The children of Israel were suffering under bondage from the Midianites and that oppression finally became so destructive that in desperation the people cried out to God. (Judges 6:6) The question that automatically arises is, “how did Israel end up in a position that enslaved them, once again, to a foreign nation? In Judges 6:8-10 God gives us an answer to the question.
8 “he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
9 I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land.
10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”
The people simply stopped listening to God. They had forgotten all the ways that God had led in the past and instead of putting God first in their lives they relegated Him to the back burner. The worship of the Amorite gods with their drunken parties, orgies, sacrifices, and mystery were more sensual and erotic than anything God had to offer.
It’s interesting how this theme continues to play out in our own time. I would be a rich man if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, “Christianity is boring, there’s nothing to do. All our fun is gone.” And compared to the fast paced world we live in with instant gratification and promises of absolute pleasure God seems a bit old fashioned. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look around this old world and see that millions and millions of people have stopped listening to God.
So what we have in Judges 6 are a people who have turned their backs on God in order to chase an easier and more delightful worship in the arms of the Midianite gods and goddesses. However, you get the Midianites when you worship their gods and the Midianites were a hard bunch.
It is also interesting that even though the people rejected God and only cried out to Him when their burdens became too heavy to bear, God still answered them and brought them help. That help was in the form of a young man by the name of Gideon. (See Judges 6:11-18, for God’s call to Gideon).
Now here are some interesting facts about this story that will have implications for us.
- Gideon was hiding from his enemies
- He was working for his father who was a pagan priest
- Gideon responded to God’s call by saying, “If the Lord is with us, why then has all this befallen us? And where are all His wonderful deeds which our fathers recounted to us saying, “Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?”
- Next the Lord says to Gideon, “Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?”
- Gideon now responds that he is weak and the least in his family. God responds, “But I will be with you, and you shall smite the Midianites as one man.”
- Even this assurance doesn’t give confidence to Gideon so he asks for a sign and God causes a fire theophany (6:21-22) and finally brings Gideon to say that he has seen God face to face.
So what are we being told in the Gideon story? If you look carefully at the 6 statements I just made about Gideon, you quickly see they are in reality copies of the Moses story. In the time of Moses Israel was suffering under foreign oppression (Egypt) and cried out to God to help them. Exodus 2:23
The answer to Israel’s prayer was God’s calling of Moses to lead the people. And where was Moses? He was hiding from his enemies and working for his father-in-law who was a pagan priest. Then of course Moses encountered God at the burning bush and when given his commission to lead the children of Israel out of captivity he answered, “Who am I?” Exodus 3:11
In 3:12 God assures Moses that He will be with him, but that is not good enough for Moses and he continues to argue against God’s calling. God then gives him two signs, his staff becomes a serpent and his hand becomes leprous, Exodus, 3:13-19.
In fact, the entire book of Judges is a type of Exodus and Moses. So, what is the writer of Judges trying to tell us by making these obvious connections to Moses and the Exodus? It would seem we are being reminded that the mighty acts of God are repeated over and over again and the reason for that is the people of God seem to repeat their failures over and over.
Dale Allison, Jr., in his book, The New Moses, states, “With regard to Judges 6 and Exodus 3 in particular, the common circumstance is foreign domination, the common divine remedy a commissioned liberator. As it was in Egypt, so in the land. As God sent Moses, the first deliverer, so He sent Gideon, a second deliverer. The link between Moses and Gideon is therefore deliverance.” p. 30
But Joshua, Gideon, and the other judges are not the only new Moses’ in the Old Testament. Samuel, David, Elijah, and even King Josiah also fit the bill. Also the prophets Ezra, Jeremiah and Ezekiel have re-workings of the Moses motif in their writings.
What is important about all this is that in every case these Old Testament characters are instruments of God for the proclamation of hope to an enslaved or indifferent people. And each instrument of God proclaims that deliverance comes from outside the norm. The hope of the people is an invasion into their circumstances of non-other than God who intervenes “with an outstretched arm” to deliver His people out of their enslavement and debauchery.
As a result, the cycle of Israel’s rebellion and indifference is continually met by God through giving the people a Moses styled leader to deliver them. By doing this we see that the original plans of God to deliver His people out of bondage and to ever be with them has never changed. No matter how rebellious the people, God raises up a leader like Moses to bring hope and deliverance to the people. God never abandons us, forgets us or changes His mind regarding us—He is always with us.
Of course, when we come to the New Testament (especially Matthew) the great Exodus that doesn’t fail takes place under the new Moses—Jesus. Through the intervention of God, in Christ, the people are delivered from their bondage to sin, and returned to the Garden (the Eden made new). In Jesus, God does for us what we can’t do for ourselves—bring salvation.
The cycles of people who carry on ministry in the character of Moses is important because it shows God is ever working, never changing, never altering His plan for His people. Moses led the way out of Egypt, Joshua, Gideon, and the other judges carried the plan further along by the conquest of the promised land.
Samuel becomes the prototype of what a true King and prophet should look and act like. David solidifies the land and builds the Kingdom as Moses had promised the people. The prophets remind the wayward people that they are sliding away from God and will lose the land. Jesus, the one greater than Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6) brings the final Exodus to fruition and final victory for God’s people.