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Series: The Book Of Judges
Sun am 8 November 2015 – Justus Swart
Judges 7:1-24; Judges 8:1-9; 15-22; (Prov. 15:1); (Matt. 8:4)
We are still looking into the book of Judges. It is incredible how something that happened over three thousand years ago is still relevant to us today. We started with Gideon’s story. He was one of the Judges in the time when the Israelites were coming into the land of promise. Gideon had a little bit of trouble accepting his mandate in the beginning when God spoke to him.
God gave Gideon direct instruction to go in and destroy the idols, the Baal altars in his family’s village. He was afraid when he had to do that. Sometimes we also have to learn that God is talking to us but sometimes we do not like what He is saying. God is telling us to go and tear down the idols that are taking up the position that God wants in our lives. Gideon also had to ask God for confirmation regarding the promises God had given him. The term ‘fleecing God’ has been created (Judges 6). That was not the end of Gideon’s story. We are going to look at Gideon’s transformation. He was fearful whenever God spoke to him. He was scared of the consequences but we see Gideon recreated in the commission God had given him and he becomes a fierce leader (Judges 7 and 8).
We are going to look at two types of endurance:
- Faith endurance: Where God removes everything from our lives that gives us a sense of security and leaves us only Him to rely on.
- Character endurance: Where Gideon had to keep on trying and believing God’s promises even though everything was against him.
Endurance is our ability to stay faithful despite numerous obstacles, the ability to stand strong despite difficulties. The obstacles may take different shapes or forms for each of us. The truth is we all have obstacles. We all have difficulties from time to time and things we have to overcome. Some obstacles require us to hang tight even though it looks like everything is being stripped away from us. The things we can rely on and the things that give us comfort suddenly disappear from our lives. We are left with nothing other than God to trust. That is faith endurance, the ability to persevere when everything is being pulled away from us.
Then other obstacles leave us stranded and alone and it requires us to be faithful in our character. We need perseverance to keep going even though we are alone or we feel that things are actually against us. Through each trial we may be tempted to go back as it feels that God has left us or God has abandoned us, but we know that we have to press on. There is no standing still; there is only going forward. Many of us are trying to understand whether God is calling us to have faith endurance or to have character endurance.
Gideon had an army of thirty two thousand people. He was about to invade the Midianites and God says, “There are too many. Tell the men who are afraid to go home” (Judges 7:3). Twenty two thousand people departed and went home. Even when there was only a third of the army left, God said it was still too many (Judges 7:4). There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink (Judges 7:5-6).The first lesson we are going to learn about faith endurance is that God wants all the glory. God did not want Israel to defeat the enemy in their own strength. God wanted to accomplish something and let everyone know that it was Him. For this reason God will remove all the things that are likely to make our victory possible. God reduced it down to three hundred men so that Israel could not boast that they had achieved victory. It may have seemed a very strange way to test and sift out the soldiers. Many have given their interpretation of what this means. He took them to the water and they had to drink in these different ways. Some say those who brought the water with their hand to their mouth were the chosen three hundred because while they were drinking the water with the one hand the other hand was on their weapon. It means they were alert, they were upright and in their military position. We know that water in the Old Testament is very often a type or symbol of the Word of God. If we are saying that the water is the Word of God, the people that took the Word, were able to assimilate it and draw it in close to their lives. If we apply that to our lives, it is those who are discerning with what they read in the Bible and apply it to their lives, not necessarily those who just jump in, bury their faces, run away and then immediately forget. It is the ones that are careful, particular and discerning about the Word of God. I believe God is calling us to be that discerning three hundred. If we are that discerning three hundred we are called to that faith endurance.
God took only a fraction of Gideon’s men to war. He totally shattered Gideon’s confidence as the huge army was whittled down to almost nothing. Gideon must have been totally confused by these tactics as humanly speaking the more men you have the better your chance of victory. God wanted total and complete reliance on Him. If it feels like all of your securities are being stripped away, it might be that God is calling you to faith endurance.
