Following Other GodsThey forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger. (Judges 2:12)
The Israelites abandoned the faith of their fathers and began worshiping the gods of their pagan neighbors. They adopted pagan customs and began following their own desires and living selfishly as the surrounding nations. Israel soon learned that it is dangerous to abandon what is right just to follow the crowd. It is not safe to copy the world's customs. This brings serious consequences from God.
Sometimes it is difficult and painful to follow God. But come now, let us reason together. Consider the alternative. You can live for God, or you can eternally die for yourself. Determine to be God's person and do what he says, regardless of the cost. What God thinks of you is infinitely more important than what the world thinks.
Stop trying to be like the world by following other gods. Be obedient to the one and only true living God, the Holy One of Israel.
Follow The One and Only True Living God
They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger. (Judges 2:12)
Throughout the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, one of the main things that provoked God to anger was that His people had turned to other gods. They became like the pagan people around them. They abandoned the faith of their fathers and began worshipping the pagan gods of their neighbors. We might be tempted to stop doing what we know is right just to be accepted by others. This type of behavior can lead us into the behavior that is unacceptable to God. Decide to follow the one and only true living God. Always be obedient to God's word no matter what the cost.
You Must Be Present to Win
Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariot of iron and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands. (Judges 4:6-7)
The battle is not yours; its the Lord's! However, you must show up on the battlefield to make it official. You must be present to win! If you don't show up, you lose by default. In the above scripture, God made it plain what Barak was to do. He was given detailed instruction how to win against Sisera. The very first word of those instructions was: "GO!" You must go to the battlefield. God also instructed Barak what to take with him and it wasn't much compared to the 900 chariots of iron that Jabin's army had. Iron was the metal of that day, and on the wheels of the chariots were razor-sharp blades to mutilate foot soldiers. And God had commanded Barak to take only ten thousand foot soldiers. God told Barak to take foot soldiers from Naphtali, his own tribe and from Zebulun, the neighboring tribe. There were twelve tribes of Israel, but God didn't instruct Barak to take any from the other ten tribes. It really didn't seem like a fair war, did it? Foot soldiers against 900 chariots of iron!
The above scripture also states God's promise to lure Sisera to the Kishon River and He would give him into Barak's hands. God kept his promise. When Sisera and the 900 chariots of iron arrived at the Kishon River, God made it rain and the chariots' wheels got stuck in the mud. The men fell off the chariots and were washed down the Kishon River. Sisera fled to the tent of Jael where he was killed when she drove a tent peg through his temple. The war didn't seem like a fair one, but Barak had to show up to win. And because Barak showed up, God kept his promise.
LIFE APPLICATION: Regardless of the enemies you are facing today, God will fight your battles for you and assure you of victory. In order for Him to win your battles for you, you MUST show up. You MUST be present to win. You MUST be on the battlefield, but know who marches with you. Go into battle knowing full well that the battle is not yours; it the Lord's!
God Will Take Care of Your Enemies
And against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand. (Judges 4:7)
No matter how loved we think we are, we have enemies! Those we think are our friends just might be our enemies. We keep our distance from our known enemies, but what about those people who laugh and grin in our faces but stab us in the back every chance they get? The Bible teaches us to watch and pray. We are to watch out for those who might eventually turn on us. No matter who our enemies are, God will take care of them for us. Don't worry! And don't try to take matters in your own hand because God will prepare a table for you in the presence of your enemies. (Psalm 23: 5)
The Bible is full of interesting ways enemies of God's people are brought to destruction. For example, Barak was commanded to take only ten thousand foot soldiers to fight in Jabin's army with his 900 chariots of iron with razor-sharp blades that mutilated foot soldiers. God specifically told Barak to take only a few foot soldiers from his own tribe and a nearby tribe to go against this great army. God promised Barak he would hand Sisera, the commander, over into his hand. This seemed impossible! When they went out to battle, God caused a great rainstorm. The chariot wheels got stuck in the mud. The enemies fell off their chariots and were washed down the River Kishon. (Judges 4:1-10)
How's that for God taking care of one's enemies? God will take care of your enemies also as long as you trust Him and let Him take care of them His way! Got enemies? Turn them over to God and see how fast they get stuck in the mud and are washed down the river.
