Fear is something that everyone must have experienced, no matter how brave they may be. However, fear is not just a natural human emotion, but also an evil spirit. If we do not overcome it from the beginning, it can paralyze us.
The story of Gideon in the Bible provides an example of how every believer should triumph over fear. It can be found in Judges chapters 6 to 8. Gideon was discovered by God while he was threshing wheat in a winepress, as he was attempting to hide himself and his wheat from the Midianites who frequently raided Israel during that time.
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.
In the first 10 verses of the story, it is explained how Israel was oppressed by the Midianites. The Midianites would come whenever the Israelites finished sowing their fields, not when they were reaping. They camped near the Israelites’ fields and brought their livestock, swarming the land like locusts. The goal of the Midianites was to plunder and destroy the land, as stated in Judges 6:3-5. This constant raiding left Israel destitute, as described in verse 6. The Israelites were so afraid (verse 2) that they sought refuge in caves and strongholds in the mountains of Canaan. This cycle of oppression continued for a long 7 years.
Above is a sermon about Gideon at JKI KOG Kudus, August 23rd 2020
Fear brings idol worship
Verse 1 of the story explains the cause of what happened: Israel did evil in God’s eyes. In verse 10, it is revealed that this evil was manifested through the worship of the gods of the Amorites. The Amorite deities, known as Amurru or Belu-Sadi, were mountain gods whose wives were called Belit-Seri, or goddess of the desert.
The fall of the Israelites into worshiping the Amorite gods began with their fear of these gods. In the King James Version translation of verse 10, it is clear that the word worship used here refers to the word fear. God told them not to fear the gods of the Amorites, but they did not heed the word of God. Instead, their fear led them to idolatry and worship the Amorite gods.
When people live in fear, the first thing that happens is that their lives become subject to, controlled by, and governed by fear itself. What should only be a natural human emotion then becomes a ruler that takes worship away from God. We should only fear and submit to God, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, as stated in Proverbs 1:7. If someone submits to fear itself, they will not have wisdom but foolishness. Their lives will be ruled by fear, and they will not be able to think straight or logically. For God gave us a spirit, not of fear but power and love and self-control, as stated in 2 Timothy 1:7. Without realizing it, those who are overcome by fear end up worshiping fear itself.
Fear brings God’s punishment
The consequence of living in fear is that God’s judgment will fall upon those who do so. In the story of Gideon, the Midianites came to plunder and destroy Israel as a result of the Israelites’ fear. They were unable to live properly and took refuge in caves and strongholds, as stated in verse 2. They also suffered from poverty, as described in verse 6. God’s judgment began with the initial sowing of their crops, not at the final harvest. If the enemy destroyed their initial sowing, they would not have a fruitful harvest in the end, as mentioned in verse 3.
Fear brings slavery
Slavery is one of the most terrible consequences of living in fear. Those who live in fear may become enslaved to it. Slavery means that they no longer live for themselves but for their masters. The products of their labor will be taken and controlled by their master. For example, people who fear not having enough money may become controlled by it. They may spend all their time working to generate more money, depriving themselves of their freedom to enjoy life. Many people cannot enjoy their lives because they are so preoccupied with making money. As Psalm 127:2a says, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil.”
We work to fulfill our responsibilities, provide for our own needs, and not burden others. However, we must also avoid being enslaved by the purpose of work itself, to earn money. Responsibility for work must be accompanied by a sense of contentment, not greed. We must know when to hit the brakes of our lives and make time for others, especially to worship God. It is important to remember that if it is not God who blesses us, our efforts will be in vain. After all, we do not worship money, do we? So why do we not make time to worship God? Those who fear and worship God will be blessed with the wisdom to work smart, not just with muscles.
In verse 8 of Judges 6, God revealed Himself as the one who led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. Israel was on the brink of defeat, with the Midianites about to overtake them. But the Lord promised in 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.” God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, as stated in Hebrews 13:8. He is an unchanging God.
A timid man
In Judges 6:8-10, God spoke to Israel and then came to help them in verse 11. However, uniquely, God visited a timid man first to carry out the task. He did not come to a great, skilled, or extraordinary man, but to a timid 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. To defeat Goliath, God sent the child David. In this case, He sent Gideon, a timid man. The name Gideon means “woodcutter” or “stonecutter,” but his work at that time was only threshing wheat. He was not working in the fields or in the open; he was hiding. He threshed the wheat in the winepress. All of Israel, including Gideon, was hiding because fear had already overtaken them.
The first word of God that came to Gideon was, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12). From the very beginning, God saw Gideon as a brave hero and trusted him because He knew that He 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 not also believe that God’s hand in us can make us strong and courageous? Many of us may focus on the “mighty man of valor” aspect of this verse, but we should not forget that it is only because God is with Gideon (and with us) that we can achieve great things.
