Study 3 THE COURAGE OF FAITH – GIDEON
MORE STUDIES IN HEBREWS 11
by Francis Dixon
Scripture References: Hebrews 11:32, Judges chapters 6, 7 and 8:24-27
The way in which the writer introduces the name of Gideon in Hebrews 11:32-34 reminds us of the concluding verse in John’s Gospel (John 21:25). Gideon was the fifth judge of Israel, and when we are first introduced to him he presents a very pathetic picture – look up Judges 6:11. Fearing the Midianites and the Amalekites, who were all the time plundering Israel’s flocks, herds and produce (Judges 6:4), Gideon was at this time engaged in threshing wheat in a place which was hidden from public view. Suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to him and revealed the fact that he was to be the deliverer of God’s people – read Judges 6:12-16. The great trouble and distress which had fallen upon God’s people had come because they had forsaken Him and had done evil in His sight – we learn this from verses 1 and 13. In their distress they “cried out to the Lord” (verse 6), and He graciously commissioned Gideon to act in His Name, and He did this in answer to the cry of His people. If we disobey the Lord we must always suffer for our disobedience, but if we confess our sin, return to the Lord and seek to please Him, He will not fail to undertake for us and bless us – look up Proverbs 28:13. In order to appreciate the courage which Gideon displayed in trusting God it is necessary to read the whole of Judges chapters 6, 7 and 8:24-27. Notice the following:-
1. It takes a courageous faith to hear and obey the call of God.
Think about this for a moment. Here was a timid, unknown young man threshing wheat, and suddenly the Lord called him to a very great service (Judges 6:11-12). Gideon felt utterly unfitted, unready and unworthy for such a task (see verse 15), and he told the Lord so; but the Lord only confirmed his call (see verse 16). From this moment on this timid young man had the courage and the faith to take God at His word and to go forth in His might – verse 14. There have been many more recent examples of this very thing. Carey was engaged in mending shoes when God laid the burden of the unevangelised in India upon his heart and called him to take the gospel to them; Moody was a salesman in a shoe store when God called him to a world-shaking task of evangelism; and Livingstone was only a mill worker in the little village of Blantyre in Scotland, when God called him to open up a highway for the gospel in Africa. To answer God’s call demands a courageous faith. Is He calling you to some special task?
2. It takes a courageous faith to throw down the altars of Baal.
In Judges 6:25 we learn of the special commission which God gave to Gideon, and what a challenge this was to his faith!
“Israel’s religious leaders were ‘Modernists’! They had turned away from the good old gospel of salvation by faith in the God who had brought Israel out of Egypt. They had said: ‘How do we know that Jehovah is the only real God? or that He is even the greatest of the gods? After all, we have never seen Him; nor has anybody else ever seen Him. How do we really know that our forefathers were right in what they said about Him? We have only their word for it. They were probably mistaken. Look at the magnificent temples and impressive gods of the surrounding nations. No wonder they despise our own inferior-looking religion. Their gods can be seen. There can be no doubting their reality. Why should we cling to the worn-old faith of yesterday? Give us modern gods and an up-to-date religion!'” (J. Sidlow Baxter).
It certainly takes courage to break down the modern altars of Baal. It means being unpopular when we denounce apostasy, but fearless, courageous believers are needed who will say with Paul – look up Philippians 1:17 and 20.
3. It takes a courageous faith to build up the altars of the Lord.
Gideon was not only told to break down the altars of Baal, but he was also commissioned to rebuild the altars of the Lord – see Judges 6:26. It takes faith to do that in days of apostasy. To cast worldliness, carnal methods and liberalism out of a church and to bring in an emphasis on prayer, the preaching of the gospel and the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit – this demands a courageous faith. To go to some of our schools, colleges and theological seminaries where the authority of the Bible is denied, and to do what Jude exhorts us to do, demands a courageous faith – look up Jude 3.
4. It takes a courageous faith to ask God for a sign.
Judges 6:36-40 are exciting verses. Was this evidence of Gideon’s lack of faith? No, for it required great faith to make such a proposal to the Lord, confident that He would perform the miracle. Gideon believed in miracles!
5. It takes a courageous faith to despise not the day of small things.
The enemy was very powerful, and numerically it was far greater than Gideon’s army (Judges 6:5). Gideon had 32,000 men (Judges 7:3); but what a shock when God told him to reduce his forces (Judges 7:2-3); and then to reduce them still further! (Judges 7:4-7). What a drastic subtraction this was! Why was it necessary? Verse 2 gives the answer, and so does Zechariah 4:6 and 1 Corinthians 1:27. Lest Israel should be tempted afterwards to say, ‘We gained the victory!’ God had to show manifestly that it was His victory and not theirs. He works in the same way today!
6. It takes a courageous faith to wield God’s weapons of warfare.
Gideon’s army had very strange weapons – trumpets, jars and torches! – read Judges 7:16 and 19-22. But to gain the significance of this read 2 Corinthians 4:7 and 10:4 and Revelation 12:11. It is hard to lay down our arms and to trust only in the Lord! – but this is the thing that He is calling us to do, as we live for Him and as we serve Him.
7. It takes a courageous faith to go on with God after a great victory.
It is a pity that we have to conclude our study with this point, but it is necessary that we do so – look up Judges 8:24-27. It is always a dangerous time for the child of God after a time of victory, success or achievement. If God has given you a mighty deliverance, look out and be on your guard, and take heed to the counsel of Ephesians 6:13-18. The place of great blessing is always the place of great danger, but it can also be the place where we step on to greater victories.