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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Finding GOD'S WILL IS TO FOLLOW JESUS ONLY




Judges 6:1-40 NIV





Gideon




1The Israelites did evil in the Eyes of The LORD, and for seven years HE Gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 2Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. 6Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out To The LORD for help.


7When the Israelites cried out To The LORD because of Midian, 8HE Sent them a prophet, who said, 


“This Is What The LORD, The GOD of Israel, Says: 



I Brought you Up Out of Egypt, Out of the land of slavery. 9I Rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I Delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I Drove them Out before you and Gave you their land. 


10I Said To you, ‘I AM The LORD your GOD; Do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened To ME.”



11The ANGEL of The LORD Came and Sat Down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 






12When The ANGEL of The LORD Appeared To Gideon, HE Said,


 “The LORD Is With you, mighty warrior.”







13“Pardon me, my LORD,” Gideon replied, “but If The LORD Is With us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all HIS Wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did Not The LORD Bring us Up Out of Egypt?’ But now The LORD Has Abandoned us and Given us into the hand of Midian.”


14The LORD Turned To him and Said,


“Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of 

Midian’s hand. AM I Not Sending you?”


15“Pardon me, my LORD,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”


16 The LORD Answered,  


“I Will Be With you, and you will strike down all the 

Midianites, leaving none alive.”


17Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in YOUR Eyes, give me a sign that it is really YOU Talking To me.18Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”


And The LORD Said,  


“I Will Wait Until you return.”


19Gideon went inside, prepared a young goat, and from an ephaha of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to Him under the oak.


20The ANGEL of GOD Said To him, 


“Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them 

on this rock, and pour out the broth.”


And Gideon did so. 21Then The ANGEL of The LORD Touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in HIS Hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And The ANGEL of The LORD Disappeared. 







22When Gideon realized that It Was The ANGEL of The LORD, he exclaimed,


“Alas, Sovereign LORD! I have seen The ANGEL of The LORD Face to face!”


23 Put The LORD Said To him,   


“Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”


24So Gideon built an altar To The LORD there and called it The LORD IS PEACE. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.


25That same night The LORD Said To him, 

“Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old.b Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah polec beside it. 26Then build a proper kind ofd altar To The LORD your GOD on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the seconde bull as a burnt offering.”


27So Gideon took ten of his servants and did As The LORD Told him. 






But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.








28In the morning when the people of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!


29They asked each other, “Who did this?”


When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.”


30The people of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”


31But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.” 32So because Gideon broke down Baal’s altar, they gave him the name Jerub-Baalf that day, saying, “Let Baal contend with him.”


33Now all the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34Then The SPIRIT of The LORD Came On Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. 35He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them.


36Gideon said To GOD, 


“If YOU Will Save Israel by my hand As YOU Have Promised— 37look, I will place. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that YOU Will Save Israel by my hand, As YOU Said.” 38And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.








39Then Gideon said To GOD, 


“Do Not Be Angry With me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” 



40That night GOD Did So. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.






Is Testing GOD Allowed like Gideon did?




We all know that JESUS Told us, “Do not put The LORD your GOD to the test.”  Here is a very useful article for you to read on this issue.



The difficulty of this text really lies in its application. Are Christians today to make use of this method when they seek to discover GOD’s Will? The passage is the familiar story of Gideon using a fleece to find out If YAHWEH Would Be With him in battle.


While even today it is common to talk about “putting out a fleece,” we as believers need to ask what we should make of Gideon’s attempt to find GOD’S Will this way, and if indeed he was even in the Will of GOD to seek to do so. Was he engaged in faith or presumption?


That is, is it ever appropriate for Christians today to say something like this? “GOD, if YOU Make someone knock on my door in ten minutes time, inquiring about our house, I will then know it is YOUR Will to sell this house.” Is this a valid method? Or is it improperly putting GOD to the test?


Indeed, is this a valid and spiritually-acceptable method of determining GOD’S Will? Was Gideon right to employ it? May we do the same today? These are all good questions, so in order to properly answer them, it is of course necessary to look more closely at the Judges passage.


The full story is found in Judges 6-8, and needs to be read in context. The Midianites and others had come to challenge Israel. We are told in 6:11-12 How YAHWEH Had Appeared to Gideon. It is actually a bit humorous. The ANGEL of The LORD Appears to him and says, “The LORD Is With you, mighty warrior”.


Yet Gideon had effectively been hiding from the Midianites in the threshing room. Not much of a warrior there! GOD often graciously Condescends to our lowly and humble estate. The first thing Gideon says is, “Hey, if The LORD Is With us, then why are we in such a pickle” or words to that effect (v. 13).


