Open your Bibles or your scripture journals please to Judges 6. We are going to be studying verses 25-32. We are continuing the story of Gideon today. As I have said, this is one of the longer narratives in this book. The story of Gideon takes up three chapters and has several “acts”. Last week we looked at God calling Gideon. We saw how God uses weak people to display His Power, God is not dismayed by our lack of faith, and when God speaks something about you, those words take effect.
Today we are going to see God’s first instruction to Gideon after he called him to save his people.
Let’s read the text first and see what God has for us here.
Ok, so let’s talk through what Just happened. Gideon has just been called by God to be the deliverer of His people. We know that they have been sold into the hand of Midian and were desperate for help, so they cried out to God to be delivered. So the people of God are prepped to be delivered. They have asked for help and God has met with Gideon and told him that he will be the one to deliver Israel, then what? The very next thing to do to prepare God’s people for deliverance is not invade the territory, or gather the army. It was to clean house. One of the chief reasons God had handed His people over was because of their worship of false Idols. We know from earlier in this book, and also in Joshua that God’s warning to His people was focused on them not to fall into the idolatry of the people they take the land from. Not only did they not completely drive them out, they had added these idols to their worship. They forgot that they are meant to be a holy people, set apart for the Lord’s work. So, on the same night that God called Gideon, he instructed him to tear down the altar to Baal, and the Ashera next to it, and build and altar and sacrifice to the Lord. Now, if you’re not careful, you could miss this, as I did the first couple times I read it. Whose house is the altar to Baal in? His Father’s, and who lives in the town with Gideon? Well based on the text, the Midianites didn’t move into the Israelites villages, they swooped in whenever it was time for harvest and stole their produce and went back to their own land. So we can assume that the village was mostly, if not entirely Israelites. These are the People of God who have built altars for false Gods and the Lord will not share the hearts of His people. So he wants that altar torn down. So, he tells Gideon to tear it down.
Now, God gives clear instructions to Gideon to take the second Bull. Now, in the text it isn’t clear that there were two bulls, or if it was one. The word translated “and” here can also be translated “namely”. What is amazing though is that God instructs him to use a bull to tear down the altar of Baal, whose symbol was a bull. And then he is told to sacrifice that bull on the wood of the Ashera. So, God is not only destroying these false idols, he is doing it with incredible imagery and irony to show that they are no Gods at all.
Well, here is where we see Gideons “great valor” again right? Ha! not! He is afraid of his own family and the others in the town, so he waits till nightfall and then obeys God’s command to tear it down.
Well, then day breaks, and the people of the town see what he has done and they are hot! They are out for blood. So, the town folks are not out for figurative blood, they say to Gideon’s father Joash, “Bring out your son, so that he may die!” They really want to kill him don’t they? It is no wonder that Gideon was a little scared to do this in broad daylight.
So then Joash reveals that he is a pretty wise man, he says to them, If Baal is a god, then you should not have to fight for him, he will avenge himself. Essentially revealing that at least Joash had an understanding that they were not worshipping a true God, but a false God. he also states that if you do avenge Baal yourself, you will be dead tomorrow. The implications is that if you fight for your false god and destroy the true God’s deliverer, you will find out who is a true God and who is not. In this brilliant stroke of wisdom, he is at the same moment protecting his son from a lynch-mob and challenging the faith of those who worshipped Baal. They were stuck, if they killed Gideon, they were proving that Baal had no real power. So then from then on, they called Gideon a name that would be a constant reminder of his transgression against the people of the village. To them, it was a curse, but what it really was was an indictment of the false God they worshipped.
OK, So that’s a recap of what we read, let’s look at some of the truths contained in this story. Three aspects of this story I want to draw out this morning.
- God is a jealous God:
1 And God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before[fn] me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands[fn] of those who love me and keep my commandments.
10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.
11 “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.
You can also look at Numbers 25:11, Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15, Joshua 24:19, Ezekiel 36:6, 39:25, Joel 2:18, Nehemiah 1:2, Zechariah 1:14, 8:2.
Now, let me clarify something that I am sure no one in here thinks, but just in case, I want to make this clear. One time I heard a Quote from the great prophetess of our culture, Oprah that when she learned in church that God was a jealous God, she was turned off, because she thought, “why would God be jealous of us?” Well, clearly she missed the point of God’s jealousy. God is not jealous of us, He is jealous for us. There is a big difference. The imagery that is most often tied to His jealousy is that of a husband and wife. When two people are married, they covenant to give themselves to one another and be satisfied in one another alone. If one party breaks that covenant, they are robbing the other of the satisfaction, intimacy, protection and love that is meant to exist between them alone. Now, we know on a human level, no one will every be totally satisfied in their spouse, but the analogy doesn’t fall apart when you apply it to God and His people, it gets stronger. God is the self sufficient creator of all things, and he created us to be totally satisfied in Him alone, there is no other person or thing that will every satisfy us. he made a covenant with His people to be their God. Whenever we stray from His love and seek after Idols, we are saying to Him that we are not satisfied in Him and we will seek that satisfaction in a different place. And yet, we will never find that satisfaction except in Him alone. What that does to the heart of God is not only break it, but it makes him jealous for us to experience the satisfaction that can only be found in destroying the false Gods that our hearts have “whored after” as he put it in Exodus 34, and return to Him. Only then will our should find the rest that we so long for, and in fact were created for. God’s Jealously, does not negate His love, it is fueled by and adorns His love. Just as no loving Husband would be fine with his wife pursuing other relationships, our God love us so much that his anger burns hot against the idols that would tempt us from His embrace.
