“And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!’ Gideon said to Him, ‘O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.’ Then the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?’ So he said to Him, ‘O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.’ Then he said to Him, ‘If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me. Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You and bring out my offering and set it before You.’ And He said, ‘I will wait until you come back.’” (Judges 6:12-19).
This was the time of the Judges in Israel. By the time of Joshua's death he had defeated all of Israel's enemies and established the people in the Promised Land. Instead of appointing another military leader, God raised up Judges to lead the people against their local enemies. The very fact that they had to fight these enemies was, at times, due to their own disobedience. This period of the Judges is one of the lowest times in Israel's history. The last verse of the book says: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
The book of Judges records seven cycles that spanned about three-hundred years. These cycles began with disobedience, which resulted in bondage, which resulted in misery. Then God would raise up one of the Judges to call His people back to Himself. This resulted in repentance, deliverance, rest, and revival. Alexander Fraser Tyler (1747-1813) wrote a book describing the fall of the Athenian Republic. He suggested that nations' progress through the following sequence:
•From bondage to spiritual faith.
•From spiritual faith to great courage.
•From great courage to liberty.
•From liberty to abundance.
•From abundance to selfishness.
•From selfishness to complacency.
•From complacency to apathy.
•From apathy to dependency.
•From dependency back to bondage.
That's the history of Israel, and, unfortunately it's beginning to sound a lot like America.
In Israel's years of peace and prosperity the people began to wander from God, and as often happened, their moral decline was followed by military oppression from the outside. So for three-hundred years, the people of Israel bounce back and forth from being faithful and obedient to being unfaithful and disobedient. In each cycle Israel seems to have sunk lower than she had sunk before.
It is in this setting that the story of Gideon takes place. Gideon was the fifth Judge in Israel, raised up by God to deliver his people from the Midianites and Amalekites. Hebrews chapter eleven includes Gideon in God's Hall of Fame.
Judges 6:1: The Midianites were a nomadic people, who for seven years would wait until the people of Israel had finished planting their crops, then they would attack, stealing their crops and herds, destroying what they couldn't steal. So the people cried out to God to deliver them.
6:11: God always has a man to meet the need of the hour. With all of this in mind, we're ready to meet our would-be hero. When we think of a hero, we are inclined to think of great strength, intellect, talent, personal charisma and appearance. Our hero had none of those qualities. When we first see him he is a pathetic figure of unbelief! He started out as a frightened and weak farmer, but he was transformed by God's power into a warrior.
Three Pictures of the Making of a Hero:
1] The First Picture, Gideon the Coward (6:1-24).
Judges 6:11 pretty much says it all. “Now the angel of the Lord (A Theophany, an Old Testament appearance of Christ] came and sat under a Terebinth [oak] tree, which was in Ophrah.” He arrived while Gideon, the son of Joash was threshing wheat so he could hide it from the Midianites. Gideon is not particularly a picture of strength and courage here! He is stricken with fear at the might of Midian. He's hiding down in the winepress, threshing wheat. Normally the threshing floor was an open, exposed flat area where the winds could blow away the chaff. The winepress was a shallow, hollowed-out place in the ground, a distance from the fields, in the vineyards. Gideon is trying to save what little wheat he can from the enemy.
6:13: Not only was Gideon in the winepress physically, but emotionally and spiritually, as well. Gideon appears to a frightened and bitter man. While being challenged to deliver Israel, he says to the Angel of the Lord, “Oh my Lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And, where are all His miracles which our father's told us about, saying: ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.’” This not exactly the picture of a courageous hero! It is a picture of a defeated, discouraged man, filled with doubts and fears.
Listen to the language of unbelief:
“Oh” The skeptical surprise of unbelief. He should have expected God to come through!
“If” The uncertainty of unbelief.
“Why” has all this happened to us? The questioning of unbelief. “Where” are all His miracles? The desolateness of unbelief.
“But” now Jehovah has forsaken us. The complaint of unbelief.
Gideon was angry with God for not coming through for him. In addition to his anger, he felt he had nothing to offer to help improve things. He didn't think he had the power or the skills to turn things around. He tells the Angel of the Lord in 6:15: “O My Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest…and I am the least in my father's house.” He is really saying, ”God, you've got the wrong guy! You'll need a real warrior for this!” But…God always comes through! Maybe not as we expect, but He always comes through. God came through for: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-Nego, Elijah, Paul, and He will come through for you!