Either Gideon or we tend to blame God for the circumstances we find ourselves in. In Gideon’s case, he believed that God had abandoned them, leading to their oppression by the Midianites (Judges 6:13b). Even when the Lord later spoke to him and commissioned him to be the deliverer of Israel, Gideon still struggled to see that it was God who was speaking to him (verse 12) and commissioning him (verse 14b). He felt timid, small and insignificant, coming from the smallest clan of the Manasseh tribes and being the youngest of his brothers. His family was poor and weak, and he did not come from a wealthy background. Moreover, his tribe of Manasseh had a history of humiliation, having their birthright taken away by Jacob and given to Ephraim (Genesis 48:20).
Low self-esteem, insecurity, and inferiority are not indicative of humility. True humility means recognizing that we should not view ourselves as greater than we are, which is arrogant, but also not viewing ourselves as less than we are, which is a form of inferiority. Those who constantly live with insecurity may perceive confident individuals as arrogant. Insecure individuals may not put themselves forward even when they are capable. Matthew 5:37 ESV says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” This passage means that we should not only avoid overestimating ourselves, but we should also avoid underestimating ourselves. Humility is like being on a straight line, not going up or down. If you can do something, say yes. If you cannot, say no. Do not say no if you can, and do not say yes if you cannot. Properly understanding your strengths and weaknesses is crucial for humility.
The Angel of the Lord
In verse 16, God repeated Himself by saying “But I will be with you,” and Gideon began to realize that he wasn’t just talking to an ordinary human being. Initially, he only saw his Companion’s greeting as a normal one that people exchanged when they first met: “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12). However, when his Companion repeated that He would be with Gideon, his eyes were opened, and he realized that the LORD Himself was speaking to him. Gideon asked for a sign to confirm this revelation and quickly prepared a wave offering consisting of a grain offering, a lamb, and unleavened bread (Judges 6:19; Leviticus 2:4; Numbers 6:15).
The Angel of the LORD burned the wave offering with the tip of His staff after Gideon placed it on the rock (Judges 6:20-21). In the Old Testament, the term “Angel of the LORD” refers to God Himself descending in the form of a human being known as the Messenger of God, an angel (without wings as depicted in the medieval age). The Israelites knew that this Angel was not an ordinary one, nor even the leader of the angels, but God Himself, who had come down to reveal Himself to His people. In the New Testament, this Angel of the LORD is Jesus himself, who was born and became a man. Gideon then built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD (Judges 6:22-24).
The first command given by God to Gideon was to destroy the idol worshipped in Gideon’s own house. God instructed him to demolish Baal’s altar and build an altar for God in its place, as mentioned in verses 25-26. Gideon carried out the task but only at night because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it during the day, as stated in verse 27. Later, Gideon’s father, who was actually the priest of Baal, 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 given the name Jerubbaal, which means “Let Baal contend against him,” because he had destroyed the altar of Baal.
Immediately afterward, the Midianites and Amalekites came up, but the Spirit of God took control of Gideon, and he led the Israelites against them, starting with the Abiezrites (verse 34), who were his own people (verse 11), and then the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali (verse 35). Gideon once again asked for a sign in verses 17 and 36, and God provided the sign.
Only 300 people
What is interesting about this battle is that despite the vast difference in numbers between the Israelites and the Midianites, God chose only a small number of people to fight. The Midianites were like grasshoppers in number, with 135 thousand of soldiers led by Oreb and Zeeb, and Zebah and Salmuna. This goes against the common belief that having God on your side means that you will have a large army to win the war. However, God intentionally kept Gideon’s army small, but not with the timid ones!
The initial number of 32 thousand was already a significant number when they came together, but for God, it was still too big. In Judges 7:2b, God did not want the Israelites to become prideful and think that they had saved themselves. Even with 32 thousand soldiers, they would still have to fight against at least four Midianites each. And considering the Midianites numbered like grasshoppers, Israel was vastly outnumbered, with only about a quarter of the enemy’s soldiers.
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. He commanded the timid ones to go home!
The remaining ten thousand understood that their number, which was only a quarter or 25% of their enemies, now remained over 7% only. This meant that each of them had to fight against 13-14 people, instead of just 4 at once.
Surprisingly, for the LORD, even this number was 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). The narrative portrays Midian as a representation of the fear that gripped Israel, as they faced an opposing army that was as numerous as grasshoppers, a description that appears twice in Judges 6:5 and 7:12. The army’s true size is only revealed in Judges 8:10, after 120,000 soldiers had already perished, leaving only 15,000 who were under the command of Zebah and Salmuna. Notably, in chapter 7, 120,000 soldiers along with their two kings, Oreb and Zeeb, were killed, as mentioned in Judges 7:25.
