Study Notes

Judges 6:1-40

6:1 The Cycle Starts Again

Deborah heard from the Lord that He was giving them victory over King Yaw-BENE's oppression. After his defeat, Israel spent 40 years undisturbed. But now they have once again fallen into doing evil, and once again the Lord gives them into the hands of their enemies - this time using the Midianites.

You may recall that Midian was also a son of Abraham, but not from Sarah. Midian was the child of Ket-oo-RAW, the wife he took after Sarah died. The Midianites were idolaters and slave traders, some of whom sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt. They also had been in partnership with the Moabites to get Balaam to curse Israel.

Num. 25:16-18 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Be hostile to the Midianites and strike them; for they have been hostile to you with their tricks..."

In Numbers 31, we see the Israelites obeying the Lord to strike the Midianites. But they did not completely wipe them out, and by this time in history, the Midianites had once again expanded to be a formidable force, especially when in coalition with other nations.

6:2-6 Numerous As Locusts

Every time they would try to plant their crops, the Midianites would band together with the Amelekites and other of Israel's enemies to wipe out the fields along with their livestock.

They are described as locusts. So many enemies that no one could count them, and leaving utter destruction in their wake. The result was fear and famine.

Hiding In Caves

The Midianites were bringing such devastation that the Israelites were forced to live in caves for safety.

A quick study of caves in the Bible reveals that they are a place of fear, sin, and death. Remember that in Genesis 19, after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot was afraid to stay in Zoar, and stayed in a cave with his two daughters. This turned into one of the most terrible sinful stories in the Scriptures.

When five kings with their armies attacked Gibeon in Joshua 10, Joshua came to the rescue. The five kings hid in a cave, but Joshua had them brought out and put them to death.

In 1Samuel 24, David fell into sin while hiding in a cave. It so happened that King Saul chose this cave to go to the bathroom in. While he was in the cave, David snuck up behind him and cut off the edge of Saul's robe. This was a direct attack against the king's God-given authority, and David quickly repented.

In 1Kings 19, when Elijah became fearful of Jezebel, he hid himself in a cave. And the kings of the earth are described in Revelation 6 as hiding in caves from the wrath of the Lamb instead of repenting.

Caves were also often used as burial sites as well. Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Lazarus, and others were all buried in caves.

There are too many Christians hiding in caves today, making sure they never come into contact with the world. But Jesus told us to go into all the world, being in the world, just not of the world. We are not to live in fear of men - either from danger or defilement. When you figuratively find yourself hiding in a cave, you're in a bad place. The place to seek refuge, shelter, and protection is in the Lord. It only took seven years for the Israelites to figure this out! Finally, the Israelites cried out to the Lord for deliverance.

6:7-10 A Prophet's Word

When Israel cried out to God, He sent a prophet to them saying, "I'm the one who gave you victory over the Egyptians, the Amalekites, and the Canaanites. Why is it that you are afraid of the gods of the Midianites, when it is Me that you should be afraid of?"

God knew that they weren't afraid of Him because they had not obeyed Him. When someone fears the Lord, they stay away from sin.

Prov. 8:13 "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil...

Prov. 16:6 ...By the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil.

Jesus told His disciples,

Luke 12:4-5 "And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!"

They had not feared God, therefore they ran headlong into evil practices.

6:11-12 The Angel Of The Lord

First a prophet was sent to challenge the Israelites to repentance. Then the angel of the Lord shows up. This is the same angel that we saw in chapter two, who we discovered was Jesus Christ Himself. Not an angelic created being, but the angel - the messenger - of God Himself.

Warrior In The Wine Press

The Lord sat down under an oak tree in Of-RAW, and watched a pitiful sight. He watched Gideon, the son of Yo-AWSH, trying to thresh wheat in a winepress.

Why was that such a sad sight? Understand that wine presses were in the lowers parts of the land because grapes are heavy to carry uphill. But threshing floors are on the high ground to catch the wind. That way, as the winnower throws the stalks in the air with a winnowing fork, the wind blows away the chaff, while the grains fall back down to the ground.

So here Gideon is down at the wine press trying to thresh the wheat so that the Midianites won't see what he's doing and come to steal it. It's a sad but funny picture as the Lord appears to him and says,

Judg. 6:12 ..."The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior."

Gideon must have been somewhat embarrassed by this address.

6:13 Abandoned?

Gideon doesn't recognize that this is the Lord Himself, and begins to complain that God has abandoned the nation. He is choosing to have a selective memory - remembering the stories of miraculous deliverances that had been passed down through his generations, but forgetting the warnings that God had also given, saying,

Num. 33:55-56 'But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them {will become} as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land in which you live. And it shall come about that as I plan to do to them, so I will do to you.'"

Moses had warned the people,

Deut. 28:14-15 "and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. But it shall come about, if you will not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you."

The rest of chapter 28 describes in detail the curses that God will bring upon them if they don't obey (and it's a LONG chapter!).

God would have been justified in responding to Gideon, "Abandoned you? Mister, you haven't seen nothing yet!" But instead, He comes with a message of deliverance.

6:14-16 Youngest And The Least

The Lord commissions Gideon to go out and take the victory against Midian. But Gideon's response is, "who am I?" This was the very much the same response God got from Moses when He called him.

Exod. 4:1 ..."What if they will not believe me, or listen to what I say?...

Exod. 4:10 ..."Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."

But it's not about who WE are - it's about who HE is. He's not looking for men of great strength, high education, and brilliant minds. When he uses guys like that, they tend to get the credit themselves.

