The Lutheran Hour Sermon Text
"Mighty Menacin' Midianites!"#69-50
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 25, 2002
By Dr. Reed Lessing, Guest Speaker
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
This week on Action in Ministry Q&A MP3
Text: Judges 6:11-16
"The 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 weeds in a wine press to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon he said, 'The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.' 'But sir,' Gideon replied, 'if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all His wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, "did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?" But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.' The 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?' 'But Lord' Gideon asked, 'how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manassah and I am the least in the family.' The Lord answered, 'I will be with you and you will strike down all the Midianites together.'" This is our text.
They're crop destroyin', plague deployin', quite anoyin', mighty menacin' Midianites! They're fond of fightin', strike like lightnin.' Man, they're frightnin.' Mighty menacin' Midianites! They steal, kill and destroy every man, woman, girl and boy! They are mighty menacin' Midianites.
They came from the union between Abraham and his second wife Keturah. They once came to the plains of Moab to seduce Israel at the famous apostasy of Baal Peor, recorded in Numbers 25. Now in the Book of Judges, Midianites come to the Jezreel/Esdraelon plain and down the Mediterranean coast all the way to Gaza unleashing on Israel their new, "top-secret" weapon--domesticated camels!
Israel is spiritually, economically, politically and militarily bankrupt. People are living in villages with no walls, no standing army, no central government and we are told four times in the Book of Judges they have no king. For seven years Midianites are "sweeping down like swarms of locusts, not sparing any living thing." Eyewitnesses to locust attacks in modern Israel testify to seeing swarms that are 10 miles deep and over 20 miles long. Like swarms of locusts, Israel's enemy is crop destroyin', plague deployin', quite anoyin.' They are, indeed, mighty menacin' Midianites!
Do you have any Midianites in your life, enemies that appear like swarms of locusts, ten miles deep and over 20 miles long, "not sparing any living thing?" Sure you do. So do I. Historically the Church has called them the seven deadly sins: anger, pride, envy, greed, lust, gluttony, and sloth. They're fond of fightin', strike like lightnin' ... man, they're frightnin.'
The chief mighty menacin' Midianite uses these seven deadly sins to "steal, kill and destroy" every man, woman, girl and boy. He goes by several names -- "murderer, a liar and the father of lies, a roaring lion seeking someone to devour, the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the devil and Satan." Satan is marriage destroyin', perversion deployin', and more than just a little annoyin.'
Today the Lord is raising up an army to defeat Midianites. He begins in your life with a word of affirmation -- "When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, 'The LORD is with you, mighty warrior'" (Judges 6:12). Gideon is threshing wheat, not with oxen and sledge on an open elevation, but in the cramped space of a wine press. The guy is afraid of his own shadow! Gideon is the Barney Fife of the Bible!
And he might as well come from Mayberry. Gideon's home town is Ophrah. In Hebrew it means 'place of dust.' Now doesn't that sound like a place where you would want to launch a military campaign? So Gideon responds, "How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." So why does the Lord recruit Gideon?
Welcome to the Book of Judges! The Lord recruits Ehud, a left-handed Benjamite; Shamgar with his "impressive" ox-goad; Deborah, "a mother in Israel;" Jephthah, a rejected robber with a big mouth; and Samson, a sex-addicted Nazarite.
St. Paul writes in I Corinthians 1:26: "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards. Not many were influential. Not many were of noble birth." And yet the Lord is recruiting us for His army! In spite of the fact that to a person we have skeletons in our closets and, if made public, would die in embarrassment. In spite of the fact that to a person we have a daily propensity to prefer darkness rather than light, lies instead of truth, pride instead of humility. Yet, hear this loving and life-changing word of affirmation: 'The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.'"
The general of this army is equipping us for warfare. By faith in Jesus we have "the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, the belt of truth buckled around our waist and feet fitted with readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace." Indeed, God says it. Faith believes it. We are armed and dangerous mighty warriors!
But with so many Midianites around him, Gideon not only needs a new view of himself, he needs a new view of his God. So the Lord moves from affirmation to revelation. Judges 6:24: "So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it 'the Lord is Peace.'" On this altar "fire consumed the meat and the bread." There is nothing left as the Lord reveals He is the God of wholeness, healing, peace ... who puts what is broken back together again. On another altar called Golgotha, the Lord revealed His ultimate gift of peace. Not meat and bread, but the Father's only Son is consumed on a Roman instrument of death. After the kiss of betrayal and the arrest, after the thorns and the spitting, after the seven words and the bleeding, there is nothing left. This total loss would last for exactly three days. For in the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, our heavenly Father, once and for all reveals that through the blood of Calvary He offers you the free gift of peace--peace the world can never give--peace that passes all human understanding.
See God in His magnificent revelation at the cross. Exclaim with the words of the familiar song: "My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty, there's nothing my God cannot do!" Know that His peace puts your broken life back together again.
God is raising up an army with affirmation, revelation, now confrontation. Judges 6:25, the Lord says to Gideon, "Tear down your father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it." Baal and Asherah are typical ancient Near Eastern deities that promise field and family fertility to those who perform their worship rites. These rites consist of mega doses of sex and drunkenness and every form of indecency.
