Dr. Ed Young - An Unlikely Hero
God told Joshua to go and possess the land and to wipe out the Moabites, the Jebusites, the Amorites, all the Canaanites. Wipe out all the -ites in the land, so God's people could go and become his peculiar people, wholly separate to him because the purpose of Israel and God's blessing was they were to take the truth about God to all the rest of the world. And so Joshua went in the land and they possessed the land partially. They left some of those -ites scattered all over the land. To help us understand it, It would be like leaving ISIS. You follow me? These -ites were like modern day ISIS. They'd become animals. They had lost a sense in which they were created in the very image of God, and they had to be annihilated.
But the Israelites left them scattered throughout the land. I'm sure they did business with them, they got to know them, they intermarried, and time goes by and suddenly you read in the Book of Judges, chapter number 2, a deadly little verse. There arose another generation. Joshua died, Caleb died, and all that generation died who knew what God had done in and through his people. And then that little phrase, there arose another generation that did not know the Lord or the things he had done for Israel. What happened? A later verse says, "The spoilers that spoil them". Deadly phrase. They forgot to teach.
When mom and dad and this generation does not teach the next generation the truth about God in Christ, the essentialness of his church, the body of Christ. All of a sudden it generation comes up and we say, you know, I don't know what happened to our children. I don't know why my grandchildren are not interested in the church. They're not involved in the things of God, is because mom and dad back there did not teach, did not model, did not take the kids and introduce the kids to Christ and get them in the right kind of environment so they could grow up and love the Lord. That's what the Israelites did, and that's what's happening in our day and age today. We end up just like the Book of Judges. There were six major judges. What's a judge?
By the way, don't think of a courtroom. It's sort of a tribal chieftain. It's someone who came as with military might and tried to protect the Israelis, the Jews from all of these -ites who were totally exploiting them. So we have six major judges, and as the Bible goes on in the story, you know, here's one judge, he's okay. Here's the next judge, he's fair. Here's the next judge, he's wicked. And here's the final judge, he is demonic. We see the slide. The slide downhill of those who would deliver God's people. The judge that I like is Gideon. His life didn't ended up where I would like to have, but Gideon teaches us something about how we live in a society that is broken, that has lost all sense of what is right, what is wrong, what is true, what is false, what is valid, what is invalid. Gideon helps us here, and I want you to look at the circumstances of Gideon.
They're told there in the Book of Judges the 6th chapter. It says now, "The Angel of the Lord came and sat under what we would call the oak tree, which was in Ophrah, which belongs to the Joash of the Abiezrites, and while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the wine press in order to hide it from the Midianites". What's the circumstances of Gideon? He's afraid. He's a coward. The Midianites have come and they surrounded the valley that was there. And now, in order to harvest wheat, and it was barley he was harvesting. By the way, barley bread was the bread that the poor would eat in that day and age. Barley, the cheapest bread that would be made, that would be grown.
Today, barley is expensive because it's gluten-free, ladies and gentlemen. And so he was there hiding in a wine press, threshing the wheat. Why was he underground? Because if he'd been thrashing wheat on top of the ground, the cloud would have gone up, and the Midianites would have seen him and know he was harvesting. They would've swept down and they would taken all of his crops. They had done this for seven years. The Israelites were impoverished. Their animals had been taken away. All their food, all their harvest had been taken away year after year, and they were at the bottom of the barrel and here is Gideon hiding there, threshing the wheat, when suddenly he realizes a presence. There's someone else there.
Verse 11, "Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the tree". And look at verse 12, "And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, Gideon, and said, 'The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor.'" Hello? Gideon must have thought, "The Lord is with me! Man, I can't even feed my family. Have to hide underground to thresh wheat. Everything has been taken away from us by the locusts called the Midianites for seven years, and the Lord is with me". Gideon must of said, "You could have fooled me. I haven't seen his side of the Lord". And then the Angel says, "Thou mighty man of valor". A man of valor? He's hiding, he's a coward, and then he says to Gideon, "Gideon I want you to go up, you mighty man". Gideon's saying, "Huh"? "I want you to go up and lead Israel into freedom and independence and throw off the yoke of the Midianites, these -ites".
Know what Gideon said? Gideon says, "I'm of the tribe of Manasseh, and my family is the most unimportant family of the tribe, and I'm the least talented, the dumbest one, the ill-equipped person in my whole family. My tribe is at the bottom, my family's at the bottom of the tribe that's at the bottom, And at the bottom of the bottom, there I am, and you want me to go and to liberate these people? To be the leader? To be the general"? And the Angel says, "I think you got it right". And then we see a little phrase there, "The Lord is with you".
Ladies and gentlemen, when the Lord is with you and the Lord is with me, it doesn't matter what the agenda is, what the challenge is. In the hospital, vocationally, in life, whatever, if the Lord is with us, that's all we need. You can't ask for anything else! And now Gideon begins to be converted. He's changing now. He sees he's a part of an oppressed people, and Gideon says, "You stick around. I want to give an offering to you".
