In the 6th and 7th chapters of the Book of Judges we find the familiar story of Gideon, who God called “a mighty man of valor”. His story is almost unbelievable simply because Gideon was not a warrior or a great military commander. He was farmer who was hiding his wheat crop from the Midianites who had conquered Israel. Last week we saw that Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress, which is basically the same as eating bony fish, and getting all the bones out before you eat it. It’s almost impossible!
God’s view of who is useful to his Kingdom is so very different from our own! Let me tell you that God doesn’t look for what we look for in those that he will use. God looks for a willing vessel, but more than that, God looks for that willing vessel that is broken and powerless without him. We will see how God used Gideon and we will learn how he can use us.
TRANSITION TO VERSES…
Judges 6:36-40New Living Translation (NLT)
36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, 37 prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.” 38 And that is just what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.” 40 So that night God did as Gideon asked. The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew.
At the beginning of the chapel, the angel of the Lord had just come and spoken to Gideon under a tree. He then told Gideon that he was with him and that Gideon would be given power from on high to defeat the Midianites. So after this, God rallies an army for Gideon. BUT! Gideon asks God for one more proof that God is really with him; he asks for God to wet his fleece and keep the ground dry, and then asks God to wet the ground but keep the fleece dry.
[FROM SERMON CENTRAL] We see Gideon still struggling over whether or not God was with him. He asked for a sign. Is It Ok To Ask God For A Sign?
We can’t presume that God will do the same thing for you that He did for someone else. Yesterday in Men’s Study some of the men like Nathan Pifer brought up a good point, as in we can’t expect the Holy Spirit to move for us exactly like he moved for Paul or Peter or Jesus. His influence in our lives can be just as powerful, but it will be unique to the specific places and people he has called us to.
Examples of things we SHOULDN’T say to God:
As a high school student lays on his bed: “God, if You’re really there, make this light bulb flicker.”The man out of job: “God, give me a job by Friday or I’m done with You.” How many times have we given God promises like that, or sinful ultimatums like that?
The woman in a struggling marriage: “God, if You’re real, You will save my marriage.” But the issue with that marriage is, what’s the context? Does this woman have a relationship with Christ already? And will she REALLY commit herself to God, mind, body, soul and spirit, completely, IF her marriage IS saved? Only she would know and only God would know.
On a site called Sermon Central, a preacher gave a testimony about his cousin….several years ago one of his cousins had a scare. One of his two boys was put in the hospital after a growth of some sort showed up on tests. Was it a tumor? Was it cancer? This was on a Saturday and they were anxiously awaiting the next step on Monday. On Monday, they reran the tests and the growth was gone. Now this preacher’s cousin, who hasn’t been to church in a long time, told one of our relatives that it was a miracle (a sign, if there ever was one) and that he needed to get back in church. He never went once. Signs aren’t enough; we need substance. We need the Bread of Life daily, like those Daily Bread devotionals we used to read for Sunday School.
There are two big words to describe God. He is transcendent, and he is also immanent. Transcendence deals with the HUGEness of God. Simply put, immanence means God is near. He acts in this world and dwells with his people. (Amos 3:7)
Amos 3:7New Living Translation (NLT) 7 Indeed, the Sovereign Lord never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants the prophets.
Amos 3:7English Standard Version (ESV) 7 “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.
Amos 3:7New International Version (NIV)7 Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.
God is still mysterious, though in his nature. His nature is mysterious, but his will is not. So I actually don’t think it’s always sinful to ask for a sign, but I think a safer bet would be to ask for an assign-ment!
APPLICATION: Bring it Home
 Instead of asking God for a sign, ask God for an assignment —- See when you ask for an A SSIGN–ment, signs will follow, signs will be a part of the assignment, to confirm what God has already called you to do. In his grace, God still did what Gideon asked in terms of the fleece, because he had a tremendous amount of love for Gideon. People look for signs, wonders and miracles. But the greatest sign, wonder and miracle that God gave us to prove his love for us was the Resurrection of his Son Jesus. It doesn’t get any better than that to me, folks:
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 New Living Translation (NLT)
3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.
