I honestly believe the title is rather misleading. While written in 1 John 4:1 by the Apostle John, “…do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world,” there must be something similar in the Old Testament. After all, the Watchman’s Duty is listed in Ezekiel 33:10-11 and there are an abundant of accounts to which the major and minor Prophets did request of God to prove that He was who He said He was, namely God. Is that testing God in a manner in which He is being blasphemed? No, I do not believe so, Jesus warned us during His trials in the desert and retorted the evil spirit with, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test…” (Deuteronomy 6:16). Putting God to the Test would be as King Herod did by hoping that Jesus would perform a miracle. (Luke 23:8) It is my firm belief that we are to vigilantly test every spirit that taunts us to do something that potentially, or blatantly, contradicts the word of God.
Now this was a time when Israel had no kings, the only king would have been God, Himself. Man would have been guided by the words of the Torah, or our Old Testament, and the priest or prophet. Unfortunately, man over the course of time waters things down and people lose their way. Man has consistently, throughout history, lost sight of his purpose and goal in life, lost sight of God and who he is accountable to. Man has this inherent problem of returning to his basic nature of sin and evil and personal & immediate pleasure.
When the angel of the Lord spoke to Gideon, he told him, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” (Judges 6:12) This should be an indicator that God is with and behind us in a task He is assigning us! However, God has this tendency of using the least and the weakest of us to do some of His greatest work. None of us is confident in our own abilities when it comes to us being chosen to do a great task for God’s glory. Furthermore, we tend to forget that God doesn’t rely on our abilities. Man always thinks this strengths are the reason he was chosen, but quite the contrary. Paul reminded us it was through our weaknesses that we serve Him best where God told the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Pausing for a moment to apologize to you in advance for using the New Testament to aid in the explaining of the Old Testament, but with all due respect, it is my true belief that Jesus much more deeply clarified what was intended by God, the Law, as well as the commandments and the prophets. Hence, in my humble opinion, one cannot truly be understood without the other. Furthermore, regardless of your religious denomination, you must maintain an understanding of the Old Testament and the New Testament together, because all of the prophecies within the Old Testament have not been fulfilled; plus the Old Testament gives us a historical account that enables us to properly understand the New Testament. This, in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest fails within the Christian community!
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?” “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.” The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”~Judges 6:14-16 NIV
Again, as mentioned previously, Gideon acknowledged his weakness and the weakness, or position, of his tribe of Manasseh. But God doesn’t care, as He will use that weakness as a strength to be overlooked by the enemy. As promised to so many throughout the biblical text that God will be with us in those battles that we fight for Him, and in those cases God will go in and fight the battle before we were ever born. Consider David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, Samson and the Philistines, etc. We were promised many things with respect to God and doing battle for Him:
But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the Lord has promised you. ~Deuteronomy 9:3
David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. ~1 Samuel 17:45
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. ~Joshua 1:9
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. ~Matthew 10:28
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? ~Romans 8:31
While the reference to 1 Samuel 17:45 is not, in and of itself, a promise, per se, but rather a state of mind that we should possess as warriors, apostles, ambassadors, representatives, or children for God. Again, you and I do not see ourselves as apostles, let alone representatives, for God, but God will use us as weak, broken and shattered as we may be. We should have a very distinct and strong resolve to do and perform all of God’s will. Unfortunately, over the years we became lazy and less than adequate carriers of God’s message. Some over the course of time have lost our faith, and are now regaining and relearning a great deal. Some of us just took a hiatus, of sorts. Our strength is directly connected to our faith; our faith is directly connected to our belief in the reliability of the Bible; and our belief and reliability are based upon the historicity of the biblical accounts. There is a logical format to all of this, our belief is based upon sound reason and logic. Another problem that I have noticed, through reading and casual observation, is man’s hypocrisy with respect to God’s word, Jesus spoke these words:
…you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’” ~Matthew 15:6-9
As a funny side note: We can liken the tasks given to us by God to those chores and tasks given to us by our parents or spouses. Think about it, for a moment. These are things placed upon us by another, it – in reality – is not at the top of our priorities list; but must get done regardless. And yes, it can be as simple as that! What is the first thing that comes to your mind when your spouse wants you to do something? Well, what are you doing right now? What have you been doing all this time while you were planing to delegate this to me? And the list can go on and on… What about when God does it? Many of us have lost our fear and reverence to God, His presence, and His power…sometimes I think, “Well, you’re all powerful…why don’t you do it?” Or something to that effect, but does God really NEED us to do anything? NO! However, as a sign of obedience we must be willing to do these tasks some simple and some menial, and others very difficult and perhaps dangerous. We, as man, truly NEED to regain our fear and reverence for God! This is the one solid factor in morals and ethics, God! “For if there is no God, all things are permitted.” (Fydor Dostoevsky) Just think on that for a moment or two, and then ponder on the direction of this country and this world…it is aiming toward a sad, sad future!
