This year in chapel, we have talked about many of God’s promises:
- The promise of salvation to those who trust in Christ
- The promise to forgive our sins to those who confess their sins
- The promise to be with us always
- The promise of steadfast or never-ending love
- The promise to hear us when we call out to Him
- The promise to supply our needs
Today, I want to tell you a story from the Book of Judges that demonstrates all of these promises that I have just mentioned, and it also tells about another promise from God. Have you ever found yourself in trouble and you called out to God for help? I know I have.
That was certainly the case during the time of the Judges during the Old Testament. You will remember that during this time period after the people of Israel had settled in the Promised Land—God told the people that they needed to trust Him and obey Him—and not earthly rulers. The book of Judges records how the people went through a cycle of sinning against God. The Bible says they did whatever they thought was right—instead of obeying God. This caused the people to suffer the consequences of their sins, so that they would get to a place where things would get so bad, they would finally repent and call out to Him for help. And of course, God answered their prayers and sent someone to help them.
That is exactly what happened in this story that I am going to tell you. The Israelites disobeyed God over and over, so God sent their enemies—the Midianites—to attack them. The Israelites were so scared they were hiding in caves. Can you imagine living in caves? Some of you might think that sounds like a fun camping trip. But the Israelites were not on vacation! They were scared. They were afraid for their lives. The Bible compares the Midianites—these enemies of Israel—to locusts or grasshoppers. If you know anything about locusts, you know they can swarm over a farmer’s field, and in just a few hours they can devour everything—all the plants and food—leaving nothing for the farmer.
In Judges 6, the Bible tells us that this is exactly what the Midianites did. They swarmed over the land of the Israelites and stole all the crops growing in the fields, all the sheep, and all the oxen and donkeys. These Midianites left nothing for God’s people, the Israelites. This took place for 7 long years, and finally, after 7 years of suffering, the people of Israel finally cried out to the Lord for help. You might wonder why it took 7 whole years to ask for help! But, that is what happened.
When things got so bad, Israel finally knew where to turn—to God Almighty. If you remember in our earlier talks about God’s promises, we talked about God promising to forgive. God loves to forgive those who turn away from sin, and He hears the prayers of his people, so he answered the Israelites’ prayers. They called out to God and repented, and He forgave them. What a wonderful example of God’s promise to forgive—and that promise is available to us today.
Not only did He forgive them, but he also delivered on his promise to hear His people. He heard the prayers of the Israelites and He raised up a leader named Gideon to lead some men to fight the Midianites. Before you think of Gideon as some type of super hero, you need to know that Gideon was very nervous about this plan. How could he and the fearful Israelites who were so scared they were hiding in their caves fight these powerful Midianites? Gideon was scared, but God reminded him—“I will be with you.” Does that remind you of another promise that we have already talked about in chapel. God promises to be with us always!
God, who is always with His people, doesn’t just sit back and watch what is going on with His people. He works for them. He fights for them. He helps them.
This part of the story illustrates today’s promise. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
God’s people, the Israelites, were certainly in a time of trouble as they were being attacked by their enemies. But this trouble would be no problem for the God of the universe to solve.
So Gideon gathered an army of 300 men—that is not a very big army, but God didn’t need a big army. He wanted the army to be small, so that when they defeated their enemies, they would know that God had delivered them. If you know the story, you will remember that Gideon gathered trumpets and torches and empty jars. These don’t exactly sound like army weapons, do they? But God had a plan.
The Israelites sneaked down and surrounded the camp of the Midianites with a trumpet in one hand and a torch covered by a jar in the other hand. When Gideon blew his trumpet, all the men blew their trumpets, broke their jars, and shouted—“A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”
What did God, who is called “the very present help in trouble” do?
The Bible tells us, “The Lord set every man’s sword against his comrade and against the army.” (Judges 7:22) The Midianites were so scared and confused that they started fighting with each other—instead of against the Israelites. Then, they actually ran away! Have you ever heard of such a strange battle and such a great victory! Only the Lord could work for His people in such a way. This story shows us how God won the victory in a very unusual way.
If you are a Christian, you need to remember that God is your very present Helper, too—just like He was for the Israelites. When you have little problems or large ones, God is ready to be your very present help in trouble. You might not be hiding in a cave or fighting in an army, but you can call out to God because He is present and He wants to help you in your trouble. When you feel lonely or sad or mistreated by others, or when you are tempted to sin or want to follow a bad example, or when you find yourself doubting God, God will not just sit and watch. He probably won’t have you collect trumpets and jars, but He will hear you and He will fight for your faith and act for you. He is not far off or uninterested in your life. He might act by reminding you of His truth, or by sending someone to encourage you, or by speaking to you through a parent or teacher who can help you solve your problem. Regardless of what He does, He will hear you, and be your help in trouble.
As I close, I want to suggest two things. First, think of how God may have helped you and your family this week. Talk to your parents about God being our help in times of trouble and see if they can share with you an unusual time when God helped them or your family. This would be a great discussion during dinner tonight.
Second, I want to ask you if you have any problems or fears or worries today? If you do, you need to be like the Israelites in this story and call out for God’s help—because He promises His help in times of trouble. And don’t wait 7 years like the Israelites did! Now is the time to ask for God’s help. He promises to be your help in times of trouble.
–Based on materials from God’s Promise by Sally Michael