The Enemy Within

Photo by David McEachan:

Turn with me in your Bibles to Judges chapter 8. When we ended last week, Gideon or Jerubbaal (Judges 7:1) at the direction of God led 300 men to utterly destroy the Midianites, the Amalekites, and the men of the east (other Canaanites). God only wanted 300 men with trumpets, clay jars, and lamps to come to the enemy. On smashing the clay pots and blowing their trumpets, the forces of Midian ended up killing one another with their own swords (Judges 7:22).

The Enemy Within

When you have a mountaintop experience with God, it doesn’t take long before the enemy will attack. The enemy doesn’t normally come at us from the outside, but the greatest enemy is the one who comes from the inside. When you serve God – Jesus said – a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:36). It was prophesied that the Messiah – our Jesus – would be betrayed by My close friend in whom I trusted, who ate My bread – he lifted up his heel against Me” (Psalm 41:9). Though Jesus chose Judas Iscariot to be an Apostle, and even gave him a trusted position as treasurer of the Apostles, Jesus did so knowing that Judas would betray Him with a kiss (John 13:18) for just 30 pieces of silver – the price of a slave.

The worst evil comes at us not from the outside,
but from within the house!

Judges 8:1 And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply.

Gideon and his 300 warriors are still chasing the enemy, fleeing for their lives, when they cross the boundary of the land of Ephraim. Gideon had previously sent messengers throughout Mount Ephraim …

Judges 7:24 And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan.

Gideon is from the Tribe of Manasseh. Manasseh and Ephraim were the two sons of Joseph (of the coat of many colors, right hand to the King of Egypt) that together shared in the blessing of Jacob (see Genesis 48:5). Ephraim was therefore very close to Manasseh, and felt as if their brothers had betrayed them. Furthermore, Ephraim is the largest and most powerful tribe of Israel – the Tribe of Joshua and Samuel.

Ephraim felt that they had been disrespected, discounted, and discarded. They felt they should have been with Gideon and the 300 at the outset of the battle.

Word Study: Ephraim “did chide with him {Gideon and Manasseh} sharply. This is the Hebrew rîyb ḥāzqâ, which literally means “pushed to fight him with all their strength”. Ephraim wanted to make war with Gideon! Their pride was hurt. The Bible tells us that:

Proverbs 6:16-18 (NKJV) These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

God despises pride. It is pride that led to the fall of man. Pride is the king of all other sins! The Bible says that “when PRIDE cometh, then COMETH SHAME” (Proverbs 11:2) and “only by PRIDE cometh CONTENTION” (Proverbs 13:10). How does Gideon respond to this attack?

Gideon lets fear rather than faith lead him. It was God’s decision as to who to use in the initial battle. It was God’s decision to choose the 300 men who Gideon used. Gideon was following God’s orders. Gideon should have said, “I was following Gods orders”. God had already promised to protect Gideon if he would just be obedient. But Gideon allowed his eyes to get off of God and focus on Ephraim.

Judges 8:2-3 And {Gideon} said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? 3 God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.

Instead of glorifying God in the battle, Gideon minimized the great victory of the 300. Gideon told them, “What have I done now in comparison of you”? He made the victory of God a small thing, and made out that Ephraim’s part in the battle – the cleanup – was much greater. He said that the “gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim {is} better than the vintage of Abiezer”. Ephraim’s “gleaning” or harvest of the running Midianites was “BETTER THAN THE VINTAGE or WINE of ABIEZER {Gideon’s Family}”. Gideon went on to say that Ephraim’s capture of the warlords “Oreb and Zeeb” made the victory of the 300 insignificant.

Gideon’s sin in excluding God from the victory in order to pacify Ephraim would not just hurt him
but it will hurt Ephraim.

What would have happened in the early Church if, when the Pharisees and Chief Priests commanded the Apostles not to reach Christ – they had submitted in order to “keep the peace”? Had they done so, the Gospel would have never went into the world. But when commanded to stop preaching, the Bible says ….

Acts 5:29-32 (ESV) … Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

The Devil will often suggest we “compromise” our faith – just go along to get along. This is an ancient trick that he has often used.

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were commanded by the King to bow down to the golden idol, or be cast into a fiery furnace, they said:

Daniel 3:16-18 … O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Jesus protected the Hebrew Children from that furnace – but there have been many times when believers have been martyred for the faith. There is always a temptation to go with the flow, to go along to get along, to submit to what is politically correct in order to find peace. Yes, the Bible says Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9, NIV), we are never to make peace at God’s expense. The Apostle Paul said:

Galatians 1:10 (NLT) … I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.

Is God Who sets the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him” (1 Corinthians 12:18). As God’s people we have a stewardship with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4, ESV; Colossians 3:23).

Gideon Drifts From God’s Glory

Judges 8:4-9 And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them. 5 And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian. 6 And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army? 7 And Gideon said, Therefore when the Lord hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers. 8 And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise: and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered him. 9 And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.

When God found Gideon, he was hiding in a winepress while he gleaned his wheat. Fearful, God called him from the winepress to lead 300 to defeat a much greater Midianite army. Now Gideon’s faith burns! He knows that God is with him. Gideon leads his men to pursue the fleeing Midianites, moving south along the Jordan River.

Word Study: Gideon comes to the town of SUCCOTH (Hebrew Çukkôwth, [pronounced sook-kohth’], which means “booths”). Succoth is a place rich in history. It was where Jacob put up booths for his cattle (Genesis 33:17), as well as the first stopping place of Israel when they were freed from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12:37). When Moses prepared the people to go into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership, two of Israel’s Tribes came to Moses – the Tribes of Reuben and Gad – came to him with a request. The land they were on was just before the Promised Land. Reuben and Gad said:

Numbers 32:5 (ESV) … If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession. Do not take us across the Jordan.

Reuben and Gad wanted to stay in the safe place, to take the easy ground of faith. They are much like the “easy believism” we see so frequently in our Churches today. Faith is a battle – not a party! Moses told them:

Numbers 32:6-12 (ESV) “Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here? 7 Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the Lord has given them? 8 Your fathers did this, when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land. 9 For when they went up to the Valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the people of Israel from going into the land that the Lord had given them. 10 And the Lord’s anger was kindled on that day, and he swore, saying, 11 ‘Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, because they have not wholly followed me, 12 none except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the Lord.’

God caused Israel to wander in the wilderness 40 years until the rebellious were destroyed. Moses warned Reuben and Gad, if you turn away from following him, he will again abandon them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all this people. That very day the Tribes of Reuben and Gad promised God:

Numbers 32:16-18 “We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, 17 but we will take up arms, ready to go before the people of Israel, until we have brought them to their place. And our little ones shall live in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land. 18 We will not return to our homes until each of the people of Israel has gained his inheritance.

What does this have to do with Succoth? Succoth was the place given the Tribe of Gad – along with Penuel – when they promised to support the other the tribes.

Gideon stops at Succoth not asking that they participate in the battle, but asking for loaves of bread to support God’s work. The men of Succoth – the Tribe of Gad – decided that they would take the low ground. They in effect told Gideon, “When you’ve captured Zebah and Zalmunna, then and only then will we give you bread!”. Gideon makes them a promise:

Judges 8:7 when the Lord hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, THEN I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers

Gideon doesn’t say IF I capture these kings, but WHEN the LORD DELIVERS THEM to me. After he is done with God’s work, Gideon will complete God’s work by punishing their faithlessness. Gideon next goes to Penuel – inhabited by the Tribe of Gad – and once more they refuse to assist. Penuel had a tower that they thought made them invincible. Gideon told them …

Judges 8:9 When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower

When we put our faith in anything but our God and His Promises, we deserve the thorns and thistles of Succoth and the false towers of Penuel to fall.

Judges 8:10-12 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their hosts with them, about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all the hosts of the children of the east: for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword. 11 And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host; for the host was secure. 12 And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host.

Of the 135,000 Midianite warriors Gideon battled, only 15,000 remained – and Gideon still had his 300 original men. Not one person who followed God was lost. The enemy thought they were in a safe place. There was more of them than there was of Gideon’s – but with God there is a majority. God told us:

Malachi 3:11 (ESV) I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.

Though Midian was like a plague of locusts, they could not stand against one man focused on God. When the Apostle spoke of our calling and adoption as God’s sons, he wrote:

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (ESV) we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

God’s will will be fulfilled! Before the day was over, Gideon destroyed the last of Midian’s forces, and conquered their warlords. But he hasn’t forgotten the promise he made to Succoth and Punuel.

Sin Is Punished Righteously –
Those Who Knew Better Are First Punished

Judges 8:13-16 And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up, 14 And caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and inquired of him: and he described unto him the princes of Succoth, and the elders thereof, even threescore and seventeen men. 15 And he came unto the men of Succoth, and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom ye did upbraid me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thy men that are weary? 16 And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.

Our Lord Jesus said in

Luke 12:47-48 (ESV) … that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

Word Study: God reserves His greatest punishments for those who knew better, but would not do. When Gideon goes to Succoth after finding out who are the PRINCES (Hebrew śar, “rulers” or “governors”) and ELDERS (Hebrew zāqēn, “those who were sage or older in the faith”). God expects those whom He has placed in positions of authority to do the right thing.

If the leadership fails to follow God,
the people will fail to follow God.

The Leadership knew that Gad promised to support their brothers and sisters in the battle for the Promised Land. When they refused to assist Gideon, they refused to obey God. Gideon took threescore and seventeen men”, or 77 men who should have known better. We are told that Gideon took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth. The 77 elders were publicly punished for disobeying the Covenant that Gad made with God. Public punishment taught the other men of that city that obedience to God is not optional – but MANDATORY. God expects those whom He saves to follow Him. Beating the men with THORNS AND BRIERS very possibly brought death, and certainly produced scarring that would long remind the survivors the dangers of sin against God.

Judges 8:17 And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.

It seems that Gideon only killed to 77 leaders of Succoth, but destroyed all the men of Penuel. Why is this? Perhaps because they stood behind the “high tower” of their human works rather than the High Tower of God.

2 Samuel 22:3 The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my savior; thou savest me from violence.

Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

Did Gideon destroy the whole city? Matthew Henry’s Commentary notes:

He slew some of the men of the city that were most insolent and abusive, for terror to the rest, and so he taught the men of Penuel”.

Judges 8:18-21 Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? And they answered, As thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king. 19 And he said, They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother: as the Lord liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you. 20 And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them. But the youth drew not his sword: for he feared, because he was yet a youth. 21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength. And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels’ necks.

As Gideon prepared to kill the Midianite warlords, he first asked his son Jether to kill them. This would not only give the honor of the kill to his son, but it would also humiliate the warlords to be killed by a youth. Gideon killed the warlords, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels’ necks. Professor Herbert M. Wolf (Wheaton College) notes:

The crescent-shaped ornaments (lit. “little moons”) on the camels’ necks are still in common use among the Arabs. Made of silver or gold, they are mentioned again in Isaiah 3:18 among articles highly prized by women. The Midianites, along with many other Semite people, probably worshiped the moon-god.”

Gideon Honors God – Almost

Having defeated the enemy, the people come to Gideon and ask him to rule over them as King:

Judges 8:22-23 Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. 23 And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.

Gideon refused to be made king. He told Israel, the Lord shall rule over you”. He had the right attitude. Only God shall reign. It was God Who gave Gideon and the 300 their victory, so only God should be honored. Gideon only had one request. As Gideon’s troops killed the Midianites, they took their gold earrings as trophies of their kill. Gideon asked that …

Judges 8:24-26 And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. 26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels’ necks.

Here Gideon failed God. He took all the earrings – 1700 shekels of gold – about 71 pounds – and melted it down into an EPHOD (verse 27), a free standing idol (Judges 17:5; 18:14, 18; 1 Samuel 2:28; 14:3; 21:9). This became a thing that Israel began to worship. Gideon meant to show honor to God, but God forbade that any image be made of Him (Exodus 20:4-5). Though the land rested for 40 years while Gideon lived, as soon as he died we read:

Judges 8:33-35 And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god. 34 And the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side: 35 Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.

If we will be blessed, we must stay the course in following the Lord our God. Amen and Amen.

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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