October 26, 2011
Vespers Prayer Service
Rev. Ross Mahan, Pastor
Judges 6:11-24: The Call of Gideon
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Savior
And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. And the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
- God had rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt, cared for them in the desert, and brought them into the Promised Land. Under Joshua they drove out the Canaanites and took possession of the land and now after hundreds of years they had a land of their own. For a time things went well but before long the children of Israel stopped honoring and obeying the Lord. To punish them, God allowed the Midianites to make life very difficult for them. Israel had defeated the Midianites 200 years earlier but now they had returned to oppress God’s people. Their method of conquest was simple; steal every ounce of food in the land. The people cried unto the Lord and He sent a prophet that said to them. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land; And I said unto you, I am the Lord your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice. It is in this context that we are introduced to Gideon. As he was threshing wheat by the winepress, hiding it from the enemy the angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Son of God, appeared to him. And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak, which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
- Whenever we find Divine Names, Divine Attributes, Divine Works, or Divine Honor and Glory being ascribed to an Angel of the Lord, we know that this is no ordinary angel but the Lord Himself. What did the Lord say to Gideon? And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. If there is one thing that Gideon did not think he was at that particular moment it was a mighty warrior. He was a scared farmer but God assured him of His presence and declared him a mighty man of valor. God was going to give Gideon His gracious, empowering and delivering presence, which only the children of God enjoy and He reminded Gideon of this truth. Whatever circumstances you are in, one thing hasn’t changed, the Lord is still with you. The mystical presence of God preserves His children in the midst of trial and affliction. His powerful Word keeps us in the true faith and defends us in the midst of evil as He promised in His Word. Only Christians enjoy the special presence of God that enables them to endure this wicked world and stand and fight boldly when the truth is at stake. God’s faithfulness enables us to endure the loneliness that a godly life often brings in a wicked world. It makes believers like Gideon, mighty men and women of valor, whose strength of character and will combine to obey God for His glory and honor. Dr. Martin Luther was a man like Gideon. He fought the powers of the Pope in Rome who was devouring the people of God with false doctrine.
- Luther was a mighty man of valor who stood fast in the Lord’s power and might looking to Scripture alone confident in the fact that when God is on your side one man is a majority. Gideon’s heart was filled with grief for his people and their sad spiritual condition. And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? But now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?’ (Vs. 13-14). Because of Israel’s present condition Gideon wonders aloud whether the Lord had forsaken them. Where were the miracles of deliverance like those he had read about in the past when God had rescued His people from their oppressors with a mighty hand? His questions also revealed the shame he felt for his own nation. But Gideon’s questions also reveal why it often appears that God has forsaken us in the midst of trials when we do not see God’s hand immediately reaching out to help us. Gideon made the mistake of looking at God’s Word through his circumstances rather than seeing his circumstances through God’s Word. While Gideon was wondering if God had forsaken Israel divine help was standing right in front of him.
- When we stand around waiting for miracles we often fail to see the Lord’s gracious revelation of Himself and what He desires to do in and through us. In our day the revelation of God is revealed in His Word and specifically in the gracious means of forgiveness, the Gospel in Word and Sacraments. Many Christians during times of affliction wonder where God is when He is literally right in front of them in the Holy Sacrament. They are looking for signs and miracles to provide an answer to their situation while overlooking the signs God has already given through Christ in His Word, in Baptism, and in the Holy Supper. The greatest miracles God has given to us are found in the Gospel. Baptism is a miracle! It is the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit that delivers us from the Kingdom of darkness and translates us into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. The Church as it gathers around the Word and Sacraments is a miracle! Every time the church meets in the Name of Jesus Christ He promises to be with us even unto the end of the world (Matt. 18:20; 28:20). We must seek the Lord where He may be found namely in the Word and Sacraments! If we are looking for the Lord in our lives then we must use the Means of Grace that have been ordained of God, if you will do so you too will be a mighty person of faith and valor. The Lord ordered Gideon to go forth in His strength, assuring him that as he did God would use him to deliver Israel from the Midianites.
