Reflecting God’s Character
“Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.” vs. 3
Character Vs. Reputation
A lot of life’s relationships has to do with how people see us and their perceptions of us as well as how we see ourselves and what we project. William Hersey Davis, was a professor of New Testament at Southern Univ. from 1920-1948 and wrote books on grammar, Greek, and contemporary Christian issues. He published a book that contained the comparison of character and reputation. Here are a few of the things he noted:
-Reputation is what you are supposed to be, character is what you are.
-Reputation is what you have when you enter a new place, character is what you are when you leave that place.
-Reputation is made in a moment, character is made in a lifetime.
-He compared reputation to a mushroom (meaning it grows quickly) and character to an oak tree (long sustaining growth)
-A single report gives you a reputation, a life of work gives you character
-Reputation makes you rich or poor, character makes you happy or sad
-Reputation is what men think you are, character is what God knows you are.
I think most of us want to be liked by people and thought of well. It seems to me that if we want to truly be content with who we are and what we accomplish in this life, we must work on being people of good and Godly character. Today, we continue our story of Gideon and his preparations to combat his neighbors, those stealing, ravaging and abusing he and his people, and how God works in and through him. If you are able, please stand as we read God’s Word from Judges 7:1-8:
Read Passage – Judges 7:1-18
Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ 3 Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. 4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” 5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” 6 Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. 7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets.
Good to Go
A quick review of Gideon, he is called by God to bring the people of Israel back to God because they have fallen into idol worship and when the Midianites, Amalekites and neighboring people ravage their homes, crops, and livestock, they run for the hills and hide in caves. This has been going on for 7 years and they cry out to God for help. God has promised Gideon victory. Gideon looks strong on the outside but struggles with his faith and last week we saw how he put God to the test by asking for a sign by putting a fleece out. God uses Gideon despite his lack of faith. God responds and now Gideon is good to go and follow God’s plan; vs. 1:
“Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh.” vs. 1
So Gideon is set to move out, he has gathered the fighting men of Israel and they are ready to fight and take back the land God gave them. Gideon has about 32,000 fighting men.
Our Tendency to Trust Ourselves
This might have seemed like a big army but the Israelites were facing a Midianite army that is estimated to have about 135,000 men. So even at this point, they are outnumbered 4 to 1. But remember what we discovered last week, God sees things differently than we do and he sees the bigger picture. He also sees our character and knows our thoughts and tendencies. God knew that the Israelites would take credit for the victory even though God was the one providing the victory so he says to Gideon in verse 2:
“The Lord said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’” vs. 2
Fist this would have been a bit confusing because they were outnumbered b a large margin. But, secondly, even when God works things out for us, we as people tstill tend to take some of the credit.
Ex. God does something like build the church. We know he does that but our tendency is to take some of the credit. Well, I created this program, I followed this plan, I…
We need to be careful to give all the glory to God. In this case, God said, I need to cut this army down to a size that they have to give me the credit because I know their character. Our tendency is to do what we think is right and follow our plan and to become dependent on the plan than on God. Cutting Gideon’s army down was God’s way of making sure Gideon and the Israelite people trusted him completely.
Character to Build On
Through Gideon and this story of the Israelites and their need to trust God through this, we learn what it is like to develop character that we can build on.
- Willingness and Obedience
The first lesson that we learn about character building is that we need to be willing and obedient when it comes to following God. As I said, there were about 32,000 fighting men with Gideon. You figure with a little planning and scheming there is still a decent chance for victory. But…were all these men in on the plan? Gideon was moving forward, but what about the rest? God tells Gideon to tell the army in verse 3:
“Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.” vs. 3
So, those who aren’t completely in on the plan, those who may be doubting or unsure, afraid, are given the chance to leave. So get this, 2/3 of them leave. 22,000 of the 32,000 leave. Can you imagine if you were one of the one’s who stayed? You were watching 2 our o every 3 men leave. That’s crazy! God didn’t need people who weren’t all in. He wanted willing and obedient people. I think he still does today. When you go to battle, you don’t want people who are half-hearted. Those kind of soldiers can get you killed. Soldiers have to be willing to obey at all costs. Their life depends on it.
