Things looked very bleak for the people! Life was reduced to hiding in caves. Their crops were destroyed by their enemies. Food to sustain them was hard to come by. Their enemies were like locusts who swarm and lay waste to the land. How did things get so desperate?
“We have a situation”
The people had given up following Creator God’s laws and “did what was evil.” Only after their situation became unbearable, the people cried out to God about their enemies. He responded immediately! God sent a prophet to give them a history lesson. He reminded them of his great deliverance from the house of slavery in Egypt, from the hand of all who oppressed them. He also restated how he gave them victory in their battles. Then God’s word cut to the core: “I told you that I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the people in whose land you dwell,” “but you did not obey my voice.”
God’s plan for deliverance
The angel of the Lord paid a visit to Gideon, a descendant of the Tribe of Manasseh. Gideon is told:
“The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”
I can imagine Gideon turning around to see if there was somebody behind him. He certainly didn’t consider himself a mighty warrior, nor did he feel the Lord was with him. His reply was respectful, but he didn’t hesitate to voice his questions:
“Why has all this happened to us?
“Where are all of God’s wonderful deeds that our fathers told us about?” “Now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of our enemy.”
God ignored his question and accusation and simply replied:
“Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of the enemy, do I not send you?!
Gideon is not done with his objections yet, “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my fathers house.”
“But I will be with you and you shall strike your enemies as one man,” God replied.
Gideon is assured, if he obeys God’s instructions, victory will come, because God will fight for him.
God is committed to bring deliverance for his people and he has chosen a man as his instrument. However, Gideon, his chosen one is not so sure. He requests not one, but three signs to be certain. The first one is given after Gideon, in Middle Eastern fashion prepares a meal for his angelic visitor, which is placed on a rock before him. When the messenger of God touched it with his staff, fire sprang up and consumed everything. The offering and the angel vanished and now Gideon fears for his life. God once again speaks to him in patient, reassuring, and loving words:
“Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.”
Now in awe of God, Gideon built an altar and called it: “The Lord is Peace.” (Yahweh-Shalom) During the night, he received further instruction. He is commanded to pull down the altar and pole to the false gods beside his fathers house and present an animal sacrifice to God. Gideon obeyed, but because he was afraid, he did it at night with ten of his servants. As the townspeople woke up and discovered the broken down altar and pole, they looked for the perpetrator and Gideon was quickly identified as the one who did it. The men asked to have Gideon killed, but Joash his father came to his defense, saying: If Baal is god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down. This is where Gideon got his “nick name” Jerubbaal, which means “let Baal contend against him.”
Now, after the idolatry of the people was dealt with the story focuses on their enemies. They had made camp in a valley close to the people of Israel, to intimidate them and suggest their impending destruction. But the Spirit of God clothed Gideon, he sounded the alarm for the warriors to be mustered. Gideon said to God: “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, I need a sign.
Here we go again, are you not done with asking for confirmation, Gideon?
God graciously provided the two signs he requested, without scolding him–and he added another one that Gideon didn’t even ask for. He sends Gideon and his servant near the enemy camp by night and lets them overhear how some of the enemy warriors talk about a dream that frightened them. The conversation overheard by Gideon encourages him that the Lord was with him and that victory would certainly be his.
As Gideon rallied his army, God aimed each enemy’s sword against his companion. They ran for their lives and Israel won a great victory.
Some of God’s ways
As I consider how God graciously but firmly deals with Gideon, I find hope for myself and for all who choose to trust him!
- God often chooses unlikely, even cowardly people, or at least those who can’t see themselves as “mighty warriors.” (Hebrews 11:32-34)
- God saw something in Gideon that he himself could not see. (Maybe his defiant attitude to provide grain for his people in secrecy was an indication of Gideon’s warrior heart buried underneath his doubts and questions?)
- Our questions about God, even our accusations are not a threat to God.
- He addresses our sincere doubts in order to help us take the next step.
- God doesn’t answer all our complaints or arguments–instead he gives us what we most need. Then he requires that we trust him. As we obey, and are given victory in our particular situation, we may find that our questions were wrong or unimportant anyway.
What caused Gideon to become the mighty warrior God saw in him? The assurance of being chosen and empowered by God, but even more so the promise that God himself would be with him and fight for him, if he would just trust and obey him!
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