IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: A MIGHTY MAN OF VALOUR, BUT DID HE KNOW?
Rev. Innocent Peace-Udochukwu
President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM
“And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.”
The Bible says, “…when I am weak, then am I strong.” “…my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face. And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-shalom.”— Judges vi. 22— 24.
THESE Midianites were wandering Bedouins from Arabia, and from the east country round about the Holy Land. Like those who represent them in the present day, they were masters of the art of plundering, and knew no bowels of compassion. They generally lived a hard life themselves, and when they had an opportunity to feast on the spoils of others, they rioted without stint, and left a famine behind them. Most fitly does the Scripture compare them to grasshoppers, for both in number and in destructive force they were like those terrible devourers. God had brought them upon Israel to scourge that nation because it had been so foolish and so ungrateful as to set up the gods of the heathen, and to forget the one mighty God who was so specially and graciously their patron and defender. They were impoverished and ground down to the very last degree by these plunderers, who left no food either for men or cattle. The poor Israelites, creeping forth from their dens and caves, attempted to carry on the work of husbandry, and sowed the land; but when the time came for reaping, the marauders came forth once more, took away their harvest, and despoiled their pastures again. Then, as usual, Israel cried unto Jehovah, and his ear was open to their groaning. Their afflictions made them weary of their idols, and caused them to say, “We will return unto our first husband, for it was better with us then than now.” God in his great mercy raised up for them a deliverer, Gideon, a mighty man of valour, who distinguished himself in various skirmishes with the foe! His name was already a terror to Midian, for he who dreamed of the barley-cake which smote the tent, and it lay along, said to his fellow has— “This is none other than Gideon, the son of Joash.” His character has never been sufficiently admired: Scripture names much less bright than his have preferred before him by the general ministry; yet he deserves far better treatment. He was a man gentle and yet strong, cautious and yet venturesome; a searching enquirer, and an intense believer. While he was a sort of foreshadowing of David, he had much of the after-glow of Joshua. He was a truly great man, though his latter days were overshadowed by a grievous religious error, and a sad moral fault. Despite his failings he was one of the greatest of the heroes of faith. This man went to his work with the Bedouin in much the same manner as that which has proved so successful in Egypt during the past week. He was not in a hurry to venture upon a pitched battle, but waited his time, and then by a sudden and unexpected attack he struck the whole host with panic, so that they fled at once, and Midian was smitten as one man. It is very singular how history repeats itself, and how all events go to exhibit the singular truthfulness of the Bible record. These wild Arabs can clearly be overcome by a single blow if it takes them when they feel secure. Formidable as they are as plunderers, and great as they are at boasting, they are not able to stand against a hand to hand onslaught; true valour drives them before it like a rolling thing before the whirlwind, scattering them like chaff before the tempest. The leaders flee: two of the minor ones, Oreb and Zeeb, the raven and the wolf, are first captured, and by-and-by the greater generals, who had fled first of all, are taken by the victorious band. The leaders were ahead of all others in flight then as they have been in the late campaign. In after days the destruction of their mighty ones became a proverbial curse, “Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna.” There are many points of likeness between the two campaigns, but this is not our theme to-day.
Let us think for a while of Gideon, in order that we may see that we ourselves are or may be somewhat parallels with him. We may not have to smite the Bedouin as he had, but unto a spiritual warfare God has called many of us: and though he intends to use us, and to get unto himself victory by us, yet it may be that at this moment we are in fear. We are now passing through the same mental processes as those which educated Gideon, and we are being prepared thereby for future conflict and conquest.
I shall begin by asking you to dwell for a minute upon GIDEON’S SIGH FOR PEACE; for he loved not war, but pined for quiet. He called the name of the altar,— “Jehovah-shalom,” which the margin reads, “The Lord send peace.” You see therefore that deeper down in his spirit than any desire for warlike honour there was a yearning after peace. He wanted not the spoils of princes; he only desired to plough,, and sow, and reap in peace.
And do you wonder at it, when the ills of war were all around? He had for a long time seen in the cases of his friends and neighbours the desolating effects of war: their property was taken from them, their bread was stolen out of their mouths, their children were slain, and themselves made to hide away upon the tops of mountains or in caverns among the hills. Life became intolerable amid such privations and dangers. Gideon must have felt his heart swell with grief and indignation as he looked upon the remnant of Israel hunted like partridges upon the mountains, though once they had dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree. The Bedouin styled the valley of Jezreel “the meadows of God”: how grievous to see those fat pastures trodden down by the feet of the invaders! Ah, little can you and I imagine of the horrors of war. We read of it, and our sympathies are touched, but we know not the multiplied murders, the painful wounds, the desolating rapine, and the fierce crimes which attend the track of armies. If we saw battle with our own eyes, we should with burning fervour cry, “Send us peace in our days, good Lord.”
