Gideon takes a stand Judges 6:24-35

Last week we were introduced to Gideon, one of the best known heroes of the faith from the book of Judges. But he wasn’t always the “mighty man of valour” which was the title God’s angel greeted him by. We first meet Gideon hiding in the winepress away from the invading Midianites. He was just a poor boy from a poor family, least in his family which was the least in his tribe. Somebody has given Gideon the nickname of Super-chicken, because of that cowardice. We saw him last week take the first steps towards becoming the mighty warrior he would need to be if he was to obey God’s calling to drive the Midianites away forever and save not only his family and his town but all of Israel. We saw how God sent an angel and called Gideon, and sent him, and promised to be with him. As a sign God sent fire to destroy the offerings Gideon placed before Him. So we read that Gideon took his first small step of faith and built an altar to the true God
Judges 6 24 So 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.
This was only a beginning, one small step of faith. But even that required both faith and courage because the nation of Israel had wandered away from God and taken to worshipping the Baals, the old gods of the Canaanites and the surrounding nations. So God allowed the Midianites to come and plunder Israel for seven years.
Judges 6 7 When the Israelites cried out to the LORD because of Midian, 8 he 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. 9 I 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. 10 I 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.’
Of course the Israelites shouldn’t have needed a prophet to tell them they were doing wrong. The nation had already been given the 10 Commandments. Remember what we said about idols and false gods in our morning series of sermon on the Ten Commandments last autumn.
The Ten Commandments begin with the most important of all.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
In other words, love God more than anything else or anybody else. Put God first in your life. Make God more important than anything else. Have no other gods apart from the one true God. “You shall have no other gods before me.”
God calls His chosen people to put Him first in their lives. To love Him with all our hearts and all our souls and all our minds and with all our strength. To love God with every element and every aspect of our being. Loving God more than anything or anyone else. Putting God first. Then the Second Commandment explains and expands on the first. No idols.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them;
No idols. The Commandments were the heart of the faith of the Israelites and at the centre of them is this vital truth – there is only one God. This was what set Israel apart from all the other nations who each had a multitude of gods. This was what was unique about the Jews in the face of the pantheons of all the tribes and nations which previously had inhabited and in Gideon’s time still surrounded the Promised Land. In time this would be one thing which separated the one true God of Israel from the many Greek and Roman gods and all the strange Eastern and Mystery religions of those centuries. The Israelites were monotheists. They held to their belief that there is only one God. So put God first. And no false gods – no idols. That is what God always demands from his chosen people Israel. But they didn’t listen to him. That is why the Midianite hoards were ravaging Israel.
God revealed Himself to Gideon and Gideon responded by building an altar to the one true God, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of Moses and Israel and the Ten Commandments. “God is peace.” But that was only one small step of faith. Gideon had much more to learn, one step at a time. Before he would be ready to obey God in the big things, Gideon had to learn to obey God in the little things.
25 That same night the LORD said to him, ‘Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of 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 second bull as a burnt offering.’
Gideon may have started worshipping the God of Israel again. He may have been brave enough to build an altar to “God is peace”. But his whole town were still worshipping the false god Baal at an altar to Baal. They were also worshipping the fertility goddess the Asherah, at her Asherah pole. Not just the whole town, but even Gideon’s father Joash were worshipping Baal and Asherah, and from the reaction we see from the towns-people later it seems like Joash himself might even have been the curator of those shrines for the whole community. So the first job God gives Gideon to do is to stand up for God and against Baal in his own household, and his own community. He had to destroy his own father’s altar to Baal and sacrifice his father’s prize bull not to Baal but to the God of Israel. Before he could defeat the Midianites, Gideon would have to put his own house in order.
And this is true in our lives. Before we can confront the false gods which abound in the world around us, we have to confront any false gods in our own lives. Whatever it is which is the most important thing in our lives can become a false god which we can waste our lives serving and chasing after. Or look at it this way – what are we putting our trust in? What are we depending on for our safety and security? Are we relying on God? You shall have no other gods before me. Or are there things that get in the way of our church worship, our prayer, our Bible study, our witnessing? Things like, family, work, sleep, hobbies, sports, television? Success? Power? Money? Popularity? Gideon had to get his own life and his own family in order. This would be just a small initial step of faith and obedience compared to what would be required to defeat the Midianites. So Gideon did what God commanded.
God actually told Gideon to do two things. Firstly, he had to destroy the altar to Baal and the Asherah pole. The altar would not have been small, maybe 8 feet square and five foot high although one has been discovered recently which was 26 feet square! So Baal’s altar needed to be destroyed so that the Israelites would stop worshipping false gods. But then secondly, the bull needed to be sacrificed. A burnt sacrifice needed to be offered as a sacrifice for sin. Just stopping sinning is never enough. The sins of the past still need to be punished, an atoning sacrifice needs to be offered – in this case his father’s prize bull. If Christ had not died for our sins, human beings repenting by itself would never bring us back to God. Both repentance and sacrifice are always required. And that is what Gideon did.
