by Pastor Ron Thomas
RODGERS BAPTIST CHURCH
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Text: Judges 6:22-24. "And when Gideon perceived that He was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face.
23 And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.
24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites."
Introduction: In ancient times, a name was never given to someone, simply as a label to help keep that person from being confused with someone else. A name was given to an individual to express the kind of person he or she was, or hoped to become. This is the reason God changed various people's names in the Bible. In each case, God desired a character change that reflected the new name.
God has given Himself many names. Why? God's names do not reflect a need to change. God is the changeless One. God's names are given to reveal the many facets of His perfect nature and character. God's names are given as an extension of Himself, to help us understand who He is, how He is, and what He can do in us and through us.
Our text contains one of the compound names of God. Compound names are names that are given in conjunction with the name Yahweh or Jehovah. In our text, Gideon builds an altar to the Lord, and names it "Jehovahshalom." In the Old Testament, altars were built to commemorate a significant and meaningful event of some sort, in the lives of people. Abraham did this on many occasions, as did Isaac and Jacob. Altars were about God. They were built as a memorial to help commemorate and remember God's powerful, life changing intervention.
It is good to build altars in our lives. Our altars are not necessarily made of earth or stone, but something that helps us to remember a special encounter with God, and how it changed us. Our altars must not be about us. Only God is worthy of altars. It is God who changes us and makes us complete. An altar might be something as simple as a Bible verse committed to memory. An altar might be a picture that represents the moment you experienced God's life changing peace. The best altar of course is a changed life, a life that brings glory to God, a life that says, "Only God could have made the difference,".
Gideon named his altar Jehovah Shalom. The name Jehovah Shalom means the Lord is peace. The word "peace" is found 369 times in the King James translation of the Bible. It appears 282 times in the Old Testament alone! That's a lot of peace! If you are a student of the Bible, you know that repeated words have significant meaning. If God speaks of peace 369 times in Scriptures, we can be sure that peace is an important part of our relationship with Him. One of the strongest names of God is Shalom or peace. God offers peace. God's peace is different from the peace offered by the world. In John 14:27 Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." God's peace is a peace in the midst!
Our text is the first time in the Bible, God revealed Himself as Jehovah Shalom. Why this name? Why here? Why did God choose this time and place to reveal Himself as such? Why choose Gideon to express it?
Gideon was a man who was desperate for peace. He lived in Israel at a time when there was little peace to be found. The time frame known as the period of the Judges, and was characterized by a destructive pattern. We see this pattern repeated over and over throughout the book of Judges. The pattern begins with peace and prosperity. The people of Israel, loving the Lord and living in obedience to His commandments, experience a season of blessing, peace and prosperity. Good times are great, but soon the children of Israel begin to take those blessings for granted, and forget the One who sends them. The Israelites become unthankful, which gives rise to a spirit of complacency and apathy toward God. This spiritual slumber in turn degenerates into a sinful lifestyle and rebellious attitude toward God, His commandments and His ways. Seeing all of this, God seeks to reconcile and restore them, and allows an oppressor to afflict His people. In Gideon's case, the oppressor is the Midianites. If you want to have peace, you must be obedient and follow the ways of the Lord. The people turned away, so God brought in an oppressor. Soon, the good times are replaced by hard times. The peace and prosperity gives way to pain, suffering, famine and oppression. In time, the people of Israel repent and begin crying out to God for deliverance. God sends a deliverer and the people return to seeking and serving Him. A season characterized by peace, blessing, and prosperity ensues, which sets the people up for spiritual indifference. Here we go again! The pattern repeats itself!
Judges 6:1 says, "And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years." The Midianites were a nomadic people. They were the first to use the camel for military purposes. They could travel far and fast with little water, striking at will. Their mobility allowed them to make raids, stealing, plundering, and killing! The Israelites were defenseless against these people, and after seven years they have learned their lesson and are crying out for a deliverer. Verse 6 says, "And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD."
Hearing their cry, God sends a prophet in verses 7-10 to make sure they understand just why they are in the situation they are in. Sometimes we get caught up in the sensational story of Gideon, and we overlook this nameless prophet who prepares the people for repentance, and lays the groundwork for revival. There can be no peace until you recognize your need, repent of your sin, and return to God!
In the midst of all this, Gideon is struggling to survive. Verse 11 finds Gideon, the son of a farmer, out in the field somewhere, working in a winepress, attempting to hide grain from the raiding Midianites. Gideon is troubled. There is no peace in Israel, and there is obviously no peace in Gideon's heart.
