Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode 619 · 1 month ago

The Book of Judges #13

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Kim Kuhfuss

Judges 8:4-28

Looking at the book of judges. We are in Chapter Eight. We finished with verse three, so I'll be reading beginning with verse four and going through Verse Twenty Eight, reminding you this is God's word. And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the three hundred men who were with him, exhausted, yet pursuing. So he said to the men of Saca, please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted and I'm pursuing after Zeban Zalmona. The kings of Midian and the officials of Saka said, are the hands of Zeba and Zalmana already in your hand, that we should get bread to your army. So Gideon said, well then, when the Lord has given Zeban Zalmana into my hand, I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the Wilderness and the BRIARS. And from there he went up to Paneua and spoke to them in the same way, and the Menipanneua answered him as the men of Sacca answered. And he said to the Menapeneua, when I come again in peace, I'll break down this tower. Now zeban's Almana were in carcer with their are me about about fifteen thousand men, all who were left of all the army of the people in the east, for there had fallen a hundred and twenty thousand men who drew the sword, and Getteon went up by the way of the tent dwellers east of Noba and Jog Biha and attacked the army, for the army felt secure and Zeben Zelmanna fled and he pursued them and he captured the two kings of met Midian, Zeba and Zelmanna, and he threw all the army into a panic. Then Getteon, the son of Joe Ash, returned from the battle by the ascent of Harris, and he captured a young man of Sarka and questioned him and he wrote down for him the officials and elders of Sarka, seven men or seventy seven men, and he came to the men of Sarka and said, behold Zeba and Zimana, about whom you taunted me, saying are the hands of Zeben Zelmanna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are exhausted, and he took the elders of the city, and he took thorns of the Wilderness and Briars with them Uh and taught the men of Sarca the lesson, and he broke down the hour a penuel and killed the men at the city. Then he said to Zeeben Zelmanna, where are the men whom you killed at Tabor? They answered, as you are, so were they. Every one of them resembled the son of a king, and he said they were my brothers, the sons of my mother, as the Lord Lives. If you had saved them alive, I would not kill you. So he said to Jetha is firstborn, rise and killed them, but the young man did not draw his sword, for he was afraid because he was still a young man. Then Zeb and Zelmanna said, rise yourself and fall upon us, for as a man is, so is his strength, and get in a rose and killed Zieban Zelmanna, and he took the crescent ornaments around the necks of the camels. Then the many men of Israel said to Gideon, rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you've saved us from the hand of Midean. Gideon said to them, I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you, the Lord will rule over you. And Gideon said to them, let us make or let me make a request of you. Every one of you, give me the ear rings from a spoil,...

...for they had golden earrings because their ISRAAELITES. And they answered, we will willingly give them, and they spread a cloak and every man threw in the ear rings of a spoil. No weight of the golden earings requested was seventeen shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments independence and the purple garments worn by the Kings of medium and beside the collars that were around the necks of their camels. And Gideon made an ef out of it and put it in a city in Oprah, and all Israel horde after it there and it became a snare to Gideon and his family. So midian was subdued before the people of Israel and they raised their heads no more and the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon. As will end the reading of God's word, you may be seated. So we are picking up the story of judges here. We already had the battle of Gideon with his three hundred men in an army against the median knights and the amalekites and after the victory of Gideon, we saw in the beginning of chapter eight here the great diplomacy that Gideon used in regards to the Ephromute in in Uh matter that could have become very serious and could have been a great division, but Gideon handled it with great diplomacy. Today we're gonna see him in a couple more sticky situations and this time diplomacy isn't going to be the order of the day and we're going to end with a very sad episode in the career of Gideon. So it will begin by looking at verses four through twelve. Gideon is one of those Bible characters that it's hard for us to get a handle on because, despite an amazing beginning, like many other Bible characters, he has a terrible ending. And we could think of some other biblical characters who took the same journey. We could think of Solomon or Saul or from this book, we could think of Samson. Like Solomon, were told in this chapter that Gideon had many wives and least one concubine. Like Sampson, he was able, by God's grace, to perform deeds way beyond a normal human being. And like Saul, he begins as a great leader of the Army of Israel, but ends by going after false gods, even as Saul did. So the question we have to ask, and I don't know if I can totally answer it today, but the question is, I mean I think I can. I think I can go by Hebrews Eleven, but the question is, is he a Judas or is he a Peter? I think of the words of the Apostle Paul. When I think of Gideon, I think of what he wrote to the Galatians in chapter five and verse seven. He said you were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? Gideon, you have been running well, you've been doing good things. Who hindered you? Why have you failed? Here and preparing the message for tonight, I tried to consult several sources to try to find somebody that might put a better spin on the end...

