You may read Judges 8, turn up your nose, and think, “That’s how the story of Gideon ends?!?!” Gideon disciplined some Israelite leaders in one city with thorns and briars and killed the men of another city because they refused to help Gideon’s soldiers. He also crafted what became an idol out of the spoils of war. And to top it all off, we see that he had seventy children because he had “many wives” and at least one concubine (Judg. 8:30-31). It’s not the ending we would expect, or pen if we were writing the story. True stories don’t always end the way Hollywood stories end.
But here is what we need to remember: This story is not about Gideon; it’s about God! God delivered the Israelites, and even when they would live in idolatrous disobedience again, He would be ready to forgive them and bring them back to Himself again. That is the essence of this story. That is the essence of the Book of Judges. And that is the essence of the gospel story that runs throughout every page of Scripture. God’s superabundant grace is poured out generously upon His people, most notably through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
What are some seasons of defeat in your life? How can you walk in freedom from the past?
We love transformations. From fixer-upper homes to total body makeovers to restaurant re-dos, we enjoy watching something not-so-great turn into something amazing. Gideon is one of the great transformations in Scripture. From a fearful, hiding thresher to a brave warrior, his story is a favorite in all of Scripture because we see such a drastic change. In Judges 7:15, we discover what led to Gideon’s transformation: “As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped.” He had heard God’s word, witnessed His powerful presence, and believed the truth. And that brought him to his knees in worship. What we believe—the gospel—matters, and it is designed by God to change us deeply and eternally.
When was the last time you responded to God in spontaneous worship? How can you add more worship of God in your life?
The way God whittled down Gideon’s army was far from random. First, He had Gideon send home all who were afraid. Second, it seems God further narrowed down the army based on who was wiser when it came to drinking water. The remaining force of three hundred men was small in number yet the bravest and wisest of Israel’s army. In much the same way, God has chosen “armies” for each of us—fellow believers to stand shoulder to shoulder with us in life, no matter what may come our way.
Who is in your army? Perhaps it is a parent, who has modeled the humble, sacrificial love of Christ. Perhaps it is a long-term friend who has shown you what faithfulness looks like. Perhaps it is the teacher or pastor who has demonstrated how important it is to understand and live out the gospel. God chose Gideon’s army; He has chosen yours too. And just as with Gideon’s, He knows exactly whom you need in your battles to fight alongside you, encourage you, and speak strength into your heart.
Whom has God placed into your life as your army? When was the last time you thanked Him for them? When was the last time you thanked them for standing faithfully by you?
Though they were God’s chosen people, loved and shepherded by Him, the Israelites were openly worshiping pagan gods. So God instructed Gideon to tear down the altar of Baal and the Asherah pole and build an altar to the one true God in their place. So Gideon did just that—in the dark when nobody could see him. Does that sound like us? We are called to stand for God and point others to the gospel. But sometimes when we have an opportunity to do just that—to speak truth in our culture—we freeze. We don’t know what to say or perhaps how to say it, so we end up saying nothing. As believers, we need to remember that the stand we take for God is not taken alone— the Holy Spirit is with us and empowers us—nor is our stand the first stand God’s people have taken, and it won’t be the last.
How has God positioned you to take a stand for Him in your community? What will you do this week to take such a stand?
The Midianites oppressed the Israelites and made life terrible for God’s people. They attacked them, destroyed their crops, stole their livestock, and laid waste to the land. And because of this, Israel was “brought very low” (v. 6). You might feel like an Israelite today, ambushed and decimated by your enemy. But we must start with the very first verse in this passage: “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian” (v. 1). When adversity comes, as followers of God, we should seek His face and ask, “Lord, is this chastisement? Are You using this difficult situation right now to pull me back to You?”
Not all pain is God’s discipline for sin, but God’s discipline is often painful. And if what we are experiencing is His loving discipline, we need to know that so we can identify and repent of the sin we have committed, rest in His grace and mercy, and enjoy renewed fellowship with our God. For every sin in our lives, there is forgiveness and restoration and peace. But the first step is allowing our eyes to be opened, seeing the truth that only God can reveal.
Where in your past might God be pointing you to unconfessed sin? What steps can you take to turn away from it and to Christ?
Jael was to be considered the most blessed of women. Why? Because she killed the enemy of God and His people. She took a tent peg and a hammer and crushed the head of Sisera. The once-proud commander of nine hundred chariots fled on foot from the battle he expected to win and fell dead from the hands and at the feet of a humble, unassuming, tent-dwelling woman. O how the mighty have fallen. The song of Deborah and Barak praises Jael for her act of faith. But it also points to the fall of Sisera as a picture for the fall of all of God’s enemies.
May they all be crushed so the people of God may rise like the blazing strength of the sun. One day, all of God’s enemies will be crushed in hell, and all of God’s people will rise in resurrection and life, but only because the blessed Son of God Himself was crushed for our iniquities (Isa. 53:5). By faith in Jesus, we receive His blessing of eternal life and the eternal victory over the enemies of sin and death.
How will you live in light of Jesus’ eternal victory over sin and death on behalf of those who believe? How will you spread the praise of this wonderful Savior throughout the world?
The Israelites sang some lines about Barak in Judges 5:12-23. Barak, the leader of the Israelite army whose fears were real. The military man who refused to go into battle alone and demanded Deborah go with him. In the midst of all his faults, this part of the song remembers the victory; his prisoners (v. 12) and his leadership (v. 15) made it in the annals of history.
The grace and favor we find in Barak’s story reminds us that we can cut others— and ourselves—a little slack for our moments of fear. Say what you will about his shortcomings, but Barak believed with the little faith he could muster, and God used it to bring victory over one of the most feared armies of his day. We’re rarely going to get it all right, but the faith of a small mustard seed is all we need to see God triumph. He will lead and He will provide; we just need to believe. The victory depends on Him, not us.
Where do you need to show mercy to yourself and others?