Listen to what God says to Gideon, Verse 12, “The Lord is with you, mighty man of valor!” I can just imagine Gideon's response. “You talkin' to me, Lord?” God saw him as he could be, not as he was! Verse 14: “Go in this mighty might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites.” “Who Me? You talkin' to me, Lord?” God goes on to say, “Have I not sent you?” God always has a person to match the crisis! When God calls He equips!
2] The Second Picture, Gideon the Challenger (6:25-32).
It was one thing to meet God in the secrecy of his winepress, but quite another to stand up for God in public.
6:25-27: Gideon began to make a difference at home, he tore down his father's idols, and built an altar to the Lord. God never blesses until the idols are gone and we are willing to make an altar for Him. He was still afraid but he was willing to take the risk at home. This inspired at least ten men to go with him, and a little later, he will rally thirty-two-thousand men. The great thing about risk-taking is that it inspires others to move out in faith.
Remember the four-minute mile? Runners had been trying to break four minutes since the ancient Greek games. Someone found the records of how the Greeks tried to accomplish this: By having wild animals chase the runners, hoping to make them run faster. By trying tiger's milk, not the stuff you get at the super market, but the real stuff. Nothing worked! So they decided that it was physically impossible for a human to run a mile in four minutes. Our bone structure was all-wrong, the wind resistance was too great, our lung power was inadequate. There were a lot of reasons or excuses. Then one day Roger Bannister proved that the Greeks, doctors, trainers, and athletes were all wrong. He broke the four-minute mile, and miracle of miracles, the year after thee-hundred runners also broke the four-minute mile.
Not only to modern-day Gideon's overcome their cowardice, but they live their lives in such a way as to inspire others to do their best. I'm challenging you today to make a decision. You cannot win any battles down in the winepress, hiding from the enemy! You must come out in the open and take a stand. People need someone to rally behind…Take your stand! “If Not Now, When? If Not Us, Who?” (This quote is attributed to several people).
3] The Third Picture, Gideon the Conqueror (6:33-8:3).
With this victory under his belt, Gideon issued a call-to-arms across Israel and they responded. As they came Gideon began to get a little nervous. It's one thing for a farmer to say he's going to lead an army into battle, but quite another thing to actually lead an army into battle, especially when you have thirty-two thousand men (7:3). There were Midianites without number. (one-hundred-eighty-five-thousand Assyrians died in a battle in BC 701) So we must assume that Gideon faced more then one-hundred-eighty-five-thousand. He was outnumbered about sixty to one. No wonder he was nervous!
Judges 6:36-40: So our hero gets into a little discussion with God. He says, “Tell you what God, if this is really what you want me to do, give me a sign. So here’s what we're going to do! I'll put a sheep's fleece on the threshing floor tonight. In the morning, if the fleece is wet and the floor is dry, I'll know You are talking to me.” The next morning, sure enough, the fleece was wet and the floor dry, and Gideon said, “Lord, are you talkin' to me?” A real man of faith! Gideon is not convinced, so he made another deal with God, “Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece… Tomorrow morning, if the fleece is dry and the floor is wet, then I will know for sure that you're talking to me.” Well, we know the outcome, God was truly talking with Gideon.
I'm certain that he wanted to make absolutely certain before launching these men into battle. The fleece was all about Gideon's lack of faith, his fear, doubt and unbelief. He already knew what God wanted him to do, he just needed some reassurance. Remember this is an Old Testament event. When the Holy Spirit was given to indwell believers on Pentecost, our decision-making was dramatically impacted by the “Paracletos, the Comforter, our Helper.” Today He is our guide! He lives in us!
Judges 7:2: Now this is where Gideon's story gets interesting. He is really psyched now. God has told him that he would lead an army into a great victory over the Midianites, and confirmed it though the fleece thing. Now Gideon calls for all the able-bodied men to join him, Thirty-two-thousand show up. He thinks, “Alright, this is cool, I can do this!” And God says, “Not so fast Gideon, you've got too many!"” Our hero must have thought, “Too many?” “Have you really counted the men God?” “How can we have too many? Have You counted the enemy? Oh, that's right they're without number!” Then God says, “Lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘my own hand has saved me.’” God wanted this to be a God thing, while Gideon wanted it to be man thing. Now you really can't blame our weak-kneed farmer for being a bit concerned.