Adjusting God's Commandments
Barak said to her, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go." (Judges 4:8)
At the time of this scripture, Deborah, a prophetess was leading Israel. She told Barak that God commands him to go fight the oppressors because He had already given Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army into his hands. The only thing Barak had to do was to GO. God had already taken care of everything else. Barak said to Deborah, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go" (Judges 4:8). Barak did not trust God, but he trusted God working in Deborah. Barak adjusted God's commandment. Barak put a condition on God's commandment. Deborah agreed to go with Barak, but she warned him, "I will go with you, but because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman." Just as Deborah had prophesied, Sisera did meet his death at the hands of Jael who drove a tent peg through his temple into the ground and he died (Judges 4:21).
The life application in this message is that when God says to do something, He has already worked out the logistics. There is absolutely no need to ask someone else to go along with you while you do what God has called YOU to do. When you adjust God's commandments, His blessings for you are also adjusted. So why did Barak insist that Deborah go along? Because Deborah was so anointed, Barak wanted her to go along as insurance that God would go with him and assist him in defeating the oppressors. Barak lost his honor that day because he adjusted God's commandment.
When God gives you something to do, do it without making adjustments. Partial obedience is disobedience. Trust that everything God commands you to do has already been approved by Him first. Therefore, leave it up to God to work out the details!
Threshing Wheat in a Winepress
Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. (Judges 6:11b)
In order to understand scriptures, we must understand the context in which they were written. In order to understand the meaning of the above scripture, we must know that because of Israel's sin and continuous rebellion God delivered them into the hands of the Midianites for seven years. It was only when they cried out to the Lord did He send a prophet to give them directions.
However, during those seven years Israel was oppressed, afraid, and greatly impoverished. Because of this oppression and fear, Gideon was threshing wheat, not in the threshing floor, the proper place, but in the winepress, in some private unsuspected corner, not to be seen by the Midianites.
Sin in our own lives limits us. It makes us settle for improper places, improper people, and improper things. Sin causes us to have to sneak and hide to do certain things. Sin causes us to be confined to small places to do big jobs. Sin cramps our style. Sin causes us to resort to limited situations instead of being big and bold. Sin causes us to settle for living in a pit when we should be living in a palace. We settle for paddling a boat when we should be living on a yacht. We settle for riding bicycles when we should be driving Rolls Royces. We settle for being the tail when our destiny says we should be the head.
There is a proper place for everything. The place to thresh wheat is on a threshing floor in the open air so the wind can blow the chaff away. To do it elsewhere is a sure indication that fear is lurking someplace in your life because of sin. Get rid of the sin and the fear will soon follow. Then you will be able to do what you need to do at the proper time and place without limitations.
Let's not settle for LESS when God wants us to have the BEST!
Warrior or Soldier?
The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. (Judges 6:12)
The word "warrior" means a person engaged or experienced in "warfare." In modern terms, a warrior is a person engaged in some struggle or conflict while he is alone. In the above scripture, Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress alone to keep it from the Midianites when an angel of God called him a "mighty warrior." On the other hand, a "soldier" is simply a person enlisted in the army following orders as part of a unit along with others.
Rev. Louis R. Blakey, Jr., Pastor (www.newcanaanbaptistchurch.com), said in his sermon yesterday that a soldier might be one who enlists in the military with ulterior motives. He or she goes into the service for the benefits such as the pay, the education, family security, or for promises of blessings. However, a warrior expects no benefits. He goes into battle "for God I live; for God I die."
Further research indicates that while soldiers are indeed valuable and do their jobs, they do it as a unit. Also, they follow orders and rarely have to make decisions on their own. Therefore, the calling of a soldier is less complex and less prestigious than that of a warrior. A warrior usually has to fight alone for a greater good. He also follows orders, but a warrior's explanation of his actions is rarely solely because he was “following orders.” A warrior owes allegiance not only to an earthly superior, but to God. It is this very allegiance which demands that his choices never be made blindly, that he takes responsibility for his own actions and how they affect others. It is the acceptance of moral, ethical and spiritual responsibility on the part of the warrior which sets him apart from the soldier.
