A terrified young man secretly threshes a meager crop of wheat at an ancient wine press. He is a member of the weakest clan in Israel and he is the youngest in his family. He has never stood up to the Midianites, who dominate Israel. Nothing about him seems destined for greatness. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appears at an oak nearby. The angel declares, “The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior of courage!”
Now this man is definitely not mighty—he has never even served in the military. He thinks the visitor is mocking him. Then the angel drops the bombshell, “I hereby commission you to go in might and deliver Israel from the Midianites.”
This very ordinary man was named Gideon, and more is written about him than any other judge of Israel. In the years before God’s choosing of Gideon, Israel had committed herself to the worship of Baal and Asherah. Then the Midianites defeated them. For seven years the Midianites plundered the crops and other belongings of the Israelis. When the people cried out to God for help, God sent word to Gideon.
First, he told Gideon to break down the shrine to Baal and offer a proper sacrifice upon the altar. Then He instructed Gideon to assemble an army to fight the enemy. Third, God cut Gideon’s force from 32,000 men to only 300. Fourth, Gideon was sent into battle, not with fearsome weapons, but with pitchers, trumpets, and lamps. Fifth, after the Midianite army fled in fearful disarray, Gideon had to organize combat forces to fight the retreating enemy.
However, this is not the whole story. We must always remember that when God calls an individual to a task, He is there with that person to the end. He knows that we are dust; He will never send us on a mission only to abandon us halfway. When the angel of the Lord first approached Gideon, Gideon insisted on cooking a meal for the stranger. As a sign, the angel promptly burnt up the meal in a ball of fire. But Gideon wanted a further sign that God would really give him a military victory. He asked that a piece of lamb fleece would become soaked with dew, while the ground all around would stay dry. God complied. Then Gideon asked and received the opposite—fleece dry, ground wet.
Finally God told Gideon, “It is time to face the Midianites, but if you need additional reassurance, sneak to the outskirts of the Midianite camp tonight with your servant.”
When Gideon did so, he heard Midianite soldiers speaking of a dream which convinced them that Gideon’s force could wipe them out. The most convincing evidence of God’s involvement in this mission was at the point of ‘battle.’ All Gideon’s small force did was break their jars, blow their trumpets, and shout, “For the Lord and for Gideon!” The Bible says that the Midianites panicked to the point of attacking each other in the darkness and retreating in terror.
Over and over in this account, God encouraged Gideon with evidences of His presence and His promise of victory, but, at the crucial moment, it had to be Gideon himself leading his force into battle. God will not live our lives for us, but he will be there every hour to encourage, protect, and empower.
Sad to say, Gideon was a better general for God than a God-fearing leader. In the years following the battle, he did not see that the families of Israel were taught the Law of God. Immediately upon his death, the people returned to idol worship. God struck his mighty flint and it flashed for one victorious moment. But the people scattered the kindling, preferring darkness to light.
What can we learn from Gideon?
Anyone to whom God has ever given a challenging task knows the sort of doubt and intimidation Gideon faced. Yet God repeatedly gave Gideon reminders of His constant support and power. We, also, can look to God for all we need to win in life. He is always there for us. Only remember to continue living devotedly following the great victories.
Bible Verses about Gideon
Judges 6-8; Hebrews 11:32
What questions does this help to answer?
- Who was Gideon in the Bible?
- Who led Israel against the Midianites?
- Who were the judges of Israel?
- How can I be encouraged to be strong and courageous?
Steve Fortosis served for six years as youth minister in several parishes. Meanwhile he was also working toward his masters, then his doctorate in religious education. Through the years he has enjoyed teaching on the college and seminary levels and writing professionally. He has published a number of books including story and prayer compilations, missionary biography, Biblical character biography, devotional lit, children’s lit, and even stories of Bible translation. Presently he resides in Florida with his wife, Debra, where he teaches part-time and writes on a free-lance basis.Steve Fortosis