"'Tear down your father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the LORD your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.' So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD told him." (Judg 6:25-27)
Many of you are
familiar with this story. The setting is Palestine, during the time that
judges ruled over Israel. Because of their stubborn insistence on
worshipping other gods, God's people once again find themselves in a
predicament: "Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD,
and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites."
The oppression was terrible. "Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it." (Judg 6:3-6).
Finally, out of desperation, the people cried out to the Lord for help (Judges 6:6). And God, in His mercy, responded. He sent an angel to a man named Gideon saying: "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together." (Judg 6:16).
You may be aware of the rest of the story, how Gideon asked for signs of God and received them (Judges 6:18, 21, 36-40), how Gideon sent out a call for warriors and received 32,000, only to have God cull out 22,000 during the first cut, and another 9,700 on the second (Judges 7:2-8), then how God, using Gideon and just 300 men, delivered Israel from the Midianites (Judges 7:9-25). But what caught and held my interest the last time I read through this story was what happened between the time God called Gideon, and when the 32,000 men first showed up: "'Tear down your father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the LORD your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.' So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD told him." (Judg 6:25-27).
God wouldn't even allow Gideon to get started on this venture until the false gods had been removed! And not just taken down, but burned up, totally destroyed! God couldn't removed the Midian oppression while the people continued to worship false gods!
I would like to also suggest that God cannot move the mountains of our lives while we continue to hang on to false gods, either. First the false gods must be not only dethroned, but totally and completely annihilated, burned down, replaced by true worship, replaced by an attitude of God first, no matter what. Only then can God move to remove our trials, to heal our illnesses, our marriages, and our financial difficulties. Now if you are like me, you are either writing off this mini-sermon as "Not for me", or you are frantically searching your heart, wondering if there could possibly be a false god you've overlooked. You probably don't know of any false gods in your life. You may have just finished dethroning a few. And you probably seriously desire to put God first. Yes, this was my response. For weeks now, God has been giving me messages about false gods every time I open my Bible. For weeks I have been searching my heart, and I haven't come up with any false gods. But I know enough about my God to know He doesn't sent repeated messages to me about something that isn't an issue for me! So I kept on searching and asking God to reveal to me any false gods. And yesterday, as I read through the story of Gideon to my children, it suddenly became clear to me just what my false god was! It wasn't a fancy car. It wasn't prestige. It wasn't a big house or a even a friendship. No, it was MUCH more subtle than all of that! It was control!
Now this was my false god, and you may not have this problem. But I would challenge you to search your hearts and pray earnestly for God to reveal to each and everyone of you what might have attained the status of "god" in your life. Be sure to search for subtle things. Ask God to reveal to you anything that causes you to be upset, to be impatient, to be annoyed. Could there be some kind of false god hidden behind that? Be diligent in your search, my friends, for you must keep in mind that just as God couldn't move against Midian before Gideon had destroyed the idols, God cannot move the mountains in your life until the false gods are first destroyed!
Tear down your altars my friends so that God can defeat the "Midianites" of your life!