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Gideon Week 2 Study Guide: Weak Faith

Community Group Study Guide — Weak Faith
Judges 6:36-7:23

Main Idea:
Even after his initial encounter with God, Gideon still struggled with believing God was reliable and trustworthy. Gideon tests God and instead of pushing Gideon away, God abundantly responds and provides for him in his need. This is not a prescription for how we ought to seek guidance from God but rather shows us God’s heart when the ones he has called struggles to walk in faith. 

Study Information:
Probably the most iconic moment in Gideon’s story is his “golden fleece.” What happens in Judges 6:36-40 is that Gideon asks God for confirmation on what God had already told him so he laid out a blanket of wool and asked God to soak the blanket over night, but not the ground. The next morning he woke up and it was so soaked that he could fill a bowl with the water squeezed out. This was not enough for Gideon to have confirmation so he asked for the reverse to happen and God once again answered Gideon's request. 

Is this a pattern for us to follow? Is it some new strategy for us to know God’s will? 
Well, when we consider the entire chapter we see example after example of God helping Gideon’s weak faith to move him from testing God to trusting God. 

Gideon’s Test of God
Judges 6:36-40
When we first met Gideon, the text called out his weakness and fear. We found him hiding in a winepress beating out the grain and he called himself the weakest and the least. The angel who brought him the message called him a mighty man of valor, but at the end of the passage we found out that he was marked by fear. Gideon seems to be a paradox, filled with weakness and conviction and he has the tendency towards doubt. Yet, our passage last time ended hopefully and Gideon confronted the idolatry in his own home and destroyed his father’s Baal cult in order to set up an altar to God. Baal was an idol, a false god, of the Canaanites and shows us that Gideon’s family was complicit in the worship of this false god. Joash, Gideon’s father, comes to Gideon’s defense when the town seeks his life and Joash acknowledges that the town should not defend Baal, but let Baal contend for himself and since Baal did not answer therefore Baal must not really be a god to worship. 

This all seemed so hopeful, but we find Gideon in a place of doubt about God’s calling and reliability. The biggest clue we get is when Gideon asks God to give him a sign with the fleece, Gideon self acknowledges that he is testing God ( Judges 6:39). This testing comes from a place of doubt about what God had already told him clearly. Gideon’s fleece is not a good strategy for Christians to follow to discerning God’s will, instead it is an example of struggling to take God at his word; it is a sign of weak faith.

We can often wonder what God’s will is for our lives when we come to crossroad moments or we can wonder why God allowed events to happen to us in the past. Sometimes we do this because we want to please God with what we do next, other times we wonder because we’re trying to preserve our comfort; but what we see in Gideon is different, Gideon is struggling to believe God can be trusted. His is a situation of doubt. In our questions below you can examine some other passages about God’s will, but this is not the same situation as someone who is wondering which job they should take or where they should move. This is an example of someone who is doubting and weak in faith needing assurance that God has called them. 

How does God respond to someone in this position? We, already see that God answered Gideon’s test and he did so with abundant confirmation since the whole wool fleece had a great amount of water in it. This was a sign of God’s grace in his abundant reply. This shows us that God moves close to those he has called when they struggle to trust. God knows our weakness.

Yet, the story does not stop there, God responded to Gideon’s test by stretching his faith so his testing turned to trust and by showing Gideon that God has ben providing for him all along. 

God’s Testing of Gideon
Judges 7:1-8
God stretches Gideons faith by taking his already small army and reducing it down to a minuscule amount. We’re told that the Midianite army was like a locust swarm in number and the Israelites had a mere 22,000 soldiers in comparison. God wanted the glory and to make it clear that Israel’s own power did not save them, so he reduces the number down with two tests. First, God tells everyone who is afraid to go home. We see 12,000 soldiers walk off that day back to their tents. Next, God tells them to go to the spring of Harod which is the Hebrew word for “tremble” and take a sip of water. Those who drank with their faces down were dismissed and those who drank with their eyes up got to stay in the army, which brought their total number down to a mere 300 people. You could imagine Gideon’s shock at this, but God was intentionally moving him to a place where he’d have to have faith and act on God’s calling and he did so in dramatic fashion. 

God’s Response to the Doubter
Judges 7:9-23
God knows Gideon’s feelings around this situation and helps Gideon to see how he has been providing for him. He tells Gideon that if he is still afraid to go down to the camp with his servant and hear what they were saying. So Gideon sneaks down by night and goes up next to one of their tents and hears one soldier telling the other about his dream and what they saw was a barley round making its way down the mountain to destroy the camp. The two Midianite soldiers interpreted the dream to mean that God gave them in to Gideon’s hand. Gideon responds to this with worship (Judges 7:15). This worship led to action, as Gideon’s testing moves to trust in what God has called him to do. 

In all this we see that God does not push away his children who are struggling with certainty. Hebrews 11:1 talks about faith being the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Likewise, 2 Corinthians 5:7 talks about walking by faith and not by sight. Gideon seemed to really want to walk by sight and struggled with practical trust of God’s word. Yet, God’s response is not to get someone new or to abandon Gideon in his doubting, instead God moves towards him to give him assurance. This reminds us of the heart of Jesus that is shown in Hebrew 4:15-16 
[15] For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. [16] Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (ESV)

When it comes to knowing God’s will, the best way is for to get to know God’s word and his character so we can walk in wisdom. At the same time, we will have confidence that God is trustworthy and if we’re facing a season of struggle or doubt, God is good and it is ok to confess our weakness to him and to remember that he is gentle with the suffering and often he goes before us in his providence to prepare the way. 

Gideon got a glimpse of God’s grace and provision which gives him confidence to act in line with God’s call. Our passage shows us that he struggled to take God at his word, but rather than pushing Gideon away God works with his weak faith to bring him to a place of trust. 

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:

Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:8 and 5:18, and 1 Peter 2:15. What do these passages have to say about what is meant by knowing God’s will? How does this differ to what Christians usually are trying to figure out when they think about God’s will?

How does Judges 6:36-7:15 show us Gideon’s struggle to take God at his word and what is God’s response? 

How does God use the 300 soldiers to save Israel from Midian in this story? Why did he want to do it this way?

What would you say to a Christian who comes to you for help because they are struggling to believe that God is good and reliable? What kind of counsel would you give them based on this scripture and others in the Bible?