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Scripture reading – Judges 6-7
Judges 6 introduces us to Gideon, one of my favorite characters in the Book of Judges.
The Intrusion of Midian and the Calamity of Israel (Judges 6:1-6)
Judges 5 concluded by stating that “the land [Israel] had rest [peace] forty years” (5:31). Yet, Judges 6 opened with the children of Israel once again finding themselves in dire straits both spiritually and physically. We read that the people had committed “evil in the sight of the LORD” and broken His covenant. Israel had disobeyed God’s law and commandments (6:1). The LORD, true to His Word, then “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).
A Prophet Sent to Prepare the Way for a Deliverer (Judges 6:7-10)
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, The LORD 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 waited to do the same for that generation; however, the people disobeyed the LORD (6:9-10).
Gideon: An Unlikely Deliverer (Judges 6:11-16)
Mercifully, amid 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 to the angelic messenger (whom I believe was pre-incarnate Jesus Christ), “Oh my Lord, if the Lordbe 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). Then “the angel of the LORD” answered with the LORD’s promise, saying, “Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man” (6:16).
Gideon’s Assault on Baal Worship in Israel (Judges 6:17-32)
After offering a sacrifice (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 following day, 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).
Preparations for War: To Fleece, or Not to Fleece (Judges 6:33-40)
As they had in the past, the Midianites and the Amalekites returned to plunder Israel, 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).
Gideon looked across the plain and saw the army of Midian encamped against Israel. Once again, his faith faltered at the sight of the enemy’s campfires that burned on Mount Moreh (three miles to the north). Gideon asked the LORD to prove Himself. Employing the fleece of a sheep, he sought the LORD to allow the night’s dew to be upon the fleece and not upon the ground (6:36-38). The next day, he petitioned the opposite and asked that the dew be on the ground and the fleece be left dry (6:39-40). Loving and patient, the LORD regarded Gideon’s request, though the fleece symbolized his lack of faith in God.
Gideon’s Call to War and the LORD’s Reduction of Israel’s Army (Judges 7:1-8)
Gideon then sent out a call for the men of Israel to gather. 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 then 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 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, Gideon was then directed to put on his soldiers a test of their 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 while keeping a vigilant watch for an enemy would remain (7:5-7).
A Divine Affirmation Through An Enemy’s Dream (Judges 7:9-15)
Having twice reduced his army, Gideon was left with three hundred men, though he faced an army of skilled, veteran warriors! Humanly, the odds were impossible; that was where the LORD wanted His people! He was going to deliver His people and give Israel victory. Indeed, Israel’s victory would be so incredible that the nation would know without question that 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). But before I close today’s devotion, remember where we first met Gideon– he was a poor soul, cowering in a pit (6:11). Yet, despite his state, the angel of the LORD addressed him as a “mighty man of valor!” (6:12) How could that be? Here we observe what can be a life-changing principle:
When the LORD looked at Gideon, He saw him, not for who he was, but for the man he could be if he fully yielded himself to God!
What is holding you back from serving the LORD?
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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