The prophet Isaiah addresses the nation of Israel and confronts them on their sin and disobedience. He challenges them. Most of you know verse 18, those your sins be like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be like wool. Then the next verse, 19, says:
“If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land…” Isaiah 1:19
Notice that they go together; willing and obedient. Circle those or underline them. If you are willing but not obedient it really doesn’t matter. Sure your willing but when it comes to actually doing something, it doesn’t happen. Obedience is good too but if you are not willing, if you are doing it reluctantly, your heart is not there. God asks for willingness and obedience.
When it comes to character, Godly character, we have to be willing to trust and follow God and then to be obedient to his call. When those to go hand and hand, look at what Isaiah says will happen, you eat the good things of the land. In other words, you get what you need and are satisfied.
- Looking At The Bigger Picture
A second character builder is looking at the big picture. We become focused on the moment. We forget that there is a bigger plan in place. So Gideon’s army has been dwindled down from 32,000 to 10,000. The odds just got a little worse. Then God tells Gideon to take the men down to the water to separate them more; verse 5:
“So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, ‘Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.’” vs. 5
So God is going to take the army down even further. Gideon is told to separate those who lap like a dog from those who kneel and cup the water and bring it to their mouth. Interesting. Ever notice that most of the time that dogs are mentioned in the Bible it’s usually not in a good way? This might bring up a good dog/cat controversy. I am a dog person but let’s face it, dogs are usually pretty goofy, they think only in the moment, and seem to have pretty short attention spans.
Ill. Retriever, Ball, ball, ball, or how quickly they ea their food, or run around and seem like a big goof ball.
Now before you cat people get too cocky. I am not sure cats would be any better.
Ill. Cats-I’ll come when I feel like it, no I would rather sit here and sleep, Garfield.
No, seriously, this story is not about dogs and cats…although he cats think it is. 🙂 Those who would lap like a dog didn’t have the bigger picture. They were bent over when they should be on their guard. They were concerned with getting water and not protecting their neighbor. They lost track of what was important. God wants people who look at ta bigger picture because that is how he works.
Most of you know the story of Job and his friends who weren’t very good at showing support and empathy. A lot of times their logic and understanding of God was way off. But they did have a few things they got right in their advice. Elihu says in Job 37:5:
“God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.” Job 37:5
He got that right. God does things way beyond our understanding. He should have listened to his own words. He was trying to explain God to Job and basically tells Job God is beyond our understanding. Hello!!!
Ex. How quickly we try to explain God to people when we need to be supportive and encouraging. Tragedy in Oregon at Umpqua Community College this week. We should be encouraging not say things like “God has a purpose in all things,” etc.
And a third character builder is preparedness. Verse 7:
“The Lord said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands.’” vs. 7
The men who lapped the water from their hand were prepared to move and fight. They would not be caught off guard. Because they didn’t get down on their knees, they would aware of the dangers around them, they would always be able to see what was coming. They were meeting their need of thirst but would always be aware they were in a fight. Here’s another thing about how they got their drink of water, it takes more effort. When you’re really thirsty, it would be great (and easy) to just plunge your head into the nice cool refreshing water and drink. To kneel, for the cup with your hands, and lap it up while watching everything going on around, that is much more difficult. But hey were prepared at all times.
When you are in a fight, you have to be prepared; ready. A lot of times as Christians we have not prepared ourselves for he battles that Satan throws our way. We get caught off guard. Yet, God calls us to be prepared, 1 Tim. 4:2:
“…be prepared in season and out of season…” 2 Tim. 4:2
Have you prepared yourself for the things Satan and the world throw at you?
Ex. Jesus on the Mt. of Olives and being tempted by Satan. He quotes scripture, knows what God has called him to do, and doesn’t get distracted. He is hungry, tired and vulnerable but he is prepared.
Soldiers face that too. Hunger, thirst, they get into vulnerable spots but they are prepared. We are very similar. Satan is not going to attack your strengh, he is going to attack your weakness, you vulnerable points of the time he knows you are vulnerable.
Courage: Stepping Out In Faith in God
Here is a point where Gideon gets it right, he is willing, obedient, and prpepared and look what he does in verse 8:
“So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets.” vs. 8
No more testing God. He has the courage to step out in faith because God has promised him victory. He goes from 32,000 men to 300; that’s 1% of what he had. I’m sure it felt better with 32,000. Strength in numbers, right? But here is what God wanted. The 1%
There is a reason that Jesus came and died on that cross for you and I. You don’t need to trust in your own strength. You don’t need to somehow prove yourself to God or figure a way to get to heaven. Jesus did that for you. He did everything you need to have a right relationship with God.