...of Gideon's life. I was hoping there'd be somebody out there, but I didn't find him. Doesn't mean there's not somebody out there, just didn't mean this means that I didn't find him. In verse four we know a couple of things. We see another crossing of the Jordan's of course there's a very famous crossing of Israel under Jordan with Joshua, over the Jordan with Joshua, but this is going across Jordan the other way. This is actually leaving the promised land and going over Jordan that way. And the secondly we see that Gideon is back to his army. Remember, he called the other troops out and had them go after the media nights, but now he's back to his army, a three hundred. And then there's this phrase that has been the title of many a sermon on judge's aid, I would guess, exhausted or fainting yet pursuing. I think probably one of the more famous ones like that was Charles spurgeon's sermon called fainting yet pursuing. Uh King James, as I said, says faint yet pursuing. But I'm not going to make a big point. I'm not going to preach on that particular thing tonight. That's been done already quite enough, so I'm going to leave it. But Gideon's army is tired, but yet they're ready to pursue the rest of the median nights. Now, the debate among the writers on this that has had is, was there really a need for Gideon to pursue the army of the median nights any longer? Now? You might think about that for a moment and decide where you might stand in that. He had driven the median nights out of Israel, which was his commission in the beginning, and he has performed his commission. As we see in verse five, though, a couple of the million night kings have escaped and there's always a possibility, of course, that those kings could rally the rest of the MIDIANITE troops for another foray into Israel. According to verse ten, they had a pretty good force. They had about fifteen thousand men, which is a lot bigger than the three hundred that Gideon had. But I find the ones, at least the commentaries that I consulted, were pretty much divided. Uh some believe that Gideon was doing the right thing by pursuing the media nights, because of course they would have come back and went into Israel, and others felt that no, he had no divine warrant to go any further, and so you can choose whichever one you would particularly like. Um, but before he comes to the media nights, he has a couple of other encounters with people of Israel. Now, again, I said in the beginning of the chapter of the affirmtes were angry because Gideon had a massed the army and not invited them to join. And uh, but the FRA Mites were not the only ones, the only Israelites that Gideon had not called. So in verses five through nine, Gideon comes to his countrymen in the areas of Sakath and Panua, which were areas that were inhabited by the tribe of God. So they were Israelites were there. And UH, Gideon also, if you go back to chapter six and seven, you see that Gideon also did not call the tribe of God to buy to...