Moreover, he had not only seen war, but he sighed for peace, because he was himself feeling the mischief of it. The dread of the conflict had come to his own mountain farm at Abiezer. There he was himself, threshing wheat by the wine press, in an unusual place, in an inconvenient place, that he might hide a little grain, for winter’s food, from the Midianites who were eager to devour it. Ay, and when carnage smokes at your own door, and rapine is at your own gate, when you yourself are straitened and are hiding for fear, then comes from the deep recesses of the spirit the cry, “Oh, that God would send us peace, for this is a weary oppression; these ravens and wolves devour us utterly.” Let us bow our heads and thank God that he has long blessed this favoured isle with unbroken peace; and as an act of thankfulness to God let us set our faces against the war-spirit which so readily inflames our fellow countrymen.
The way of peace was sufficiently well known to Gideon: the prophet of the Lord had indicated to the people that the only way of peace was for Israel to return unto Jehovah, her God. The great sin of departure from the glorious living God was set before them, and they could readily draw the inference that they would never have peace from their enemies till first of all they had made their peace with God. They must surrender to their sovereign, and renew their loyalty, and then he would drive out the foe from their land. They must confess their transgressions and renew their covenant, and then they would obtain deliverance. Then would the ancient promise be fulfilled, “One should chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.” Gideon probably knew this before the prophet came; it was deeply imprinted on his thoughtful spirit, and as he was a man of faith in God, he did not doubt but that if Israel returned unto Jehovah then peace would follow. Much is gained when we know this, if our knowledge leads to practical action.
While Gideon was meditating and working, an angel appears to him and gives him the assurance that with him at least God was at peace. The covenant angel said to him, “Jehovah is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.” Methinks his spirit ought greatly to have rejoiced at that assurance, and perhaps it did; for what better thing can happen unto any man than to receive such a token for good? If God be for us, who can be against us? We know how sweet is the assurance that being justified by faith we have peace with God. It is well with us when we are assured that the Lord is with us, our helper, our shield, our portion for ever and ever.
But there arose in his mind a grave anxiety. His was a very careful, thoughtful soul, for he was a man of prudence, large-hearted, far-seeing, and given to look at things coolly and steadily; and there arose in his heart a question serious and vital, “Is this the voice of God to me, or am I deluded? Is God at peace with me, or am I like the rest, plunged in a horrible warfare against the living God?” Therefore he puts a question, and he asks a sign that he might make sure of what he was about. Brethren, in spiritual matters you and I had need be sure. If we have peace within our spirit let us make certain that it is the peace of God; for still are there voices that cry, “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace. Still do siren songs charm men to ruin with their dulcet notes; still does the fatal river flow most smoothly as it approaches the dreadful cataract. Beware of that word of the Lord, “When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” None are more quiet than the ungodly when they are given up to a strong delusion. The Psalmist says of them, “There are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.” Like liquor which has settled on its lees, the ungodly man’s carnal confidence seems clear and bright: the settling of conscious sin and consequent doubt in their case lies at the bottom undisturbed. It was not so with Gideon: his anxiety made itself visible. He was not the man to leap at a shadow: he sought for substance. If he was to have peace, he must have it from God: if he was to be delivered, he longed to have victory plain and permanent. The favour which he asked was requested because anxiety troubled him, and lie wished to make assurance doubly sure. He desired to know from God himself that his mission was authentic and his success certain. “Fast bind, fast find,” says the proverb, and this valiant man would have it so.
