2nd Sunday after Pentecost June 19, 2022
465, 437, 528, 54
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Prayer of the Day: Lord God, creator of heaven and earth, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we praise You for the abundant mercy that You this day so richly have provided us, blessing us not only with daily bread for our bodies but also with heavenly food for our souls. Grant that Your living and powerful Word may abide in our hearts, working mightily in us to Your glory and for our salvation. We commit ourselves to Your divine protection and fatherly care. Let Your holy angels be with us that the evil foe may have no power over us. Look in mercy on Your Church and deliver it from all danger and adversities. By Your Holy Spirit comfort and strengthen all who are in affliction or distress, and grant Your abiding peace to us all; through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.
And so it was, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, that he worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel, and said, “Arise, for the LORD has delivered the camp of Midian into your hand.” Then he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet into every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and torches inside the pitchers. And he said to them, “Look at me and do likewise; watch, and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do: When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets on every side of the whole camp, and say, ‘The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!’“
So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outpost of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just as they had posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers that were in their hands. Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers—they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing—and they cried, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!” And every man stood in his place all around the camp; and the whole army ran and cried out and fled. When the three hundred blew the trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his companion throughout the whole camp; and the army fled to Beth Acacia, toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel Meholah, by Tabbath. (NKJV)
Dearly Beloved Fellow Believers,
Bible history contains accounts of the victories of God’s people in the face of overwhelming opposition. When Israel left Egypt, they were pursued by Pharaoh’s army. Though the children of Israel were strong in numbers they were unarmed and untrained in warfare. They were like a flock of sheep pursued by a pack of wolves. What chance did they have? Yet the children of Israel passed safely through the Red Sea while the pursuing Egyptian army perished in the waters of that same sea. What made the difference between the children of Israel and the Egyptian army? It was that God was on the side of the children of Israel.
On a smaller scale, yet just as amazing, Lot and his family were besieged in their home by an angry mob. What chance did they have? Yet Lot and his family escaped, while those who had threatened them with bodily harm perished in fire when God destroyed their city. What made the difference? It was that God was on the side of Lot. He sent angels to protect him and his family and to lead them to safety.
Can we today claim that God is on our side? Can we take comfort from the thought? Is it presumptuous to do so? Many would say that it is. And we grant that it is often presumptuous when people claim that God is on their side in political and military matters where God has not given His blessing to one side or the other. But when we are acting as God’s representatives and doing the work that He has given to us, we may be assured that God is on our side. And we ought to take comfort and draw strength from that knowledge.
This is surely the lesson that we are to take from the Bible history lesson that we have before us today. Here the Lord shows us powerfully what it means to have God on your side.
Gideon was a man who very much needed to know that God was on his side. The task before him was one that he would never have dared to take on if he hadn’t been sure that God was on his side. The Angel of the LORD had appeared to him and assigned to him the task of leading his people against their oppressors, the Midianites. This would have been a daunting task for anyone because the Midianites had been oppressing Israel for years: attacking them, stealing their grain and livestock, and destroying what they couldn’t carry off. And the Israelites had been powerless to stop them. Leading his people against the Midianites was a daunting task especially for a man like Gideon, who humbly described himself as part of the weakest clan in his tribe and the least in his own family (Judges 6:11-15). So Gideon had asked God for a sign. When that sign was given to him, he asked for another, which was also given to him (Judges 6:36-40).
Finally, the time came for Gideon and his band of three hundred to move against the Midianites. Gideon again needed assurance that God was on his side. There were so few men on his side, while the Midianites were “as numerous as locusts…as the sand by the seashore in multitude.” (7:12) God patiently gave Gideon the assurance that he needed. He told Gideon that if he was afraid to move against the Midianites, he should take his servant, go down to the edge of the Midianite camp, and listen to what was being said there. So, under the cover of darkness Gideon and his servant crept silently down to the edge of the camp and listened. They heard two men talking; one was telling the other about a dream he had just had. In this strange dream a loaf of barley bread had tumbled into the camp and struck a tent, causing it to collapse. The second man immediately said that he was sure he knew what the dream meant: the loaf of barley bread represented Gideon, and the toppled tent represented the defeat of the Midianites. Why had such an interpretation occurred to this Midianite? It was because he was convinced that the God of Israel was with Gideon and would give him the victory over Midian. The battle hadn’t even begun, but it was as good as over. Rumors of Gideon’s valor evidently had spread throughout the Midianite camp. In preparation for Gideon’s victory, God had spread discouragement and defeat into their hearts. A wave of relief washed over Gideon. A new courage filled his soul. He bowed his head in worship to God for His might and His mercy.
Like Gideon, we need new assurance for every new task to which God calls us. Some new challenge arises at work or at home and we need to know that God is with us. We need to be sure of it. Where do we go to get the assurance that God is with us? We go to His Word. In His word we hear about the experiences of people of faith like Gideon. It helps when we read that they weren’t natural heroes. They were humble people, penitent sinners who conscious of their unworthiness and weakness and who felt woefully inadequate for the challenges that God had set before them. It was in His strength that they went forward.
Gideon’s experience here is helpful because it reveals something of the way God works. When He had a job for Gideon He didn’t just send him out to do it. He prepared the way. He was on Gideon’s side and with him all the way. This is something for us to remember so that we can approach our tasks with confidence. When God calls us to a task He is with us, preparing the way.
God who sent Gideon into battle against the Midianites was indeed with him all the way; He was on his side and saw him through to victory. Everything about this account shows the Lord’s hand. He was the one who won the victory for Israel.
God intended to give Israel the victory and deliver them from the MIdianites, but He didn’t want Israel’s army to think that they had defeated the Midianites by their own strength. That’s why He reduced their fighting force to a few before He sent them into battle. To begin with, 32,000 men answered the call to come and fight against the Midianites. The Lord said that was way too many. He had Gideon tell the people to go if they were afraid, and 22,000 of them went home. That left 10,000. God told Gideon that there were still too many. God finally brought the number down to 300. This little band was what God would use to defeat Israel’s mighty enemy.
The weapons that God instructed Gideon to place into the hands of the 300 were likewise designed to show them that it was God who would defeat the enemy. Instead of swords and shields he gave them trumpets and pitchers, with torches inside the pitchers. At the signal from Gideon the men were to blow the trumpets, then break the pitchers and shout, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!” And that is what they did at the beginning of the middle watch of the night, that is, around 10:00 p.m., just after the camp had settled down for the night and the people had fallen into a deep sleep. Imagine it: the sudden blast of 300 trumpets; the noise of 300 pitchers being broken; then the light of 300 torches appearing in the darkness.
The Midianite camp was thrown into panic. In their confusion they fought against one another, all throughout the entire camp. And the mighty Midianites who had made life miserable for the Israelites for so many years now ran away in confusion and defeat.
“But,” we may ask, “How do I know that the Lord is on my side as He was on Gideon’s?” The answer is that He has shown us that He is for us and not against us. As God came and fought on the side of Gideon and his 300, so also Jesus came and fought on our side against the forces of the devil, death, and hell. He didn’t just fight alongside us and help us; He took our place and fought for us and won the victory. He took away sin. He satisfied the Father’s justice. He defeated death and arose from the grave.
Christ’s redemptive work on our behalf assures us that God is on our side and that we will prevail over the devil and the world. Our success at the tasks that God gives us will not always be as dramatic as Gideon’s, nor does God promise that they will be. But Christ has promised to be with us, and He assures us that our labor for Him is never in vain, never for nothing. And our life here will end in victory and we enter into eternal life. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.