The LORD Says HE Will Use him to defeat the Midianites. In response Gideon asks for a sign (v. 17). YAHWEH Agreed and Performed a clear revelatory sign for him. Emboldened by this, at GOD’S Command, he tore down some pagan altars which never should have been there.


The locals made a stink about this but Gideon stood his ground. It is after all this that we read about the Midianites and others crossing over the Jordon, as they had done before (v. 33). It is at this point that Gideon asks for the sign of the fleece.


He tells YAHWEH: If this fleece will be dew-soaked while the rest of the ground stays dry, then I will know that YOU Have Sent me and Will Be With me. And sure enough, the next morning he finds the fleece soaking wet, while the ground next to it is dry.


But the story does not stop there. In vv. 39-40 we read: “Then Gideon said To GOD, ‘Do Not Be Angry With me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.’ That night GOD Did So. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.”


In chapters 7 and 8 we read about how Gideon defeated the Midianites, after of course he greatly pared down his numbers so that GOD Would Get the Glory, not him. So his original army of 32,000 men was shrunk to just 300. There are of course wonderful spiritual lessons to be drawn from that as well.

But the fleece episode, and the earlier sign which Gideon asked for, can now be more properly assessed. Were these requests legitimate? Were they acts of faith or maybe indications of unbelief? Are they something which believers today should emulate?


A few things seem to be clear about this episode. First, this was actually not about discerning GOD’S Will, or discovering what GOD Wanted. YAHWEH Had already Clearly Told Gideon What HE Was Going To Do. All Gideon had to do was agree with GOD about this and get on with the job.


But instead Gideon had to go through three different tests before he actually does what he is supposed to do. So he was not exactly acing in faith here. So if we take this as an example for us today, we can only use it as far as it is used there. That is, GOD’S Will Has already Been Revealed, and we are just wanting confirmation about it.


Also, it seems this whole episode is one about a lack of faith – even unbelief. Simply having The ANGEL of The LORD Appearing To him should have been enough. Then he got another miraculous sign from YAHWEH: The Divine Fire consuming the meat and the bread.


Yet he still wanted another, double, confirmatory sign. He was probably aware of how this may not have been pleasing To GOD when he said, “Do Not Be Angry With me…” If he was doing something patently acceptable in YAHWEH’S Sight, there would have been no need to make such a statement.


Indeed, twice Gideon says that GOD Had Promised that HE Would Deliver Israel through himself (vv. 36, 37), but in spite of this promise which he was fully aware of, he still puts GOD to the test by demanding more signs. This was not an act of faith but of unbelief.


Lastly, we of course have no clear New Testament example of, or command for, such a test. Instead, we have JESUS and the apostles downplaying this, and at times getting upset when people asked for a sign. As JESUS Complained, “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:4). Or as Paul said, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach CHRIST Crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:22,23).


In sum, as K.L. Younger remarks, this fleecing “is nothing short of a pagan divinatory test of the deity.” He continues, “The fleece incidents are far from a model for the discernment of GOD’s Will. . . . His problem is his lack of willingness to trust The Lord, to take Him at His WORD. Thus the fleece incidents are about Gideon’s unbelief and stubbornness in response to GOD’S Call. In such cases, GOD Is Not Obligated To Respond, and If HE Does, it is only by Grace. Those who use this passage as a means of discerning GOD’S Will are simply misapplying Scripture.”


Of course all this is not to say that GOD Cannot and Does Not Provide signs. Indeed, in Biblical times miracles were primarily used as confirmatory signs of Divine Revelation. Today however Christians are not to depend on signs and wonders as they seek GOD’S Will. Thus we need to be careful here.

As Herbert Wolf comments, “If this ‘fleece’ consists of a careful observation and interpretation of GOD’S leading through circumstances, the procedure can be a healthy one. But Gideon’s method was to make purely arbitrary demands of GOD, and insist on immediate guidance. Such an approach can hardly be recommended for Christians today.”


Instead, like most aspects of the Christian life, there is the long hard slog of doing what is right, having strong faith, and persevering, even when things are not always perfectly clear as to the way ahead. There are no short cuts to spirituality, in other words.


Daily trusting GOD, denying ourselves, and remaining obedient and faithful, that is the stuff of the normal Christian life. And that is the stuff of seeking GOD’S Will. GOD May Well Choose To Confirm HIS Will with a sign of some sort, but that tends to be the exception to the rule.


Learning how to trust GOD, walk with GOD, and depend on HIM, even in the darker times or when things are not always crystal clear, is How GOD Is mainly Glorified and how we mainly are to follow HIM today. So it seems that putting out a fleece to discover GOD’S Will is not what believers today should be doing.


Adapted from Bill Muehlenberg's weblog at www.billmuehlenberg.com.



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