Now in several of the Gospels the Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus on the spot, after he had performed dozens of miracles. Jesus said he would not give any other signs except the sign of Jonah….Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of a fish or whale, but if you go back and read Jonah, he sank to the bottom of the ocean and passed out before the fish swallowed him. So either Jonah died…or had a near death experience, and Jesus brings up Jonah because Jonah had to have had a resurrection experience! I mean that’s what I think…. because why else would Jesus mention Jonah to the Pharisees in the Gospels? But just like the Son of God miraculously rose from the dead to secure our salvation, when we move forward in our assignment, God will give us all the reassurance we need.
Acts 2:22New Living Translation (NLT)
22 “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know.
So God the Father and the Holy Spirit both confirmed Jesus’ mission and assignment as the Savior of the world and his identity as the Son of God through signs….they did the same thing with the apostles…
And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.
You see….signs are linked to our assignments. But the MAIN reason why I say that we should pursue assignment, and not just signs is because of this warning Jesus gives also in Mark…
For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones.
My favorite movie trilogy of all time and favorite fictional writing of all time is the Lord of the Rings. So in one of the movies, a city called Rohan was getting attacked, and they were trying to signal for help. So they lit a fire in their tower. The next city over saw the fire and lit their signal, then fires began to be lit all across the region. And within days, an army was rallied to save the city. But see….the fires were not the end goal, church! The fires were pointing to the city, guiding the rescuers. The city that needed saving was the goal, the goal was not to go to the towers where the fires were and sit there. Also, when somebody is trapped in the woods and they use a smoke signal or a flare, or a signal fire, it’s so the rescuers in the helicopter can get to the person they need to rescue. See the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels were amazing, and the miracles the apostles performed through the Holy Spirit and the miracles that are performed today through the Holy Spirit are wonderful, but they are the fires that point to the person of Jesus and point to the cross of Jesus! So many Christians today are fire chasers, they chase revivals and wanna see miracles, but we’re supposed to move on from the miracles after they take place. Remember that false messiahs and false prophets WILL rise and WILL perform signs and wonders, Jesus just promised us this. But the move of God and the revival and all those things, they must glorify Christ and nothing glorifies Christ more than when people get saved. If there is a revival going on and nobody is getting saved, something is wrong!
TRANSITION: These signs followed the apostle’s assignments to preach Jesus and do missions. Signs followed Jesus’ assignment to be the savior of the world. Pray for an assignment, and the signs to confirm will follow…..Gideon already had an assignment so he didn’t need any more signs. Let’s get back to our text!
We finished chapter 6 and now let’s move to chapter 7 of Judges, it gets juicier!
Judges 7New Living Translation (NLT) 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. 3 Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.’” So 22,000 [some translations may say 32,000] of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight. 4 But the Lord told Gideon, “There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.” 5 When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” 6 Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream. 7 The Lord told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.” 8 So Gideon collected the provisions and rams’ horns of the other warriors and sent them home. But he kept the 300 men with him.
Gideon puts an army together of about 22,000 men. God tells him the army is too big, so everyone who is afraid goes home. This leaves 10,000. BUT! God tells Gideon the army is still too big! So God tests the men at a spring. Only 300 drink with their hands. The rest got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream. Those 300 were the ones who rescued Israel along with Gideon.
So I think what they did was squat down and cup water, that way they could spring into action! My wife and my son can squat completely with their heels on the ground, I can’t do it…it’s an Asian thing I think. It’s probably so they can do kung fu or something!
This speaks to us on sooooo many levels!! You don’t need a whole lot of people in your circle; you just a few faithful ones. It’s not the size of your army, it’s the heart of each individual warrior in battle that counts. He sees strength in us that we don’t even know we have. So when we speak of toughness, we gotta go to nature and look at wolverines…
[ILLUSTRATION: WOLVERINES] Man, I love wolverines, one of my favorite animals because they are tough as nails! There’s the story of Rosa, a wolverine who had been raised by people, who got caught in a leg-trap. She picked the trap up in her mouth and traveled on three legs through the woods. Three weeks later, weak and suffering, she showed up at the doorstep of the family who had raised her. They freed her and helped her recover. From University of Michigan Below http://innovateblue.umich.edu/tough-like-a-wolverine-by-thomas-zurbuchen/
Thomas Zurbuchen writes, “The more I learn about wolverines the more I admire their toughness and resilience in the face of adversity and it made me think about how often we get scared away by things. “If wolverines have a strategy it is go hard high and steep and never back down, not even from a grizzly, a wolf or a mountain lion and least of all from a mountain.