1Cor. 1:25-29 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God.

The smallest tribe? The least family? The youngest brother? Perfect! Here is a man that God can use without him boasting!

6:17-24 Worshipful Seeking

This guy was claiming to be God, and Gideon wanted to be sure. He wanted a sign. But notice how he asks - he doesn't ask Jesus for a sign the way the Pharisees did:

Matt. 12:38-39 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him, saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign..."

The Pharisees were rebuked because they wickedly asked for a sign. But Gideon worshipfully asks for a sign. He knew God would confirm Himself in worship.

The Lord told Moses

Exod. 3:12 ..."Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain."

The sign itself would be their worship.

Are you looking for a signal from God? Look for it as you worship. Are you seeking to discover whether God is who He says He is? Seek Him in worship. I think it's sad that the movement in the "seeker sensitive" churches is away from worship and towards performance of music. Because I see that as keeping the seeker from meeting God. I see that the Bible shows us that the seeker will find God in worship.

Worship Is Costly

Now, notice how Gideon worships. In the midst of a terrible famine, and a time when livestock was nearly unattainable, he offers the Lord meat, bread, and broth. This was a fortune's worth of food in a time like this.

Gideon knew that worship is expensive. Someone else knew this, too:

Mark 14:3-5 And while He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining {at the table,} there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; {and} she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly {remarking} to one another, "Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and {the money} given to the poor." And they were scolding her.

Mary was a worshipper that knew worship was expensive. She poured out the equivalent of about $30,000 on Jesus' head. Others rebuked her, but Jesus defended her.

How costly is your worship? Do you sacrifice your pride? Do you give up your self-consciousness? Do you sacrifice financially when you worship?

Consuming Fire

Notice how the offering was accepted: by a consuming fire. In the Bible, the Lord often received offerings supernaturally this way. In Leviticus 9, when Moses and Aaron offered the sacrifices:

Lev. 9:24 ...Fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

When Elijah was battling the priests of Baal, he simply prayed a short prayer.

1Kgs. 18:38 Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

Again, in 1Chronicles 21,

1Chr. 21:26 ....David built an altar to the Lord there, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. And he called to the Lord and He answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.

Finally, when King Solomon dedicated the new temple in 2Chronicles 6,

2Chr. 7:1 came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house.

This could also explain how Cain and Abel knew whether or not the Lord had regard for each of their offerings back in Genesis 4.

6:25-32 The Altar Of Baal Destroyed

Gideon is told by the Lord to destroy his father's altar to Baal and build an altar to the true and living God. He obeys, but does it by night, for fear of men.

The next morning, the men of the city were incensed because of the "abomination" committed against their false god.

But Gideon's father stands up and says, "Hey guys, if Baal is a real god, don't you think he can defend himself? Does he need your deliverance?"

So they begin calling Gideon "Yer-oob-BAH-al," which means, "let Baal contend." This name, which was supposed to be a curse, turned out to be a blessing. It is used another dozen times in Scripture to refer to Gideon, and it becomes an honor to him - a reminder to all that he had torn down the altar of Baal.

Over 200 years ago, the British began calling Americans the Dutch phrase for "John Cheese," which is "Jan Kees." It was clearly meant as an insult, but by the time of the American Revolution, the New Englanders used the name proudly.

It also makes me think of the name "Christian." The word only appears in the Bible three times - each time as a derogatory insult.

Acts 11:26 ...the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Acts 26:28 And Agrippa {replied} to Paul, "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian."

1Pet. 4:16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.

In 109AD, Cornelius Tacitus, writing of the terrible tortures that the followers of Christ underwent after the burning of Rome, recorded, "The vulgar call them Christians." (Annals 15:44) The name was meant as an insult. But since the second century, the church has used this word as a title of honor.

So we will see the author of the book of Judges often refer to Gideon as "Yer-oob-BAH-al."

6:33-40 Setting Out Fleeces

This is where we get the term "setting out a fleece." Gideon used this fleece, a wooly sheepskin, and set it outside. He asked God to affect the fleece oppositely with the evening dew than He affected the ground. God honored this request both times.

I am often asked if we as Christians should be setting out fleeces. I have three observations when I answer:

#1. Gideon's fleece was miraculous both times. A true fleece is not, "Lord, if this is Your will, let the penny I flip be tails." It would be more like, "Lord, if this is Your will, then let the penny land on its edge, spinning... then miraculously turn into a nickel." If you're setting out fleeces, are you making them miraculous?

#2. Look at what Gideon set the fleece out about. He was willing and obedient to serve the Lord by entering into a fatally dangerous situation. But he wanted to make sure that he'd heard the Lord right. I would ask you if you're in the habit of setting out fleeces, "What exactly are you trying to find out from God? Is it 'Lord, should I buy this house?' or is it 'Lord, are you directing me to be a missionary in Iran?'" I think the latter is more in line with what Gideon is doing.

#3. This was not a practice of believers in either the Old or New Testaments. As a matter of fact, this is the only story in Scripture that even uses the word "fleece." If you want a regular and reliable way to find the Lord's will for you, I suggest two things: Read the Word, and ask the Spirit. God's will is made clear to us in His Word. He has also given us His Spirit to guide us.

Rom. 8:26-27 ...The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for {us} with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to {the will of} God.

So rather than setting a fleece on the ground, set your knees on the ground and begin to pray. The Spirit Who dwells inside you will guide you.

Next week, we'll see the story of Gideon continue...

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