...battle. But we have given no information that. Uh, they are angry about that. They don't say anything, like the AFFIRMITES had said that they were angry about it. So gideons just couldn't ask their help. In a very simple way. He's got three hundred men, they're hungry. Would you give them some bread? But both the man of Sathan the man of Paneuo are going to deny this request, and the reason is because they know there's a large force of media nights out there, still, fifteen thousands strong, and they know that if Gideon doesn't uh conquer them, and he hasn't done it then, and they'll make that point, that they're you know, they're not in your hand yet, Gideon. You can't talk about it yet, and so they're afraid that if they were to help Gideon in this that they would suffer punishment by the media nights when they come to get them. Now I want to say here that these men were under covenant obligation to help their brothers. They should have been helping Gideon and not being afraid of the media nights, for they were covenant brothers. They were all part of God's covenant with Israel. Paul says in Romans twelve twenty. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he's thirsty, give him something to drink, for in so doing you will heat burning coals on his head. So, if believers are supposed to feed their enemies, I would think you should be feeding your covenant brothers right that. That only makes sense to me. So I told you Gideon illustrated great diplomacy and humble diplomacy when he dealt with the EPHROMITES. So of course we're going to see the same kind of diplomacy here right. Well, this is a new Gideon in his response to the men of so conthan. He says, therefore, when the Lord has delivered Zeman's Almana into my hand, I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the Wilderness and with Briars. Now that's a different kind of diplomacy, isn't it? The same basic thing happens at Pinewo, and if that place sounds familiar to you, you might remember that is where God appeared to Jacob and where Jacob wrestled with God, or an angel or a man, depending upon what scripture you want to quote, because all three are said, or you might want to combine them into one personage, the son of God. But instead of tearing the flesh of the inhabitants of CANEA, he now um threatens to tear down their tower. Again, not really a great diplomatic approach. And so we learned verse ten that those who had either been killed by each other or Gideon's army numbered a hundred and twenty thousand men. That's an amazing number thing about that. It was just an army of three hundred and they had this other army now had lost a hundred and twenty thousand men, and that certainly proves that God had won his battle. And in Verse...

Eleven and twelve it appears that God is still with Gideon, for this Army of three hundred is able indeed to conquer the army of fifteen thousand. Not nearly as bad at odds as the original battle, but it's still fifty to one against, and that's uh, that does are tough odds. Now there is one ominous note in verse twelve that we need to take note of. It says in the original battle, we read this in Chapter Seven, Verse Twenty Two, when they blew to three into trumpet's a Lord set every man stored against his comrade and against all the army. I want you to notice what it says there. The Lord capital L O ard in your Bible's Mining Yah, where the Covenant God had done that. But when we compare verse twelve, it says he gideon through all the army into a panic, not the Lord Verry web notes here the author himself doesn't attribute anything that happens in this phase of Gideon's life to God. An ominous note that something's going on isn't good in the life and Heart Gideon. Well, let's move to verses thirteen to twenty. One in verses thirteen through seventeen. I guess the best thing we can say about Getton is he's a man of his word. There was an old johnny cash song I had never heard. One of your own people here made me aware of this johnny cash long I never remember hearing it before, but the song is about Jesus and the songs titled. Mainline is there's a man going around taking names. Well, Gideon in this story is the man going around taking names. Captures a man of sin, says give me the names, I want the names of the and he takes that. I heard a man Um many years ago speaking about when he was a kid and he said that he had done something wrong and his dad came home and saw what he had done and his Dad said those famous dad words that maybe all of us heard at one time or another. While you asked for it and he responded. Well, I changed my mind so I don't I wouldn't have got back by with that, I don't think when I was a kid. But but Gideon basically says to the men of Sarka, you asked for it, this is what you asked for. Remember when you taunted me about not having Zeben Zelmana in my hands? Well, I told you what I was going to do. In the old days again, we used to talk about when a kid got in trouble that the dad would take him out to the wood shed. I don't think that's too applicable anymore. But Gideon takes these men out to the Wilderness and teaches them a lesson with thorns and briars. We don't know exactly. The text isn't clear whether Gideon actually kills them or just severely wounds that we're not sure because of what the text says. But of course he does greatly punish them. And they should have helped Gideon. That's true. He was their covenant brother. He was there. Yeah,...