What God was trying to do with Gideon was find his inner wolverine. See Gideon relates to the wolverine in that the wolverine is not a very big animal, and yet they can scare grizzlies and mountains lions off, even wolf packs. When Gideon took his army down to 300 it was only a fraction of the size of the Midianite army, let’s just say the Midanite army equaled the Israelite army, so 22-32,000 troops. We just did a message a couple of weeks ago about how the devil runs around like a roaring lion. Well for most of us in here that are American, picture a mountain lion, but there are wild cats that live on the Japanese island of Iriomote as well. So mountain lions, and Iriomote cats and tannukis and crazy goats (remember that goat thing from Misawa Asks?) running around hungry, trying to pick us off. Grizzlies are around, and wolves are around. But the wolverine, smaller than all of them, can take them all. Gideon’s army, smaller than all his enemies took on all challengers. Why? The key to the wolverine’s toughness is in its design. God created wolverines to be thick-skinned. And you know what? He has created us to be tough as wolverines in this wasteland we call Earth. Remember from last week that Gideon’s name actually means slasher or thresher, indicating his potential to be both a spiritual and physical warrior. So from his very birth, God designed Gideon to be a thresher of men’s souls….he just didn’t know it. God was with these men! We don’t know much about them but we know that these men didn’t let their thirst take away from their sense of reality and watchfulness and alertness. So this passage about Gideon’s men also speaks about how we receive revelation from God!!
 While we drink from God’s presence, let’s be concerned with the outside world —
Imagine if that river or that stream that Gideon’s men went to represented the living water that the Bible talks about. The scriptures talk about living water flowing from the presence of God. What does this mean? Basically if we find search for satisfaction and peace outside of being with the Lord, then basically we are drinking poisoned, stagnant, mosquito-filled water. But the presence of God is living water. However, we are supposed to drink, and look up, drink of the Lord, and look up. While we’re praying for signs and wonders and miracles to happen in our lives, and blessings to happen in our lives, we need to pray the same things into the lives of others. Gideon’s 300 were concerned about things outside themselves, outside of just quenching their own thirst Their hearts were in the right place.
I’d rather have a handful of Navy Seals than a thousand people who don’t want to be there. Also, this speaks in the sense that victory in our spiritual battles doesn’t come from our performance, but from God’s presence. Jesus told us in John 7:38 that when we believe in him that rivers of living water would flow from our hearts…why should this be happening? So that others can drink of the presence of God they SEE in us!
John 7:38 (NLT)
Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’
Jesus says believe in Him and then drink. Then he says rivers of living water will flow out of us for others to drink. We don’t get filled to stay full while others die of thirst!!! We get filled and we drink of the presence of the Spirit of God so that river of the Spirit’s presence flow out of us into others…
TRANSITION: And while we are drinking from that river of living water, we can’t be so spiritual that we neglect our spouse or our kids. . I used to think that only my prayer life mattered and the other stuff like my JOB wasn’t important….how foolish of me. There are too many Christians out there today who have horrible work ethics and they murder their witness for Jesus. I could go on and on, but God can give us balance of walking in the realm of the Holy Spirit, and walking in the real world. We will transition back into Judges 7 at that point, because Gideon uses an interesting strategy of lights and noise to disrupt the plans of the Midianites! Now between verses 9 and 15, someone in the Midianite camp has a dream that he interprets as Gideon destroying the Midianite camp. Once that happens, Gideon finally goes into action in verse 16!
Judges 7:16-21New Living Translation (NLT)
16 He divided the 300 men into three groups and gave each man a ram’s horn and a clay jar with a torch in it. 17 Then he said to them, “Keep your eyes on me. When I come to the edge of the camp, do just as I do. 18 As soon as I and those with me blow the rams’ horns, blow your horns, too, all around the entire camp, and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon!’” 19 It was just after midnight, after the changing of the guard, when Gideon and the 100 men with him reached the edge of the Midianite camp. Suddenly, they blew the rams’ horns and broke their clay jars. 20 Then all three groups blew their horns and broke their jars. They held the blazing torches in their left hands and the horns in their right hands, and they all shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 Each man stood at his position around the camp and watched as all the Midianites rushed around in a panic, shouting as they ran to escape.
Gideon and his men went to the edge of the Midianite camp. He divided his 300 men into 3 groups. He gave them all horns and put torches inside clay jars. Then everyone shouted at the same time and broke their clay jars and waved their torches and blew their horns and shouted.