- Gideon was not to question his ability to carry out his duty before God for the Lord had sent him. This is a tremendous lesson for us. If the Lord has called you to do something in your life you must not doubt His willingness to give you the grace necessary both to will and to do of His good pleasure. To deny God’s power is sinful unbelief for the will of God never leads you where His grace cannot keep you. Paul wrote: ‘Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it’. (I Thess. 5:24). Whenever we look at our own weakness rather than God’s gracious power and resources we always encounter problems. Gideon was preoccupied with the lowly status of his family and his personal background. ‘And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house’ (Vs. 15). Gideon doubts whether he has what it takes to do what the Lord is asking him to do. He came from a poor family at the very bottom of the economic and political scale and not only that but he had no status, position, or power; in the eyes of man; he was nothing. All of this was true but it did not matter. The only thing that mattered was God’s call and the grace that always comes with it, grace that is sufficient for every need that may arise. Isn’t this the same problem that we all suffer because of our fallen nature? We tend to always look at ourselves and in so doing make the wrong decisions and judgments.
- Sometimes we delude ourselves with our own works and ability and go forth under our own power only to fail. At other times we look at ourselves and see nothing, but instead of looking to God the true source of power and grace we end up trusting in something else and finally give up in despair and disappointment. But what would God have us do? He wants us to make right judgments! To apply His Word! To refuse to depend upon the power of the flesh and trust only in His grace! He desires us to repent, believe, and do what He has given us to do according to the ability that God alone can give through His Word. ‘And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able’ (II Cor. 3:4-6). Jesus said: ‘Without me ye can do nothing’ (John 15:5b). Scripture clearly reveals that in our flesh dwells no good thing, by nature we are without strength (Rom. 7:18; 5:6), for it is God that works within us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13), and we serve only according to the ability that God gives (I Pet. 4:11b). Moral and spiritual strength come from outside us, from God’s Word. Isaiah gave us the promise of divine strength: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint’ (Is. 40:29-31).
- Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness’ (Is. 41:10). God strengthens His children with might by His Spirit in the inner man (Eph. 3:16). God is on our side to provide power and grace to help in time of need. The Lord assured Gideon: ‘And the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man. (Vs. 16). The Lord assures Gideon of His abiding presence. David wrote: ‘Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheekbone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people’ (Ps. 3:1-8). God’s grace is always sufficient for us even in time of war. Gideon asked God for a sign to confirm the Word He had spoken unto him and after God had given him a sign He said unto him: ‘Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah shalom’ (the Lord is peace) (Vs. 23-24).
- Gideon asked for a sign to assure him of success and the Lord agreed to it and afterward reassured him with heavenly peace that his life would not be taken and he would be victorious. Gideon builds a memorial to bear witness to this marvelous revelation, calling the place where it had happened the Lord is peace. This evening we do not need God to appear to us or perform a miracle to confirm this same truth for God’s infallible Word bears witness to the peace we have with God. ‘For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight’ (Col. 1:19-22). All of us were alienated from God because of our sinful guilt and in desperate need of reconciliation that we had no power to perform. The answer to our dilemma graciously came down from Heaven. The Lord, God’s own Son, was sent from our Father in Heaven to reconcile God and man by a blood ransom. Christ sacrificed His life on Good Friday as a perfect and complete atonement for man’s sin in His own body, bearing our sin, our guilt, and the full curse and punishment we deserved.
- In Jesus Christ we are presented before God the Father without sin, without guilt, and without cause for punishment in the courtroom of heaven before God the Holy Judge. Christ has become our Jehovah Shalom. The Lord is peace. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1). But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh (Eph. 2:13-17). Jesus made peace with God through the blood of His cross and by his death brought everlasting righteousness to the world. Salvation comes from God. Today the mighty man of valor confesses: If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth (Rom. 8:31-33). May God grant us renewed faith and rejoicing in Jehovah Shalom, our Only Savior the Prince of Peace, who empowers us to fight the flesh, the world, and the devil with the living Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit; in Jesus’ saving Name; Amen.