...and I've told you before I've never been in combat, but I know from those who have. They will say that combat can really change a person and as a change happened to Gideon and it seems like it has not in a good way. And whether we want to justify Gideon or not in what he does, we could certainly say he doesn't seem to be doing things to heal Israel, does he? It doesn't seem like what he's doing is leading to the unification of the people. Many years ago I was at an amusement park with my children and I saw a girl wearing a t shirt that has stuck with me ever since, and it said on this t shirt I was born, and then there's a little break and it said wait, it gets worse. Well, that's what we're to say about the Gideon Story. Wait it gets worse. So in verses eighteen or twenty one, we have the confrontation between Gideon and the two kings of the Median Knights, Zeben Zelmana. And again, to be fair to Gideon, these men had killed Gideon's brothers, his own family, and we could certainly say that the Old Testament law, the lex Talian us, was in effect lex Talian US meaning the law that we know as an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth, and so that was an effect. So it's easy to justify Gideon in the slaying of these men. But he does something really foolish here. For whatever reason, instead of rising and killing the men himself, he looks at his young son and says you kill them now. We don't know exactly how old jether is at this time, but he has a sword, so presumably he's in battle, but he's young enough that he doesn't want to come forward and just kill these two men with the sword. And why Gideon does this, if he's trying to teach his child to be a man in his estimation, or whether he's trying to humiliate these two leaders by having them killed by a child, we're not sure. But in a FI and zebe and Zelmanna taunt Gideon and say rise yourself and fall upon us, for as the man is, so is his strength. Well, whatever they thought that taunt would do, it did make Gideon do exactly what they asked for. And so it appears to us that the Gideon of chapter six is no more and the new Gideon has taken his place. Perhaps his son, jeth is very much like the Gideon we saw back in chapter six. But, as I said, wait it gets worse verses, because the Gideon of this chapter is no longer the Gideon of chapter six, the people of Israel wreckor a warrior who would be well suited to rule over them. And here again we have to recognize...

...what's absent from this account. Oftentimes, what's missing from the Bible is just as important as what's there. And what is absent. Back in Chapter Seven, Verse Fifteen, when Gideon had heard the median nights in the camp talking about the dream that they had had, it says that is responsible the worshiping God or giving him praise for the battle they had just won. And so that is also an ominous sign, and there are to have been rejoicing. There's been a great battle, there's been a great victory. That is one. Now the median nights are decimated, they are no threat anymore to Israel, and it's just like the people of of Israel and the Sea of the Red Sea after the army of Pharaoh has been drowned. They should be singing like the children of Israel were singing on that day. But there is no mention of any worship or any singing or praising God. And what they say in verse twenty two is rule over us, you and your son and your grandson, for you have saved us in the hand of Midian. They didn't say God has saved us, they said Gideon, you have saved us. So again things are going very wrong. They want Gideon to start a dynasty, they want him to rule that his son and his grandson. But in Verse Twenty One. Well, so Gideon does the right thing, he says he refuses the request and instead replies to them they should just allow the lord to rule over them, which seems like a really good thing to say at this time, and certainly the offer of being a king would have been very tempting to Gideon. Uh Gay. Gideon's on the right track again, but then in verses the pendulum swings back to a very opposite end in the worst way possible. And I would say for me it's really hard to understand what Gideon does right here. It doesn't seem to make sense. It doesn't seem like there's anything in the account to lead us to this point. It's like if you were reading a novel, and maybe this has happened to you, and you get to a picular a particular point in the book and you go, Oh, we'll wait a minute. Now you know the author hasn't given any indication and something like this was going to happen, and it's almost like that as we come to this place and sink. Wait a minute, this makes no sense. What's going on here? What's happened? But I've tried to give you some clues as to what's been going on. And so he asked the men to give him the spoil of the Golden Ear Rings from the battle, because the ishmaelites all, I. Had Golden Ear Rings. And so they threw a cloak on the ground and they all said, well,...