Gideon saw the need of worshiping, so he does an amazing thing, he goes and prepares a lavish meal. He must have gone back in the cave, he had a a goat hidden back there the Midianites hadn't stolen, and he takes that goat, he kills it, he prepares delicious meat. Then he goes and gets some of that bread, and he cooks it and he has gravy, and he prepares a meal, an offering, he would give to this visiting angel. And the angel takes that offering, put it on top of a rock, and shoo! It is taken away. The worship is accepted. And now Gideon is ready to do business for God Almighty.
Notice something, we say, "Lord, everything I have is yours". "Oh, how many"? "Oh, Lord, I know whatever I am, it all belongs to you". And then God says, "Okay, I want to take some of it". "Oh, wait a minute now, Lord. I know it's all yours, but I haven't had a meal like this for my family in years and years. My children have never seen a meal like this". God saw in this offering that he gave that Gideon was serious about his worship and serious about following the Lord in his commission to go and be the general and lead his people, God's people out of bondage. And then he gives him an assignment, a little test raid. He said, "I want you to go and tear down the altar of Baal that your daddy built".
Hello? Joash, his daddy had built an altar to Baal. That's how it is permeated paganism in all the society. And so he goes and takes some ox, he pulls down the altar to Baal. He pulled down all the totem poles, all they idolatrous places. And then the Lord said, "Now, you build another altar. Build it on that rock". And he got 12 stones and he built an altar and he worshipped there. Then he says, "I'm ready to go," and then Gideon sends out messengers with a ram's horn. Woo! All over the land, telling them to come and build an army, that he was ready to lead his people against the Midianites, the Midianites. And four tribes showed up, and he had an army of of 32,000 Israelis ready to battle with the Midianites.
But before they went out, Gideon says, "Lord, you know, I know you're with me, but I want a little more assurance". So, he put out two fleeces. By the way, this is not how you discover God's will. A lot of people, "Oh, I put out a fleece". Oh, no, no, no, no, no. This is for that time and that place, not for you and not from me. But Gideon put out a fleece with sweat on top, dry on the bottom today and dry tomorrow, and he did and it affirmed that he was called. And then we see the battle. Here we have 32,000 Jews who show up from four tribes, and there in the Valley of Jezreel, that's Armageddon. How many of you have ever been Armageddon? Been to the valley, that is? Lift your hand. We've got some Israelite.
Yeah, yeah, it's some kinda valley, isn't it? They saw on the other side 135,000 Midianites. I can see them in their black tents, the bedouins of that day. And over here, here is General Gideon with his 32,000 ready to do battle with these who had totally raped the country for over seven years, and here he is with his army concerned about what to do, but he goes and God says, "Go in the Midianite camp and just listen to what they're saying". So he goes into the camp, and one of the Midianite soldiers had a dream and he had awakened and he was telling his buddy, he said, "You know, I had a horrible dream. I dreamed that a barley cake came rolling down the mountain and just flattened all of our tents". "Oh, really"? His friend said, "That means that that barley cake Gideon is going to defeat us".
And so, sure enough, Gideon heard and he interpreted that and says, "I'm going to win the battle". So, he gets his 32,000. General Gideon is there ready to fight the 135,000 Midianites, and the Lord says, "Gideon! General Gideon"! "Yes, Lord"? "You have a problem in man-power". He says, "I'm glad you noticed". He said, "You have too many". "Too many"? "Yeah. So tell all of your troops, you're at 32,000, anybody who's afraid, they can go home".
I don't know if I'd been part of that crowd, and I'm looking at 32,000 and 130,000. You know, I'm a little pssh. So he ends up with 10,000. And now he's standing over there with his 10,000, and the Lord said, "Captain Gideon"? "Yes"? "You still have a man power problem". "Lord, I'm glad you noticed. I sure do. It's not getting any better". He said, "You've got too many". "Too many"? He said, "Yeah, I said take those 10,000, and you let them go and drink out of the river, and those who put their head down and drink like most people do, you put them in one group, and those who pull the water and lap like a dog, lap with their head up, put them in another group".
And sure enough, 9,700 go in one group, and 300 who lapped like a dog laps go in the other group. And here is Gideon over there with a 9,700, saying, "I don't need those who lap like a dog left in my army". And God says, "Sergeant Gideon, that's your crew over there, the 300. Send the rest of them home". Gideon takes his 300 men, and he gives them a trumpet, he gives them a ram's horn, he gives them a clay pitcher of some kind, puts a light, a torch in the pitcher, and he has them to surround the camp of the Midianites in the middle of the night. And all of a sudden, surrounding the camp, at his signal, here is 300 surrounding 135,000. They blow the ram's horn together. Woo! Can you imagine?
All around, the Midianites awaken and all of a sudden they hear, "Crack"! as the pots are broken. There is that torch of fire and they know that fire. And their pots sound like armor that's clashing together. And they see all those horns indicating charging. And they see the light and they wake up and they can't see, it's dark, they began to fight one another. They began to kill one another. Trying to run and get out of there, and they're scattered all over Israel. And now Gideon tells all of those who'd gone home, "Protect all the watering holes, because your enemy is coming, and you go there and you take over them and defeat them and slay them". And they did. Bam! Victory! Victory.
