Overcoming Obstacles

Judges 7:22-8:3

7:22 When the 300 trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 7:23 Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. 7:24 Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Barah.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out and they seized the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah. 7:25 They also captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued the Midianites and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was by the Jordan.

8:1 Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?” And they challenged him vigorously. 8:2 But he answered them, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? 8:3 God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?” At this, their resentment against him subsided.

Introduction

How do you measure your success? Some would measure success with rewards. Others measure success with obstacles they overcome. Success in life is not the absence of problems or obstacles. Overcoming obstacles make success much more treasured.

Who can appreciate problems? Going out expecting problem is not pessimistic at all if it creates alertness. Problems, troubles, difficulties, concerns or whatever term to describe it, they are obstacles to be overcome and measure a level of competence. As exams measure educational level, problems measure spiritual maturity level.

In 1 Corinthians 10:30, 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

The word ‘temptation’ is properly translated ‘experiment or trial’ which requires proof. God uses temptations for us to know the level our faith in Him. The harder the temptation God allows, the more mature we must have grown in our spiritual life. Which problem is harder to overcome, financial, physical, relational, mental problems?

The Israelites are God’s chosen people but He tested them with difficult problems. When they prospered, the Israelites forget God. When problems come, they cry out to Him. In His mercy, God raised leaders to lead them against their adversaries. Adversaries and associates were obstacles that Gideon had to overcome as leader of Israel.

1. Adversary

7:22 When the 300 trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 7:23 Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. 7:24 Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Barah.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out and they seized the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah. 7:25 They also captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued the Midianites and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was by the Jordan.

The adversaries of the Israelites came from different nations. Other Eastern people allied with the Midianites and Amalekites to harass the Israelites. At first, they were united but perhaps, there’s suspicion among them that God has caused. Suspicion may have triggered them to fight each other when Gideon and the 300 attacked them.

When Gideon called out Israelites from Napthali, Asher and Manasseh, they came. They pursued the fleeing Midianites. The Ephraimites were also alerted and ambushed their enemies who were about to cross the Jordan River. Some Midianites had already escaped and crossed the river which Gideon and the 300 pursued later.

The strategy Gideon gave to the Israelites was very simple yet effective, why?

Previously, it says in Judges 6:34, 34The Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him.

The Spirit of the Lord has been with Gideon and guided him when he chose the 300, and when he gave simple strategies. The same Spirit of the Lord moved the Israelites to follow Gideon. The same Spirit of the Lord confused their enemies to fight each other. The Midianites turned against their allies and they destroyed their allies or associates.

Four Oxen and the Lion

Lions attack from behind. A lion prowls and waits for a chance to kill the 4 oxen. Whenever it came near them, the 4 oxen turned their tail to one another, so whichever way, the lion was met by horns of one of the oxen. Some time later, however, the 4 oxen quarreled among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then, the lion attacked them one by one and killed all 4 oxen.

Lesson: United we stand, divided we fall.

It says in 1 Peter 5:8, 8Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Lions devour not a group of victims but one at a time. The devil, like a lion, does not devour a united group. Meeting regularly, encouraging and praying for one another helps us grow strong spiritually, even when we have disagreement. Agreement signals right timing to proceed. Disagreement signal waiting time. Waiting aids perseverance.

It says in James 1:12-15, 12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Disagreement can be a temptation that may divide even the strongest church if not overcome or used as instrument to persevere. Disagreement should be a time for us to wait for the right timing to proceed and persevere, and not to destroy each other.

The Midianites fought against their allies and associates, and they were defeated. The Ephraimites joined the battle but disagreed that they weren’t called in the 1st attack. As leader Gideon had to overcome not just his adversaries but also his associates.

2. Associate

8:1 Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?” And they challenged him vigorously. 8:2 But he answered them, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? 8:3 God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?” At this, their resentment against him subsided.

To rephrase when Gideon compared the harvest of Ephraim with to his clan in this generation, he may have said something like: “What do I have compared to you? You earn millions of dollars, I earn minimum wage. You live in a mansion, I rent in apartment. You ride in brand new fancy cars, I ride the bus.”

Or he may have said, “The 300 men and I just scared the enemies but God helped you killed two of their leaders, Oreb and Zeeb.” Gideon responded discreetly, prudently.

Remember that the Spirit of the Lord was with Gideon. He inspired Gideon to acknowledge God as giver of their success when He delivered their adversaries into their hand. Gideon did not take all the credit. He acknowledged the Ephraimites’ contribution to their victory. Such humility was the fruit of the Spirit of God in Gideon.

It says in Romans 12:3, For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

In Galatians 6:3-4, If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.

We can learn from Gideon how to overcame challenges from adversaries and associates. Gideon relied upon the Spirit of the Lord. Later, after they completely defeated their adversaries, the Israelites acknowledge that Gideon saved Israel. In the succeeding chapter, they wanted Gideon to rule over them.

Gideon did not struggle much to convince the Israelites to follow him. He was not confused when he chose the 300. He devised a very simple strategy to defeat their enemies. When he called the rest of Israelites to join the battle, they willingly came to help. When the Ephraimites tried to challenges his leadership Gideon had easily extinguished their anger by recognizing the significance of their involvement.

Gideon had all those favorable decisions he made when the Spirit of the Lord came to him and revealed to him what he should do and say to the Israelites as leader.

God called all believers to lead. We need to rely upon the Spirit of the Lord for us to know what to do and say when we lead or help to reconcile others with God.

It says in Ephesians 1:17-20, 17 The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.

Individually, we always face problems. Seek wisdom and revelation from the Lord to know the right decision and right timing how to overcome obstacles/challenges in life.

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