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Fifth Sunday of Epiphany
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Mike Moffitt, February 6, 2022


Who Do You Think You Are?


Text: Judges 6:11-24

While growing up I seemed to have a penchant for trying things that backfired and didn’t work out the way I had envisioned. In my mind’s eye I could see the goal that I was working towards but often didn’t have a realistic plan for accomplishing it. I would get into the middle of my current project and realize that I had no idea what I was doing and couldn’t put it all back together.

My father’s lawnmower suffered a tragic fate at my inexperienced hands. I took it apart thinking that I could fix whatever was wrong with it. When I say I took it apart, that is literally what I did. I took it all apart. I grew accustomed to saying, “Boy, I wish I hadn’t done that.” One of the things my mother would often ask me in frustration was, “Who do you think you are?” I knew she wasn’t asking me to tell her that I was her son, but she was questioning who I thought I was. What gave me the right to do what I had done.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how important that question was. Who did I think I was? How would I determine the answer to such an important question? Maybe of even greater importance was discovering who could tell me the answer. A great part of my life was spent trying to discover who I was and looking in the wrong places for an answer.

It wasn’t until I met the Lord Jesus that I began to understand who I was in light of who He said I was. The Bible revealed to me what it meant to be a follower of Christ. When I had a clearer understanding of my identity as a follower of Jesus Christ, I was then able to invite the Lord to reveal the particular path I should take. Where it has led me is far from what I would have thought possible, but in doing so God has allowed us to see that He is faithful if we will trust His plan for our lives.

Often who God created us to be is far different than how we perceive ourselves or how others perceive us. This morning our Old Testament reading opens up to us the beginning of the story of Gideon within the book of Judges. Before we go there, let’s briefly consider the overall theme of the book and then a little of the background to what is going on leading up to this story.

Judges is named for the twelve individuals that God raised up from the time of the conquest of Canaan up until the time of the prophet Samuel. This time period was approximately 350 years. The individuals were designated as “judges” although that term didn’t describe judicial matters, their task was primarily a military one. They each served as the leaders to deliver Israel from their enemies.

Israel failed to complete God’s command concerning the conquest of the Promised Land. They were to vanquish all the other nations living in the land and worshipping pagan gods because those nations threatened to destroy the nation of Israel by their influence. The Levites failed to bring effective spiritual leadership and the entire nation was losing their identity as God’s chosen people. God had foretold that they would need a godly king from the tribe of Judah. But in the meantime God sent them judges.

Now let’s consider the story of Gideon in Judges chapter six. Again, we will consider the context leading up to the Angel of the Lord appearing to Gideon.

Listen to Judges 6:1–6:

The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.

Once again Israel found themselves in this terrible situation because they forgot all that God had done for them and turned to worship the god of the Amalekites. Instead of remembering the commands of God and the exhortation of Moses to continually teach and remind themselves and their children how God led them out of slavery in the land of Egypt and provided all that they needed in the Promised Land. Instead they sinned against God and turned and followed the pagan gods of their enemies. God’s righteous judgment fell on them as a nation.

Then in verses 7–10 God responds to the cry of the people of Israel and sends a prophet.

When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites, the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you and drove them out before you and gave you their land. And I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.”

Israel turned away from God—not the other way around. They had no reason to expect that God would come to their rescue. They were experiencing the result of ignoring the laws of God and turning to pagan practices used by the pagan nations around them. However, God in His covenant faithfulness responded to their cries and came to them as the Angel of the Lord.

This morning’s story begins with Gideon hidden down in a winepress because Israelite farmers were no longer able to winnow their wheat in the open air where the breeze could catch it and separate the chaff from the wheat. There was fear that wandering Midianites would come and once again steal their food and possibly injure or kill them. As Gideon crouches down in a hollow in the ground, the Angel of the Lord greets him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor!”

Actually Gideon would appear to be anything but a mighty warrior as he hides in the winepress. Like the rest of Israel Gideon had become accustomed to living in fear brought on by the enemies continually plundering them. God had removed His protection and blessing. He promised His blessings and provision as a nation if they would obey and worship him. They were to tell the stories of all that God had done for their forefathers in bringing them out of slavery in the land of Egypt. God offered His blessing and protection from their enemies if they would live before Him in covenant faithfulness.

