The Ninth in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Judges
By now the basic plot line for the Book of Judges is becoming quite familiar to us. Four times we have heard of how the people of Israel fell away from YHWH and began to do what is right in their own eyes. We have seen how doing what the people Israel thought was “right” meant behaving like Canaanites and worshiping Canaanites gods. We have seen that YHWH’s response to Israel’s disobedience was to raise up a series of neighboring tribes who would then defeat and oppress the people of God until the Israelites cried out to YHWH for deliverance. And when things got so bad that the people of Israel finally cried out to the Lord, YHWH responded to his people by raising up a series of “judges” (or a rescuers) to save his people, and help them throw off their current oppressor. As we have seen, the judges God sent to Israel are often the most unlikely of people, and the way in which God uses them to rescue Israel is completely unexpected.
As we move into the next cycle of judges, we take up the story of Gideon. This is the most complex cycle we find in this book (100 verses) eclipsing even the account of the more famous Samson (96 verses). The story of Gideon has three distinct parts. The first part (6:1-8:3) tells the story of God sending an oppressor upon Israel (the Midianites) along with the account of God’s rescue of Israel by raising up Gideon as a warrior who will lead Israel to another stunning victory. Throughout this first section, it is clear that it is YHWH who sovereignly calls Gideon to lead his people, and it is YHWH who is completely responsible for Israel’s dramatic victory over their Midianite oppressors.
The second part of the story (8:4-28) deals with Gideon’s status as a warrior and his sinful and self-aggrandizing behavior. While Gideon is mentioned in the Book of Hebrews as a man of faith, and indeed, Gideon accomplishes what the Lord wants done–a defeat of the Midianites–eventually Gideon sees the power of his office as the means by which to take revenge upon several of his personal enemies. Sadly, in this part of the story, YHWH’s name virtually disappears, except when he’s flippantly mentioned on the lips of Gideon. Then, in the third part of the story, which includes the account of Gideon’s son through a concubine, Abimalech (Judges 8:29-9:57), the author of Judges once again points out the surprising extent of Canaanization then prevalent in Israel. God’s people have fallen to new lows, it seems. Israel needs a king (which God will give them during the time of the monarchy), but it should now be clear to all that it will take God in human flesh to rescue his people from the guilt and power of sin, something this series of human judges could never accomplish.
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