But let us get back to Gideon…
“So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him.” (Judges 6:27) Now, what do you think would have happened to someone today for tearing down an altar to a false god? Dependent upon the judge either jail or mental check up for 72 hours then jail. I must admit that I loved how Joash, Gideon’s father, handled the crowd by saying to them, “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.” (Judges 6:31) I have always been of the mind that those who desire to do violence because someone violated God’s law or commandment, that they should leave it to God. Not because we were told by Jesus, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2) But we also have been warned, “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” (Leviticus 19:15) Man, seemingly, desires to handle God’s matters in his own way. However, if you think on it, are we not cutting God out of His judgement of the very men who do wrong? Leave the matters of God to God. Although, we have an obligation to aid our fellow man in times of need for purposes of protection and for compassionate reasons. Even Abraham sought justice for the righteous in Sodom by speaking boldly to the Angels of God, “Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25)
Gideon asked God in Judges 6 verses 36-40, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised—…” He was testing the Spirit, which is not doubt but rather ensuring that He was following the One True God, as we should all do. He tested and then followed the command(s) of the Lord. All too often, we do not test the Spirit, but rather we test God by making an outlandish request to make me rich, or give me some tickets to a cruise, etc. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work; otherwise, we would all be rich and headed to our vacation resort of choice for free.
You will also notice in the beginning of Judges 7 that God implicitly told Gideon that he didn’t need such great numbers to save Israel from the Midianites. As I mentioned earlier that God works through our weaknesses. To attack a large force with such small numbers (300 men) would be miraculous or suicidal, you decide. However, with God on your side, you can do anything especially if you have the faith and believe! And if God says, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands,” (Judges 7:15); then, will you believe it or continue to ask questions?
Judges 8 continues on with the triumphs and trials of Gideon, by God’s grace. Instead of being grateful to Gideon and his generalship in this military campaign, the Ephraimites attempted to pick a petty argument. Considering that Manasseh and Ephraim were brothers. Neither could allow the other to eclipse the honor of the other.
“Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, and Ephraim on Manasseh; together they will turn against Judah. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.” ~Isaiah 9:21
Despite the vigorous challenge by the Ephraimites and their bravado against he who God had chosen for the campaign’s leadership, Gideon was quite humble and peaceable. He was able to diffuse the situation by reminding them that it was they who accomplished one of the major objectives in this campaign, which was enough to placate the situation and garner peace among them. The Ephraimites did, in-fact, “…seized the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah…captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb.” (Judges 7:24-25) But the campaign continued for Gideon…
Because it was God’s promise and His command to “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” (Judges 6:16) We must have such a passion in our hearts after knowing that it was the Lord who commanded us to do something. This should create such a high confidence in what we do…not fanaticism or some radicalization, but passion and desire for God’s honor & glory. People just don’t seem to care that others are protecting them, because “someone else can take care of that“…it seems I’ve heard that before. So, those people don’t feel as though they should have to contribute…to not contribute and aid your brothers can meet with disastrous consequences for you, my friends. Consider how you tread in respect to helping your brothers and sisters.
And Gideon finally gets to the end of his task, placed upon him by the Angel of the Lord, and corners captures and kills Zebba & Zalmunna as dictated and commanded. Not one was left alive.
The mark of a true leader is one who does not desire the task, and two knows the even though he may be the leader…he is not the one in command! The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” (Judges 8:22) But Gideon knew better by saying to the Israelites, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” (Judges 8:23) This becomes the prideful downfall of men, believing themselves to be rulers over men, but it is truly God who rules us. Of course, if you place your pride off to the side and choose to follow the One True God! If you read through the historical accounts of man, we did not have kings over us, but God alone, then man asked for a king to lead them (1 Samuel 8), but it was man rejecting God not Samuel. Man has been rejecting God from the beginning of time after man’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden.
We, as man, need to restore the need for God in our lives and the lives of all mankind. For it is only through God that we can truly have a foundation of morals and ethics. Hence, there can be no basis of morals, ethics, fairness, or justice without a relationship with God. And you cannot just follow, Willie-nilly, what you have been told to do without testing the Spirit.
It is my hope and my prayer that this was both enlightening and helpful to you!
May God Richly Bless You!
MK Murphy, PhD, DD