International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 24, 2011
Purpose: To emphasize the importance of putting our faith in God rather than in ourselves or our human leaders
Scripture Text: Judges 7:2-4, 13-15; 8:22-25 (NRSV)
(2)The LORD said to Gideon, “The troops with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand. Israel would only take the credit away from me, saying, ‘My own hand has delivered me.’ (3)Now therefore proclaim this in the hearing of the troops, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home.’” Thus Gideon sifted them out; twenty-two thousand returned, and ten thousand remained. (4)Then the LORD said to Gideon, “The troops are still too many; take them down to the water and I will sift them out for you there. When I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go with you; and when I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”
(13)When Gideon arrived, there was a man telling a dream to his comrade; and he said, “I had a dream, and in it a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian, and came to the tent, and struck it so that it fell; it turned upside down, and the tent collapsed.” (14)And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, a man of Israel; into his hand God has given Midian and all the army.” (15)When Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped; and he returned to the camp of Israel, and said, “Get up; for the LORD has given the army of Midian into your hand.”
(22) Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also; for you have delivered us out of the hand of Midian.” (23)Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.” (24)ThenGideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you; each of you give me an earring he has taken as booty.” (For the enemy had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) (25)“We will willingly give them,” they answered. So they spread a garment, and each threw into it an earring he had taken as booty.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
The story of Gideon can be found in chapters 6-8 in the Book of Judges, I would suggest you read those three chapters and also the very last verse of the Book of Judges 21:25. This will give you a more complete picture of the story of Gideon.
Gideon is introduced in verse 11 of chapter 6, and the introduction does not seem to flatter Gideon' bravery. He is found sort of cowering in a winepress harvesting grain, so that the Midianites couldn't see him and steal his harvest. While we may see a cowering Gideon, God saw something different, notice God's greeting in 6:12, “The LORD is with you, you mighty warrior.” It has often been said, “God does not call the equipped, he equips the called.” At the time of his call Gideon was a middle aged man, living at the family compound and was evidently a worshiper of Baal. Verse 25 of chapter 6 says, “....pull down the altar of Baal that belongs to your father, and cut down the sacred pole that is beside it; …..” The other thing we see about Gideon is he prefers to operate during darkness, which is not a strong sign of courage.
Even after his call, and the miracles that were shown to him, he continues to doubt, and ask for two more signs, which was the putting out of fleeces, (verses 6:36-40) before he agrees to God's command.
As our text for today begins, Gideon has been able to rally together a fair sized army from the neighboring tribes of Israel 32,000 volunteers. Again we see a sign of Gideon's courage; Gideon wanted as big an army as he could muster if he was going into battle. The problem with that was if his numbers were greater than the enemy, it left no room for God to demonstrate to the world that He was greater than Baal and all of the other gods that were being worshiped. What we accomplish, in our own strength, does not bring glory to God. God's plan is global and universal; it looks further down the road than we can see. God's plan is recorded in 1st Timothy 2: (3) This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, (4)who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (5)For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human.”
When God starts weeding out those that are not needed, the army of 32,000 is quickly reduced by 22,000. Still God does not need 10,000 soldiers to defeat the Midianites, so the soldiers are reduced to 300 men that lapped up water like a dog, that is, they used their hand like a dogs tongue, and did not kneel down to drink from the stream, but rather brought the water up to their mouth with their hand, never leaving themselves vulnerable to others, always on alert. Willingness to serve does account for something in God's army.
As the story of Gideon progresses we see God continuing to reassure Gideon that the victory has already been won, but we also see Gideon starting to believe it is because of himself and his efforts that the victory is won. When Gideon proclaims in verse 7:18: “For the LORD and for Gideon” , we can see the start of a decline in his understanding of how God desires to work within us, and his focus becomes more about himself and less about God.
Now, because I am a member of Gideon's International, I must tell you that in the King James version, verse 18 says, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon” and Gideons believe that the bible is the “Sword of the Lord” and that it can accomplish God's will when it is read. That is why we try to get the bible into as many hands as possible.
The story of Gideon ends rather sadly, as we see a man become proud, greedy and disobedient. The very thing God ask him to destroy he now builds, an idol or ephod, in his home town and makes a sort of shrine to his accomplishments. Gideon had shown great promise, and rightly refused to be made a king, but he found something better, he could live like a king with all of the wives and concubines but did not have to perform any duties except do as he pleased. Sadly the Book of Judges ends with verse 23 of chapter 21 “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.”
Unfortunately this philosophy is far too popular today in our society, nobody wants to answer to a God of righteousness, they prefer to do what seems right to themselves, so we are as guilty as those in Gideon's day We were created in God's image, but too many of us have created a god in our image.