- Idols Are difficult to tear down: When Gideon got the instructions to tear down the altar to Baal and Ashera, he know it would be dangerous. He knew there would be push back, he knew he was taking his life into his own hands. This is the danger of confronting the idols we see in our own hearts and in the hearts of others. You see, the trust that we should have in God for our protection and for our comfort and our satisfaction has been placed in those idols. So when someone like Gideon comes along and tears them down, or when God sovereignly acts to remove the idols of your heart from your life, it will not be an easy task. We will get mad, and defensive and push people away and maybe even like the people in Gideon’s village, we may want to kill someone to keep our idols. You know, there is a veteran detective that says that all murder comes down to three motives, Love, Money, or Pride. I say that all three of those could be poured into the same bucket called idolatry.
- Idols must be torn down: If you understand the true nature of the Jealousy of God in light of His love and his all satisfying presence, you will understand that they must be destroyed to deliver us. Just as this is the first step in the deliverance of Gods people by Gideon, this is also the first step in the deliverance of a Christian. If you are putting your trust in something other than God, you will never fully experience the satisfaction of knowing and being known by God, and the joy of hearing the words that God spoke to Gideon last week, “I will Be With You!”
The thing about the call to Christ is that it is not Christ added onto what I already have, it is Christ, to the exclusion of all others. That means bad stuff, like we all think about, but it also means good stuff too. Christ is your satisfaction, to the exclusion of your spouse, your kids, your job, your church family, your political party, your race, your nationality, your education, your, whatever else you can think of. Now, Christ has a lot to say about all those things and how they fit into his call for you to walk out your relationship with him in your marriage and your parenting, and your workplace ect. Satisfaction in Christ will make those things pleasing and wonderful in their proper place, but those things may never supplant, or take the place of your satisfaction and your hope being placed fully on Him and Him alone. When you experience that transformation, there is no area of your life that is not transformed then by the total worship and adoration of Him. And so, if there is an ongoing idolatry in your life like there was in the town Gideon lived in, God will ask you to tear it down, and if you don’t and you are truly His child he will tear it down. He will allow you to experience hardship, and trials that will expose your idols and bring you to the end of yourself. Not all trials are for this, but if you are clinging to an idol, he will.
Matt Chandler says it better than I can:
“If God loves you, if he would be merciful, he will lead you to the end of yourself. It’s a humbling thing to surrender our life to Christ, to acknowledge, “I cannot do this. You can.” If you’re still a little bit confused about the refining work of God and how Christians might rejoice in difficult times, it is those difficult times that remind us our deep need. It’s why sometimes it’s not the mercy of God to bless us with a bunch of toys and wealth and those things but rather to, in his mercy, wound us for our good, for our eternal good!
Here arrogant boasting is removed. … If you are a Christian who walks with a swagger (like you saved you, you’ve sanctified you, you’re the one driving this), I would… I’m giving you permission. I’d be very nervous, because the Lord tends to break hips and hands in that arena. God will not tolerate you touching his glory.”
That is part of why tearing down the idols can be dangerous, because it is often painful, and can feel as though our very soul is being ripped out. If it does, then that is proof positive that it was an Idol.
4. Atonement had to be made for the sin of idolatry: Notice that God did not merely tell Gideon to tear down the altar to Baal, but he told him to take the pieces and construct an altar to Him, and to offer the bull on the altar as a burnt offering. Now, we don’t have time to get into all the significance of the burnt offering, but throughout the Old Testament the burnt offering was an offering of atonement for sins. Here God has instructed Gideon to offer a bull as an offering of atonement for the obvious sin of idolatry. This is a display of the wrath of God towards sin. God’s love compels him to be jealous for us, but it also compels him to be just in the pursuit of those who have forsaken his love and gone to other sources of comfort and peace. Because the sin of idolatry makes us unclean, and therefore unworthy of God’s love, atonement must be made for cleansing and restoration. All throughout the Old Testament, it was understood that whatever animal was being sacrificed was taking the place of the person who was offering that animal, a substitution, because the penalty for breaking their covenant with God was death. And so, God did not take their sin lightly, nor does He take our sin lightly.
Simply removing your idols will not be sufficient for you to be reconciled to God. His justice demands your life. Your sins must be atoned for in order for you to be made right with him. We know that a bull will not suffice for this. Hebrews tells us that the blood of bulls and goats can never atone for sin.
So this is bad news right? Yes it is! Except that God, in his covenant keeping way has done the work for us to be atoned for. He has given us His own son, the spotless lamb, who was slain for our sins and transgressions so that we may not only have our sins atoned for, but we may also be reconciled to Him. If you have been called by God into a relationship with him, the good news is that your sins have been atoned for in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, that is the good news that we all cling to. But here is the question I have for you today: Have you allowed Him to tear down your idols? Have you been like Gideon and obeyed his call to tear down the idols that have crept into your village? Or have you been like the villagers who had them so integrated into your heart that you would be willing to kill to keep them? Let me plead with you. Ask the holy Spirit what the idols are in your heart. Offer them up to him, lay them down, allow the things that draw your heart to them to be pulled down and used for an act of worship, an offering to God.
I will make a promise to you no matter what you do, those idols will never be able to contend against you, or Your God, because they are false Gods. they will never be able to fulfill the hope that you put in them. They are created things, and you were made to be satisfied only in the creator.