...gladly give you our earrings, and they all did. They threw him on the cloak and we're told that the amount of the gold was seventeen thousand shekels. Now we're not exactly sure how to put that into today's dollars, but very well could be over one million dollars. And so Gideon takes it and he fashions it into an ipod, which was a priestly garment, the garment of the high priest, and to make things worse, he puts it up in his own hometown, which God had never given any kind of command that God should be worshiped there. And so he's actually starting another kind of a place to worship God. That is a false place, much like we we find in the division under real Bo him later on, where there is the two centers of worship and the one is certainly not right. And and this is wrong. What what he is doing? The but the the Tabernacle, should have been an erom's territory. And again there we that Manhissa from gideons of the tribe of Manassa, and then and the brother is from and Efraim had the superiority according to the prophecy. And so again there's idolatry. So Gideon, who began his career, you remember, back in chapter six, he began by leading Israel out of idolatry and he ends his life by leading him back into idolatry. And that's what is very, very sad about this story. Another land, according to Verse Twenty Eight, does have rest for forty years under Gideon. And many people would defend Gideon here saying, well, you know, his heart was in the right place, he was trying to do what was the right thing, he was trying to restore religion to Israel, and all of that just was to show himself thankful for his victory by the restoring of religion which, deed, because it was not according as God had commanded, turned to their destruction. When I read this account again, my mind went, and maybe ears did too, to David, who wanted to bring the Ark back to Jerusalem. Very good desire, but he did it the wrong way. He didn't go back and read who was supposed to carry the Ark, and so, as a dies in that bringing back. And it seems like Gideon might be the same way. He wants to restore religion, but he's doing it in a very wrong way. That can never lead to the true worship of God. So how do we make application from this story? The first thing I want to say is how careful we must be in the worship of God, or even what seems the smallest digression from God's commandments can lead to disastrous results. We are living in a day where we are seeing this constantly. Gideon didn't make an idol per se,...

...he made an epod. He didn't claim theod to be a false god, nor did he even say, has Aaron said in the Wilderness, these are your Gods, o Israel, which lead you out of Egypt. If you remember the brazen serpent that Moses erected in the wilderness when everyone was being bitten by the snakes and they would look on that serpent and they would be healed. Beautiful type of Christ by the way, but I don't have time to go into that tonight. But nonetheless we might wonder. Some of you probably know, but you might wonder, whatever happened to that serpent? Where is that serpent? where? What? What? Where did it go? In second kings, eighteen four, many years after this, we read he removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Astra and he broken pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it. It was called Nahashton. Now again God commanded the brazen serpent to be made. That wasn't Moses idea, that was God's command, and one could make a good case that this could have been, and maybe should have been kept in Israel as a reminder of God's deliverance, like the manner in the pot and Aaron's Rod that budded that that this could have been a good reminder to Israel. But God never commanded such a thing that the people should bring offerings to it, and it became an idol in Israel. And this is why the reformed through the years held to what we call the regulative principle of worship, which means that we are only to worship God in the way that God himself has commanded that he should be worshiped. This is an opposition to what people have called the normative principle of worship, which simply says we can worship God in any way that God does not forbid. Now that's a problem today that are forsaken the normal order of worship. And again, I'm not trying to say we've got it all right and everything's perfect, but we are trying to follow what the Scripture says. The elements in our worship service this evening and this morning and this church are not just random things that somebody thought up and said, hey, how about this? These are things that God has commanded in his word to be a part of the service. And so the things we do, the prayers, the reading of Scripture, the exposition of scripture, the singing of Psalms, the singing of praises to God, the Benedictions the salutations are all things that God has commanded. But other churches on a Sunday morning service you might go and you might witness them. is a called presentation by the youth group or...

