“The Lord is with you, courageous warrior!”
When I was a girl, I had a deadly fear of balconies. There was a movie theater in our city that had a steep balcony in it. I had a recurring nightmare that I lost my balance going down those stairs and rolled down and off the railing into the crowd below. As a result, I preferred sitting at the very back or the very front downstairs rather than have a better view of the movie from upstairs. My fear drove my actions. This week’s primary judge was a man of fear, but God moved him beyond his fears into faith.
Just as the cycle of sin gets worse and worse throughout the period of the Judges, so do the judges themselves. It’s all downhill after Deborah. Begin to notice that each judge becomes less and less of a model of character or leadership. Too often we think that simply because someone is a biblical hero of some kind, they are worthy of respect. To see clearly through the darkness we must look at the judges in light of the rest of God’s word and evaluate their character accordingly.
This week we focus on Gideon and his son Abimelech. Gideon was a great deliverer of his people, but he was also a very weak man. As you read his story, consider him objectively. Although he was greatly used by God, he is not our model in many ways. However, it is always encouraging to see that God can use anyone, even a Gideon!
Read the story of Gideon’s call in Judges 6:1-40.
1. Why was Gideon in the wine press?
2. Compare Gideon’s perspective of the situation (Jud. 6:11-13) with God’s (Jud. 6:7-10)? Do you see yourself as God described Gideon? You should. Learn the verse.
3. What sign did the angel of the LORD give to Gideon so that he would believe (Jud. 6:17-21)?
4. Considering Judges 6:22-27, how much faith on a scale of 1-5 would you say that the sign gave Gideon? Explain your answer.
More Light: Read in your resources or footnotes about the Baal and Asherah.
5. Sharing question: What fears do you harbor? How do they drive your thoughts and actions?
6. Responding to God: Confess your fears to God as sins based on unbelief. Write it out below and trust that God can give you the grace to trust him.
Review the story in Judges 6:28-40.
7. Summarize the aftermath of Gideon’s destruction of the idols as a news story in the local paper. Add a headline to summarize the events.
When God’s Spirit came upon Gideon, he sent for the men of Israel to fight with him (Jud. 6:34-35). Yet, despite God’s previous sign and his presence, Gideon hesitated. When God’s Spirit came upon an Old Testament character, it was not necessarily a sign of spirituality, as the filling of the Spirit is in the New Testament. It was simply God’s empowerment for a specific task.
8. What signs did Gideon ask of God and how did God respond (6:36-40)?
9. Read Matt.12:38-39 and 1 Cor. 1:22-24. What is God’s attitude about our request for signs? Why?
More Light: Read your commentaries on Matt. 12:38-39 and 1 Cor. 1:22-24.
Signs are an indication of unbelief, not faith. We saw in our first lesson that the way to please God is by faith. Notice that Gideon’s request was not an attempt to discover the will of God although this passage is often taught as a way to find God’s will. Gideon already knew God’s will; there was no secret about that. He was simply a fearful man who lacked the faith that he needed. Fear is the opposite of faith.
10. Why might God have granted Gideon’s request for signs in this case?
11. Sharing question: In what situation in your life right now are you acting out of fear rather than faith? It doesn’t have to be a big issue; it can be in the small things. Sometimes I have more faith for the big problems than I do in the day-to-day issues of life!
12. Responding to God: Draw a picture that symbolizes your entrusting that situation to God.
Read Judges 7:1-8.
13. God reduced the number of men in Gideon’s army. Compare the original number with the final number of warriors. What reason did God give for making the army so small?
14. Sharing question: In what area of your life are you likely to pat yourself on the back for what you have done rather than recognize that the credit goes to God? It could be your business smarts or your good marriage or great kids!
Read Judges 7:9-15.
Amazingly God gave Gideon one more sign, but this time Gideon did not ask for it.
15. Summarize the story.
Read Judges 7:16-25.
16. Describe the battle plan for Gideon’s tiny army. What was the result?
Sometimes when we see clearly through the darkness, we do things differently from the way the world would do them. In fact, there are times when God’s ways make little sense, as in this case. When that happens, there is no question that it is God at work.
Notice that in the end God increased the numbers of Gideon’s men once the army fled (Jud. 7:23-24). God is not impressed with numbers and needs no one to do his work, but he chooses to use people so that we have a part and learn dependence and faith.
17. Sharing question: Perhaps you face an overwhelming situation right now in your own life. How would you rate your faith on a scale of 1-5? Why?
18. Responding to God: Sit before God and hold that situation out to him. Although the problem may continue, visualize yourself sharing it with him and entrusting it to him. Do this daily! Write down your experience with God and what happened in you.
More Light: Read your commentaries on Gideon’s battle plan.
Read Judges 8:1-32.
19. What did Gideon do that seems sinful or foolish (there are a number of possibilities; list all that you consider foolish)? Explain why you see these actions in this light.
20. What did Gideon do that was wise or good (again may be more than one)?
Judges 8:27 says that Israel played the harlot or prostituted themselves with Gideon’s golden ephod. What was an ephod? Dr. Younger explains that it was a garment of the High Priest, and he suggests that Gideon may have used this to receive divine guidance as the High Priest did. “In this way the ephod becomes Gideon’s permanent fleece.”9
21. How is idolatry in God’s people like prostitution? Why would God choose such a vivid term to describe it?
More Light: Look in a concordance for references to idolatry and look some of them up. Consider how serious it is in God’s sight.