I believe that many of us have been, and perhaps are, in Gideon’s position. Of course we have not his errand, but we have one of our own, and we are troubled because we are not personally sure of our peace. We are grieved by our past sins and their consequences. This is the lot of many men. The fowls which they have reared have come home to roost: they have been guilty in the past, and their sins have returned upon them, so that they are sore vexed. They have cried unto the Lord in their trouble, beseeching him to deliver them out of their distresses, and now a consciousness of sin is upon them, and they fear lest their prayers should be rejected. Under the strokes of God’s rod they smart, they feel their guilt more and more, they are sore afraid. “Conscience doth make cowards of us all,”’ and when the mighty Spirit of God convinces us of sin then sin becomes a second sorrow; nay, worse than that, for if sorrow do chasten us with whips, sin doth scourge us with scorpions. We are consumed by God’s anger, and by his wrath we are troubled. His breaking waves go over us, and his billows swallow us up. Still the heart keeps on crying after God if it is being operated upon by the Spirit of God. The mind is tossed to and fro and is confounded, but even in its confusion it seeks the true rest, and longs to gain peace in God. Like the needle in the compass, it is agitated and disturbed, yet still it knows its pole, and trembles towards it. It will never be still till it reaches the point of its rest. Have you ever been in that condition? I know you have if the Lord has loved you and ordained you to his work. Has God at such a time sent you a message of mercy? Have you searched the Scriptures and found a precious promise? Have you heard a faithful servant of God preach under his Master’s anointing, and have you been comforted? Even then I should not wonder if the darkening thought has arisen like a cloud, “Is this the right comfort for me? May I really enjoy it? Will it be presumption or assurance?” There is often a fine line, thin as a razor’s edge, between the two, and woe unto him who makes a mistake about it. O God, save us from carnal security. Prevent our crying “Peace, peace, where there is no peace.” Better that we write bitter things against ourselves, if they be true, than that we say smooth things and flatter ourselves to destruction. Therefore, I should not wonder if you are asking the Lord to give you a token for good. You are praying to him and saying, “I will not be comforted except thou comfort me: thy dove shall find no rest for the sole of her foot except it be in the ark with the true Noah, in whom is rest.” As for me, I will take no cup of consolation except that which Jesus proffers when he gives it me with his own pierced hands. If washed, it shall be in Jesus’ blood: if clothed, it shall be in his righteousness. I will be hungry till I die sooner than eat anything but the bread of heaven. I will thirst till I faint and expire, but none shall give me to drink except of the water of the well of Bethlehem. Brethren, we must make sure work for eternity: we cannot afford to have a question on that matter. A note of interrogation here will be a note of alarm. It will be a thorn in our side.
I am sure that in the case of Gideon, if it be thus spiritually interpreted and set in gospel light, we may see ourselves. As though we looked into a glass we may say, “That portrait is my own.”
From Gideon’s longing, panting desire to obtain peace with God and then peace for his country we turn to look a little further into GIDEON’S FEAR WHICH HE MET WITH IN THE WAY OF PEACE. “An angel” appeared to him,— so saith the text in the Authorised Version; but in truth it was the angel of Jehovah, and this should have comforted him, even as it has comforted us. Do we not sing,
“But if Immanuel’s face appear,
My hope, my joy begins;
His name forbids my slavish fear,
His grace removes my sins”?
One would have thought that Gideon would have leaped for joy when he beheld his God veiled in angelic form, but instead thereof the shadow of death fell upon him. Here was a man panting for peace, and firmly following the way of peace, and yet afraid with a deadly fear. Peace cannot be had except by our drawing near to God and the Lord’s drawing near to us; but as soon as this process commences poor humanity shrinks from the interview, and is melted with fear. “When Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face.” It usually happens that when God is bringing men into peace with himself, while the operation is going on thoroughly and soundly, there is a degree of trembling in the soul. I suspect that conversion which has no trembling in it: note the prodigal’s cry, “I am not worthy to be called thy son.” Note Peter’s bitter weeping, and the three days’ darkness of Saul of Tarsus. Even to believers the visitations of God are not without overwhelming awe: Jacob cries, “How dreadful is this place,” Job abhors himself, Moses doth exceedingly fear and quake, and Isaiah cries, “Woe is me.”
Why was Gideon afraid? Not because he was a coward— you will scarcely meet with a braver man in all Scripture than this son of Joash— but because even brave men are alarmed at the supernatural. He saw something which he had never seen before an appearance celestial, mysterious, above what is usually seen of mortal men; therefore, as he feared God, Gideon was afraid. When the living God draws very near to a soul, even though it be in the person of Christ Jesus, that soul is struck with awe, and trembles before the Lord. It cannot well be otherwise. Recollect how it was with the beloved John. “When I saw him,” says John— that was, his own dear Master, upon whose breast he had leaned his head— “when I,” the disciple whom Jesus love, “saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.”
Now let us spend a few minutes in considering GOD’S COMFORT OF HIS SERVANT. “The Lord said unto him, Shalom— peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.” The Lord would not have his Gideons disturbed in mind. If we are to trouble the enemy we must not be troubled ourselves. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.” This is how God would have his prophets speak, and this is how he speaks himself. He wants his workers to be full of comfort while they labour.