How do I know if God is calling me to a faith kind of endurance? Faith endurance is reliant on God’s promise to you (Judges 7:9-15). This highlights the one and only instance where God calls you to faith endurance; that is if God has directly promised you a victory. It does not help if you have faith for something God never promised you. God directly confirms through the dream and interpretation that He was going to give the Midianites over to Gideon. God knows that although He gives us promises we still become scared and worried and we need confirmation from time to time. If He has made a promise to you He will provide the confirmation and you will know that you are being called to faith endurance. Many of us believe God for something He has never promised us. We think if we have enough faith we will get what we want. If God has not promised us something and we are trying to have faith, we are actually trying to convince God to do what we want. God is not a magical little fairy.
Faith is the practical belief that God is who He says He is. Doubt is a natural part of life, God makes promises and we doubt, but if we doubt that God is who He says He is, we are in dangerous waters. God promised Gideon the victory (Judges 7:9). If the Lord was not with them how is it humanly possible for three hundred men to defeat one hundred and fifty thousand? It is not about us fighting. You are not required to fight. When you are on a faith journey and are called to have faith endurance, you have signed up for God to do His thing; not for you to do your thing. There will be times in your faith journey when you will be tempted to grab the wheel and steer it in another direction. When you are on a faith journey you are often tempted to take control. If any of Gideon’s men had tried to assist the victory, they would have been outnumbered and they would have been killed. It was a discipline of patience and holding back to let God do what He had promised.
Faith endurance is for ourselves, for our own personal benefit. Particularly in Jesus’ ministry when He healed someone He told them not to let anyone know that He healed them (Matt. 8:4). He did not want people to be drawn into Christianity for the miracles. You are not to be pulled into Christianity because God solved your problems. God is not a problem solver, He is God. God came down to deal with one problem and that is sin, and He dealt with that. If we treat God like a problem solver in every little thing in our lives, we are missing the point. When we are on a faith journey it is for our own edification and our own building up.
Character endurance on the other hand is for the benefit of others. People and the world need to know that God is not a religion, but He is a relationship, a living breathing Being and He wants to draw us to a relationship with Him.
Gideon was used to taking to God all the time. We know we are being called to character endurance when suddenly there is a silence from above. Faith endurance comes from the direct promise of God where we are to hold onto something, but character endurance is the perseverance of our character usually when there is silence. Are we going to keep the faith? Are we going to stay on track and keep on going even when we cannot hear anything? It was about Gideon’s ability to stay true to his conviction that God had promised him victory even though God had seemingly become silent. There are many challenges for those on a journey of character endurance (Judges 8:1-9, 15-17).
- You will feel alone. Character endurance is generally an inner working; something going on inside of you. It is God forming you, shaping you on the inside. If God is calling you on a character journey, do not be surprized if you feel lonely. Gideon was misunderstood and was tried by the other men. Gideon replied with a soft answer and his character persevered. He was able to stay calm and able to speak and he won them over. A soft answer wins over the man but a harsh answer stirs up anger (Prov. 15:1).
Character endurance has a way of revealing to us who our true friends are. When you are going through a difficult time and you are being shaped and formed through being in uncomfortable spaces. When you are feeling alone it tends to show you who are the people close to you, who are the people who are going to take the journey with you. Gideon who started out like a trembling, scared man became one who was able to threaten kings. He was transformed through the commission that God had given him. When you are going through a tough time and nobody believes you or wants to help you, people just seem to be allergic to you; it is generally because God is doing something in your character. You have to have the perseverance to see it through until the work is completed. The reason most people react this way is that God spoke to you and not to them. When God speaks to you, it is your burden to carry and it takes a special kind of character endurance to see it through.
God wants to push you to a new level in your character. He wants you to have nothing but Him to rely on and He wants to form you into Christ His son. He is developing you.
- You have to finish what you started, taking responsibility for it until its end as nobody can do it for you (Judges 8:18-21). Faith endurance is for the individual whereas character endurance is for those around you. Gideon had to complete the task for others to perceive the work that has been done in him. They had to see the completed work in Gideon and it was for their benefit that Gideon completed the task. They saw that he was a man of noble character, a man capable of rulership (Judges 8:22).
God wants to accomplish something in each and every one of us. God wants to fulfil the destiny He has put inside each one of us.