Read James 4:4-10. Again God uses the picture of sexual impurity to picture the unfaithfulness of his people.
22. Give some examples of things that would exemplify what James calls adultery with the world.
23. Sharing question: If idolatry is anything that replaces God in your heart, what idols are you worshiping? What is more important to you than God? What would be most devastating if you lost it? This could be money, success, popularity, entertainment, your husband or your children. Honestly share with your group at least one area of idolatry in your life, now or in the past.
24. Responding to God: Repent of your idols using James 4:7-10 as your model.
Read Judges 8:33-9:57. I know this is a long passage. Just get the gist of it! Sin often bears consequences to the family and we see it happen to Gideon here.
25. What consequences of Gideon’s sins and foolish actions do you see?
26. The name Abimelech may mean “my father is king.”10 What does that suggest about Gideon after the victory?
27. How do you see the “sins of the fathers” in Abimelech’s life? (This refers to Ex. 34:7.)
28. How did God bring justice to Abimelech?
More Light: Read in your commentaries or resources about Abimelech.
“When believers forget the Lord and live according to the world’s dictates, this only intensifies the power of the wicked. When believers choose this path, becoming functional unbelievers, they may find that God allows them to get what they deserve, just as the Israelites experienced in the Abimelech story.” 11
K. Lawson Younger, Jr.
As Younger said, the people in this case had turned from God’s truth and embraced the darkness of the culture around them. Sometimes we deal with oppressive authorities through no fault of our own, but God will always use them to teach us to be more like Jesus.
29. Read these verses and explain how they can help your attitude when you have someone in authority over you who is unjust, evil, or just plain mean.
a. Psalm 37:1-2,7-11
b. 1 Peter 2:13-25
30. Sharing question: How has God used an authority in your life to teach you something about yourself or about God? Share the story with your group.
31. Responding to God: Ask God to help you believe the memory verse this week is true for you even when God doesn’t appear to be present.
In the fall of 1999, I was told by my employer of almost 15 years they no longer needed me. Though I had spent several years staying one step ahead of a layoff, to have my “package papers” handed to me by my manager, who had also become a very good friend, was earth-shattering. I even told my manager as she sat across from me in tears, “I told God he would have to kick me out of this place to get me to leave.” I cried all the way home. Through the tears on my trek up North Central Expressway from downtown Dallas, I cried out the desires of my heart to God. I knew that he was in control, but the uncertainty, I must admit was unsettling. I began to look for new work a week later. The holidays are typically a tough time of the year to be looking for a job; however, I strongly felt that the Lord didn’t want me going on a professional hiatus.
I applied over the internet for a position with a global financial services company. Much to my surprise, I received a phone call from one of their recruiters two days later. (My resume didn’t go out in to Cyber-Neverland after all!) I had a new job lined up two weeks from the day of my layoff notice. God had blessed me indeed. I must pause at this moment to make sure you understand, even if this had not happened, I would still claim the riches of God’s blessings and how good he has been to me. He used this time of sorrow to deepen my relationship and walk with him.
Over those few weeks, I remembered from the study Experiencing God that I needed to ask myself: “What was God saying to me in his word?”; “What is he saying to me in prayer; is he confirming it through circumstances; is he confirming it through the counsel of other believers?”
The first few months, our door code changed weekly with exiting associates. Many were being laid off, some fired. Here I was, the new kid on the block, wondering if I would be next. I cried out to God, “Did I totally miss something here?” Time moved on, and things smoothed out. I watched several people try to get on at my company with NO RESULTS whatsoever. I began to reflect on my situation: a determined call from a recruiter, a senior manager offering me a job after a thirty-minute, very high-level interview, smooth salary negotiations, and a start date six weeks from accepting the job. This absolutely was not happening at my company now! We adopted a “lease to own” hiring practice with a six month “honeymoon” contract period to see if the person sized up appropriately. Those that didn’t were shown the door. Spiritually, God made it very clear to me that he had opened that door to me for a very short season.
When I pray and thank God for my job, it’s not just lip service. He was totally in control of my situation (as he always has and will be). He closed a door that had stood open for nearly half my life, and told me unequivocally, “I want you to move on.” He slung doors wide open and gave me the boldness to ask for things I wanted - there was no fear.
I work with some very godly people, and I know God has woven our lives together for his purpose. I conduct my work as if unto the Lord (Col. 3:23) and know that he works all things for good to those who love him (Rom. 8:28). I’m living proof.
We have thought this week about dealing with unjust authorities. What kind of authority are you over your children? Do you punish them without explaining why? Perhaps you fail to set out the rules in advance. Do you punish inconsistently so that your children never know when they can get away with it and when you might suddenly explode? Do you treat them harshly, expecting them to act more maturely than they are capable of doing? Do you belittle them if they disobey? Do you ever call them names? How do you treat them if you become angry?
All mothers do these kinds of things sometimes. None of us is perfect, but we need to be honest about the areas where we are struggling. Ask a friend or your Bible study leader to pray with you about this. It will not shock her that you have messed up with your children. We all understand how tired and emotional it gets when we have children who do not listen, who talk back, or who rebel. The family of God is to bear one another’s burdens. We are not designed to make it alone, but to be a true family to one another.
Ask God to forgive you for any sins that you have committed with your children. If they are old enough, you will need to confess to them as well.
9 Terry Muck, 206.
10 E. Ray Clendenen, ed., New American Commentary, vol. 6, Judges, Ruth by Daniel I. Block, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers), 304.
11 Muck, 234.