Judges 8:8b – 8:35
The Lord told Gideon that he would triumph against the Midianites. He should get up and attack their camp. However, God knew that Gideon liked reassurance and so, if he was still afraid, he should sneak down to the enemy camp with his servant, and listen to what the Midianites were saying.
Gideon heard a Midianite describing his dream to a friend. The Midianite had dreamt that a round loaf of bread tumbled into their camp causing a tent to overturn and collapse (v.13). His friend interpreted this to mean that they would be defeated by Gideon: ‘God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands’ (v.14).
This conversation inspired Gideon to wake up his army to attack but before he did this he worshipped God. God had been extremely patient in helping Gideon get over his un-belief. Gideon now had enough faith to launch an attack to gain a seemingly impossible victory.
Gideon and his small band of fighters waged psychological warfare by standing around the enemy camp holding torches, blowing trumpet and smashing jars. The Midianites were terrified and ran away crying before God caused them to turn their swords on each other.
Gideon called on the Israelites of Ephraim for assistance and they turned out to be effective reinforcements. They were annoyed they hadn’t been asked sooner. It often happens that when we ask relatives or friends for help they lay a lot of emotional baggage on us. Gideon was in a highly stressful chase after a dangerous foe and his fellow Israelites started criticising him sharply rather than just getting on with the task. Presumably, they were jealous of his success and didn’t want to be left out of the history books for routing the Midianites. Gideon wisely chose to flatter their inflated egos by saying: ‘What have I accomplished compared to you?’ (v.2) which lessened their resentment. Of course, Gideon had achieved far more and his name alone is recorded in the Bible for his faithful courageous attack on the Midianite camp against overwhelming opposition.
Gideon asked the Israelites living in Succoth and Peniel to give his exhausted troops bread but they unwisely refused. They probably didn’t believe he would triumph and the Midianites would return. Possibly they were allies of the Midianites and secretly didn’t actually want Israel to be free. Jesus told us to use money to make friends. If an army of our fellow citizens appears to be miraculously winning a war, it is probably wise to give them what they want.
When Gideon eventually captured the two kings of Midian, he brought them back to Succoth, punished the elders of Succoth with desert thorns and briers, pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town.
The Israelites asked Gideon to rule over them and he wisely answered: ‘The Lord will rule over you ‘ (v.23). However, he then made a fatal mistake. He asked for gold ear-rings from the plunder and made them into an ephod (a ceremonial breastplate normally worn by a priest). He set this up in his town (Oprah) and ‘all Israel prostituted themselves by worshipping it there’ (v.27). Gideon should have humbly said: ‘The Lord will rule over you’ and made the Israelites visit the official tabernacle. He should not have set up a new religious idol in his hometown.
There was peace for forty years but, as soon as Gideon died, the Israelites were back to their usual tricks worshipping the Canaanite deities. We can expect God’s wrath to descend on them very soon.
In addition to John the Baptist’s testimony, the work that Jesus did confirmed that he had been sent from God. The miracles, the healing, the exorcism of evil spirits and Jesus’ radical new teaching were all evidence that he was completely filled with the Holy Spirit and the Son of God.
If we read the Old Testament under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we can start to spot the hundreds of times that Jesus is mentioned.
The Pharisees were happy to read Moses’ writing in the Old Testament and felt smug that they were trying to comply with his law as a tick-box exercise to get to heaven but Jesus, standing before them, is the second Moses. We cannot earn our place in heaven by ticking religious boxes and living a legalistic life. Moses wrote the law to try to preserve the Israelites, keeping them from destroying themselves through their own sins until Jesus arrived. Moses had met with God ‘face to face, as one speaks to a friend’ (Exod. 33:11), but, as ‘no-one has seen God but the one and only Son (John 1:18), it must have been Jesus meeting Moses repeatedly in the Tent of Meeting during the Israelite’s exodus in the desert.
If the Jews did not believe Moses’ written testimony about Jesus preserving their ancestors in the desert, they were not going to accept Jesus’ word now.
‘He who pursues evil goes to his death’ (v.19). The vast majority of people in Western Society will have heard of Jesus. If such people persist in rejecting his offer of life and carry on choosing to live in persistent grave sin, separating themselves from God, God will respect their choices in the afterlife and allow them to remain separate forever. When it comes to heaven and hell, many people cannot get their heads around ‘forever’. That’s why hell is so terrible. It never ends. It will be too late for repentance and reconciliation. What do the wicked hope for? That there is no after-life and so they can’t be proved wrong. The best the wicked can hope for is oblivion. If they are wrong, they face wrath. The righteous, who believe in Jesus and are baptized, can hope for everlasting happiness in a perfect heaven seeing the face of God.
God delights in the blameless (v.20). As our sins are washed away by the blood of Christ, God delights in us.
It is wise to be generous: ‘a generous man will prosper’ (v.25). He will ‘gain even more’ (v.24). ‘He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed’ (v.25). The starting point of generosity is to tithe to our church (giving 10% of our income). This destroys the love of money and frees us up to bless others. We shouldn’t pin our hopes on what we have in the bank: ‘Whoever trust in his riches will fall’ (v.28).
The truly righteous attain life (v.19) and ‘thrive like a green leaf’ (v.28).
Image: Rijksmuseum, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons