Anger, No, It’s Rage—Bitterness—Resentment— Distrust—Disappointment—Levels Of Frustration Rarely Seen In Human History—Melancholy—Gloomy—Despair—Fear—Pained—Sterile—Desperate—Pessimistic—Despondent—Unpromising—Unrealistic Expectations. These Dark Words speak about our current social, political and moral culture.
In my writing, teaching and preaching, I have found myself using the word Culture. I feel the need to define this word in the way I use it. I could use big words to define Culture, but Here’s the short form: Culture Is The Attitudes, Values And Morals Shared By People In A Particular Place And Time. Makes sense, right?
What we see in the news on a daily basis—how politicians are acting in Washington D.C. and Montgomery—how the value system has broken down—reveals a culture that’s twisted and inept at solving the many problems we have. And we see the same Culture in our own Tribe. And it got me to thinking:
The new series is How To Change Our Culture. It takes real Spirit-filled, Spirit led-people to move forward in the way that will radically transform the Culture of our nation and church.
Unfortunately, many believe that neither our Culture nor our Tribe could ever change. And the results, well, they are unhealthy and even devastating. So for the next few weeks I want us to look at the story of one of the most unlikeliest of heroes of Changing The Culture—Gideon.
His story is another one of those great lessons from the Bible about God changing the Culture Of One Man And A Whole Nation. His story begins in Judges 6:1-16 (NLT)
The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. So the Lord handed them over to the Midianites for seven years. The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves, and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel, camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza. They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys. These enemy hordes, coming with their livestock and tents, were as thick as locusts; they arrived on droves of camels too numerous to count. And they stayed until the land was stripped bare. So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help. When they cried out to the Lord because of Midian, the Lord sent a prophet to the Israelites He said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of slavery in Egypt. I rescued you from the Egyptians and from all who oppressed you. I drove out your enemies and gave you their land. I told you, ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you now live.’ But you have not listened to me.” Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.” Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”
We find Gideon threshing wheat at the bottom of a wine press. In ancient times they did not use vats or barrels to make wine. They would find a fairly large rock formation and chisel out 2 pits. One of them would be lower and deeper than the other so that the juice from the grapes would flow down. It was probably 3 feet, maybe more below the ground.
But Gideon isn’t making wine. He’s threshing wheat in the lower pit. Why the lower pit? So that he couldn’t be seen. He was scared to death of the Midianites. They were the local neighborhood bullies. He’s hiding, hoping they won’t see him. But get this: his name means Destroyer, Mighty Warrior, Mighty Hero! This mighty warrior is cowardly hiding from the bullies. When suddenly an unexpected visitor shows up and calls him by the meaning of his name: Mighty Hero.
Excuse me, but does anyone other than me see the irony here? Called a Mighty Hero while he’s hiding from the local bullies. I mean, the words and the man do not even come close. They are not in the same zip code, not in the same county, not in the same state, not in the same country. They’re not even in the same universe.
But there is more going on here than just what meets the eye. There is more going on than bullies and cowards. God has a purpose and a mission, and His plan surprises Gideon and even me.
Here is where real Culture Change begins, and where our lives can turn around Here’s the first thing you need to see:
1. God Is With Him!
But where was Gideon spiritually? If you listened carefully, he told you where he was spiritually. “Lord, if you were with us, why are we being bullied by the Midianites?”
You know what Gideon’s talking about don’t you? If you’ve ever wondered, “Why is all this happening to me now?”, under our breath we are thinking, “Well, God, if you really were with me then all this bad stuff wouldn’t have happened to me!”
I know what this feels like. It feels like God have forgotten us or been too busy for us; or simply that we aren’t worthy of God’s presence. When you’re hiding in the pit, when the bullies are threatening you, when it seems like God has forgotten you—He Hasn’t. Every single thing you go through, God is with you. He knows every ache and sees every tear and feels every fear because He is with you. Now we come to the next thing you need to see:
2. God Has Chosen Him For A God-Sized Task.
God chose Gideon for the task of changing his Culture. How would God change Gideon’s Culture? By saving and redeeming them. God has seen them and heard their cries. Even though they were not faithful to God and were worshipping other gods, God knew what Gideon’s world needed. And He Calls On Gideon To Change His World. And how does Gideon respond? “Great, God. ‘Bout time! Let’s get to work!”
No! Gideon’s response was, “You gotta be kidding! My family is the weakest and I’m the least in the whole family. Gideon was of the tribe of Manasseh, which was the largest tribe of all. Many of Gideon’s ancestors fought alongside Joshua with strength, honor and courage. You know what he’s doing, don’t you? He’s making excuses!
He’s saying, “Look, Lord. There are people far more qualified that I am. There are braver people than me.” If Gideon was right, then where were they? According to verse 2 they were hiding in the mountain crevices and caves. But when Gideon says this, it shows that God made the right choice. For a God sized task, we need someone who knows that they can’t do it by themselves. Which leads us to our final lesson today:
3. He Can Count On God To Be With Him Every Step Of The Way.
Look at verse 16: The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” This is the first good news Gideon has heard in a very long time. God promises Gideon that it will seem like he is fighting against only one man.
How could it feel like that? Because God is going to fight for him. He’s With Him In The Pit, And He Will Be With Him In The Battle! Yes, God meets us in our pits but He doesn’t leave us there!
He wants to lead us out of our pits and into the Kingdom Battle. But God doesn’t leave us alone on the battlefield. He is still with us and He Is Fighting For Us! Think back to the Hebrew children at the edge of the Red Sea, when God said in Exodus 14:14—“The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
God wants someone who cannot do what He wants unless they are counting on His presence and power. God chose Gideon, not because he was the smartest and the strongest; because, simple truth is, he wasn’t.
Had Gideon felt like he was smart enough and strong enough to change his culture, he would have failed. God could change Gideon’s world through Gideon because of his weakness. God loves to hear us say, “Hey, I can’t do that! I don’t have what it takes!” Doubt that this principle of God needing the weakest really works? Have you ever read the Bible? Studied the history of the church?
The U.S. Marines have a great motto for a fighting group: The Few, The Proud, The Marines. And in their ads they asked, “Do you have what it takes?”
God isn’t looking for the few, the proud and those who think they have what it takes. He’s Looking For The Many, The Humble, And The Weakest. You can only be your strongest when you become just like Gideon—and say to God, “This is too much for me. I need your strength.”
Our culture around us needs to be changed. Countless lives are hiding in fear and living in caves. God wants to bring them out and deliver them. But he needs a Gideon, someone who is too afraid to do it alone, too afraid to seek the glory, too afraid to trust anything other than this promise of God: I am with you! Are you willing to be the next Gideon?
And the One Thing You Need To Remember Is A Question, Which Is Why I Saved It Until The End—“Will You Be The Next Gideon?”
Changing the Culture in Washington D.C.—that’s a task that we simply cannot do—Yet! But you can change your Personal Culture. I’m talking about your Attitudes, Values And Morals. It’s how you see your personal situations and the situations we are facing as the Body of Christ. These are serious times. You choose your Personal Culture. Your Personal Culture isn’t chosen for you by what happens in D.C. or in church meetings. It is Chosen BY you.
So Choose Your Next Step Very Carefully:
1. You Can Join In With All The Mess—Complain And Then Blame—And Complain Some More And Then Blame—And Complain Some More And Then Blame. OR
2. You Can Give Up And Hope Jesus Comes Back REAL Soon. OR
3. You Can Make The Choice To Be The Gideon Our Culture, Our Church Is Urgently Needing.
These are your only 3 choices—Join Up, Give Up or Step Up. Which will be YOUR next step? Gideon’s choice about his personal culture changed everything for the nation.
“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; He won’t leave you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (The Message)