Fear. Everyone must have experienced it. How brave someone could be, fear must have been experienced. But fear is not just simply human nature, but also an evil spirit. If we would not overcome it from the start, it will paralyze us.
Gideon’s story is an example in the Bible that tells how every believer should triumph over this fear. The story is there in Judges chapters 6 to 8. Gideon was found by God threshing wheat in a winepress. He did this to hide himself and his wheat from the attacks of the Midianites who always came to plunder Israel in those days.
Judges 6:11 ESV, Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites.
The first 10 verses tell how Israel lived under the oppression of the Midianites. Whenever the Israelites finished sowing their fields, the Midianites had come. Notice here, not when they reaped but since they had sowed. They came, camping first in the vicinity of the Israelites, where they sowed. They came with all their livestock, and in great numbers like locusts that invaded the land as the Bible said. Judges 6:3-5, their goal was one, to plunder and destroy the territory they invaded. Israel became very destitute because of them, verse 6. They were so afraid, verse 2, that they took refuge in the caves and strongholds of the mountains of Canaan. And this kept happening for a long 7 years.
Above is a sermon about Gideon at JKI KOG Kudus, August 23rd 2020
Fear brings idol worship
Verse 1 explains the cause of what happened, Israel did what was evil in God’s eyes. And verse 10 shows what these evils really were, they worshiped the gods of the Amorites. These Amorite deities, called Amurru or Belu-Sadi, were known as mountain gods whose wives were called Belit-Seri, or goddess of the desert. The fall of the Israelites to worship the Amorite gods began with their fear of these gods. In the KJV translation, verse 10 shows that the word worship which is used here refers to the word fear, God told them to fear not the gods of the Amorites. But they just didn’t heed the Word of God. Their fear now leads them to idolatry, to worship them instead.
The first thing that happens to those who live in fear is that their lives are subject to, controlled, and governed by fear itself. What should only be human nature then becomes the ruler who takes human worship from God. Only to God we should fear and submit. And the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, Proverbs 1:7. If a person were to submit to fear itself, wisdom would not be in him but foolishness. Those whose lives are subject to fear will not be able to think straight. They will not even be able to think logically or in common sense, cause their decisions and actions are based on fear. For God gave us a spirit, not of fear but power and love and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:7. Without us knowing it, those who are overcome by fear, worship the fear itself.
Fear brings God’s punishment
What follows is God’s judgment will fall upon those who live in fear. The Midianites came to plunder and destroy Israel. Judges 6:2-6. They couldn’t live properly, they took refuge in caves and strongholds, verse 2. They ended in poverty, verse 6. Because God’s judgment in them began first in the initial sowing, not at the final harvest. If your initial sowing had been destroyed by the enemy, what would you reap in the end, verse 3?
Fear brings slavery
Slavery is the most terrible thing this fear will bring. Those who live under fear will be enslaved in such away. Slavery means that those who are enslaved no longer live for themselves, but for those who enslaved them. It means what is produced will be taken and controlled by their master. People who are afraid of not having enough money will live controlled by it. What money can generate for them is only depriving them of their freedom to enjoy their life by what the money should generate. Many times this is true of those who cannot enjoy life and their time is spent only to make money. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; Psalm 127:2a.
We work to fulfill our responsibilities, to provide for our own needs, and not be a burden to others. But also not to be enslaved by the purpose of work itself, to have money. Responsibility for work must be accompanied by a sense of contentment, not greed. We all have to know when to hit the brakes of our lives that work. So we would have time for others especially time to worship God. Please remember that if it is not God who blesses, everything we try would be in vain. After all, we don’t worship money, right? Why then do we not have time to worship God? Those who worship God, fear God, and God will bless them with wisdom to work smart and not just with muscles.
In verse 8, Judges 6, God revealed Himself to be the one who led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. Israel was on the brink of the hour, just a little more, those who had been delivered from Egypt were about to fall into Midianites’ hands. The Lord promises, Judges 6:9, I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. He is the same God, unchanged since yesterday, not today, and not forever. He stays the same, Hebrews 13:8.
A small man
God who had spoken in Judges 6:8-10, then came to help Israel, verse 11. But uniquely, God visited a small man first to carry the task. He didn’t come to a great, skillful and extraordinary man but to a small man. Apparently, His promise remains the same, for unto us a child is born, Isaiah 9:6 KJV. To overcome sin, God sent Jesus who came first and was born as a baby child. To knock down a Goliath, God sent the child David. And in this case, He sent Gideon, a small man. The name Gideon means a woodcutter or stonecutter, but his work now was only threshing wheat here. He was not working in the fields or in the open, he was hiding. He threshed the wheat in the winepress. All Israel, including Gideon, were hiding because fear already overtook them.
