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Gideon Week 1 Study Guide: Hiding from God

Community Group Study Guide — Hiding from God
Judges 6:1-35

Main Idea:
God’s people were facing oppression from surrounding countries as a result of their idolatry and drifting away from God. In response God calls someone to rescue his people and we find him hiding and self described as weak and the least. Along the way we learn that God calls his people out of hiding so they can live by faith. 

Study Information:
The book of Judges can be a difficult book for us to read because it shows us so clearly how evil the human heart can be. The repeating phrase in the book is “humanity did what was right in their own eyes.” This teaches us that the default response of the human heart is to look for independence from God and to do what we think will benefit us. So we have various cycles in the book of Judges of the people of God drifting from him to worship idols, and then God sends a foreign nation like the Midianites to bring them back to him, they cry out for help and then God raises up a Judge to lead them; this results in a time of peace but that peace leads to complacency and drift and the cycle starts over. These Judges are men and women who are frail and imperfect people but those that God uses by faith. We’re to be careful not to try and see them as people to copy, but rather what Romans 15:4 teaches us “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” For the next three study guides we will explore Gideon and how God teaches us about the nature of weakness, dependence and how to use (or rather, not use) power. 

Hiding From God:
Judges 6:1-24
We get our first sight of Gideon in verse 11. God sent an angel of the Lord to call Gideon to lead their people against the Midianites who were harassing them. Gideon’s name means “hacker” and likely refers to a later event in our text where he cuts down his father’s pagan altar. On first sight, Gideon was unimpressive. The Midianites’ spent 7 years robbing and stealing from the Israelites, which is the shortest but also most severe time a foreign nation in the book of Judges harassed God’s people. The angel of the Lord approaches Gideon while he was hiding in a winepress, beating out grain. At first glance this may just seem like a wise thing to do, but this event gets connected to Gideon’s own personal issue with fear in our text (see Judges 6:23, 27). Typically you would beat out the grain on a high mountain top with a lot of wind so they seed would separate from the chaff, but Gideon is down low in a winepress so no one would see him. On top of this the angel of the Lord calls him a “mighty man of valor” and tells him to go in “this might of yours.” These are words that are simultaneously ironic yet point forward to what God will do through him. Gideon’s response shows his hesitancy as he declares that he is from the weakest clan and is the least in his family. Certainly God could do better, right? That is kind of the point, God choose Gideon because of his own weakness and as we will see later because Gideon’s family had been part of the problem with their idolatry. What’s also interesting in this story is Gideon’s response to even the idea that God was with him and wanted to save Israel, look back at Judges 6:13-14. Gideon expresses his skepticism and disappointment with God for their circumstances. Yet, what we learn from Judges 6:1-10 is that God is not to blame for their circumstances; the people of God had been drifting from him and started to become like the Canaanites around them and worshiped their gods. 

God brought his people “very low” through the Midianites so that they would draw near to him (Judges 6:6). This was not because God abandoned them but rather because God did not want them to abandon him. God sends a prophet to them to let them know the cause was their own idolatry and fear of these other gods. It is telling though in our text that they cry out to God, but there is no mention of repentance; it is implied that they cry out because life had been difficult and yet they do not connect their idolatry to being the source of the problem (Judges 6:7). Sometimes it is just easier to blame God.  

Gideon gets his message from the angel of the Lord, but instead of receiving it on faith he asks for proof. Gideon responds by getting oil, meat and grain and setting it on a rock and the angel lights it on fire and vanishes. This is proof enough, at least for this moment,  for Gideon that the Lord promised to be with him and that God cared deeply about their situation. Rather than just delivering them from the Midianites God wants to draw them to himself. We can see foreshadows of the gospel in this text. God responds to the cry of his people by sending a savior, there is a promise to be with his people, and his love despite their sin. Gideon is not Jesus, but stories like this in scripture should make us long for a true and better savior like Christ who is the presence of God on earth and who sends the Spirit to his people to be with them. 

Gideon commemorates this time by building an altar and calling it “the Lord is Peace” which is a powerful statement for a person marked so greatly by fear. 

Called to Follow:
Judges 6:25-35 
That very night Gideon’s commitment to God is called into action. We often want things “out there” in the world to change, but we learn that Gideon needed to look at his own home first. His family had been contributing to the problem; his dad set up a worship site to the pagan gods of Baal and Asherah. Baal was a god worshiped for rain and agricultural harvest, and Asherah was a fertility goddess. God calls Gideon to tear them down, so Gideon takes two of his dad’s bulls and 10 of their servants and cleans house. Yet, look at the text, it is clear that Gideon responds immediately but he also was glad it was night because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town (Judges 6:27). It is hard to fault Gideon because he is being put in harms way, but his fear is highlighted for us here and gets connected to his hesitancy and his hiding. What God is doing in all this is he is calling Gideon, the family, the town and the nation out of hiding to confront their sin and to look to him. This action of Gideon wakes up his dad and the town to the reality of their idolatry. 

Gideon’s father Joash responds by putting Baal on trial. Honestly, it could have gone either way, Joash could have gotten upset but it seems like something woke up in him and he tells the town to “let Baal contend for himself if he is a god.” And, the town responds by rallying around Gideon, as well as the surrounding tribes and we see that God has clothed him with his Spirit. Yet their is still more work to be done with Gideon’s heart and the people’s faith. 

Instead of abandoning his people, God calls the weak and the least to save them. Gideon was disappointed in God and questioned God being with them, but God graciously shows his faithfulness to Gideon as he calls him out of hiding and into faith. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

Describe the root cause of the circumstances the Israelites were facing with Midian? What is Gideon’s assessment of the problem and how does that differ from what God says?

What clues do we have in the text that Gideon is weak and fearful? What does the Lord call him to and how does the Lord refer to him?

What does God call Gideon to do in verses 25-35 and why is that important for the story? 

The passage, study guide and sermon discussed how easy it is to blend in with the culture around us and the world we’re in. How does this passage teach you, specifically, that God wants to call us out of hiding or blending in? We also talked about how change starts at home, often in our own backyard. Do you have an area in your life that God is saying “what about that?” If so, what steps can you take to follow God in faith in that area?