At this point Gideon likely didn’t have a personal awareness of God’s presence, so he doesn’t understand that God is coming to the rescue. It probably didn’t seem like an option. He has no idea that part of that rescue would entail God revealing to Gideon who He made him to be. This is a common theme in many stories from the Scriptures.

Last week we saw in Jeremiah chapter 1, the young Jeremiah assuring God that he was not the right man to be a prophet, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I’m only a youth.” But God knew that Jeremiah was going to be a mighty prophet whether he wanted to or not.

Remember Moses when God calls him to go to Egypt to confront Pharaoh and demand that he let the children of Israel leave Egypt:

“So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:10–11

Both Jeremiah and Moses were unable to see themselves in the role that God was calling them to, and they wouldn’t until they chose obedience to God’s command. Then the power of God would be released and revealed through them.

So it’s not difficult to imagine that Gideon didn’t understand the strange greeting that the angel gives. He chose to not take the greeting of the angel of the Lord personally but instead to challenge the truth of the greeting. I can picture him looking all around to see who the angel was referring to. When he didn’t see anyone else there he replies,

“Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

This shows a complete lack of understanding of Israel’s sin of unfaithfulness to God and a serious lack of understanding of the law of God. However, the angel doesn’t feel the need to answer the objection because the prophet that we read about in verse 7 had already made it clear why Israel had fallen into the hands of the Midianites. Instead the angel revealed as the Lord (the Christ figure from the Old Testament) responds, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

This statement may seem amazingly ironic, but we should see that it is the prophetic word concerning what God was going to make of Gideon in the very near future. At this point Gideon couldn’t conceive of what God was about to do through him but could only see his humble state and so he replies,

“Pardon me, my lord, but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

You’ll notice that in verse 12 it reads that “the angel of the Lord appeared to him” but in verse 16, “And the Lord said to him.”

The description of the encounter with the Angel of the Lord shows that this is not merely an angel speaking on behalf of God. It shows that God himself, appearing in human form, spoke to Gideon.

David Guzik in his commentary on the Book of Judges writes,

Since no man has seen God the Father at any time (John 1:18, John 5:27) and by nature the Holy Spirit is a spirit without bodily form, it is reasonable to see this as an appearance of the Second Person of the Trinity, as an appearance of God the Son. However, this is not the incarnation in the same sense that Jesus was as a baby in Bethlehem. At Bethlehem Jesus as truly and fully human (while also being truly and fully God). Here, it is more likely that Jesus took the mere appearance of humanity, doing so for a specific purpose.

We don’t have time this morning to talk about the entire story of Gideon but suffice it to say that God was telling Gideon that he would be the one to strike down all of the Midianites of which there were over 120,000. The way that God instructed Gideon to win a battle against the Midianites was to take 300 Israelites and have them break up into three companies of 100 each and surround the hillside around their encampment and then do the following.

Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.

“Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’”

Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.

The Lord had placed fear in the hearts of the Midianites and when Gideon and his band of merely 300 chose to obey the seemingly insane instructions of the Lord they were able to watch as 120,000 Midianites reacting in fear and panic turned and fought one another in the dark and all of them were defeated that night.

For those of you here today who were in the military, is this a sound battle plan? What made Gideon become willing to follow such an outrageous battle strategy? I believe that it was because he was finally willing to live into the calling that the Angel of the Lord had revealed to him; he was called to be a mighty warrior but one who fought using the strategy of the One who called him.

Let’s consider briefly our Gospel reading for this morning from Luke 5: 1–11. Luke is recounting the story of Jesus calling His first disciples:

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

In this story Simon, soon to be called Peter, was probably listening to what Jesus was saying to the people while he put away the nets and anything else used in the previous night’s work. When Jesus asked to sit in Simon’s boat to get away from the people crowding around him it probably didn’t seem like an unreasonable request and at this point Simon would not have felt threatened or even uncomfortable. However, when Jesus finished speaking he turned to Simon and starts to meddle. He says,

“Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

Now by this point Jesus had become fairly well known at least enough to attract a very large crowd and it’s likely that Simon would have heard of this carpenter who had become an itinerant preacher of some sort. Simon was probably fairly sure that Jesus wasn’t a fisherman and may have resented the request to cast the nets when he and the other fisherman had no success after working hard all night. Daytime was not the best time for fishing but for some reason Simon decided to do what Jesus asked. The result was a catch that was so big that it began to tear the nets. Even after loading two boats with fish they began to sink.