Notice, brethren, the great power of God in speaking home the truth. Suppose I salute you with, “Brethren, peace be to you.” That would be a sweet word; but when the Lord says it, you feel the peace itself. Suppose Peter had stood up in that barque which was tossed upon the Galilean lake, and had said to the waves, “Be still”: the Waves would not have taken much notice of him, and the whistling blast would have defied him; but when Jesus said, “Peace, be still,” the rampant lions of the sea crouched at his feet, and there was a great calm. Oh, that the great Master’s voice would sound the requiem of trouble in every tempest driven heart by saying, “Peace be unto you,” so that you may become perfectly restful in your God.
“Peace!” the word is shalom, the word which Gideon borrowed and applied to the altar which he raised in obedience to the Lord’s bidding. It signifies not only quiet, but prosperity, success, “good fortune,” as the multitude say. When God spoke that word home to his dear servant’s heart a great joy was born within him to prepare him for his great warfare. The Lord also cheered him with, “Fear not.” Oh, that charming word; as full as it is short— “Fear not.” It is the death-knell of fear, the life of hope. If we once hear it as God’s fiat in our soul it makes us leap over a wall or break through a troop. Doubts and fears flee away like spectres of the night when the sun arises. “Fear not.” What is there to fear? If God is with you, of whom can you be afraid? Gideon feared himself, feared his own unfitness and unworthiness, feared in the awful presence of God; but the Lord said, “Fear not,” and Gideon’s heart grew calm.
Then the Lord added, “Thou shalt not die,” thus meeting the special form of his dread. This is what the Lord says to every poor trembler who is holding to him by the desperate grip of faith,— “Thou shalt not die. Thou shalt not die the second death: thou hast no sin to die for, for I have laid thy transgressions on my only-begotten Son; Thou shalt not die, for Jesus died. Thy spiritual life cannot expire, for thy ‘life is hid with Christ in God,’ and because Jesus lives thou shalt live also.” When Jehovah speaks to comfort his people they are comforted indeed, and I pray him this morning so to speak to any of you who wish to enjoy perfect peace. May the peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds by Christ Jesus. May you walk down those aisles saying, “Yes, I have peace with God: I have no fear now: I shall never die, for Jesus says, ‘He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” What a morning without clouds will this be to your souls.
Let us now look at GIDEON’S MEMORIAL. His fears being banished, and being at perfect peace, Gideon now goes to work. Are any of you questioning whether you are saved or not? Do not go out preaching yet, for you may, perhaps, put others into bondage. Are any of you half afraid that you are not at peace with God? Be careful what you do! Strive after peace, lest you weaken your testimony. I recollect the lesson which I learned from my Sunday-school class: I was taught, if the other boys were not. Though yet a youth, I was teaching the gospel to boys, and I said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” One of them asked somewhat earnestly, “Teacher, are you saved?” I answered, “I hope so.” The boy replied, “Teacher, don’t you know?” As if he had been sent to push the matter home to me, he further enquired, “Teacher, have you believed?” I said, “Yes.” “Have you been baptized?” I said, “Yes.” “Well, then,” he argued, “you are saved.” I was happy to answer, “Yes, I am”; but I had hardly dared to say that before. I found that if I had to teach other people the truth I must know and believe its sweet result upon myself. I believe, dear friends, that you will seldom comfort others except it be by the comfort with which you yourself are comforted of God. Look at certain of our brethren who preach and have no conversions. What is the reason in some cases? Is it not that they fish all the week for frogs to feed the people with, and people do not care to receive such food? I mean this. If some new doubt is hatched; if some philosopher thinks he has found out a flaw in the gospel, next Sunday these worthies discourse upon it, for they think every new query must be answered. As for me, I do not care a fig what all the philosophers find out, for they cannot disprove the facts of my experience. When I come across a fresh piece of infidelity I do not hurry to proclaim it to you, and so do the devil’s advertising for nothing. Let others follow their business, if it be their business; as for me, my business is to preach the truth of God which I have learned from his infallible word by the teaching of his Spirit. God would have his people be at peace with him, and know that they are so, for if they are fretted within, and worried in reference to their God, how can they fight the battles of life?
When Gideon is fully at peace, what does he begin to do for God. If God loves you he will use you either for suffering or service; and if he has given you peace you must now prepare for war. Will you think me odd if I say that our Lord came to give us peace that he might send us out to war? Gideon’s first work was to go and cut down his father’s sacred grove, which stood on the top of the hill, and enclosed an altar to Baal. He could not effect this business by day, because the foolish worshippers would have rallied to the defence of their dumb idol, and have overpowered the reformer; therefore with his ten men he performed the work by night. I think I see him and his people in the dim darkness, with their axes and saws, doing the work as quietly as they can, felling all those trees. A splendid clearance was made that night. “Now,” cries he, “over with that detestable altar to Baal.” Some people would have said, “Spare it as a fine piece of antiquity.” Yes, and leave it to be used again! I say, down with it, for the older it is the more sin it has caused, and the more likely is it that it will be venerated again. I often wish the reformers had been more thorough in their destruction of idolatrous images and Popish trumpery. In many a parish church of this land everything is ready for the restoration of the Roman idolatry. The nests were not half pulled down, and the rooks are likely to be back again. Many a window, full of saints the Bible never knew, only waits for the martyr-burners to be back again. Gideon cast down every stone, and it was bravely done.
