The Enemy Within

Judges 6:25, “Now on the same night the Lord said to him, ‘Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it;”

In a nutshell? God told Gideon that before Israel could fight the enemy “without” they first had to face the enemy “within.” Strong word. But one that Israel very much needed to hear. Don’t forget, Midian was not the problem. Yes, they were the ones who were oppressing Israel at the moment. But the Midianites were not the true source of Israel’s present difficulties. The real enemy had been revealed way back at the very beginning of the story. Israel was their own worst enemy. Remember verse one? Israel had done evil in the sight of the Lord. After 40 years of peace and prosperity they had abandoned God in favor of idols. The real enemy was never the Midianites. They were simply God’s means of getting His people’s full attention. The true enemy was the one that lay within Israel’s own hearts.

And so, God immediately turns Gideon’s attention to the heart of the problem. “Gideon, the very idolatry that plagues my people exists here in your own family. Before you can lead others you must first be willing to lead at home. Your words will mean nothing unless you yourself are living them out. You must not only talk the talk. You must also walk the walk. Start here. Start now. Be strong and tear down your father’s idols. I am with you, valiant warrior.” Sounds easy on the surface, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. Gideon was taking a stand. He was standing up to his father. Standing up to his family. Standing up to the entire nation. One man alone against an entire cultural and religious mindset. No, this was not an easy thing that God was asking him to do. Little wonder that he had to rally a support group and undertake his mission in the middle of the night.

Whenever we come to a portion of scriture like this we need to be certain we do not lightly skip over the issue of personal application. Let’s be honest. So much of the current disillusionment with the Church today has arisen because of a leadership that never took seriously this command to deal with the issues (i.e. sin) within their own hearts. They preached. They pontificated. They prophesied. They promised and pronounced all sorts of blessing. But in the end the witness of their personal lives fell far short of their public profession. In other words, they sought to lead us against the Midianties of this day and age but all the while their own homes where filled with the very idols they denounced.

It would be so easy at this point to nod our heads in agreement and all the while we refuse to be honest with ourselves. There is not a one of us today that does not need to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Every one of us are prone to the same double-mindedness and hypocrisy. We are quick to point the finger at others but then we turn around and make excuses for our own sin. Oh, how we love to rationalize our own illicit passions and ungodly behavior. We justify it by comparing ourselves to others and convincing ourselves that we are not as bad as the next guy. How truly tragic. We try to fool everyone around us into believing we are some sort of “super saints.” We try to fool ourselves into believing that God will understand, that a little sin never really hurt anyone. But in the end we are no diffirent than the long list of fallen Christian “celebrities.” They just happen to be in the public spotlight. In the final analysis we all wrestle against our fallen, sinful humanity.

It is high time that we in the Church address the sin in our own lives. Yes, we are forgiven. Without question. Christ paid the full measure for our sin in His death on the cross. But now we are also free from the power of sin. His blood, His Word and the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit enable us to walk in freedom and victory. God does not lightly wink at our idols. He is holy. He is righteous. And He will not share His bride. Gideon’s first call was to clean house. His father’s idols had to go. The same call holds true for each of us. It is our refusal to deal with the enemy within our own lives that has stripped us of true power and authority. We cannot properly lead because we are not fully following His word and will for our lives. There is far too much compromise and far too little commitment and godly convinction.

I know that for many of you this has been a tough word. But just like Israel in the days of Gideon it is one that we all need to hear. I know it is one that I need to hear. (Who knows? Maybe I was only writing to myself?) Let God turn the spotlight of His word on our hearts. May we open our ears to hear His voice with clarity. And may we take a stand. No longer will we allow the enemy or sin to feel at home in our lives. Pull down the “altars.” Cut down the “poles.” Tear down the idols. Until we first deal with the enemy within we will never be able to face the enemy without.