The first Word of God which came to Gideon was this, the LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor, Judges 6:12. From the very beginning, God trusted Gideon and saw him as a mighty man of valor, a brave hero. Why is it like that? Because the LORD would be with him. If God had faith in Gideon that he would be a mighty man of valor because of His own participation, why should we fail to believe, acknowledging God’s hand in us that would also make us a mighty man of valor? Many of us would read this verse with a focus on mighty man of valor. We fail to see that it will only be because of the first part, GOD would be with Gideon, GOD would be with us!
Either Gideon or us as well, we like to blame God for what had happened where now they lived under the oppression of the Midianites. Gideon thought it all because God had thrown them out, Judges 6:13b. When the Lord later gave him orders to be the deliverer, and savior of Israel, he still could not see that it was the Lord who was speaking to him (verse 12), it was the Lord who commissioned him (verse 14b). He still saw himself as small and insignificant: Gideon was from the smallest clan of the Manasseh tribes and he was the youngest of his brothers. His family was the smallest, the weakest, and the poorest. He didn’t come from a rich family, a family who possessed a lot! In fact, he came from the tribe of Manasseh, the eldest son of Joseph who was put down to second by Jacob, their patriarchal grand-father. These Manassites lived a life of humiliation because, by Jacob, their birthright was taken away and given to Ephraim! Genesis 48:20.
Low self-esteem, or insecurity, inferiority, is not humility. Being humble has the understanding that we shouldn’t look at ourselves more than we should, which is arrogant. But also, we shouldn’t see ourselves as less than we should, that’s inferiority. Those who live with a mentality of being insecure will always think of those who say they can, as arrogant. An insecure person will not present himself even though he can. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil, Matthew 5:37 ESV. What it means as more here is not only to see more than it should but also to see less than it should. Being humble is like being in a straight line, neither going up nor down. If you can, say yes. If you can’t, say no. Don’t say no if you can, don’t say yes if you can’t. Get to know yourself, your weaknesses, and your strengths properly.
The Angel of the Lord
In verse 16, God repeated Himself, but I am with you. Now Gideon started to realize that he wasn’t talking to just an ordinary human being. At first, he only saw what his Companion said was just a normal greeting given to each other when they met first, the LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor, Judges 6:12. But when his Companion said now, but I will be with you, verse 16, Gideon’s eyes started to open to see that the LORD Himself was talking to him. Later he also asked for a sign to prove this. He hurriedly prepared a wave offering; a grain offering, a lamb, and an unleavened bread, Judges 6:19. Leviticus 2:4, Numbers 6:15.
The Angel of the LORD himself then burned this wave offering with the tip of His staff, after Gideon placed everything on the rock. Judges 6:20-21. In the Old Testament, when the word of the Angel of the LORD is mentioned, it means God Himself descended in the form of a human being known to the Israelites as the Messenger of God, an angel (but not with wings as depicted now, the wings come by the influenced of the medieval age). Also, the Israelites know that this Angel, is not an ordinary one nor even the Princes (or leaders) of the Angels, but God Himself who had come down and revealed Himself to His people. In the New Testament, this Angel of the LORD is Jesus himself who was born and became a man. Then Gideon built an altar there and called the name of the LORD. Judges 6:22-24.
The first command of God for Gideon was to destroy the worshipped deity in Gideon’s own house. God told him to destroy Baal’s altar and prepare God’s altar on it. Verses 25-26. Gideon did this but only at night because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, verse 27. Later his father who was actually the priest of Baal itself now helped him by saying in verses 31-32, will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down. Therefore on that day, Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.
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Immediately afterward the Midianites and Amalekites came up. But the Spirit of God took control of Gideon, so he moved the Israelites against them, starting with the Abiezers, verse 34, their own people, verse 11, then the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, verse 35. Gideon once again asked for a sign, verses 17 & 36. And God answered the sign.
Only 300 people
What is interesting about this battle was the God-chosen number of people turned out to be very small against the Midianites who numbered like grasshoppers (Judges 7:12), a total of 135 thousand soldiers (Judges 8:10), led by Oreb and Zeeb (Judges 7:25) and Zebah and Salmuna (Judges 8:10). We like to think that He is with us means would come in a big number in this war, but He intendedly still keeps Gideon small!
