Our lesson last week started off the summer quarter of lessons where we are going to be taking a look at people of valor. Last week, we took a look at Joshua’s valor when it came to conquering five kings and their five armies. In our lesson this week, we are going to be taking a look at the influential valor of Gideon. Our lesson this week is being taught from Judges 6:25-32.
Gideon’s First Mission
Gideon was a military leader during the time of judges – a time period between Joshua and the kings of Israel. This was a time period that often saw the Israelites going through great highs when they were obedient to God and great lows when they were disobedient. During this time, the Israelites were under the oppression of the Midianites for seven years (Judg. 6:1-2). You will see in scripture that during this time the people of the land would essentially come up and raid the Israelites of their crops and cattle (Judg. 6:4).
Now, we’re going to see the disobedience that led to their being in oppression in a moment. First, we want to take a look at Gideon’s first mission here in the opening of our lesson this week. Gideon was called for the sole purpose of leading the Israelites out from under the oppression of the Midianites (Judg. 6:14). However, before Gideon could lead the Israelites out from the oppression of the Midianites, the Lord had to work on Gideon’s fear.
Gideon could not believe he would lead the Israelites out from the Midianites oppression. After being called, you will even see Gideon express his fears when he says, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house (Judg. 6:15).” There always seems to be some sort of excuse or reasoning that we come up with when God calls us for a task, doesn’t it?
When we come up with those excuses, that is our fear talking. Let me tell you something, when the Lord decides to use you, best believe that He is going to use you! When we have fear, God will work to build up our courage and faith in Him so that we can be able to execute what He has tasked us to do. That is what we are going to see God do here in the opening of our lesson.
Destroying the altar of Baal
God commands Gideon to tear down his dad’s altar of Baal along with the wooden image that was next to it and replace it with an altar to God (vss. 25-26). The wooden image that was next to the altar of Baal was likely an image of Asherah. The worship of Baal and Asherah was very common in the land of Canaan by the people living in that land.
If you remember from our lesson last week, I spoke of how the Israelites were supposed to conquer the land of Canaan. They were supposed to destroy the Gentile nations (men, women, boys and girls) along with all of their altars and images of idol gods. Joshua certainly began this work but after his death, we see that the children of Israel did not complete the task.
Not only did they not complete the task of conquering the land, we see that they began to practice the ways of the Gentiles in the worship of idols. We are going to see just how bad the Israelites had gotten in their idolatry here in a moment. Now, the worship of Baal would go away for a little bit but not completely. Even during the time of the northern kingdom of Israel, we would see the Israelites still worshiping idol gods like Baal and Asherah.
Now, we’ll see Gideon’s fear creep up here in our next verse. We are told that Gideon gathers together ten men from among his servants in order to complete the task of destroying the altar and wooden image (v.27). Within the same verse, we are told that Gideon “feared his father’s household and the men of the city.” Instead of destroying the altar during the day, we see that Gideon chooses to destroy the altar at night because he feared the people’s reaction.
Some will try to make a big deal and say that Gideon hesitated by not doing the task during the day. However, God did not state what time of day He wanted the altar and the idol next to it destroyed – God simply commanded the altar to be destroyed. Personally, even though Gideon was fearful, I believe it was logical to complete the task at night. What was most important was that Gideon complete the task which we see he certainly does.
Now, we get to see just how lost the Israelites were in their idolatrous worship. When the men of the city woke up the next morning to see what had happened to Baal’s altar, we see that they are absolutely outraged (vss. 28-29). The men of the city begin to question and investigate who would destroy the altar. After their investigation, they were able to determine that Gideon was responsible for the destruction of the altar. Again, let’s point out that the men of the city were so upset at the destruction of the altar that they were ready to kill Gideon (v.30).
We see that the Israelites had some real zeal for Baal and Asherah. If only they had this same kind of fiery passion when it came to their faith in the Lord! They were heated that the altar for Baal, a false god, had been destroyed but said little to nothing about there being no altar to the God that brought their forefathers out of Egypt. As passionate as you can be about things in this world, you should be even more passionate when it comes to the Lord!
Joash sees the truth
Gideon’s dad, Joash, comes to realize that the Israelites zeal for Baal had been misplaced. Imagine this, you have an angry zealous mob approaching you about an altar to an idol god being torn down and they are demanding your son for the purpose of putting him to death. So, Joash is put in this place of realizing what his son had done and standing up for him or go against what his son had done. What would you do?
Joash, who had an altar to Baal, chooses to stand by his son (v.31). Joash even comes to the realization of the wrong that he and the Israelites had been doing by worshipping Baal. I don’t know if Joash’s zeal for Baal, before this event, was as hot as the angry mob but clearly the zeal for Baal was not there when the angry mob came to him.
He asks them a few pointed questions. He first asks, “Would you plead for Baal?” This is to ask, are you going to be on Baal’s side? Up to this point, it certainly seems that the people of the city were taking Baal’s side. Joash then asks them, “Would you save him (Baal)?” If Baal was truly God, he would not need man to save him! Think about this for a moment: has God ever asked for us to save Him? Absolutely not! No, God saved us!
Joash’s challenge to Baal
So, let’s put into perspective what Joash has pointed out and done to Baal here. First, he’s pointed out that Baal is in need of man to defend him. Let’s make this clear, God does not need any of us to defend Him. Now, some of us will attempt to defend Him but God does not ask for us to defend His honor. If Baal was truly Lord, then He would not be in need of anybody defending him.
Secondly, Joash points out that Baal is not only in need of man’s defense but he needs man to save him. This, to me, is Joash’s most frank point. Again, if Baal is Lord over all, what would he be in danger of that he would need man to save him? Joash says pointedly, “If he is a god, let him plead for himself, because his altar has been torn down!” This, I want you to understand, was a direct challenge to the authority of Baal.
This challenge was something that would’ve been eye opening for the angry mob and make them question their faith in the god of Baal and Asherah. Now we know that many of them made a turn away from Baal and Asherah because Gideon would go on to lead them from out under the oppression of the Midianites. What I do want to point out is how the valor of one can lead to the valor of another and then many others as well.
Our lesson opened with a nervous and fearful Gideon. Yet, Gideon had the valor to take down the altar of Baal and the Asherah image. The action of Gideon is what led to Joash then having to step up in a very dangerous situation which is what valor is. Joash could have rolled over to the angry mob but he showed valor in speaking against the worship of Baal. We should know that when we show our faith in God in difficult situations, it can encourage others to do the same!