Judges 7:3: So Gideon makes the announcement. “Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him depart.” “If any of you dudes is scared, split!" Twenty-two thousand split! And Gideon is left with ten-thousand. However, he must have thought he had the best of Israel's man power, and they had all the best weapons like, rocks, sticks, and pointed objects.
Judges 7:4-8: Just as this new number is penetrating Gideon's head, (Oh, Oh!) God says, “There are still too many. Bring them down to the water and I will separate them for you. Separate those who get down on their knees to drink from those who lap like a dog.” And, you guessed it! Gideon ended up with three-hundred men. Then the Lord said to Gideon, “By these three-hundred man…I will save you and deliver the Midianites into your hand.”
“You talkin' to me, Lord?
Now at this point I'm not sure that Gideon was all that convinced of the validity of the plan. So God told him, “If you don't believe it go down to the enemy camp and see what they're saying.” He secretly took one of his servants to the Midianite camp and heard a conversation going on around the campfire. 7:13,14: Two of the enemy are talking about Gideon's victory before the battle even begins. That does it! Gideon is finally figuring out that God is in this!
7:16-22: Gideon and his three-hundred, with trumpets and covered pitchers with torches inside, shouted “The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” broke their pitchers to let their lights shine, stood in their place and God won a great victory.
Author, Dr. J. Sidlow Baxter gives a three-point outline about Gideon:
1. Gideon converted. He had a transforming experience. Courage can only come when conversion takes place. 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone if in Christ he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.”
2. Gideon Consecrated. He built an altar [6:24], and called it, “The Lord Shalom.” “Jehovah is my peace.” He offered himself on the altar. The altar is not only the place where man meets with God, it is the place where man yields to God. God is looking for a Gideon's today. People of faith who are willing to step out and do great things for God.
3. Gideon Controlled. 6:34: “The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon.” In Hebrew this reads, “The Spirit of Jehovah clothed Himself with Gideon, as with a garment.” Ephesians 5:18: “Do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”
•Jesus had the fullness of the Spirit on His life. Luke 4:1.”Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit…” If Our Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God needed the filling of the Spirit, how do we think we can get along without it?
•The disciples on the day of Pentecost were filled.
•Multitudes in Acts 4 were filled.
•The deacons (servants) in Acts 6 were filled (Acts 2).
•The Martyr, Stephen, was filled (Acts 7).
•Barnabus and Paul were filled for service (Acts 13).
If these great servants of God had to depend upon the filling of the Spirit, how could we possibly think we could get along without it?
To be filled with the Spirit is to be dominated by the things of God and His holy word. Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
It is to rest so completely in the Lord, that He will carry us through life like a piece of driftwood on the water. It is simply leaning on Him. It is to yield the authority of our lives to Him. He loves us so much that He is never going to let anything happen to me that is not good for Him.
It is practicing His presence! Galatians 2:20, “Christ lives in me.” Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Do you not know that you are the Temple of God and that the Holy Spirit of God dwells in you?” 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Do you not know that Christ is in you?” Ephesians 3:17, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” 1 John 4:4, “Greater is he that is you than he who is in the world.”
Back to our hero, Here's the great lesson of Gideon. God can and does use ordinary people to do ordinary things. The steps of Gideon's victory are easy to trace:
•He had a promise to believe. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
•He had an altar to build. Romans 12:1,2, We are “Living Sacrifices.”
•They had a vessel to break: “Let your light so shine” (Matthew 15:16). If we catch on fire people will come to watch us burn.
•They had a trumpet to blow. 1 Corinthians 14:8, If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” It must be a clear call from the Word of God!
And God gave the victory. 2 Chronicles 20:1-30: When Jehoshaphat was in battle with the Moabites and Ammonites, God said to him: “You will not need to fight this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you…Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.”
John Wesley said: “If I had three-hundred men who feared nothing but God, hated nothing but sin, and were determined to know nothing among men but Christ and Him crucified, I would set the world on fire.
Just ordinary people, God uses ordinary people.
He uses people just like you and me
Who are willing to do as he commands.
He chooses people who will give their all,
No matter how small their all may seem to be.
Because little becomes much
When we place it in the Master's hand.
John Legend and Will i Am
And another old song.
Little is much when God is in it.
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There's a crown and you can win it.
If you'll go in Jesus' name.
Kittie L. Suffield
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The Amplified Bible (AMP); and The Message (MSG).