- Sermon Notes
Usually Working in Unusual Ways
ILLUS – Falling Through the Attic
Growing up, I never wanted to work at a church.In fact, I didn’t even like going to church, let alone working at one.I thought it was boring and I didn’t understand any of the stuff that was being talked about.I wanted to be a baseball player.That seemed like a lot more fun….
2.When God works in our lives, we so desperately want to know what it is that God is doing or where God is directing us. This is especially true during
challenging times. God, where are you? God, what are you doing? God, are you even listening? I know there have been times in my life when I would love
to have answers to these questions. I’m sure you do, too.
3.And for so many people, they stop themselves short of participating in ministry or put a cap on possibilities to serve because they just don’t feel like they are ready. They don’t feel as thought they are good enough.
4.But if there is one thing we learn from Scripture, it is this: God is at work in redeeming all things back to himself. God is on the move. God is doing
5.A second thing that we learn from Scripture: God usually works in unusual ways.
1.The book of Judges consists of stories about local heroes within the nation of Israel who end up distinguishing themselves in battle with some of Israel’s
ancient enemies, including the Canaanites, Midianites or Philistines.
2.This is a period of time following the first two great leaders of Israel’s history (Moses & Joshua), but prior to the beginning of the monarch (King
3.When we think of judges, we think of the people in robes who hand out edicts from trials or cases. They are the ones that dispense or dole out justice.
The ancient judges or Israel did do some of that, but they were primarily charismatic military leaders who would often appear in Israel’s time of need
to fight off invading groups.
4.The sin cycle: (1) Israel sins; (2) punishment occurs; (3) Israel cries out for help; (4) God rescues; (5) Israel rejoice before falling back into sin.
The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites.
Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.
When the Israelites cried out to the LORD because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”
The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
I. Stop the Cycle of Sin
Vs. 1: Israelites “did evil.” וַיַּעֲשׂוּ – made evil
We read the text and the first question that tends to pop up in my mind is this: These silly Israelites. Why don’t they just accept God’s ruling and stop sinning? Just stop. It just seems like this should not be so hard. But it is. Why?
In many ways, the book of Judges speaks to the frailty or corruption of humanity. We are, in many ways, prideful…and forgetful.
As humans, we are prone to corruption – going all the way back to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3.
II.Arrogance Leads to Anguish
Illustration: Edward John Smith was born on January 27th, 1850…
- Captain Smith, and what seems to be the majority of naval captains at the time, had forgotten how dangerous sea travel could still be. They had become arrogant in their enterprise.
Scripture: Judges 2:10 – “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.”
Illustration: When things are going well, we tend to give ourselves credit and forget about who and what have helped us to get there – the lessons learned by those who had gone before. And so we make decisions with a sense of overconfidence in ourselves and our abilities…which can lead to calamity or mistakes.
Israelites made evil. Midianites came and camped out on their land. This invasion appears to have been an annual event during the seven years of the Midianite oppression and in typically nomadic style the invaders came with their cattle and their tents, living off the land. The simile of locusts is an appropriate one, demonstrating the absolute devastation of these ravenous hordes as they moved from one area to another.
And it is here we see how arrogance leads to anguish.
Israelites have to run from their towns and find security in caves.
Gideon is threshing wheat in a wine press. Threshing wheat was normally carried out in an exposed place so that the wind could carry away the chaff, but
Gideon was improvising in the wine press, away from the sight of marauding bands. This also indicates that the harvest was small. It could be beaten
out with a rod or staff in a confined place.
Hebrew Irony in Names
- Joash the Abiezrite – Joash means “Yahweh is strong” – yet Gideon is questioning God’s presence.
- Gideon is called “mighty warrior” by the angel, yet is hiding his wheat in a wine press.
Vs. 13 – “Why has this happened to us? Where are God’s wonders? The Lord has abandoned us.”
- Gideon’s actions and words are those of anguish. All because the Israelites had grown comfortable and confident enough in their own capabilities and
during the time of peace that they had forgotten about following God. And they began to make evil. They worshiped idols and the gods of other nations.
II.God Usually Works in Unusual Ways
- Gideon is not chosen because he is faithful. He is not called a “faithful servant” or “humble follower of God” by the messenger.
- In fact, Gideon points out that he is of the weakest clan in Manasseh and that he is the most unimportant in his family.
Illustration: How often do we tend to look at ourselves as being unworthy? Are any of us waiting for the perfect situation or to be the perfect person to follow Jesus Christ? I’ve sinned too much. God won’t accept me. I don’t know my Bible enough to be used by God.
God’s response to Gideon?
- Vs. 14 – Go in the strength you have. Am I not sending you?
- Vs. 16 – I will be with you.
The Sending One Goes with the Ones Sent
God usually works in unusual ways.
- This is not only demonstrated in the life of Gideon, but also in the lives of many other biblical persons.
- Jacob stole his older brother’s blessing by tricking his father, Isaac. God changed his name to Israel.
- Joseph was the youngest in his family and was sold into slavery by his brothers. God made it so he was second to Pharaoh in authority in Egypt.
- Moses was born at a time when Hebrew boys were being slaughtered, only to end up being adopted by Pharaoh.
- Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute who is praised as a person of faith in the book of Hebrews.
- Ruth was a Moabite who ended being in the genealogy of Jesus.
- David was an overlooked child turned into the great king of Israel.
- Peter was an uneducated fisherman.
- Paul persecuted Christians before becoming the greatest Christian missionary the world has ever seen.
- Indeed, we are going into a season in which we celebrate the most unusual way that God has worked – Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, entered into the human existence as a helpless baby, spending time with sinners and outcasts, and even dying on a cross.
Application: How Should We Live?
So what now?
- Are you stuck in a cycle of sin? Look to Christ and allow him to transform your heart.
- Are you waiting for things to be perfect before coming to Christ and accepting his forgiveness and allowing him to be Lord of your life? There is no need to wait. He is already offering you forgiveness. All you must do is perhaps forgive yourself and accept Christ’s free gift. He has already determined that you are worthy.
- Are you afraid or waiting for the perception of perfection in order to wade out into the unsettled waters of participating in ministry? Go in the strength
that you have – for God will be with you.