Oreb, the name means “crow,” a bird that symbolizes death due to its black feathers, harsh voice, and feeding habits. It is often regarded as a bad omen and a sign of loss, with many stories depicting it as a messenger between the material and spiritual realms. The first king to lead the Army of Fear was named after this bird, emphasizing the fear and terror associated with death, which is the most feared scourge in the world. There are three types of death: spiritual, physical, and eternal, with the last one being the most terrifying as it results in the eternal damnation of the soul in hellfire. This is what causes sinful men to fear death, as physical death is accompanied by the fear of eternal damnation, which haunts all those who are lost.
Lord Jesus, the Son of God, willingly died on the cross as a sin offering and substitute for those who believe in Him. Through His death, He reconciled us to the Father and paid the ransom price for our lives with His own blood. Three days later, He rose from the dead and became our Righteousness before God the Father. Therefore, whoever repents, turns to God, and believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior, will not perish in 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.
It is essential that one’s spirit is alive in Christ Jesus before physical death occurs, as otherwise, eternal death will be their fate. Those who have spiritually died must be born again in Christ Jesus to avoid eternal death. If one’s spirit lives and abides in Christ, physical death becomes a gateway not only to the Creator but also to the Redeemer of their soul, and eternal death is not their fate. It is important to note that the greatest danger one faces is not from a virus, but from dying without the Lord Jesus.
Oreb was killed by the Israelites on the rock of Oreb, as mentioned in Judges 7:25. The original Hebrew word used for “rock” in this context is often interpreted as referring to God Himself. According to 1 Corinthians 10:4, and the rock was Christ, suggesting that this event is symbolic of Christ’s victory over death and sin.
Zeeb‘s name means “wolf,” which, despite its positive connotations of guardianship, loyalty, and a fiery spirit, can also represent the danger of trusting solely in oneself. While self-confidence is important, relying only on oneself can lead to a lack of faith in God. Those who seek total control over their lives often do so out of fear and may struggle to relinquish that control in difficult situations. Ultimately, trusting in God can provide a greater sense of security and guidance than relying solely on oneself.
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 met his end in his own winepress, according to Judges 7:25. Similarly, if we learn to surrender control of our lives to God, we may find ourselves in a metaphorical winepress, being molded and transformed like grapes into new wine. To live a new life of faith, we must let go of our self-centered desires, egos, and flesh. This process of letting go can be painful, but it allows us to live fully in God and no longer rely solely on 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 Salmunna were at Karkor with their army, numbering about fifteen thousand, as stated in Judges 8:10a. Zebah represents the fear of destruction, deficiency, insufficiency, and uncertainty.
Salmuna itself means shadow which refers to the act of holding back due to fear. Our minds conjure up images of potential negative outcomes, causing us to hold back and not take action. Unknowingly, our lives are governed by the shadow of fear. It is interesting to note that Zebah and Salmuna were in Karkor, an area east of Gilead which means foundation. Many of us live with a foundation of fear without realizing it, instead of a foundation of faith.
Zebah and Salmuna were a formidable duo, walking hand in hand. One represents the fear of deficiency, insufficiency, and uncertainty, while the other represents a shadow of fear that causes many to halt or hold back. It is interesting to note that both of them resided in Karkor, at the foundation of the world. In Judges 6:3, their actions towards Israel demonstrated what these two kings truly represented. If we allow ourselves to be ruled by them, we will be robbed at the beginning, during the sowing and planting season, and not even during our harvest time. These fears may create a false sense of security because when we hold back and fail to give or take a step of faith, we might feel safe. However, Gideon marched through the path of the people who were staying in the tent east of Nobah and Yogbeha and defeated the army when they least expected it (Judges 8:11).
Zebah and Salmuna were two components of fear that always sought security. Often, we work tirelessly to secure our future and our family’s future, forgetting that our future is in God’s hands and not in our money and possessions. We may be afraid to pursue God’s calling because of the uncertainty it may bring, and we may believe that serving God will lead to poverty and inadequacy. However, we fail to realize that our foundation in life is rooted in Zebah, not in Christ. We hold back and fail to give, always thinking that we can do it later, and we end up withholding blessings from ourselves and others. If we don’t sow, we won’t reap. Notice, the Midianite always appears during the sowing season, not the harvest season, as mentioned in Judges 6:3. We may think we are wise, but we are actually controlled by Salmuna without realizing it.
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 our bank account is empty, the declaration of Lord, You are everything, becomes very meaningful!
Let’s learn to have God only, not others. The poor, please know that God is everything to you. The rich, please give and keep on 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 their 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, or our money.
For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
10 July 2020