Scripture reading – Judges 6-7
Judges 6 introduces us to Gideon, one of my favorite characters in the Book of Judges. After “the land [Israel] had rest forty years” (5:31), the children of Israel once again found themselves in dire straits both spiritually, and physically. The people had committed “evil in the sight of the LORD,” and broken His covenant. They had disobeyed His law and commandments (6:1). True to His Word, “the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel…[and] the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds” (6:1-2).
Year after year, the people planted crops, only to have the hordes of Midian, and the Amalekites, descend upon their crops, leaving “no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass” (6:4). In their misery, the people “cried unto the Lord, [and He]…sent a prophet unto the children of Israel” (6:7-8).
Notice the order of God’s work: Before He sent a deliverer, He sent a prophet who rehearsed God’s faithfulness, and how He had delivered Israel out of bondage (6:8). In His love, and compassion, He was waiting to do the same for that generation; however, the people disobeyed the LORD (6:9-10). In the midst of Israel’s suffering, the LORD sent an angelic messenger to “Gideon [who] threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites” (6:11). Gideon was a most unlikely choice to deliver Israel from the pillaging throng of Midian. He was, however, the man of God’s choosing, and one whom the angel addressed as a “mighty man of valour” (6:12).
Gideon said, “Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?…wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (6:13-15). The “the angel of the LORD” (whom I believe was the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ), answered with the LORD’S promise, saying, “Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man” (6:16).
After offering a sacrifice to the LORD (6:17-24), “Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-shalom [the LORD is Peace]” (6:24). The same night, the LORD came to Gideon, and commanded him to “throw down the altar of Baal…And build an altar unto the Lord thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down” (6:26-27). Gideon obeyed, and did as he was commanded, though he feared the stirring it would bring the next day when the ruins of Baal’s altar were discovered (6:28-29).
The next morning, the men of the city found Baal’s altar destroyed, and would have killed Gideon; however, his father, no doubt rebuked for his idolatry, declared to his neighbors, “Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar” (6:31).
To Fleece, or Not to Fleece (6:33-40)
The Midianites and the Amalekites returned to plunder Israel as in past years, but “the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet… and he sent messengers unto [the tribes of] Asher, and unto Zebulun, and unto Naphtali; and they came up to meet them” (6:33-35).
Looking across the plain, Gideon could see the army of Midian, and at night their campfires burned on Mount Moreh (three miles to the north). Again, Gideon’s faith faltered, and he requested the LORD would prove Himself, and using the fleece of a sheep, he asked the LORD to allow the dew of the night to be upon the fleece and not upon the ground (6:36-38). The next day, Gideon requested the opposite, that the dew would be upon the ground, and the fleece be dry (6:39-40). The LORD lovingly, and patiently heeded Gideon’s request, though the fleece was a symbol of his lack of faith in God.
Gideon sent out a call for the men of Israel to gather, and thirty-two thousand men responded to his call (7:1). Though he was facing a great enemy, the LORD came to Gideon and said, “The people that are with thee are too many” (7:2). God presented Gideon with two demands for reducing the number of his soldiers.
The first demand was the test of fear: The LORD commanded Gideon to send home any who were afraid (7:3), and twenty-two thousand men departed, leaving ten thousand soldiers in his army. With his army reduced by more than two-thirds, the LORD demanded a second reduction in soldiers, the test of fervency. The LORD said to Gideon, “The people are yet too many” (7:4), and commanded only those who drank water at a stream, bringing water to their mouth by cupping their hand, and keeping their eyes to be vigilant for an enemy would remain (7:5-7).
Gideon was left with three hundred men, facing an army of skilled, veteran warriors! Humanly, the odds were impossible that Gideon and Israel would be successful, and that was where the LORD wanted His people! He was going to deliver His people, and give Israel victory. God was not going to share His glory with anyone! Israel’s victory would be so incredible that the nation would know only the LORD had given them the victory! (7:18-22)
Tomorrow’s Scripture reading will continue the narrative of Gideon’s battle with the Midianites (Judges 8), and I will leave you today with a spiritual principle:
Gideon was transformed from a poor soul, cowering in a pit, to a “mighty man of valor!” What is holding you back from serving the LORD?
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith