This is the third installment in our Faith Heroes series. The first week we met Ruth and saw the powerful story of redemption. Last week we met Esther, who saved her people from extinction.
This week, we meet Gideon. As we will see, Gideon is like you and me. He possesses an inner strength known to God, and God prepares him to be a bold leader for Israel when needed.
Our story opens with a brief history of Israel's exodus from Egypt, wandering and messing up frequently, and living a life on the run.
The Israelites were running from the Midianites. One day, the angel of God appears to Gideon while he is working on the threshing floor.
The angel says to Gideon,
“Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” – Judges 6:12
I wonder if Gideon had heard these words before. I get the impression that if trouble showed up, Gideon was not your first call.
God begins to show our young leader who he is to become.
Gideon questions where the Lord has been. Where are the miracles I have heard so much about?
“Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” – Judges 6:14
The Lord turned to Gideon and told him to “go with strength. I am sending you!”
I imagine the look on Gideon's face was one of amazement and questioning. Do you have the right, Gideon?
If he was to go and deliver his people, he was going to need a sign. As we will see shortly, Gideon loves asking God for signs. God's patience is seen in spades as he indulges Gideon's request.
Gideon rushes home and prepares a meal for the angel of God. What's interesting is God is talking to Gideon, but God's angel is present. Is God speaking through the angel or from somewhere else? I find these interactions intriguing.
Gideon returns with some meat, unleavened bread, and broth. The angel instructs him to put the meal on the rock and pour the broth over the meal.
With one touch of the angel's staff, a fire consumes the meal (or rather the offering). There is Gideon's sign!
Who Did It?
Soon after this interaction, the Lord instructs Gideon to tear down the altar of Baal and the wood pole next to it that people worshipped. These idols were getting in the way of a relationship between God and the Israelites.
Gideon goes out at night with ten of his servants and goes crazy on the altar and pole.
Scripture says he did it at night because he was afraid of his household. What is interesting in the instructions is God never told him when he had to do it. I get the impression from the text that Gideon assumed it was supposed to be done during the day.
Just like us, fear crept into Gideon's response. He still acted but chose when and how to do it. If Gideon had not done it, then he would not be obedient to the Lord's request.
The following day, people were angry about destroying their altar to Baal and the demolished pole.
They demanded to know who did it and discovered it was Gideon. The town wanted to kill Gideon, but his father stepped in.
Gideon's father boldly says to them, if your God is so powerful, then let him defend himself.
The Midianites who had ravaged the nation of Israel were hanging out in a nearby valley. They had not finished all of their plundering of the surrounding area.
God had called Gideon into service as his mouthpiece, his judge for the nation of Israel. The spirit of God came upon Gideon, and he put the word out for men to join him in destroying the Midianites.
But first…a few more confirmation signs.
Gideon asked God to show him another sign that he was to fight the Midianites. He asked God to make a wool fleece have dew on it while the surrounding ground was dry.1
When Gideon awoke, it was as he had requested – the ground was dry, and the fleece was full of dew. Not satisfied (or perhaps unsure of himself), he asked God one more time to show him a sign.
He opens in Judges 6:36:
“Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request.”
That night, Gideon asked for the fleece to be dry, and the ground full of dew.2
And when Gideon awoke the following day, it was as he had requested. Sometimes, we forget to ask for confirmation from God for things, especially when we are struggling.
Gideon knew himself and boldly asked God to remind him that God was in control and would lead him.
Bring It On
Once Gideon confirmed what God wanted him to do, he called men from all across the nation of Israel – 32,000 responded.
The Lord said that there are too many men because if the Israelites defeat the Midianites, they will think they did it and not God.
After the first round of cuts due to fear and trembling, the army was down to 10,000 men.
After the final cut of seeing how the men drink from the stream, the army was down to 300 men. Alright, God says – here's your army!
Imagine Gideon doing the math in his head.
I started with 32,000 men and now I have 300 men. Hmmm….I am going to need help Lord.
The Lord knew Gideon better than Gideon knew himself. He knew he would be fearful.
In Judges 7:9-15,
During that night the LORD said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore. Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.” His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.” When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.”
Gideon was fearful, but when he heard what the dream meant, he knew God had delivered the Midianites into his hands.
Gideon went on the clean house so-to-speak, and the area enjoyed forty years of peace during his lifetime.3 He had a large family, and when Gideon died, the Israelites reverted to their old ways of doing things that were not pleasing to the Lord.
This is why Gideon is a faith hero. Although he was fearful and required many signs to move forward, he obeyed the Lord, and peace resulted.
Just like Gideon, we often are fearful of things. Gideon's story provides hope for each of us and a reminder that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
It also shows us how patient God is with us even though we don't deserve it. When you need help, reach out to God and follow Gideon's example. Humbly ask God to show you a sign; however, you must be prepared to hear it or see it.
Lord, thank you for Gideon and his example to boldly follow you even when he was scared. Thank you for your patience with Gideon and with us. We humbly ask you to show us the way when we lose our way. Amen!
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