O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on Judges 6:7-16;7:19-22
Preached on March 12, 2014
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Fellow baptized saints, they're crop-destroyin', plague-deployin', quite anoyin', mighty menacin' Midianites! They're fond of fightin', strike like lightnin', man ... they're frightenin'. Mighty menacin' Midianites! They steal, kill and destroy every man, woman, girl and boy! They are mighty menacin' Midianites. They came from the union between Abraham and his second wife Keturah. They once came to the plains of Moab to seduce Israel at the famous apostasy of Baal Peor, recorded in the book of Numbers. Now in the Book of Judges they come to the Jezreel and down the Mediterranean coast all the way to Gaza unleashing on Israel their new, "top-secret" weapon ... domesticated camels!!
Israel is spiritually, economically, politically and militarily bankrupt. People are living in villages with no walls, with no standing army, no central government and we are told four times in the Book of Judges ... they have no king. For seven years Midianites are sweeping down " ... like swarms of locusts ... not sparing any living thing." Eyewitnesses to locust attacks in modern Israel testify to seeing swarms that are ten miles deep and over twenty miles long. Like swarms of locusts, Israel's enemy is crop-destroyin', plague-deployin', quite annoyin', they are ... indeed ... mighty menacin' Midianites!
Do you have any Midianites in your life, enemies that appear like swarms of locusts, ten miles deep and over twenty miles long, "not sparing any living thing"? Sure you do ... so do I--historically the Church has called them the SEVEN DEADLY SINS--anger, pride, envy, greed, lust, gluttony, and sloth. They're fond of fightin', strike like lightnin' ... man, they're frightenin'.
And it is the chief Midianite who uses these SEVEN DEADLY SINS to "steal, kill and destroy" ev'ry man, woman, girl and boy. He goes by several names--"murderer ... a liar and the father of lies ... a roaring lion seeking someone to devour ... the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the devil and Satan." Satan is marriage-destroyin', perversion-deployin', and more than just a little ... annoyin'.
Today the Lord is enlisting an army to defeat Midianites. He begins with a word of AFFIRMA-TION--Judges 6:12--"When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.'" Gideon is threshing wheat, not with oxen and sledge on an open elevation, but in the cramped space of a wine press--the guy is afraid of his own shadow! Gideon is the Barney Fife of the Bible!!
And he might as well come from Mayberry! Gideon's hometown is Ophrah--in Hebrew it means PLACE OF DUST. Now doesn't that sound like a town where you would want to launch a military campaign, doesn't it? PLACE OF DUST! So Gideon responds, "How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." So why does the LORD recruit Gideon?
Welcome to the Book of Judges! The LORD recruits Ehud, a left-handed Benjamite; Shamgar with his "impressive" ox-goad; Deborah, "a mother in Israel"; Jephthah, a rejected robber with a big mouth; Samson, a sex-addicted Nazarite.
St. Paul writes in first Corinthians: "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were influential; not many were of noble birth." And yet today the LORD is recruiting us for his army! In spite of the fact - that to a person - we have skeletons in our closets that, if made public, we would die ... in embarrassment. In spite of the fact that to a person we have a daily propensity to prefer darkness rather than light--lies instead of truth--pride instead of humility. Yet hear this loving and life-changing Word of AFFIRMATION: ‘The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.'"
The General of this Army is equipping us for warfare. By faith in Jesus we have "... the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, the belt of truth buckled around our waist and feet fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace." Indeed, God says it, faith believes it--we are armed and dangerous ... mighty warriors!
But with so many Midianites around him, Gideon not only needs a new view of himself, he needs a new view of his God. So the LORD moves from AFFIRMATION ... TO REVELATION ... Judges 6:24--"So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it ‘the LORD is Peace.'" On this altar "fire consumed the meat and the bread." There is nothing left ... as the LORD reveals that he is the God of wholeness, healing, peace, who puts what is broken back together again.
On another altar called Golgotha the LORD reveals his ultimate gift of peace. Not meat and bread, but the Father's only Son is consumed on a Roman instrument of death--after the kiss of betrayal and the arrest, after the thorns and the spitting, after the seven words and the bleeding: there is nothing left. This total loss would last for exactly three days. For in the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ our heavenly Father once and for all reveals that through the blood of Calvary he offers you the free gift of peace--peace that the world can never give--peace that passes all human understanding.
Do you see God in his magnificent REVELATION at the cross? Confess the truth with the words of the familiar song--"My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty, there's nothing my God cannot do!" His peace puts your broken life back together again!
God is raising up an army with AFFIRMATION ... REVELATION ... and now CONFRONTATION--in Judges 6:25, the LORD says to Gideon, "Tear down your father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it." Baal and Asherah are typical ancient Near Eastern deities – idols - that promise field and family fertility to those who perform their worship rites. These rites consist of mega doses of sex and drunkenness and every form of indecency.
What's the Baal in your backyard? What's the idol in your life? What are you allowing to erode your relationship with Jesus? Are you addicted to Internet pornography, binge spending, binge drinking, binge church gossip? Whatever it is, the LORD says, "Cut it down."
That's what Gideon does, and so they nickname him Jerubaal "because he broke down Baal's altar." Gideon refuses to be conformed to this present age, he refuses to compromise with evil, he refuses to blend in. To all recruits today, the LORD has a direct word of CONFRONTATION. "See that Baal in your backyard? Cut it down!"
Finally ... MOTIVATION--Gideon begins with 32,000 men, the ranks thin to 10,000, then the army further decreases to the "imposing sight" of 300 who lap water like dogs! Gideon's got less than 1% of his original army! The odds are now 450 to one in favor of the fond-of-fightin', strike-lik- lightnin', man ... they're frightenin', mighty menacin' Midianites! It looks impossible--so he needs MOTIVATION. Judges 6:34--"Then the Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon." Gideon is not left alone; and so clothed with the Spirit of the living God, he makes mincemeat out of 120,000 Midianites.
Its looks impossible--doesn't it? Believing, speaking, loving and living only for Jesus. But we are not left alone. The LORD clothes us with the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who will be with us forever. Baptism delivers him, Holy Communion celebrates him, the Gospel imparts his power—we have the MOTIVATION to begin, continue and end victorious ...God gives us the Spirit and name of Christ!
And you thought all Gideon did was write the Bibles in hotels! No, for all his hesitation and weakness and doubt, finally Gideon, the Barney Fife of the Bible stood up to his enemies. And so shall we, by the grace of God stand up. "From victory unto victory his army shall he lead; till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed!" Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr