Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 20 Apr 18:
1. Judges 7:2 — “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” God intends to eliminate your pride in your accomplishments and your idol of self. He doesn’t just want you to experience your full potential; He wants you to experience Him.
2. Judges 7:4 — “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there.” There is a difference between being willing and being worthy. God sifted 32,000 to find 300 who were both willing and worthy. Within the original 32,000 who formed for battle with Gideon, only 10,000 were willing to stay when given a choice. However, at the watering hole, only 300 proved to have the character to participate in God’s great battle. Desert thirst revealed the discipline, self-control, and fortitude of the troops (or lack thereof). Most of the troops, inwardly focused, abandoned their security posture and bearing and essentially dove in the water; meanwhile, 300, who were just as thirsty as the others, knelt at the water, likely with weapons in hand and, in a controlled, disciplined manner, drank. These 300 revealed the strength of character required for God’s service. God wanted his people to understand that it was His power, not theirs, that would bring victory, but He would use their discipline, courage, and obedience in the process, giving them the opportunity to experience Him in a way few others would. The 300 took the signaling devices (trumpets and torches) of 30,000+ troops and surrounded the Midianites in the middle of the night. When Gideon’s 300 broke the jars concealing the torches, shouted, and blew their trumpets, the Midianites and their allies believed they were being attacked on all sides by 30,000; in their panic they turned on each other and fled. Gideon’s army then pursued the enemy as far as they could. Over 120,000 enemy were killed. This bold and daring shock attack required perfect execution on the part of every member of the 300. They had to be wholly reliable. They had to have uncommon discipline, courage, and commitment. They had to be more than willing to serve God, they had to be worthy. The difference was discipline. The discipline of a true disciple. Discipline is the force multiplier and game changer that separates the strong from the weak. Discipline (self-control) is the fruit of the Spirit that draws from your true passions, your desire to love Jesus rather than to seek comfort. Discipline is developed day-by-day but pays off when the hard times or big challenges come. If you don’t develop your discipline today, you won’t have it when you really need it. “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” (Proverbs 24:10)
3. Judges 7:14 — God can cause the hearts of your adversaries to melt without you doing a thing.
4. Judges 7:19 — It is easy to exploit the weakness and complacency of those who are undisciplined.
5. Judges 7:19-22 — God uses tactics. Gideon’s plan involved surprising the enemy in the middle of the night, using trumpets and horns (signal devices for large troop formations) to give the enemy the impression that they were surrounded by 30,000 troops without warning. This caused the enemy to melt in panic and fear. God’s plan for Gideon’s army required perfect execution with every single person doing exactly what they were told to do exactly when and how they were told to do it. When God gives you a plan and instructions, you have to follow the plan and obey. Can you imagine what would have happened if Noah decided to skip some of God’s directed steps for building the ark? Can you imagine what would have happened if the Israelites decided to only march six times around Jericho rather than seven? Follow-through is also an act of faith, hope, love, and discipline.
6. Judges 8:1 – “Then the men of Ephraim said to him, ‘What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?’ And they accused him fiercely.” God’s blessings in your life will cause others to be jealous of you and hate you.
7. Judges 8:1-4 — “What have I done now in comparison with you?” Though wrongly accused and scorned, Gideon acted wisely by swallowing his pride and responding to criticism with gracious words in order to prevent a needless fight — “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1). A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention (Proverbs 15:18). It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling (Proverbs 20:3).”
8. Judges 8:6 – “And the officials of Succoth said, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?’” Most people only stand for what is right when it is safe to do so. Things that matter require courage and the willingness to take risks. Without faith it is impossible to please God.
9. Judges 8:23 — “Gideon said to them, ‘I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.’” Gideon had a false humility which is a common character flaw of which the Bible warns. He said he didn’t want to be king yet he names his son “son of a king” — his words did not match his true heart, motives, and actions. Most shockingly, he uses some of the gold to make for himself an ephod (Judges 8:27) which was only to be worn by the high priest — the leader. His approbation (desire for recognition, praise and attention — Matthew 23:5) lust turned into power lust and materialism (Isaiah 14:13-14; 1 Timothy 6:10). In his self-centered leadership, Gideon wanted to rewards and honor of a King without the responsibilities. Gideon used God’s gifts to make himself rich and famous. Though he said he didn’t want to be king, his son’s name means “son of the king.” His pride and greed would literally destroy His family, about which we will soon read. One key message we can’t miss in the Bible is that we are not heroes but mere sinners. ALL glory and honor goes to God. We have important lessons to learn from Gideon who was uniquely empowered by God and was incredibly successful, up to the point where he thought himself worthy of honor; then the house of cards fell.
– The story of Gideon’s Army is one of my favorite stories in the Bible which reveals how God takes simple people with the willingness and discipline to follow and obey Him and uses them in mighty ways to do the seemingly impossible, not for their glory but rather for His glory; and not using their might, talent and skills, but rather using His power through them that the world may see His power rather than what men can do. The story of Gideon’s Army’ victory in Judges 7 offers powerful life lessons, but so does the rest of Gideon’s story, which starts in Judges 8, describing Gideon’s tragic and destructive failure. Gideon, the simple farmer, was used mightily by God, but pride got the best of him, and he sought to glorify himself rather than God. Though he claimed to be humble and to put God first, he used God’s blessings to make himself rich and bring himself prestige. Gideon did a shocking thing by making for himself an ephod. He made himself to be an idol before the people and caused great sin in the land due to his presumptuous arrogance. Have you ever been to a church that was quite proud of their very talented and well-known pastor? As we will read tomorrow, Gideon’s pride not only brought great destruction to his family, it also proved tragic to his community. How often have you seen blessed people bring honor to themselves? How many fortunate people have you seen name things after themselves – buildings, hospitals, foundations, institutions, even churches? How about us? How have we used the blessings God has bestowed upon us? Have we sought to gain comfort and status for ourselves, or have we sought to use what God has given us for His glory and honor? Do you want people to honor you or Jesus?
10. Proverbs 20:1 — “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” The Bible does not forbid the drinking of alcohol, just drinking in excess. However, the Bible gives us a higher calling to “walk” in love and not to do anything that would cause another to stumble — “If your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love…. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…. it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble…. (Romans 14:13-23).” America has an alcohol problem, and many people around you struggle with alcohol. Is your employment of your freedom to drink alcohol normalizing or promoting a behavior that leads others astray? Yes, you are your brother’s keeper.
11. Proverbs 20:3 — “It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.” Don’t be a fool and get involved in quarrelling. Have you ever, through sound wisdom and gifted speech convinced a fool of anything? Fools are people who refuse to hear and learn, who are controlled by emotions and passion. Stay away from pointless arguments that only distract people from the Gospel. You are an ambassador for Christ, not for good ideas, current standards of morality, social customs, or politics. Proclaim Jesus and stay above the fray.
12. Proverbs 20:5 — “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” Understand what a person really cares about, what is at the center of his life, and what is the primary source of his motivation, and you can predict very accurately what he will say and do. And you can discern if the path he is on is taking him to where he really needs to go, which is closer to Jesus. Most people are unconsciously and subtly deceptive (to themselves and others) in their words and behavior, saying, displaying, and often doing things that they don’t really mean — smiling when inside they are upset, asking others how they are doing when really they don’t care, saying they want to do something when they really don’t, or saying they don’t want to do something when they really do. Many communicate deception because in their hearts they believe the truth is unacceptable. It takes patient discernment to see beyond the façade or masks people wear to understand the deep waters of a person’s heart, and ultimately, only the Holy Spirit can show you something about a person that is impossible for you to see through human discernment. So, the first step is to pray for Holy Spirit enabled discernment and to love others enough to move past the superficial.
13. Romans 8:5 – “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” Living by the Spirit causes a completely different way of thinking an acting. It is impossible to think and act the same after genuine salvation.
14. Romans 8:12, 13 – Mature Christians no longer live by the flesh. Mature Christians obey God, not just because they have to or are afraid not to but because they really want to.
15. Romans 8:26, 27 — Pray continuously and remember that the Spirit is helping you with your prayers.
16. Romans 8:28 — All things don’t work together for good for everyone, just for those who those who truly love God and are called according to His purpose. See John 17 to understand His purpose for you.
17. Romans 8:31-35 — No matter what anyone says or how you might feel during times of failure, nothing can hinder God’s love for you as a Christian.
18. Romans 8:39 — When the Bible says nothing can separate you from the love of God, it doesn’t mean few things can separate you; it means NOTHING.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 April: Today, examine your humility. What is Christ-like humility? Are you humble? Are you proud of how humble you are? Humility is the product of a true appreciation of who God is and of our total dependence on His mercy and grace. Humility is a produce of Spirit-empowered love. Humility results in selflessness and is revealed in how we treat others and how we respond to situations. Too often we act humble (for personal approval or for the approval of others — self-righteousness) when we are not really humble at heart. Too often, like Gideon, we speak and act humbly when our actual motives are prideful. Consider your humility today. Will you value God and others today more than yourself and totally surrender yourself the love?