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INTRODUCTION:

 

In our last session we saw how God tested Gideon's loyalty, empowered his life, confirmed his call. Now the preparation goes up another notch as God takes him closer to faith's edge.Walking by faith is to walk on an edge - learning to trust God's directives

 

[1]   THE SCENE   (v.1)   

 

Israel is camped about 8 kms. to the south of the Midianite camp. So each knew of the presence of the other. Israel had 32,000 troops whereas the Midianites have 135,000 troops (8/10). Israel is outnumbered 4:1!! As we would measure it, Gideon commands an insignificant force facing impossible odds. How could God possibly secure a victory through Gideon when, by every human measurement, this Israelite army faced annihilation?

 

Living by faith is often like that. We look at the situation that faces us and then look at the human resources with which we are supposed to prevail or succeed. If nothing else, this creates a great sense of dependence on Him.

 

Question:  Read John 6/1-15. Can you see a parallel and/or a principle here with the Gideon situation? Great need. Limited resources. Amazing result.

 

We are comfortable when we have adequate human resources that do not  require faith. But put us in a situation that seems greater than our ability to handle and our hearts become a battleground between faith and fear.

 

Question:Read 2 Corinthians 1/8-11. Can you link these verses with the challenge facing Gideon?

 

[2]  THE SIFTING  (vs.2-6)

 

We usually look at situations/circumstances very differently from the way God looks at them. Can you see how this truth comes through in 1 Sam 16/7 (God looks at heart, not appearance) and Isaiah 55/9 (His ways/thoughts higher than ours). Gideon must have thought he had way too few troops to win against Midianites. That fact had to be obvious to everyone. Everyone, that is, except God Himself!!

 

God looked at Gideon's troops and said he had too many! That must have stunned Gideon.

 

Question: Why does God direct Gideon to reduce the number of soldiers? (v.2)

 

The sifting/reducing strategy is in two parts. These verses have been analyzed and debated repeatedly because the rationale of these 'quaint' actions is not immediately obvious.

 

THE FEAR FACTOR (v.3)

Read Deut. 20/8 - fear can be very contagious and destroy an army from within. Read Numbers 13/25-33.  Can you see how fear swept through the camp because of the negative report? Better a few who are totally committed than many who will waver & defect under pressure. In response to this offer, another 22,000 soldiers leave! Gideon's fighting force is reduced by two thirds!!

 

THE ALERTNESS FACTOR  (vs.4-6)

 

The reason for this test is not clear, either. It possibly had to do with alertness - the way they drank??  Whatever, the point is that God further sifted the army & another 9,700 left which meant that Gideon now had a midget army with which to beat 135,000. Bottom line is this: God is key to victory. He takes those who are available to Him and accomplishes the seemingly impossible. (Vs.7-8)

 

 [3]THE SIGNIFICANCE.

 

This idea of sifting or refining triggers 3 other biblical scenarios in which the whole concept of God 'sifting' is present.

 

1.Job 1/6-12 - there are times when God allows us to be sifted - individuals & churches

2.Malachi 3/1-4 - again the Lord moves to cleanse His people from their sin

3.Luke 22/31-34 - in this case, Satan is instrument of sifting - note permission factor

 

APPLICATION:

How often do we sing about God being a refining fire and we ask Him to purify our hearts. But the purpose of this sifting is not punishment but purity - to cleanse the rubbish out of our lives. Such sifting can be painful but the end result is worth it - Hebrews 12/10,11

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