Some of us are called to be soldiers; that is, we do well in groups, but we would be defeated if we had to work alone. Some of us are called to be warriors; that is, we are sure to be victorious while working alone. Anyone can be a soldier, but it is much harder to become a warrior with added responsibility. Each of us would be wise to live deliberately for the role we are suited for. If called to be a soldier, be the best soldier you can be. If called to be a warrior, be the best warrior you can be. Others are depending on you to fulfill whichever role God has assigned you.
Mighty Men of Valor
And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty men of valor." (Judges 6:12)
Throughout the Old Testament, the Bible describes the "mighty men of valor." In addition to the above scripture, there are about 36 other scriptures where the phrase is used to describe these men. Even though the mighty men of valor started out without a purpose they became brave and determined men with the proper leadership.
When David was on the run from Saul, he became a leader to misfits. "All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred were with him." (1 Samuel 22:2) These same men went on to become David's mighty men of valor (2 Samuel 23:8) and the number increased to six hundred.
I am sure many people can describe what they believe to be a mighty man of valor. I have a few personal definitions of my own.
- A mighty man of valor puts God first in everything he does.
- A mighty man of valor is one who takes care of his family in all areas.
- A mighty man of valor knows his purpose and never loses focus.
- A mighty man of valor is brave enough to take risks to live a life with courage and determination.
- A mighty man of valor walks the walk as well as talk the talk.
- A mighty man of valor loves unconditionally.
- A mighty man of valor is one who sees a problem as an opportunity to grow. He counts it all joy.
- A mighty man of valor is one who can get a prayer through to our Heavenly Father.
- A mighty man of valor is one who is not afraid to go through the storm with confidence that there is a rainbow at the end of it.
- A mighty man of valor is one with such compassion that he is there with you at the worst of times as well as the best of times.
Praise God if you are connected with any mighty men of valor. If you are a man, perhaps you have your own personal definitions of what a mighty man of valor is. Why not ask the women in your lives what they think? Their answers might surprise you.
Should Christians Ask For A Sign From God?
Gideon put out a fleece to confirm what he already knew. Therefore, a fleece was unnecessarily. However, when Gideon arose the next morning he was able to squeeze out a whole bowlful of water from the wool fleece. You would think sign would be enough for Gideon, but Gideon made one more request. He told God, "This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew." When Gideon rose early the next morning, he found the fleece dry and the entire ground covered with dew. Gideon had put out a fleece on two separate occasions and had received the requested results. Should Christians ask for a physical sign from God like Gideon did?
Notice in the above scripture, God has already promised Gideon that He would save Israel. That should have been enough. Gideon put out a fleece to get extra assurance. That act seems to indicate a lack of faith on Gideon's part. Previously, God had assured Gideon He was with Him (Judges 6:12) and had promised him he would use Gideon to deliver Israel (Judges 6:14, 16). God had already given Gideon a special sign (Judges 6:17-22). Therefore, the sign of the fleece, not only once, but twice was Gideon's way of confirming what he already knew.
So, what's wrong with putting out a fleece today? We don't need extraordinary signs to discover God's will. God's word is proof enough of His will (Genesis 1:1-Revelation 22:21). We can be led by the Spirit of God (John 14:26) and find inner peace and assurance (Colossians 3:15). God can guide us through prayer, through the counsel of godly friends and through circumstances. Seeking special signs indicate a lack of trust in God. We DO NOT need to ask for physical evidence when our spirit has already confirmed it.
In summary, Christians should NOT put out a fleece. We should walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Putting out a fleece is NEVER recommended by Jesus nor seen as a means of discovering God's will for our lives. In fact, Jesus commended those who believe without seeing physical evidence (John 20:29).
So, go on and take back all your fleeces. Live by faith, not by a fleece!
The Story Behind The Gideon Bible
But the Lord said to Gideon, "There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, "This shall go with you," he shall go; but if I say, "This one shall not go with you," he shall not go." (Judges 7:4)
The Gideon Bible gets its name from the organization of lay businessmen who witness and give away Bibles. One of the main criteria for becoming a Gideon is to be an employed lay Christian. The idea behind this is that one needs not be a church official to witness about the goodness of God. Therefore, clergy is not allowed in the organization.
