Friday, July 22, 2011

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday July 24, 2011

TRUST GOD AND LET HIM RULE
(Only the LORD is qualified to rule over you)
(Judges 6-8)

In Judges 6:13, as it was recorded in the original Hebrew text, the word the author uses for “forsaken” is “nastash” (naw-tash), and it means “to withdraw from, reject, or, leave alone. This is the only time in Scripture that this particular word is used for “forsaken”, and it describes exactly how Gideon felt about the plight of Israel, around the time when he was first approached by the “Angel of GOD”. It was a time when the LORD had removed HIS favor from the Israelites because of their recurring sinful lifestyle and idolatry.
Gideon had been working hard threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress, which he used to hide his grain from being detected by the pilfering Midianite army. Gideon also feared that the Midianites would kill him, just as they had slain his brothers (Judges 8:19), if he had been caught with the grain. One day, when he came up from the winepress, “the Angel of the LORD” appeared to him and told him that “the LORD is with him”. However, Gideon replies to the Angel that, “If GOD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about?”…the LORD has abandoned us and turned us over to the Midianites”. Then the LORD said to Gideon, “Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites”. It was a statement that Gideon found very difficult to grasp at that time.
In Judges, chapters 6-8, the author of GOD uses 100 verses to relate the story of Gideon’s HOLY SPIRIT-possessed exploits, and his 40-year reign as judge over Israel. Chapter 6 opens with Israel’s, now familiar, continuing 5-cycle pattern which consisted of “sin”, “servitude”, “supplication”, “salvation”, and “silence”. First, they would “Sin” against GOD. And then, as punishment, GOD would place them into “Servitude” to the various enemy nations that lived around them. This stage would later be followed by a stage of repentance with “Supplication” to GOD for forgiveness. GOD would then, through HIS ever-present grace and mercy, bless the Israelites, with a taste of “Salvation”, in the form a mighty Judge, who would rescue them from their oppression. And then finally, they would be able to experience “Silence”, or peace, throughout the lifetime of that presiding Judge. It is a pattern that would continue to repeat itself, throughout the 340 years of Israel’s history that is chronicled in the Book of Judges (1390 B.C. to 1050 B.C.).
In verse (1a), we see that, once again, the Israelites had fallen into sin. In verses (1b-6a), GOD, as a result, allows them to keep right on falling, right into the hands of their enemies, the Midianites. The Midianites were a nomadic group of people from south of the land of Edom, and GOD would allow these pagan invaders to oppress the Israelites for seven years, as a form of retribution for their disobedience to HIM.
The Midianite’s power and strength was credited to their unique incorporation of the “Camel” into their military strategy. In fact, this documentation, here in the book of Judges, of the use of Camels in warfare, is the earliest known documented case of such, in world history. A Camel could carry 400 pounds, plus a rider, for one week without drinking, and, could travel up to 100 miles per day. This made their military, a very formidable and superior force.
The author of Judges tells us that the Midianites would attack the Israelites at harvest time every year, destroying their crops and eventually driving them to the brink of starvation. In verse (6b), we see the Israelites repent and cry out to GOD for help, and GOD, as HE always does, answers their call, first, by sending in a Prophet, and then, by calling up Gideon, whom HE would use, in this case, to rescue HIS fallen people from their sorrows.
The angel, who appears as a “theophany” (a manifestation of GOD’s own presence), tells Gideon to “go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you”. Gideon replies, “But LORD, how can I rescue Israel? My tribe is the weakest of all the tribes of Manasseh, and I am the youngest of my family. The LORD said to him “I AM with you. You will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man”.
We may sometimes feel as weak as Gideon obviously felt, but if the LORD is with us, we always have strength enough to conquer our problems, and we don’t have to put our faith in “the protection of man”, we only need to put our faith in “the protection and security of GOD”.
And so, when Gideon and his army of 32,000 men got up early one morning and went down to the Spring of Harod, just south of where the Midianites were camping in the valley near the hill of Moreh, GOD tells Gideon he has too many men in his army, and eventually, HE narrows Gideon’s army down to 300 warriors. HE tells Gideon that, with these 300 men, “I”, not “you guys”, will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Sometimes, we may not be successful in life, because we have too many unnecessary people in our lives dragging us down and holding up our blessings that GOD wants to give us.
This lesson serves to show us that, when GOD is with us, there should be no such thing, as “us” being outnumbered, overwhelmed, or depressed. When we have access to GOD’s mighty power, we don’t have to hesitate to rise to any of the challenges that this life may send our way. With GOD’s help, Gideon went on to defeat the mighty Midianites, and he judged over Israel, and kept them faithful to GOD, for 40 years.
The presence of GOD’s SPIRIT, and HIS possession of Gideon, was the key to the victory that followed. We as Christians have the same powerful advantage today, with the same powerful wonderful GOD, working in, and through us, enabling us to overcome our own ever-present weaknesses. We too can succeed in GOD’s strength when we have faith enough to call on GOD, and let HIM rule. HE can apply HIS great power to help us to overcome our seemingly overwhelming circumstances, and HE wants to be our “first choice”, not our “last resort”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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