Initially, when the Israelites came together, they came to 32 thousand people of war, Judges 7:3. It was quite a big number, but for God this was too big, verse 2a. God did not want the Israelites to finally be proud by saying, my own hands had saved me. Judges 7:2b. With 32 thousand itself against 135 thousand, the Israelite would still fight against at least 4 Midianites at once. This number of 32 thousand was actually still too small against an enemy which is like grasshoppers in numbers. Israel is only nearly a quarter of its own enemies.
Then the Lord said, whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead. Judges 7:3, then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.
The remaining ten thousand later understood that their number which was only a quarter or 25% of their enemies now remains over 7% only. 1 must fight 13-14 people, instead of just 4 at once.
Outrageously, for the LORD, this is still too much! Judges 7:4, the people are still too many. Who laps like a dog, send home! Judges 7:4-7. Now they are left with only 300 people.
This means that Israel was now only less than 1%, only 0.2% of their enemies! Now a person had to face 450 people at once.
But the Israelites did WIN!
1 Samuel 17:47, For the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hand.
Oreb and Zeeb, Zebah and Salmuna
This army of Midian, 135 thousand men, Judges 8:10, was led by 4 kings, Oreb and Zeeb (Judges 7:25) and Zebah and Salmuna (Judges 8:10). In this narrative, Midian symbolizes the fear which overcame Israel. An enemy army, like grasshoppers in numbers, was repeated twice, Judges 6:5, 7:12. Their actual number was mentioned in Judges 8:10 only when 120 thousand of them had died and only 15 thousand remained who were led now by Zebah and Salmuna. Yes, 120 thousand died in chapter 7 itself along with their 2 kings, Oreb and Zeeb, Judges 7:25.
Oreb, the name means a crow. A symbol of death, the world sees it that way because of its black fur, hoarse voice, and feed on the dead. A bad omen, a sign of loss. In fact, it is often associated with death prophecies and terrifying insights. There are many stories about this bird which is considered to be an intermediary between the material world and the spirit world. And now, the first king to command the Army of Fear was called the death. Death is the first scourge in this world that is most feared by men. And of the 3 deaths, spiritual death, physical death, and eternal death, the last one is the most terrifying. This is the time when lost souls are thrown into eternal hellfire. And because of this, sinful men are terrified of death. Physical death is accompanied by the scourge of a soul that burns eternally in hellfire, haunts all lost men.
The Lord came to die on the cross, to become a sin offering, a substitute for us who believe in Him. He reconciled us to the Father and paid the ransom price for our lives with His own blood. 3 days later He was risen from the dead to be the Righteousness for us before God the Father. So that whoever repents, turns to God, and believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior, would no longer perish in the eternal death.
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15: 54-57.
If you are spiritually dead, may physical death not catch you immediately before your spirit would be born again, made alive in Christ Jesus. Because if so, that means eternal death is your share. If your spirit lives and abides in Christ, physical death is the gateway to return not only to the Creator but also to the Redeemer of your soul. And eternal death is not your share at all. The greatest danger today is not dying from a virus, but dying without the Lord Jesus.
Oreb was killed by the Israelites on the rock of Oreb. Judges 7:25. This rock mountain, in its original word the rock, is often interpreted as God Himself. 1 Corinthians 10:4, and the rock was Christ.
Zeeb, means wolf. Although to the world, the wolf is a symbol of guardianship, loyalty, and a positive, fiery spirit, the wolf is also trusted as an impetus to trust our own hearts and minds as man and to have control over our own lives. It sounds good because it teaches confidence in yourself. But at the same time, it refers to those who only believe in themselves, not in God. Why is that? Those who seek to have control over everything in their own lives are those who live in fear of letting go of their own lives in real-life situations. They will always try to control everything and do not trust God who can rule their lives better.
Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them. Ecclesiates 9:11-12.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.
Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.
Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7.
Zeeb was killed in Zeeb’s winepress. Judges 7:25. If we will learn to surrender everything to God who should control our lives, we will find ourselves in a winepress. A life that is to be tempered, molded, squeezed like grapes to produce new wine. Our Zeeb: self-control, egos, and flesh need to die. For us to live in a new life that fully believes in God who controls everything, no longer believe in ourselves.
Zebah, means the victim, who was slashed to death. Have the meaning of being deprived of protection and being cut to pieces and dying. After Oreb and Zeeb, or the raven and the wolf, Zebah was the third king of the Midianites. Zebah and Salmuna were at Karkor with their army, about fifteen thousand in number, Judges 8:10a. Zebah represents fear of destruction, fear of deficiency, fear of insufficiency, fear of uncertainty.