Peter by choosing to obey the command of Jesus, no matter how foolish it appeared, put himself in the position to see and experience firsthand an amazing miracle of God. The result was that he was convicted of his sinful lifestyle and felt exposed in front of true righteousness.

Jesus did not chastise him for being sinful but instead cast the vision as to who and what he would become. Jesus revealed that he saw Simon for what he would become, not for who he had been. The result was that Simon Peter, James and John left their boats, all the fish, plus everything that their lifestyle had offered to follow Jesus. They would become his constant companions for the next three years and would be the main ones to begin and build the early church all because Jesus told them who they were and demonstrated his authority over even nature, which is a theme that Luke returns to often.

Just like at the wedding feast at Cana in John 2 where Jesus changes the water into wine and the Lord’s instruction to Gideon in Judges 7 as how to defeat the Midianites, we see again in this gospel story that God will move in extraordinary power when those that he has asked to do something relatively simple choose to obey Him. These stories also show us that we cannot encounter the living God without it changing us forever. I believe that these stories teach us that we should be obedient to whatever the call of God is on our lives for three three reasons.

  1. As our creator, God has authority over all of creation, which includes us. However, as our creator he also knows how we will find perfect peace. It will come as we live into what we were created for. We were created to have fellowship with our God and live according to His plan for our lives. It doesn’t matter what He calls us to do, only that we trust Him and faithfully do it.
  2. It is through obedience to the call and commands of God that we will be able to see him work through us to accomplish things that are well outside of our abilities. When we choose to obey the direction of God then we get a ringside seat to the miraculous. As we pointed out earlier, Gideon and all of Israel had grown accustomed to living in weakness, fear, hunger and had lost the ability to believe that God had called them to something much greater. When we are obedient to whatever God calls us to do then it removes the barriers that our sin sets up against God’s blessing and it removes the power of darkness from our minds and hearts.
  3. It is only when we are obedient to the call and commands of God that we are able to demonstrate to a lost world that there is a living God that they are responsible to worship and obey. Our calling is to demonstrate that the kingdom of God has come. Remember the question from Luke 7 that John the Baptist, who was in prison sent his followers to ask Jesus. “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect another?” Jesus’ answer reflects our mission as his body the church.

“Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

Jesus did not say, “Yes I’m the one” but instead had them report the evidence that the kingdom that John had been announcing had indeed come. This is to be the evidence that we present too but it will not come to a disobedient people as we can see through this morning story about Gideon.

Remember the promise from our reading from Psalm 85: 7–9:

Show us your unfailing love, Lord,     
        and grant us your salvation.
I will listen to what God the Lord says,     
       he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants    
        but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,    
      that his glory may dwell in our land. 

Every day we see evidence of what happens when Jesus Christ is not seen for who He claims to be. Or in modern vernacular, how Jesus self-identifies. Instead Christianity is considered dangerous to the health of our nation and should be silenced. Many consider the proclamation of the gospel as “hate speech” and seem to feel that Christians should not have our constitutional right of free speech.

We find that many in the modern church have stopped preaching and teaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the cross. Church leaders from many denominations have decided to compromise with the unbelieving world for the sake of “unity” and are applauded. I suspect that Satan is giving them a standing ovation for making his job of promoting spiritual darkness easier. Is it any wonder that there is no power of the Holy Spirit in their words or in their lives.

Where was God teaching unity with the pagan world in the story of Gideon? Instead God showed His power and authority by vanquishing the enemies of Israel. How about in Jeremiah or through Moses? You will not find any teaching in all of Scripture that suggests that God’s people compromise with the fallen world. Instead we are to boldly proclaim through word and practice, the Lordship of Jesus Christ that they might be brought to repentance and saving faith with Jesus as their Savior and Redeemer.

My dear friends, too often we have settled for misery and compromise, and this is not the way of the cross. How will this dark moment in our history change? The same way that the early church brought revival and change to an equally dark moment in history. When God’s people humble themselves in prayer and commit themselves to live in obedience to the call of God in their lives.

It will happen when we find our identity in Jesus Christ. The answer to the question, “Who do you think you are? Must be, “I am a follower of Jesus Christ and find my purpose and life in Him.” When this happens, then God will move in our midst in a way that demonstrates that he is alive and well. I believe that God has called us together for such a time as this. The only hope that we have as a nation is that God’s people find their identity and purpose in Christ alone. Ask him who you are to him and live into that calling. It changes everything!

Let’s pray.

 

©2022 Rev. Mike Moffitt



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