Today’s Reading: Judges 6-8:21
After Deborah and Barak led the Israelites to victory, there was peace in the land for forty years. Then the Israelites began doing evil in the Lord’s sight, so he handed them over to the Midianites for seven years. The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites found themselves hiding in caves and strongholds to protect themselves from the raiders, marauders and enemy hoarders that came through, devastating their crops and stealing their flocks. Once the Israelites were reduced to starving, THEN they cried out to the Lord for help.
Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree of Ophrah…Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” – Judges 6:11-12
“Here I come to save the day!” Well, that is what Mighty Mouse would have said but Gideon’s response was a little different. Before he stepped into this new leadership position, he wanted proof from God. When I read the dialogue between Gideon and the Lord, I am a little shocked by his bold accusations (“Where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? … The Lord has abandoned us…” 6:13) and his demand for proof from God (“If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me…” 6:17a). Then I think of times when I have argued and negotiated with God and I begin to relate a little to this not-so-mighty hero and the inner conflict with which he struggled.
God did give Gideon the proof he asked for and Gideon, humbly realizing what he had demanded of the Lord, built an altar and named it Yahweh-Shalom – which means “the Lord is peace” (6:24). Now Gideon had peace in his heart that he was truly being called by God, but he still struggled with fear. God told him to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and break his Asherah pole. Gideon obeyed but he did it at night because he was afraid of the other members of the family. God protected Gideon from their angry response and then something incredible happened in Gideon’s life.
Then the Spirit of the Lord took possession of Gideon. – Judges 6:34a
Now filled with the mighty Spirit, Gideon blew a ram’s horn and sent messengers out, calling all of Israel’s warriors to come together to fight the Midianites. Then Gideon went back to his natural tendency and spiritual weakness – he asked God for proof that he was truly going to use Gideon to rescue Israel as God had promised He would do. A great lesson for Gideon and a good reminder for me today is that God ALWAYS keeps His promises. We never have to ask him to repeat himself or prove His faithfulness.
“…I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.” And that is just what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a bowlful of water.
Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.” So that night God did as Gideon asked. The fleece was dry in the morning but the ground was covered in dew. – Judges 6:37b-40
Our reluctant hero was battling insecurity and our gracious God indulged him by responding, just as He so generously confirms His call to us when He knows we need confirmation of His presence. Oh, what a wonderful God we serve! But God wasn’t done teaching Gideon. Gideon was asking God to show him HOW He would help Gideon rescue the Israelites, but God was going to show Gideon WHO – that God, Himself, would be the hero of this story.
When all the warriors gathered together, God told Gideon there were too many. If He allowed that many Israelites to go into battle, they would take the credit for the victory, boasting that they saved themselves by their own strength. So He sent home everyone who was timid or afraid and 22,000 men left, leaving an army of 10,000.
Next God told Gideon to watch how the men went down to the river to take a drink. If they cupped the water with their hands to drink, keeping their eyes up, they would be in one group; if they knelt down and placed their mouths directly in the river, they would be in the second group. This last group was sent home, leaving only 300 wise and alert warriors for Gideon to lead into battle.
God was ready for Gideon to move forward but, knowing Gideon so well, God allowed him to seek proof one more time. God told Gideon that, if he was still afraid, he could go down close to the Midianite camp and listen to their campfire conversations. Gideon took God up on the offer and came back with confidence. He split the remaining 300 men into 3 groups of 100, handing each of them a ram’s horn and a clay jar with a torch in it. They surrounded the camp and, on Gideon’s count, they blew the horns and broke the clay jars, surrounding the enemy camp with noise and fire. God caused confusion among the Midianites and they began to fight each other (7:9-22).
And Gideon saw clearly that God was still performing miracles among the Israelites, just as He had for their ancestors and just as He continues to do today!
What mighty act is God calling you to participate in today? Do you have a “Here I come to save the day!” attitude or are you keeping your eyes looking up, watching for God to something mighty through and around you?