27 So 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.
28 In 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!
So Gideon did as God commanded. But he wasn’t quite the mighty man of valour yet. This altar was right there in his own back yard! He was scared of his family and of all his neighbours. so he did destroy the altar of Baal and he did cut down the Asherah pole and he did build a new altar to the God of Israel and he did sacrifice the bull to the one true God – but Gideon did all this at night so nobody can see. Superchicken still lives! He had lots of faith. He didn’t hesitate. He had enough faith to obey God immediately. He was brave enough to obey God even though he knew he was risking death – but he was still timid and afraid, so Gideon obeyed God at night. In secret. That’s not the way it should be. Somebody has said, “You can’t be a secret disciple. Either the secret will kill the discipleship or the discipleship will kill the secret. You can’t be a secret disciple. And that is a truth Gideon soon discovered.
28 In 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!
29 They asked each other, ‘Who did this?’
When they carefully investigated, they were told, ‘Gideon son of Joash did it.’
30 The 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.’
The truth was out and Gideon was about the face the music for desecrating the altar of Baal and the Asherah pole. As is so often the case, obedience to God leads to opposition from other people who have rejected Him. But then events take a completely unexpected turn. The altar belonged to Gideon’s father Joash although from the way townspeople reacted it looks as though Joash actually looked after it for the whole town. And Gideon had sacrificed Joash’s prize bull. So Joash had every right to be more angry than anybody else! But the opposite is what actually happens. Instead of standing up for Baal and Asherah, Joash stands up for Gideon.
31 But 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.’
I don’t think it was just because Gideon was Joash’s son and he loved him. I think that Joash had realized that worshipping Baal and Asherah was wrong. I think he knew that Gideon had done the right thing because Baal is only an empty powerless idol and Asherah was nothing compared to the one true God of Israel. So Joash defends Gideon! When we step out in faith and do what God tells us to, even if we are terrified of what the consequences might be, God can still take our timid witness and use it to bring other people to repentance.
Gideon did obey God, in secret. But the truth came out and from then on he was a marked man.
32 So because Gideon broke down Baal’s altar, they gave him the name Jerub-Baal that day, saying, ‘Let Baal contend with him.’
Gideon now had a nickname, and a reputation for standing up against the false gods and their idols. His faith in God had overcome his fear of other people. His superchicken days weren’t quite over yet but Gideon was well on the way to becoming the mighty man of valour.
What about us? How would we have reacted to all these things if we had been Gideon. Some people would still be hiding in the winepress. Even after God sends an angel and calls them, some people still hide their faith away where it feels like it is safe? Would we have dared to build not one but two altars to the Living God, to declare our faith in public? Are we prepared to stand up and be counted, in our own community and even in our own families, and actually confront the false gods of this age?
We thought in our sermon on the first and second commandments about some of the false gods people serve or put their trust in in today’s world?
The false gods of other religions. It isn’t easy in this multi-faith, multicultural world of political correctness to stand up and be counted by saying that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the one and only true God. The God of Moses and of Israel and of the Ten Commandments is the one and only true God. All other so-called gods are false gods. All the other world religions. All the Christian deviations and cults. All the lies of the occult. Some are man-made objects of worship. Others have the reality of demons behind them. There is only one true God. Every other object of worship and all the other so-called gods are only worthless idols. In this multi-cultural multi-faith world, Christians should never compromise on this vital truth.
Then there is another very common false god which people put their trust in and pursue and in some cases we could even say worship. The false god of Money. Paul actually says that greed is idol-worship. Money, wealth and possessions can so easily become false gods to people, especially in our Western materialistic society. People can spend their lives chasing after money instead of seeking after God. Whether for status, or for pleasure and satisfaction, or for significance, or for security, whenever people put their trust in things instead of putting their trust in God, they are worshipping idols. And where your treasure is, your heart will be also.
We also talked about the false gods of Entertainment and Celebrity. An idol can be any thing or person which people pursue with admiration, adoration, or devotion. For good or bad, celebrities are role models especially for young people, and some celebrities are not ashamed to use their fame and popularity to tell their fans how to live and what to think and what to believe. If we are putting our trust in famous people, or in anything else, to do for us what only God can do for us, then we are worshipping false gods. We must stand against idol worship in our own lives and in the world around us.
We may feel nervous or afraid of stepping out for God. The story of Gideon is an inspiration for us all because we see how God takes Gideon the super-chicken and shapes him into the mighty man of valour who would save Israel from the Midianites. And we have seen so far that that transformation was not instantaneous. It would take a number of little steps of obedience and little acts of faith before God could use Gideon as He purposed. But God doesn’t give up on Gideon. God accepts Gideon just as he is, and changes him bit by bit. Gideon didn’t just trust and obey in everything straight away. And God was OK with that!
Gideon took a stand against the false gods of his day. He demolished the altar to Baal and the Asherah pole and sacrificed his father’s prize bull to the one true God of Israel. Those steps of faith and obedience took him on the way to becoming God’s mighty man of valour. What is God asking us to do to trust and obey Him today?

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