Gideon used a diversion to trick his enemies into confusion and into killing each other and it worked! Verse 22 says they started killing each other.
There was only one conclusion the Midianites could reach: “We’re surrounded!” And indeed, they were surrounded. But what they could not see is that there was no great army standing behind the torch-bearers, ready to attack. In a combination of divinely-enhanced fear and human panic, the Midianites concluded that the enemy (whom they could not see) was among them, and so they began wildly thrusting their swords. The Midianites fled but eventually, those Israelite soldiers left behind now enter into the battle, seeking to block the Midianites’ escape by crossing the Jordan. These things happen in verses 22-25, finishing out the chapter.
But what is the significance?
There are so many lessons to be learned from our text. Let me conclude by calling attention to a few of them. But a big one is that One cannot possibly come away from this story giving credit to Gideon or his troops for this victory. The victory is the Lord’s. And it’s all about Jesus in our own lives as well. Just like jars of clay were broken in the hands of Gideon and his men, we are broken jars of clay in the hands of the Lord. But if we allow God to break us, meaning crush our self-reliance, and self-sufficiency and everything in us that is not pleasing to Him, the fire of God inside us will rise just like those torches that were hidden inside Gideon’s clay jars. We will be lights to guide people out of darkness, and the anointing on our lives, the fragrance of the presence of God in our lives will burn away the doubts in other people about the truth of the Gospel, and they will confess Jesus as Lord.
 God uses broken vessels to shine and burn for his glory —- See we all have flaws and cracks in us. So it’s crazy to me when one clay vessel that is cracked and damaged turns and criticizes another clay vessel about their cracks and scrapes and imperfections, when really, we should go to the potter. [ILLUSTRATION with water bottles and scissors]. Well you might be saying, “preacher you always give people the benefit of the doubt. Well yeah, because Jesus does, doesn’t he?! Stop fighting among ourselves and love each other and change the world!
2 Corinthians 4:3-9New Living Translation (NLT)
3 If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. 4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.5 You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
See the good news we preach is not always understood by those outside of the faith. There is a veil on their understanding, their minds are blinded by Satan. They need the torches, the burning flame of the Holy Spirit that is inside of us all, but our vessels have to be crushed before the outside world can see the Gospel in us. God shines in us through the breaking of our will, through the crushing of our sins. Sometimes he’ll put us through a winepress, and sometimes he’ll put us on a threshing floor. It’s painful….we are fragile clay jars, but there is treasure inside each of us.
But with Gideon, he had to break those clay jars to expose the torches that were hidden inside. In the same way for us, we have to show unbelievers that they NEED Christ, that coming to Christ isn’t about Jesus making their lives better or him being a life coach, but we need to show people how SPIRITUALLY BANKRUPT they are without Christ. See…
Every man, woman, and child is a sinner, in bondage to sin and unable to save themselves. See this is what people need to know. We need to preach the whole council of God to people, as Paul said in Acts 20. Reading the whole book, from Genesis to Revelation will help us get that balanced view of the Lord that we so desperately need. What do I mean about the whole council of God? I mean we need to teach people about God’s mercy and also teach them about his wrath so they can have a balanced view of God, and not think of him as Santa Claus or a Genie, but also not think of him as a bully or a tyrant. He’s none of those things…He is a Father and our Father spoils us and wraps his arms around us, right? In Japanese, it’s “Chi-chi-naru kami wa watashi tachi o hiro–iage, dakishime, sosh–tay yoku ssh stay kuremasu [“Daddy will pick us up, hug us and make it better].” But he will also challenge us and also confront us. A good Dad won’t just give their child everything they want, sometimes the answer is no, or not yet. Even if you had a horrible father in life, Your Heavenly Father is fully on your side and loves you completely. We need to teach people that our Father’s love for us is SO radical, he allowed HIS SON to be crushed on a cross in our place for the sins we committed. And then by God’s power, He rose from the dead, offering salvation to all who acknowledge their sin and helplessness, and who trust in Christ alone.
All of us are fragmented, fractured, full of imperfections, scrapes and broken parts. This is not to make us feel bad about ourselves, but to remind us that we are vessels. It is God’s glory, and God’s grace inside us, that changes the atmosphere around us. Let’s allow that grace to pour out of us and shine, and burn. Let’s pray.