Well, what does that have to do with you and me? What do we learn from this? Just a basic principle. Use that which is in your hand. What do you have? You're a lawyer? Use a courtroom. You're a doctor? Use a stethoscope. You're a plumber? Use a wrench. You're a wife or a husband? Use that platform. Whatever you have, wherever you are, whatever your situation in life, God says, "Just use that, and I'll use you in a powerful way"! What is that in your hand?
Jean Thompson was a good teacher, fifth grade, elementary, and it's beginning of the year and she gave the lecture that most teachers give the beginning of every school year. Mrs. Thompson said, "Boys and girls, I'm going to treat all of you exactly alike. I have no favorites. I'm gonna teach material, and all of you are the same to me". She lied. You have favorites. You have those that you like. You have those you're drawn to if you're a teacher. And there was one student in the class she particularly disliked.
Teddy Stoddard. Teddy would come to school, seemed like he never did bathe. He just was always crumpled up and kind of pouting looking, and she'd call on him, he'd answer in mono-syllable. Uhh. The kids didn't like him. He had no friends. He's a terrible student, and she'd grade his paper and she delighting in putting a X by those he missed and putting a big F up there. And Teddy was just a brat, he was a jerk, he was a nonconformist, he was just angry, and he stayed to himself. And she didn't like Teddy Stoddard; nobody liked Teddy Stoddard. But had Mrs. Thompson read his permanent record, she would have known something about this student.
First grade it said something like: Teddy's a good boy. He has some ability, but he doesn't seem to have the ability to concentrate in class. I understand there's trouble in his family. Second grade: Teddy has fallen a little behind. He doesn't participate. The kids don't like him. And I understand his mother has a terminally ill disease. Third grade: Teddy doesn't participate in anything. He doesn't try anymore. I don't know why he's even at school. His mother died this year. Fourth grade: Teddy's behind everybody. I don't see how he'll ever catch up as far as academics are concerned. He's angry. He's bitter. I think he needs extensive counseling in order to come out of that position which he finds himself in life.
Now, had Mrs. Thompson read that, she would've understood more about Teddy, would she not? But she didn't, and that school year proceeds on and right before Christmas, all the kids bring brightly wrapped presents, and they exchange presents with one another, and they give presents to the teacher. Oh, they're beautifully wrapped with ribbons and notes to their teacher. And sure enough, there was a present that was in a piece of brown paper put together by Scotch tape. To her surprise, it was from Teddy Stoddard. And it said, "To my teacher, Teddy Stoddard". And so, Jean Thompson opened it up, and she saw in there a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing. And she saw a bottle of perfume half used, and all the children laughed at Teddy's gift. But she rose to the occasion, she put on the bracelet. She said, "Oh, isn't it lovely"? And she put some perfume on her wrist and said, "Oh, isn't it nice"? And all the students smiled.
End of class, Teddy came back to her desk after everybody left for the first time, and he said, Mrs. Thompson, I'm glad you liked my presents. I'm glad that bracelet looks good on you. And there's times and you smell like my mother used to smell. So, thank you for liking my presents. He went out of the room. Jean Thompson said she fell to her knees, and she said, "God forgive me. I have taught information, and I haven't taught and loved these kids". She became a new teacher that next day. She took an interest in all the kids, found out about them, particularly in Teddy Stoddard. She tutored him, she coached him. Anytime he'd do something good, she just applauded and bragged on him and affirmed him. Affirmation he never had in his entire life, and he began to grow, he began to study, and by the end of the year, he'd almost caught up with the rest of the class.
Mrs. Thompson felt like she'd had somewhat of success in Teddy. She lost track of him. Some years went by, and then she got a little note in the mail, and she opened it and it was from Teddy. It said, "Dear Mrs. Thompson, I graduated from high school today. I thought you'd wanna know. I finished second in my class. Love, Teddy Stoddard". She was so thrilled. Some three or four years went by, she got another note and she opened it. It was from Teddy Stoddard and it said, "Dear Mrs. Thompson. I graduated from the university this year". He said, "It was hard. I worked my way through, but I finished valedictorian of my class. Thank you. Teddy Stoddard".
Years went by, she didn't know what happened to Teddy. She wondered and then she finally got another note that said, "Dear Mrs. Thompson. You can now call me Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D". He said, "I'm also getting married July the 26, and I want you to come if you can and sit where my mother would have sat, in that place of honor. You're all the family I have. My dad died this year. Love, Teddy Stoddard". Mrs. Thompson said she went to that graduation. She sat where Teddy's mother would've sat. And she said, "That little boy became a man that God greatly used, who feared God and served people".
And she said, "I saw that what saved him was not the institution, or not education, it was the love and the attention I gave at a strategic time in his life". What is that you have in your hand? Where are you in life? All we have to do is just say, "Lord, use me. I give myself to you," and you'll be amazed how God can use just a plain, ordinary teacher like Jean Thompson, and how he could use barley cake sergeant and 300 soldiers that lap the way a dog laps. When God's on your side and God's on my side, it will be amazing what he can do with you and with me. What is that in your hand?