But see, by the Lord’s bidding he piles a new altar of earth, or unhewn stone; and when that is done, he fetches his father’s bullock.
Ironically, God isn’t looking for the most talented people, or the most gifted people, or even the most educated people. But He is looking for obedient people…people that recognize and acknowledge their weaknesses…their dependence on Him.
Gideon is to be the next judge in Israel, albeit reluctantly. The story opens with the sin of Israel and how God allowed the Midianites to conquer Israel. Now the Midianites and Amalekites moved as disorganized nomadic tribes raiding the crops, cattle and supplies of others nations, literally crippling their enemies. What they didn’t take, they destroyed. As a result Israel was greatly impoverished and living in caves in the mountains hiding out in fear.
Finally, when things became difficult, they cried out to the Lord for help, which is what Almighty God wanted all along. Judges 6:12, says, “…the Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.” Gideon, a man of valor? Not yet! He was having trouble believing God was with him because he was so discouraged because of the suffering of his people. Gideon wondered, “Why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracles we heard about from our fathers?”
Consequently, Gideon thought God had forsaken Israel. But in reality, Israel had forsaken the Lord. Poor Gideon is mentally and spiritually defeated. Judges 6:14 says, “…the Lord looked upon him, and said, go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” Our Lord wanted Gideon to know that He was with him to give him real courage, real confidence. But like Moses and like most of us Gideon begins to make excuses. “Lord how can I save Israel? Lord I am the last man in all of Israel you should have chosen.” But that’s exactly why God called Gideon. And even though the Lord tells Gideon He will be with him, Gideon asks for a sign to confirm the fact God was with him.
The Spirit of the Lord comes upon Gideon, but he still gets cold feet. He then decides to put the fleece out…literally. Once again, God gave him the assurance that he needed to follow through on his calling from God. Gideon may have been cowardly at the beginning, but he was a coward no longer.
It is not so important how you start out in life…it is how you finish that counts. Gideon and God’s people would be victorious. Gideon the coward had now become with God’s help, Gideon the mighty man of valor as God predicted. Again, why does God do things this way? “That no flesh should glory in His presence” (1st Corinthians 1:29). Remember, God is never limited by our limitations.
GOD CAN USE ANYBODY
There are some people who think they know everything, I mean they believe they know who should be where and who is or isn’t worthy to be. I submit to you this morning that God can use whom ever he pleases. It’s not your decision it’s the Lords will. It upsets me people fail to acknowledge others because of their past and look at their present and deem them as being unworthy to be partakers of the will of God. I submit to you today that if that were the case none of us would be able to work for the Lord! Look God can use anybody!
The Bible is filled with murderers, robbers, liars who wrote books in the bible and represented God.
David-Adulterer, and murderer
God viewed Gideon’s Potential, not his past nor his present
Gideon the idol worshipper
His daddy was the high Priest of Baal
Baal was in his daddy’s backyard
God was able to use the son of an idol worshipper!
God loves to give us a glimpse of our future, so that we walk not by our human intellect or discretion, but by a divine understanding of where God is leading us to. God has spoken and continues to speak to us through His messengers and prophets.
And when I think of it, I am reminded of this quote that Rev. Shyju Mathew often uses in his sermons. “Your friends look at your past and call your present, your family looks at your present and call out your future, however God looks at your future and calls out your present!”
Isn’t that so true?
One of the best examples of the same is Gideon’s encounter with God.
Judges 6:11-12 KJV
 And there came an angel of the Lord , and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abi-ezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
It is very clear from verse 11, that Gideon was being like any other Israelite, hiding his wheat harvest in the fear of Midianites. There is not even the slightest inkling of Gideon’s “courage” or “might” shown in the text. Yet, when God had to call him, He calls him “Thou mighty man of valour”!
God has this nature of calling out things from nothing, and that is exactly what God did here. God desired to see courage in Gideon, so He called him the same.
As leaders, we are constantly challenged as to how to get people, whom God has placed under us, to reach their fullest potential. It is by doing the same thing that God does. Call them out by God given future destinies, not by their present but insignificant states.
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