It is then and there the "angel of the Lord" appears to Gideon. Who is this "angel of the Lord?" To Gideon, this was just some stranger he had never seen before. There were no wings, no halo or harp. A student of the Bible knows and Gideon is soon to learn, that this is God in human form. We call this a theophany, or a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. Gideon's life is about to change! The Lord in disguise walks up to fearful Gideon and says in verse 12b, "The LORD (Jehovah) is with thee, thou mighty man of valour." In response to this peaceful, positive statement, Gideon reveals his troubled, conflicted, strife filled heart. Notice verse 13. "And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all His miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?" Gideon is actually riddled with doubt. He questions, "How can God love Israel and allow the Midianites to trouble us so? If God cares, where is the evidence? All I see is defeat, poverty and famine! What happened to the God who delivered our forefathers from the Egyptians? What happened to the miracle working God?" Obviously, Gideon missed the prophet's message back in verses 8-10! Either he missed it, or wasn't listening!
God is not daunted by Gideon's doubts or moved off of His message and mission. God is committed to delivering His people from the Midianites, and in the process, transforming Gideon into a great leader and judge in Israel. It is obvious that Gideon not only doubts God, he doubts himself! The Lord addressed Gideon as a "mighty man of valor," and in verse 14, He tells him that he will "...save Israel from the hand of the Midianites." Gideon goes on to make all sorts of excuses and give all sorts of reasons as to why he is not God's man. What Gideon doesn't know and will soon learn is that it is his excuses that qualify him for the job! God likes the that fact that Gideon is small in his own sight! In verse 16, the Lord assures Gideon that this was not a case of mistaken identity. "And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man."
In verses 17-21, Gideon still fearful and full of doubt, asks God for a sign, something to substantiate that what was happening, was real. Gideon goes off and prepares a meal for his guest, perhaps secretly hoping that no one would be there when he returned. God was patiently waiting and asked Gideon to take the prepared meal, place it on a rock as an offering, and then drown it in broth. The Lord then took His staff and touched the sacrifice. When He did, fire came out of the rock and consumed the meal! His guest suddenly disappeared, vanishing before Gideon's eyes! It was then Gideon knew that he had been in the very presence of God and his life would never be the same! Gideon's eyes were open to see that God was active in the midst of all his darkness and fear. It was time to build an altar! He would name it Jehovah Shalom, for the God who told him, "Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die." No matter what happened from this point on, Gideon could look back to this moment in time when Jehovah Shalom came to him and said, "I am with you. Peace be unto you. Don't be afraid."
Can you identify with Gideon? Do you find yourself overcome by fear, doubting God's promises and purpose for your life? Are you living in fear, walled in by some set of circumstances in your life? Are you discouraged, thinking you are too weak to go on, too insignificant to gain help from God? If so, it is time to meet Jehovah Shalom and start building your altar! How?
Pursue peace at any cost. The fact that Gideon instantly spewed out all his doubts and fears, his anger and bitterness concerning himself, his nation, and God to this heavenly stranger, lets us know that he was searching for truth, searching for answers. Gideon was dissatisfied with his life and was longing for a change! God met Gideon at the point of his greatest need, his greatest longing!
This is what God does in our lives. He doesn't force Himself on us. Like the father of the prodigal son, God lets us go our own way and experience life without Him. God will allow you to feed at the trough of the world. God lets us get our fill of the world, our fill of sin and rebellion, our fill of our own ways, until we grow sick of it!
Let your present situation and circumstances fuel your desire to experience God's peace. You need to realize that dark, desperate situations and times, are tools create in you a longing and desire for peace. This world offers nothing but husks. It is time to turn your heart toward home! God the Father is waiting. Intimacy with God is His highest priority in the life of every human being on the earth! Pursue God Himself, the path to lasting peace. Determine to pursue the path that leads home, that leads to a life of peace.
Eliminate the enemies of peace. Verse 1 tells us that instead of pursuing peace, Israel was pursuing sin and disobedience. They did all of this in the sight of God! Israel was foolish to think that they could live in disobedience to God, and at the same time experience His peace and blessings! God loves us too much to affirm our disobedience. God will not stop loving you, but He will not grant you His peace as you walk the sinful path!
John in I John 1 reminds us that God is light and righteousness. There is not one trace of darkness or sin in Him. When we then choose to walk in darkness, when we choose to associate with sinful people and participate in sinful pleasures, we are going to forfeit something! What do we forfeit? The answer is fellowship and peace with God, as well as peace and fellowship with the people of God!
I John 1:6-7 says, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."
To build your altar of peace, you must ask God to remove all sin and doubt. Confess and repent of your sin and disobedience to God. Sin and disobedience are great enemies of peace.