Salmuna itself means shadow. Also means to hold back. This refers to an image (or imagination) that arises out of fear. Oh no, it could be this … or that … , we thought. If so, then don’t. We then hold something back. Without realizing it, all these thoughts arise because of the shadow of fear that underlies our lives. Interestingly, Zebah and Salmuna were in Karkor. An area east of Gilead which means foundation. Yeah, many of us without being aware fully live with a foundation of the shadow of fear, not a foundation of faith!
Zebah and Salmuna were a great couple, who walk side by side. One represents the fear of deficiency, insufficiency, uncertainty. The other represents a shadow of fear which causes a lot to be halted or hold back. And both of them reside in Karkor, at the foundation of the world. What they did to Israel in Judges 6:3, really showed to us what these 2 Kings represented. As if we are ruled by them, then we are robbed at the beginning, at the sowing season, planted time, and not even at our harvest time. These fears would create a false secure feeling, as when you hold back, not to give, not taking the step of faith, you would think you are safe already. But Gideon advanced through the path of the people who were staying in the tent east of Nobah and Yogbeha and then defeated the army when they thought they were safe. Judges 8:11.
Zebah and Salmuna were 2 parts of fear who always seek security. Many times we are always trying to be safe, we work in such a way to secure our future and our families. We forget that the future is in God’s hands, not in money and possessions. We only try in such a way but are actually afraid to walk on His calling because we do not like uncertainty, and we always think that being the servants of God will definitely be poor people. There will be an inadequacy. Without realizing it, the basis of our life is this Zebah, not Christ Himself! We don’t want to give or don’t want to let go more, we always think maybe later …, maybe later …! Finally we would withhold people’s rights (of blessings), but as a matter of fact we are actually withholding our own blessings. Because if we fail to sow, there is no way we will reap! Yes, this Midianite always comes in the sowing season, not the harvest time, Judges 6:3. We think we are wise, but without realizing it we are controlled by Salmuna.
Yes, living by faith is usually full of uncertainty, always lacking, and often not enough. But isn’t faith like that, that what is certain in faith is God himself. What is sufficient in faith is Him and it is Christ Himself who is the assurance of our faith. Our sense of security should lay in God and not our surroundings. Isn’t the Lord my shepherd, I will not lack? says David in Psalm 23:1. This verse doesn’t mean when God is, all is there for us, but when God is, it is all enough! Because in other translations I will not lack, have the understanding that I shall not want of anything else. David was declaring that it was enough to have God, and God was everything to him. He was no longer interested in food even though his stomach was still hungry, was no longer interested in any other matter even though he still needs them. For him, God is enough, that’s why he will lack of nothing. He understood that having God is better than having all others. He knows that if God is there, everything else has no more meaning. Often when the account is empty, the declaration of Lord, You are everything, becomes very meaningful!
Let’s learn to have God only, not others. The poor, know that God is everything to you. The rich, give and keep giving even more so that you would learn to make God everything, not your money.
These two kings, Zebah and Salmuna, were killed by Gideon in a place they thought was safe. Nothing is safe in this world except in God. Uncertainty, insufficiency, and lack have only one answer, the Lord Jesus alone. All the shadows of fear, such this and such that, the answer is in God. Don’t put your hope in men, don’t put your hope in material and, or in money. The future is not in them. Everything will perish, and be gone in one time. Don’t get caught by Gideon where you think it’s safe!
But what was even more interesting is that Gideon was advancing through the path of the people who were dwelling in the tent. Hebrews 11:9 says, by faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob until the end of their lives, lived in tents only, they never built a house to live in, never settled, not even in the land of Canaan that was promised to them. All the life they lived in tents, exploring all of Canaan, especially Abraham, Genesis 13:14-18. Verse 17 says, arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you. Why is that? The answer is in Hebrews 11:10, for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
The tent symbolizes uncertainty, lack, and insufficiency. The real house or building refers to settlement, being in a certain condition, giving security, and being sufficient. But the tent also means that the people living in it are always ready to move where God takes them. They are not attached to their homes, always ready to go where God would lead them. The tent here speaks of faith. And more than that, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived in anticipation of the city that had the foundation, which was planned and built by God, the New Jerusalem.
When Gideon went up by the way of the tent dwellers east of Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the army, for the army felt secure, God is teaching us all through His Word that to defeat Zebah and Salmuna in our life, like it or not, we have to live and walk by faith. A journey that puts all and everything only in God. For God is our only assurance in this life, not our houses, our possessions, our money.
For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
10 July 2020