics, we must keep our eyes on the task we have been assigned by God, Ill. Heb. 12:2; Eph. 6:6. When all the battles are over and we face the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will not give an account to those who challenge us. We will give account to the Lord. It is vital that we do His work regardless of what the proud peacocks or the cruel critics do.)
I. Some Were Prideful
II. v. 4-9 SOME WERE POLITICAL
A. v. 4-5 A Simple Request – As Gideon and his men continue in their pursuit of the Midianites, Gideon becomes concerned about the welfare of his men. They pass two towns, first they came to Succoth, and then they came to Penuel. At each town Gideon made a simple and very reasonable request of his fellow Israelites. He asked them for bread to feed his weary men. This was a request that should have been granted without hesitation.
B. v. 6, 8 A Shameful Refusal – Instead of coming to the aid of God’s chosen deliverer, the elders of both towns refused to get involved in Gideon’s fight.
These men are playing politics with the things of God. They ask Gideon, “Do you have their kings in custody?” In other words, they are saying, “If you don’t have their kings, you haven’t really won the battle. If we help you and you are defeated, those kings will come after us and we will pay a terrible price for our decision to help you. No, you are not getting any bread from us!”
Both these cities are part of the tribe of Gad. The name Gad means “a troop”. Specifically, the name refers to “a troop that crushes through the enemy.” The fact is, these people were no living up to their name or their heritage. They would not even help the man God chose to deliver them from their enemies in his fight for deliverance.
They were like the politicians of our day who have to see which way the wind is blowing before they will make a decision. They were afraid to take a stand for God.
When the people of Succoth and Penuel refused to support God’s work, they were clearly demonstrating the fact that they were against God’s work. When they refused to help Gideon and his army, they were actually guilty of giving aid to the enemy. These people were not thankful for what God had already done. Like the Ephraimites, they only wanted to find fault with Gideon and to protect their own little kingdoms. They failed to realize that by giving Gideon bread, they would be guaranteeing future blessings for their people. All they cared about was maintaining the status quo.
(Note: There are still people around who do the same things these cities did. There are some who play politics with the things of God. You see there are no gray areas when it comes to the work of the Lord. You cannot be neutral when it comes to serving Him. Jesus put it this way, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad,” Matt. 12:30.
Those who refuse to support God’s work will not support those who do serve Him. Those who do not respect the work of God will not respect the workers of God. When we refuse to give to the work of the Lord; when we refuse to participate in the work of the Lord; and when we refuse to respect the work of the Lord, just because we are looking out for our own interests first, we are guilty of aiding the enemy in his work.)
C. v. 7, 9 A Solemn Response – Because these two cities refused to help him, Gideon tells them that they will face judgment when he returns the victor over the Midianites. He reminds them that there is a price to pay for standing against the Lord and His work.
(Note: We would do well to remember that truth today. One day we will all stand before the Lord to give an account of our service to Him. Better that we should give account for doing His work, even when we fail, than for opposing those who are actively trying to serve the Lord, Ill. Rom. 14:12; Heb. 13:17.
God saved us to work, James 2:18. God has placed us in His work, Eph. 2:10. God expects us to be involved to the best of our ability! Are you a preacher? Get out there and preach! Are you a singer? Stand up and sing! Do you have a testimony? Share it for the glory of God! Do you have a dollar? Give it to Jesus and watch Him bless it for His glory! All I am saying is get up and get active in the work of the Lord, and never, ever be found hindering, opposing or standing in the way of what God is doing in the world! May we never, like these people, be guilty of refusing to serve the Lord out of fear!)
I. Some Were Prideful
II. Some Were Political
III. v. 4, 10-21 SOME WERE
(Ill. While some people walked in their pride and others allowed personal political agendas to determine their allegiance, Gideon and his men simply persevered in their work for the Lord. In their persistence, they set a good example for those of us who desire to be found faithful in the Lord’s work.)
A. v. 4 How They Continued – Instead of being discouraged and defeated by the criticism of Ephraim and by the callousness of the two cities from which he requested help, Gideon and his army pressed on in pursuit of the Midianites. I love the phrase in verse 4, which says, “faint, yet pursuing them”. These men were tired and weary from the battle. They are hungry and great need of rest, yet they carry on! I love that attitude, don’t you?
(Note: Where did we ever get the idea that there was a place to sit down on the Lord? Where did we ever get the idea that it was OK to sit back while others did all the work? Where did we every get the idea that we could back off, slow down and take it easy in our spiritual walk? Where do some people get the idea that they can join a church and never do anything? Wherever those ideas come from, they certainly did not come from the Lord. I would suggest that it is an idea planted in our minds by the enemy to try and get us to quit on the Lord.
I would recommend that we be like Gideon and his men. I would suggest that even when we get weary; we press on for the glory of God, Eph. 6:6; 1 Cor. 15:58!
We all grow weary from time to time in the battle. When we do, we need to look to Jesus and learn from His example, Heb. 12:1-3. We will only be in the world a short time, and then we will fly off to glory to be with Him. While we are here, let us determine to do all we can for His glory!)
B. v. 10-12 How They Conquered – Gideon and his men defeated their enemies and captured the Midianite kings. They persevered in the face of opposition and criticism and they enjoyed a great victory. Because they would not be stopped short of victory, they saw God move in great power.
(Note: Those who refuse to quit and persist in following the Lord’s will for their lives will see Him use them in great ways. That is His promise, Gal. 6:9; 2 Cor. 4:8-9; Isa. 40:31. Those who persevere will enjoy the best of God’s blessings. Those who quit will see God do nothing!)
C. v. 13-21 How They Concluded – Gideon came back with the Midianite kings. When he came to Succoth, he took their 75 elders and put them to death by dragging them through thorns and briars until they died, vv. 15-16. When he came to Penuel, he tore down their tower and killed their elders, v. 17. Then, Gideon slew the Midianite kings, vv. 18-21. In other words, because he was obedient to the Lord and to His will for his life, Gideon enjoyed absolute victory over all his enemies. In the end, Gideon had the last laugh!
(Note: the principle is this: Those who walk with the Lord and do His will enjoy victory in their lives. If you want the Lord’s blessings, His power and His victory to be manifested in your life, the only path you should follow is His path. When you walk with the Lord, obedience to Him always results in victory! When you walk against Him, you can expect nothing but defeat!)
Conc: If you had to sum up your life today, how would you do it? Would you say that you are walking in pride? Would you say everything in your life is about political advantage? Or, can you honestly say that you are doing your best to be persistent in your walk with Him? God is looking for people in this day that will take their stand for Him and say, “We will not back down.” He is looking for those who will get involved in His work and help those whoare trying to serve Him. Are you one of those?
If the Lord has spoken to you about your heart, your life and your service, the place to talk to Him about it right here. Come to Him. Recommit your life to His will. Surrender yourself to all that He wants you to be and do, and get busy for His glory.