...maybe a drama play that somebody has written that will be there instead of a worship service, or maybe there'll be a Christian comedian who has been brought in for the day. Or maybe it's one church that was very close to us in Burnsville, Minnesota Morning Rodeo. That might go well intoucson. I don't know, but they had a Rodeo and it's Sunday morning, but it's not a commanded way of worship. Now there are debates among reformed people as to what is right worship and what is the right of the principle and how do we obey it. And One church might say, well, we don't think that's proper, another church might say it is. So one church might have a choir sing, another church might not. One Church might allow help a special number and a service, another church might not. And they are all these kinds of things, but everyone is trying to stay to the word of God and what God's Word Command ends and again that's why this church has the order of worship that it has because even the slightest deviation from God's commands can lead to idolatry. Peter Martyr Vermigli, one of a reformers, said hereby we gather, that all worshiping of God instituted without his word is unacceptable to him and is most dangerous to us. John Calvin wrote this in his institutes. Gideon provides a notable proof of how much God hates what mortals think up out of themselves to worship him. For Gideon's IPAD brought ruin not only on himself and his family, but on all the people. In short, every chance invention by which people seek to worship God is nothing but a pollution of true holiness. Then, secondly, let me say one of the lessons I think we need to take away from the story of Gideon is it sometimes the worst thing that can happen to us is success. We think failure is hard to deal with, the success can be far harder. When you think of the biblical characters who are marked with great success, we don't see too many good results. Solomon had a lot of good success, but a lot of bad stuff happens after that. Hezekiah is another Bible character who had a lot of good success but didn't do too well. Samson will come up later in the book of judges as another one, but this just bears out what happens in real life. How many church leaders to become famous and popular have ended up good with a good result? Very, very few. When I came into the O pc in two thousand five, I was able to bring it...

...into the into the denomination that came in with me. That was a very strong church and became much stronger as the days went on. And I would hear about church planners in the OPC that would struggle and weren't able to get a church to really take off and work, and many church plants were being closed and appeared that they had failed and all of those things, and I would sit there and I think, what in the world is wrong with those guys? I mean anybody should be able to plant the church. I mean, come on, you know this is easy, this is worked just just great and and I don't understand why, why anybody would have failure with this. Since that time I've been involved in three more church plants and in none of those places where I was involved in planting the church. Is there an o PC church today? Now? I can give you a list of reasons why I think that is so, but the simple truth is it didn't. And I look at them, whether I should or not, as failures. I know people would say you shouldn't look at them that way and I know we counsel one another that way, but it's hard not to. But I can tell you it's an old character on television used to say failure has been very, very good for me. It's taught me some humility. Of course, not enough. I need a whole lot more. The proverb writer said, give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say who is the Lord, or lest I be poor and steel and profane the name of my God. It's almost a prayer to say, Lord, don't give me success or failure, keep me from both. But we need to recognize that we have to be able to deal with the track record of those who have failed seems to almost be better than those who have succeeded, and it warns us against the danger of idolizing any church leader pastors or evangelist teachers that are out there. We need to be very, very careful. I'm sure we've all known people who have been very hurt by some of the church leader scandals that have happened through the years. In a few moments, as I close here, we're going to join together on the table of the Lord. In Our story we had two instances of brothers who refuse to give bread to their covenant brothers because they are afraid that they might do so at the risk of their own lives. But in celebrating the table of the Lord, which we're going to do, we remember the one who gave bread to his brothers, which meant he gave his own life. In death, Jesus said this bread...

...is my body, which is given for you. Folks. We were in more desperate need of bread than Gideon's army was. We needed the bread that could save us. We needed the life and death of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and, as opposed to the man of Sacatampanel, he gave it to us at the cost of his life. And we look at him and see what some might say was failure in the cross, but to us tonight are his we see it is the greatest success that's ever happened in the world and we think in our minds what a wonderful savior we serve. Can We pray, Lord, we thank you for your word. We thank you, God, that even in failure we all can learn. I'm sure there are many people here to night who have failed in many different ways. But the Lord teach us to learn from that. Keep us from the kind of success that would make us haughty and proud and instead, Lord, as you did to the Apostle Paul, give to us the thorns that we need, not the thorns at Gideon whip those men with, but the thorns that we need to keep us humble, for we're all tempted to pride in many, many ways. I pray, Lord, that it would keep and help us to trust only in you and the life you gave, the bread of life, the bread of the world, that you have given for us, your own life and your own death. And we ask you, Lord, to help us to stay humble in whatever do. If we pray these things in Christ's name, Amen. MHM.

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