Hebrews 11: 32 – 40 NLT
“How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.
But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.”
There are some interesting stories about the people mentioned in verse 32. Today we’ll look at the story of Gideon told in Judges 6 and 7. Gideon was the youngest son of a family living in the area of Israel named Ophrah. At that time in history, Israel was dominated by Midian. The Midianites came every year and destroyed the crops and took away any sheep, oxen or donkeys. It kept Israel in poverty and without the ability to fight back. Why was this happening to God’s people? They had left the worship of God and were now worshipping Baal. In fact, there was an idol of Baal in the town centre. God was giving them the results of abandoning Him for another god.
One day young Gideon was threshing wheat secretly to hide it from the Midianites when an angel appeared and said, “The Lord is with you; O valiant warrior.” (6:12) Gideon actually challenged the angel by saying the Lord wasn’t with them, and had abandoned them to the Midianites. Can you imagine challenging an angel that way? But then, Gideon was young and was likely fuming inside about the hard life he had to live. So he was honest and stated his complaints to the angel.
The angel replied and told him God was sending him to deliver Israel. Gideon again challenged the angel by saying his family was the least important in the area, and he was the youngest in his family. Why send him? The angel told him again that God had chosen him and would be with him in the battle. Gideon said – prove it. So the angel told him to get what was needed for an offering and Gideon brought back a young goat and some unleavened bread. The angel then held out the staff that was in his hand, and the meat and bread were consumed by a fire that sprang from the rock. Then the angel disappeared.
Gideon was now convinced that the angel was from God, and not a dream, and he was frightened. He built an altar in honour of God. Then he got 10 servants who were close to him, and they went to the centre of town and tore down the altar to Baal in the middle of the night. The next day, the town officials were furious and started looking for whoever had done that. When they discovered it was Gideon, his father actually stood up for him and told the officials to leave him alone. If what he did was so wrong then the Midianites would take care of it.
This story must have got around because the Midianites and their allies, the Amalekites, came and parked ‘troops’ near Ophrah. A battle was about to happen. In the account in Judges, it says that Gideon experienced God’s Spirit and began to get an army of men gathered to challenge them. But once again, we see Gideon’s fear that he wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t good enough to actually be up to this challenge.
Once again, Gideon asks God for reassurance.
“Then Gideon said to God, “If You are going to save Israel [a]through me, as You have spoken, 37 behold, I am putting a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will save Israel [b]through me, as You have spoken.” 38 And it was so. When he got up early the next morning and wrung out the fleece, he wrung the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not let Your anger burn against me, so that I may speak only one more time; please let me put You to the test only one more time with the fleece: let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground.” 40 And God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground.” (6: 36 – 40)
But then God challenges Gideon. He asks Gideon to make sure the men who had gathered for the upcoming battle were actually ready. Gideon told the men that they could leave if they were frightened about the upcoming battle. 22, 000 men left and 10,000 remained. Then God told Gideon to do another challenge and ask all the men to get a drink from the river. Any man who knelt down or leaned down to the water had to be told to go home. Only 300 men kept their eyes on their surroundings and scooped up water quickly. That was Gideon’s army – 300 men.
On the night of the battle, God told Gideon to creep down into the enemy camp and listen to what he could hear the men saying. God knew that Gideon needed all the reassurance he could get. Gideon realized the enemy was nervous as he heard stories about their fear of this god of the Israelites. That “spy mission” helped Gideon be bold. In the actual “battle”, the 300 men divided into 3 groups, took along trumpets and pitchers with torches inside, and surrounded the enemy camp. At Gideon’s signal, they smashed the pitchers so the torches could be seen, blew the trumpets and shouted “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon.” The enemy camp went into a crazy turmoil, with men killing each other and many fleeing. Those 300 men actually didn’t have much difficulty rounding up the few who were left.
Gideon lived in a country that was overrun by enemies. He was a young man from an ordinary family; he had no credentials in his community to encourage people to follow him. He was even nervous about God’s plans. If I approached someone and asked them to help me lead some project and they said ‘no’ three times, and even asked for some proof or reassurance that they were qualified, I would likely decide they weren’t the right person – and move on to someone else. But God continued with Gideon, reassuring him on many occasions that Gideon could trust him. He was nervous, but he had faith.
We are living in a time where most people don’t attend church. Stats Can reported in 2019 (before Covid) that 23% of the population said they attended some event at a church once a month or less. Over the past 2 years of the pandemic, church attendance has plummeted and some wonder if it will pick up again. What will 2022 and beyond bring? We need to realize that God is at work even in dire circumstances.
This current wave of the pandemic will start to slow down, and it will be safer to attend church again. The church will need more volunteers. Is God starting to nudge you to get involved? Don’t brush aside those thoughts because you think you may be too young, too old, too unqualified, too whatever. God wants his people to flourish, and he will be with you and provide what you need. Don’t be one of those 22, 000 men who left because they were nervous. Start thinking and praying where and how you can be part of your church’s future. Know you can be one of those 300 men who stood amazed that night as the enemy crumpled before their eyes. It is God who is doing the work. God can use you. Have faith.
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. 2 Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.
3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. (Hebrews 11: 1 – 3)
“You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deed, O God our saviour. You are the hope of everyone on earth; even those who sail on distant seas.” Psalm 65: 5
Our song for today is Give Me Faith by Elevation Worship.