The Gideons get their name from Gideon in the book of Judges who had a team of 32,000 men to fight the Midianites. Although there were 135,000 Midianites, God directed Gideon to thin out the ranks. After dismissing the fearful and afraid, only 10,000 remained. Gideon still had too many so God made another cut by taking them down to the water to drink. Those who got down on their knees to drink, forgetting to keep watch for the enemy, were dismissed. Now only 300 soldiers remained (Judges 7:5-7). The Midianites outnumbered Gideon's army 13 to 1, but God was on Gideon's side and the Midianites were defeated because God gave Gideon a secret weapon. The men held a torch in one hand, smashed a jar with the other hand at the blowing of the trumpet. The jar is the symbol on the Gideon Bibles that we find in doctors' offices and in every hotel room.
It doesn't take a large number of people to do exploits for God. It takes only a few dedicated and committed people who are serious about God's work. These spirit-filled people can do more than 32,000 people who are in it for popularity and prestige.
God will do what it takes for Him to get the glory. Have you been cut from any teams recently?
Desire Nothing From Timnah
Once Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw a Philistine woman. Then he came up, and told his father and mother, "I saw a Philistine woman at Timnah; now get her for me as a wife." (Judges 14:1-2)
Samson's downfall started at Timnah. Visiting Timnah was the first sign of Samson's troubles. Timnah was only four miles across the valley from Samson's hometown. Apparently, the Philistines and Israelites moved freely back and forth. One day when Samson went down to Timnah, he saw and become attracted to a young beautiful Philistine woman, and he desired to have her as his wife. Samson forgot he was a nazarite dedicated to God. Samson disregarded his own religious background and become yoked to someone whose beliefs were the opposite of his own.
Samson's lack of concern for differences of religion and his lack of submission to his parents were obvious signs pointing toward his downfall. The marriage lasted only a few days and resulted in many deaths. This should have taught Samson a lesson, but it didn't. The final stages of his downfall came as a result of his weakness for another woman, Delilah. Her trickery caused Samson his strength, his eyes and eventually his life.
And just to think it all started with Samson desiring the woman from Timnah. Be extremely careful when you go through Timnah. It is dangerous to desire something from Timnah. To be on the safe side, desire nothing from Timnah.
On Delilah's Lap
Having put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him. (Judges 16:19)
The Spirit of the Lord was upon Samson until he told Delilah the secret of his strength and then put his head on her lap. She had tried to lure him three times into telling her why he was powerful so she could tell the Philistines. Three times Samson chose not to tell her the secret, but that fourth time he gave in to Delilah. We might think Samson was foolish, but how many times do we allow ourselves to be deceived by the world and give in to temptation and wrong beliefs?
Delilah is symbolic of the world and anything that causes us to let our guard down and go against the Spirit who lives in us. Delilah's are all around us in the least likely people and places. We must guard our heart and let nothing — absolutely nothing — separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Let's not go to sleep on Delilah's lap.
Blinding, Binding and Grinding
Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison. (Judges 16:21)
The Philistines had paid Delilah to find out the secret of Samson's strength. Just one verse outlines the three phases of punishment Samson encountered when he told her the secret of his strength. After he told her everything, she sent word to the Philistines who went about BLINDING him by gouging out his eyes and taking him down to Gaza. There they went about BINDING him with bronze shackles. Then they set him to GRINDING in the prison as a slave.
What was so wrong with a haircut? Absolutely nothing for an ordinary person, but Samson was no ordinary person. He was a Nazirite and no razor was to be used on his head. (Judges 6:17) His long hair was a visible sign of God's presence in his life. To allow his hair to be cut was a violation of the Nazirite vow. Samson knew the danger, but he told his secret anyway. Because of that, he set himself up for disaster. The presence of the Lord left Samson.
Without God, there is darkness. Like Samson we grope around in the dark as if our own eyes have been gouged out. Without God, we are bound with shackles and are not free to serve God. Without God, we are slaves to the sins of this world. In other words, when the presence of God has left us, we find ourselves in three unpleasant positions: blinding, binding and grinding.
Has the presence of the Lord left you because you have violated any of God's sacred vows?