What's the Baal in your backyard? What's the idol in your life? What are you allowing to erode your relationship with Jesus? Are you addicted to Internet pornography? Binge spending? Binge drinking? Binge church gossip? Whatever it is, the Lord says, "Cut it down."
That's what Gideon does. So they nicknamed him Jerubaal "because he broke down Baal's altar." Gideon refuses to be conformed to this present age. He refuses to compromise with evil. He refuses to blend in. To all recruits today, the Lord has a direct word of confrontation. "See that Baal in your backyard? Cut it down!"
Finally, there's motivation. Gideon begins with 32,000 men. The ranks thin to 10,000. Then the army further decreases to the "imposing sight" of 300 Abiezrites, who lap water like dogs! Gideon's got less than 1 percent of his original army! The odds are now 450 to one against those fond of fightin', strike like lightnin', man they're frightnin', mighty menacin' Midianites!! It looks impossible so he needs motiivation. Judges 6:34: "Then the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon." Gideon is not left alone; and so clothed with the Spirit of the living God, he makes mincemeat out of 120,000 Midianites!
It looks impossible doesn't it? Believing, speaking, loving and living only for Jesus. But we are not left alone. The Lord clothes us with the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who will be with us forever. Baptism delivers Him. Holy Communion celebrates Him. The Gospel imparts His power to the end that we are Spirit-led and Spirit-filled--having motivation to begin, continue and end victorious in the name of Jesus!
And you thought all Gideon did was write Bibles for hotels! No, for all his hesitation and weakness and doubt, finally Gideon, the Barney Fife of the Bible, stood up to his enemies. And so shall we, by the grace of God, stand up. "From victory unto victory His army shall He lead; till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed!" In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for August 25, 2002
ANNOUNCER: How do we bring Jesus into our everyday conversations? I'm Mark Eischer. Here to talk about this with me today is Dr. David Mulder, the Director of Outreach Ministries for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Dr. Mulder, thanks for being with us.
MULDER: Thank you for having me.
ANNOUNCER: This question comes to us from a listener: "How do I bring Jesus into a conversation I'm having with my friend?"
MULDER: That's often difficult for people and I'd like to begin by saying, please don't preach. Don't suggest to a friend, "you ought to do this" or "you ought to believe this about Jesus." Just quietly share little times in your life when it was important that you believed in Jesus and that gave you a chance to reflect on that. Recently, for example, my mother went into a nursing home, but I'm so thankful God is taking care of her there.
ANNOUNCER: So you start with what Jesus has done for you, instead of "throwing" Jesus at your friend.
MULDER: Yes. There is a temptation sometimes to talk to people about religion or talk about church, talk about this or that rather than just quietly talk about what Jesus means to you. You can do this in a natural and easy way that gives them opportunity to turn back to you and ask when they're having a difficult time. Now some people who just say, "There's no way I can do that," have found a most powerful way of simply, every morning, praying that their friend ask a question about your faith.
ANNOUNCER: In other words, ask God to give you both the opportunity and the answer.
MULDER: Absolutely. We don't have to carry that burden. If we're prepared to give an answer, and that's just simply knowing in our own way what Jesus means to us, He will give us the words and He will actually give us the opportunities. But it sure helps to pray for that.
ANNOUNCER: What should I know about my friend before I try talking about Jesus with my friend?
MULDER: Again, if you are witnessing to someone you know, you can ask just simple questions like, "Well, recently I was listening to this radio program and this topic came up. Do you remember ever studying that in Sunday school? Did you ever hear this story, or this Bible story?" Or Christian radio music--there are actually more people listening to Christian radio music than are going to church.
ANNOUNCER: Based on current research, can I assume my friend or neighbor really knows anything at all about Jesus, or what He's done?
MULDER: About Jesus? Yes. What He's done? Perhaps not. They may have some awareness of scripture through movies and that will be kind of a distorted version of the story of the Good News. Yet, we have 141 million people in the United States listening to the Christian message through media and less than that go to church every week. I have Jewish friends and Hindu friends. They know who Jesus is and they are not offended when you talk about Him. I find it rare that anyone is upset with Jesus. Eventually, they may, when they come to stand at the foot of the cross and hear Law (and) Gospel, but initially it's not a problem talking about Jesus.
ANNOUNCER: What is the single most important thing my friend needs to know about Jesus?
MULDER: They need to know that Jesus lived. He lived a perfect life and He walked the walk to the Cross. He died as our substitute on the Cross and, therefore, we have full forgiveness of sins. He accomplished all that in His resurrection. But people might not be quite ready for that much pure doctrine of justification, initially. So if people want to talk about God or about religion, you let them talk. They will begin to talk their way in the right direction. If we're witnessing to people, we trust the Holy Spirit is with us. He said He'll give us the right things to say and that may also be the right timing. So part of it is pointing to Christ, not being ashamed of that. Gently let people come, sort of, to their own conclusions as they're led by the Spirit about Jesus, but then continue on with discipleship.
ANNOUNCER: We've been talking with Dr. David Mulder, Director of Outreach for The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The next Lutheran Hour message is titled, "Free to Deny."