Are you trapped in a cycle of sin? Perhaps you are locked in an addiction. Are you tired of a yo-yo life with God, back and forth, in and out, on and off? There is a way out. Isaiah 38:16-17 says, "O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt Thou recover me, and make me to live. 17 Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back."
Accept your inability to change without God's help. Gideon was not one of the "great ones" in Israel. He was a farmer, working in his father's field. Gideon was the lowest and weakest member in a family, that was in the lowest and weakest tribe of all Israel! God deliberately chose Gideon not because he was strong, but because he was weak! All Gideon had to do was follow orders.
This altar of peace is not to ourselves, but to the God of peace, Jehovah Shalom. Peace comes when you shift the burden off of your shoulders and onto God's shoulders. As long as we rely upon our own strength, our own way, we will forfeit peace.
Do you find yourself disturbing your own peace, struggling to change yourself, change your circumstances, or change someone else? Often times we attempt to make things happen, to make things work out in our own way and in our own time! We attempt in vain to control people and relationships. We need to understand, that peace comes with surrender and a spirit of broken-ness! Until we yield the control of our lives to God and trust in His power, His timing, His way, we will never find peace!
The apostle Paul learned this lesson in his life. After a long struggle with difficult people and a painful affliction, he gave it up. He yielded everything to God, and when he did, he found peace! Notice Paul's words in II Corinthians 12:9-10. "And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."
Commit yourself fully to Jehovah Shalom, the God of peace. Go with Jehovah Shalom. The turning point in Gideon's heart and life is found in the first four words of verse 22. It says, "And when Gideon perceived." Gideon got it! He realized that God was not dead, God was not idle, God had not ceased to love and care! God was interested and involved! Jehovah Shalom had come to the earth to fight for Israel and lead them to a life of lasting peace! When it comes to peace, what matters is not who you are, but who you are with! True peace is found only in a right relationship with God. We cannot expect to find peace in any other person or place. God allows or even orchestrates situations of turmoil, disappointment, so that we will look to Him. In John 16:33, Jesus told His disciples and He tells us, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
We need to remember that one plus God is a majority! When you are in a battle, and don't think you can win, remember Jehovah Shalom is with you. He will fight your battles. When you are overwhelmed by life, and can't see a way out, remember Jehovah Shalom is with you. He will make a way. When you are struggling with sin, and don't think you can overcome, remember Jehovah Shalom is with you. He will cause you to overcome it. Only Jehovah Shalom can pronounce a blessing of true peace upon our lives. When Jehovah Shalom promises His power and presence, victory will be accomplished. When the Lord is with you, ....all things are possible.
Everyday re-commit yourself to God's peace. Remember your altar! In a real sense, after Gideon built his altar to Jehovah Shalom, his troubles were just beginning. If you read the remainder of the chapter and into the following chapter, you will discover that Gideon faced two difficult tasks.
First, in verses 25-32, God instructed Gideon to destroy the groves of Ashtoreth. This was a dangerous and daring thing to do, because these gods and groves were popular in Israel, and because his own father was the leader of the heathen, religious cult in Israel. Gideon goes in under the cover of night, but performs his assignment. There is opposition, but ultimately Gideon's father takes a stand for Jehovah and challenges Baal to contend for himself! God is already at work. God is already turning Israel around, beginning with Gideon's own father and house.
Gideon is still not sure! Struggling with his doubts and fears, Gideon pulls out his fleece and demands another sign from God! The hot meal on the rock was not enough! We know the story of the fleece. What is God doing? God is answering Gideon's inner most fears and doubts. As Gideon's faith is challenged, it grows stronger and more confident. Fear is growing smaller! God's presence and peace are growing!
Second, in chapter 7, Gideon assembles an army of thirty two thousand men ready to fight, but God has other ideas. God commands Gideon to whittle this army down to 300! All those who were afraid were dismissed. All those who drank carelessly, were sent home. God wanted those who drank cautiously, not taking their eyes off of a potential threat. Gideon and God win the battle against an army of 125,000 Midianites, ....with 300 soldiers! God is teaching Gideon, Israel, and us, a lesson here. God's peace can fill our hearts and lives in the midst of overwhelming and fearful circumstances. God is a God of peace. God can give you peace in the midst of your battles, your doubts and fears!
Are you here with peace today? It is time to build an altar! There is no peace apart from Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace! Jesus came to take the sin that is in your life and the law that points it out; robbing you of peace, and nail it to His cross! Today, you can have the peace of God in your heart and life! Come claim the name Jehovah Shalom!