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January 31, 2016

Sermon Judges 6:36-40 . . .  “It’s a Miracle:  Gideon’s Fleece”

“It’s a Miracle:  Gideon’s Fleece”

Judges 6:36-40

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Once, or so the story goes, there was a flood in a small town and local authorities had to evacuate people by boat.

When the boat arrived at one particular house, a man was standing on his porch with water up to his waist.  “Get in!” they yelled to him.

“Thanks, but no thanks!” the man replied.  “I believe that God will save me.”

A few hours later, another boat came by the house and this time they found the man standing on his roof.  Again they called for him to get in the boat and again he responded, “It’s ok.  God will save me!”

A few more hours passed, but now the water was so high, a helicopter was hovering overhead, trying to rescue any last remaining people.  By now, the man was standing on top of his chimney with water right up to his chin.  So they lowered a harness and told him to grab hold.  Again he shouted, “God will save me!”  But just then, the water went over his head and he drowned.

Suddenly, the man found himself standing before God, so he asked, “Lord, I believed in You.  I waited for You.  Why didn’t You come and save me?”

To which He replied, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter.  What more did you want?”

So it was for a man named Gideon in the words of Judges chapter 6.

If you would, please turn with me in your Bibles to page 260 and follow along as we study the text.

Judges chapter 6, verse 1.  It begins with this:  “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years.”

The chapter opens as a huge army, a band of pillagers and marauders, set out to attack Israel.  And poor Israel was in so much trouble, their backs were up against a wall.

It hadn’t always been that way.  For the past forty years, God had protected them and blessed them with peace.  But while God was blessing them, they were ignoring Him and fell into complacency and unbelief.  And instead of worshiping the one, true God, they began to worship false gods, like Baal and Asherah.  So God sent the Midianites and the Amalekites to attack them and punish them.

And punish them they did.  Look at verse 2:  “And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds.  For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them.  They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey.  For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in.  And Israel was brought very low because of Midian.  And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.”

For seven years, the Midianites and the Amalekites pillaged and plundered them, stealing their crops and killing their livestock.  And there was nothing, not a thing, that Israel could do to stop them, except hide in caves and holes in the ground.

Now go with me to verse 11.  “Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites.”

Let’s stop there for a moment.  Beating out wheat in the winepress?  That’s weird.  If you’re going to beat wheat, you do it in a large, open place, like a big, flat rock, or on some threshing floor, where you can throw it up high in the air and let the wind blow the chaff away.  No one beats wheat in a winepress, unless they’re afraid.  Unless they’re scared.

Which is exactly what Gideon was.  In fact, as one author put it, Gideon was the Don Knotts of the Old Testament, the least likely person God would ever choose to deliver His people.  Or as another put it, “Choosing Gideon to lead the Israelites in the battle would be like replacing General George Patton with Private First Class Gomer Pyle to lead the Allied Forces at the Battle of the Bulge.”

Is it any surprise God would call someone like Gideon?  It shouldn’t be.  God is in the business of calling the least, the smallest, and the weakest among us.  When God called Moses, he was eighty years old and said he couldn’t talk.  David was just a young, teenaged shepherd boy.  Daniel was over ninety years old when men threw him into a lion’s den.  Jonah was prejudiced and stubborn.  Jeremiah preached sermons while smashing pots and wearing an ox’s yoke around his neck.  Ezekiel preached lying on his side for three hundred and ninety days.  Paul wanted Christians murdered.  Matthew was a tax collector.  And Peter was a bold, impetuous fisherman.

As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:  “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong…so that no one may boast before Him.”

So there he was, hiding from the Midianites, beating wheat in a winepress, when all of a sudden he looked and he saw an angel sitting under a tree.  And listen to what the angel told him.  Verse 12:  “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

“Mighty man of valor?”  You have got to be kidding!  That’s one of the funniest things anyone could ever say.  He’s beating wheat in a winepress, hiding from the Midianites.  Sure doesn’t seem like much of a mighty man of valor to me.  Unless there was something that no one but God could see.

Even Gideon had his doubts.  Look at verse 15.  “And he said to him, ‘Please, Lord, how can I save Israel?  Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’”

Even more, think of what he could have said.  “Do You know what I’m up against, Lord?  Do You have any idea?  We’re talking Midianites and Amalekites here!  Their soldiers are as thick as locusts!  Their army is 135,000 strong!

“But alright, Lord.  If that’s what You want me to do, I’ll do it.  On one condition.  I want You, I need You, to prove You are who You say You are.”

And that’s when we find yet another amazing miracle in the Bible.

Skip now to page 262 and look at the words of Judges chapter 6, verse 36.  “Then Gideon said to God, ‘If You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor.  If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.’”

And the very next day, what happened?  Verse 38 says, “And it was so.  When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water.”

So far, so good.  But there was just one problem.  Gideon wasn’t done.  So he said once more, in verse 39:  “Let not Your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more.  Please let me test just once more with the fleece.  Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.”

And sure enough, the very next day, just as Gideon asked, the fleece was dry and all the ground was wet with dew.

Just like Gideon, we want to know God’s will.  We want to do God’s will.  That is, after all, what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer:  “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

So how can we know God’s will?  How can we do God’s will?  Don’t count on fleece, like Gideon did.  Instead, seek Him, each day, through Bible study and prayer.  Be active in ministry.  Live your faith.  Share your faith.  Be faithful at home and at work.  And He will make His ways known.

In the words of Proverbs chapter 3:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

He did it for Gideon.  He’ll do it for you too.

Have you ever noticed how God can take the trash of life and transform it into treasure?

Take Kopi Luwak coffee, for example.  What’s that, you say?  Let me tell you.  The Luwak is a particular kind of cat that lives in Indonesia.  It’s about the size of a fox, and is the Juan Valdez of the animal kingdom.  It roams through the forest searching for the choicest coffee berries.  Then it swallows them and later leaves them lying on the ground, which local harvesters collect.

Apparently, believe it or not, as the beans pass through the cat’s stomach and intestines, digestive enzymes change them to create a unique coffee flavor.  And after locals collect, wash and dry the beans, they become the most expensive coffee in the world, at some $400 a pound.

And as Christ lived and worked among us, He too was in the business of turning trash into treasure.  He was born in a stable and laid in a rough, feeding trough.  When He grew up in a little town called Nazareth, His critics couldn’t help but say, “Can anything good come from there?”  And when He died, nailed to a cross, a means of torture and shame, even that become a symbol of hope and grace.

As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:  “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.  But to those who are called…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

You know, Gideon’s story ends in an amazing way.  If you read Judges chapter 7, you’ll see how he defeated those Midianites not with 32,000 men or even 10,000 men, but with only 300.  Sure, when he laid out his fleece, he wondered if God would help him.  But from that day forward, he never wondered again.

Which is why, I suppose, we find his name recorded in the words of Hebrews chapter 11.  Remember what it says?  “And what more shall I say?  I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice…who became mighty in war and put foreign armies to flight…the world was not worthy of them.”

And by the grace of God, if He could do such great things through them, I know He can use us too.

 

 

We thank, dear Father, for this man named Gideon and all that You accomplished through him.  We ask You to bless us and use us, that even through us, Your kingdom may grow.  This we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen

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