I don’t know about you, but I love a good story. When we were pastoring in Mirror, we had a group of old retired rail…
Last week we began exploring the differences between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. And they are very different.
We noted that Jesus frequently told parables about the kingdom of God to help us understand what it’s like because it is so different from the kingdom of this world. In fact, from what Jesus says, it almost seems backwards and upside down. For example, Jesus says in the kingdom of God, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first. He says that if you want to be great, you must become the least – if you want to save your life, you’ve got to give it up – if you want true riches, give away what you have”. It seems like the kingdom of God operates exactly opposite to what we’re used to.
Actually, let me show you a verse from Matthew chapter 5 – verse 11. I didn’t read this verse last week, but I think it illustrates how backwards the kingdom of God seems to be.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven.” Matthew 5:11-12
Usually, you might say God has blessed you when you have a nice house, a healthy family, wonderful friends, a good job, and life is going swimmingly. We see all that and we say, “Yup, God sure has blessed me.”
But Jesus says that when people are mocking us, persecuting us, lying about us, and saying all sorts of evil things about us because we are His followers – that’s when we know we are blessed. I don’t know if that sort of stuff has ever happened to you, but if and when it does, that’s when you can say “Yup, God sure has blessed me.”
And that just seems backwards! It’s clear that the kingdom of God is very different from the kingdom of this world.
And that creates a huge challenge for us because Jesus says that those who follow Him – those who are a part of the kingdom of God – those people are in this world, but we’re not of this world.
We live here in our communities in this time and place and in this society – but we belong to a totally different kingdom with totally different values and a totally different culture. Paul tells us that we used to be part of that kingdom, but upon receiving Christ as our Saviour and King, we’ve since been transferred into a whole new kingdom. He says in Colossians 1:13…
13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son. Colossians 1:13
When choose to follow Christ, we are transferred from one kingdom to the other – from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of God.
And so it is a huge challenge for us to live according to the values and the culture of kingdom of God while still living in the midst of the kingdom of this world.
But believe it or not, that’s exactly God’s plan and purpose for those in his kingdom. That was God’s plan and purpose for Israel – and that’s still the plan and purpose for church.
Well last night we were reminded from Isaiah of God’s infinite greatness. You can read the passage here: Isaiah 40:12-31. We really can’t comprehend how…
Today we’re going to wrap up our series on the Unlikely Heroes in the book of Judges. And it’s certainly been an interesting journey. We’ve looked at Ehud, Deborah, Barak, Jael, Gideon, and for the past several weeks now, we’ve been looking at Samson.
And of all the unlikely heroes that we’ve looked at, I think Samson started with the most potential – and has so far proven to be the most disappointing. Instead of being the leader that he could have been, Samson has shown himself to be selfish and arrogant. And as a result, he’s destroyed his marriage, his foolishness has cost the life of his wife and her family, and his own countrymen (the ones that he was suppose to rescue) don’t want to have anything to do with him.
And yet, despite Samson’s flawed character, God has still used him to begin to rescue the Israelites from the Philistines – just has He promised even before Samson was born. And while Samson certainly hasn’t pushed the Philistines out of Israelite territory, he has dealt them some serious blows. To this point in our story, he has severely crippled their economy by burning down all their crops, their vineyards, and their olive groves. As well, he has personally wiped out huge groups of Philistine soldiers.
So Samson is certainly public enemy #1 for the Philistines – but they can’t touch him. He’s got this incredible God-given strength and after their last attempt to capture Samson (which ended with Samson killing 1000 of them) no one dares to attack him. And so that kinda sets the stage for our final chapter today.
As most of you know, we have been looking at some of the unlikely heroes in the book of Judges over the past several weeks. And so far it’s been quite a colorful journey for us. We’ve seen our left-handed hero, Ehud, defeat the fat King Eglon. We witnessed the leadership of Deborah, the one and only female judge, and with that we saw Barak following God’s leading, so long as his conditions were met. Another unlikely hero in that story was Jael who took out Sisera with her weapon of choice – the tent peg, and then last week we started looking at Gideon – the least in his clan, the weakest in his family, hiding out in the bottom of the winepress. And yet, God was able to use every single one of these people for His glory. In-spite of their weaknesses, and perhaps sometimes because of their weaknesses, God was able use them to rescue his people – showing them mercy time and time again.
And so today we are going to continue looking at the life of Gideon. We never got a chance to finish the story last week, and actually, we’re not going to finish it this week either. Gideon’s story is almost a mini-series in itself – there are several little stories within the whole story and we’re not going to go through all of them, so if you want to know the whole story, you’re going to have to read through it on your own some time maybe this week. And I would encourage you to do that, actually. Gideon’s story begins in Judges 6 and goes through to chapter 8 – and if you’re really ambitious, you can read about Gideon’s son Jotham in chapter 9.
But for today, we’re going to start right where we left off last time – at Judges chapter 6, verse 33. And in case you missed last week. God has just commissioned Gideon to rescue his people from the Midianites. Step #1 was to get rid of the false idols that the Israelites had been worshipping. God told Gideon to tear down his father’ altar to Baal and the Asherah pole beside it, and so, although he was afraid, Gideon took that first step of obedience and did what God asked. As a result, God began a change in his family, a change in his town, and a change in Gideon himself. And we’re going to see the further results of those changes today. So we start now at verse 33…
33 Soon afterward the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east formed an alliance against Israel and crossed the Jordan, camping in the valley of Jezreel. 34 Then the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon with power. He blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and the men of the clan of Abiezer came to him. 35 He also sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, summoning their warriors, and all of them responded. Judges 6:33-35
Now I’ve got to point out a couple of things before we go any further. First of all, when Gideon sounded the call to arms – who was it that came to him first? The clan of Abiezer. If you remember from last week, Gideon was the son of Joash of the clan of Abiezer. In other words – the first people who rallied to his side were his family! There are probably a few lessons that we could learn from that – but I just wanted to point that out in light of our lesson last week – how Gideon’s first little step of obedience began a change in his family. It changed his father – Joash, who used to worship Baal – and in fact, it seems like Gideon’s obedience has had an impact on his entire clan. I thought that was pretty cool.
When we decide to follow God, we have no idea how much it will impact our entire family. I know lots of you have family members who are not following the Lord right now. Be encouraged by this verse. Maybe it won’t happen over night – maybe it won’t happen for decades – but your obedience to God can make a huge impact on your family. Perhaps that’s our Mother’s Day encouragement for today – be faithful and obedient to God – and who knows what God may do in your family through you over time.
Secondly, verse 34 I thought was really cool. It says…
As most of you know we have been exploring the book of Judges over the past several weeks – looking at some of the great heros and the great zeros of that book. And so far it’s been quite a colorful journey for us. We’ve had Ehud & the fat King, Deborah the only female judge, Barak with his conditional obedience, Jael & her weapon of choice – the tent peg, and then last week we started looking at Gideon – the least in his clan, the weakest in his family hiding out in the bottom of the winepress. And yet, God was able to use every single one of these people for His glory. Sometimes in-spite of their weaknesses, and sometime because of their weaknesses.
And so today we are going to continue looking at the life of Gideon. We never got a chance to finish the story last week, and actually, we’re not going to be able to finish it this week either, because we’re going to be looking at just one of about four mini-stories within the story of Gideon. So if you want to know the whole story, you’re going to have to read through it on your own some time this week. You’ll find it in Judges 6, 7, & 8 – and if you’re really ambitious, you can read about Gideon’s son Jotham in chapter 9.
But for today, we’re going to start in Judges 7:1.