An Ordinary Man
In the Hands of an Extraordinary God!
I felt that the Lord impacted me greatly with this story back in March 2013. I intend to run through this story, picking out elements that struck me as relevant and thus why Gideon is certainly another one of my “Bible Heroes”.
So, Gideon – Who was he?
Gideon is one of the sons of Joash, from the Abiezrite clan in the tribe of Manasseh. He was used as a prophet of the Lord God.
He was most likely from a wealthy family as we can see from chapter 8:18-19 where Gideon asks two leaders a question regarding what type of men they had killed and was given the answer, “As you are, so were they; each one resembled the son of a king.” Gideon replies with, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother.” Also in chapter 6:27 it states that Gideon took “ten men from among his servants…” which implies wealth to have many servants.
The conditions at the start of the story?
We find the story opens in Judges Chapter 6 with the condition of the people of Israel in a horrific condition. It commences with:
“Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years…”
They were so afraid of these multitudinous enemies and they were so impoverished and starving that they were hiding in mountain caves and dens! Their enemies were out to completely destroy them by destroying all their food supplies, both animals and crops. We then find that this has the intended effect of causing the people to cry out to the Lord for help!
But where is Gideon?
It seems that Gideon was working, even in those terrible famine conditions to produce food. It says:
“Gideon threshed wheat in (or by) the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites”. (Judges 6v11)
I also think that he was wise to just be doing what he could do rather than hiding in the caves like some of the other people. So I think that continuing to “thresh the wheat” in dark, famine-filled days is still better than giving up altogether.
So the fact that he is working and not hiding is a first positive point I notice about him.
An Angel of the Lord appeared to him!
We see that God is still interested in the plight of the people, even though they have been a rebellious people, and that the Lord wants to use a small group of men to set them free from their enemies. We find an Angel of the Lord or the Angel of the Lord (maybe the Lord Jesus Christ) then appears to Gideon to give him instructions as to how the war against the enemies is to be conducted and won.
The first thing the angel says to Gideon is:
“The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!”
Wow, what an introduction! You see, God always knows the heart & soul condition of each person. So although, I called him “an ordinary man”, he was in fact more than that, he was a “man of God” and he became a “vessel of great usefulness” both for the Lord and for all the frightened, starving people too.
Firstly Gideon questions why all the persecutions have happened to them IF God is with them, then he tells the Angel that he is not up to the task being asked of him as he is “least” or youngest in his family and that his family is also the weakest in Manasseh, then he eventually asks for a “sign that it is You who talk with me”.
The Angel’s responses to Gideon’s arguments are as follows:
“Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites.
Have I not sent you?”
“Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.”
(Judges 6:14 & 16)
He then asks the Angel to wait while he goes off to prepare an offering of a young goat and unleavened bread.
We can perhaps consider here that in a time of starvation & famine that giving an offering of food to the Lord was a costly sacrifice indeed. However, of more importance is what happens next, which is that the Angel tells Gideon which “rock” to put the offering upon & then by the means of the Angel touching the offering with the end of his staff it says:
“…fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of the Lord departed out of his sight.” (6:21)
So the sacrifice was a burnt offering upon the altar of the Lord’s choosing. This was in response to Gideon’s request for a sign that it was God speaking to him. This “fire from the rock” caused me to be amazed, but it must have made a massive impact upon Gideon to be a witness to such an event!
A dangerous first mission for Gideon!
Now many people get all fanciful these days about angels, in a strange kind of way, but when a Real Angel of the Lord came to Gideon it was not to give him nice, tingly feelings of woozy happiness or self-indulgence; no, quite the opposite in fact! Gideon was now required to do an exceedingly dangerous thing indeed!
The scripture says:
“Now it came to pass the same night that the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s young bull, the second bull of seven years old, and tear down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the wooden image that is beside it and build an altar to the Lord your God on top of this rock in the proper arrangement, and take the second bull and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the image which you shall cut down.” (6:25-26)
Wow! Did you get that? This is his own father’s idol (used by the people of the city), and his own father’s bull that he has just been told to go and destroy both of them! If he obeyed God in this he realised that he could most likely be facing his own death! He would know the seriousness of this destructive act upon a city of idol worshipers! He knew this but he still obeyed God. That was an enormous first task for him. Yes, he did this at night, which was very wise, in my opinion. It says that:
“But because he feared his father’s household and the men of the city too much to do it by day, he did it by night.” (6:27)
I noticed that before God’s people could be freed from their enemies, the worship of false gods had to be dealt with, even when that was coming from a close member of his own family! Also a correct “alter to the Lord” had to be constructed in the way & place that the Lord instructed. He had to worship the Lord God in the way He wants to be worshipped.
So essentially God is still a jealous God and hates people worshiping in a way of their own choosing and NOT His choosing.
I feel that God’s people who still “hear and heed” the Lord’s voice will in like manner have to keep on “contending earnestly for the faith” which includes exposing false doctrines and practices that are prevalent throughout Christendom. We will have to keep on “tearing down” (exposing) the false worship.
I am exceedingly grateful for all those that are doing so today and have been for many years. I have been blessed myself by websites and blogs and books that expose various dangerous or false doctrines and practices that do not match up to the bible’s teachings. So if you are doing such a work, I wish to thank you for the help you are providing to get the Lord’s people back on the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life. Please keep up the good work.
So, Gideon was exceedingly brave in this first act of obedience to God. He listened to and then obeyed God’s precise instructions, even at the possible cost of his own life. It is important to note also that God doesn’t necessarily expect us to FEEL like spiritual warriors when He asks us to do something difficult. He simply asks us to be obedient & to do it.
So he is my “Bible Hero” for such action.
Now over to my journal entry
from March 2013:
“I have now realised that when Gideon responded in obedience to the Lord’s call to be the person of the Lord’s choosing to lead the people to victory, that he was probably aware that in standing for God’s truth and right worship that he was in fact facing his own death! Like Esther, like Moses, like Daniel, like Jeremiah, like the disciples & like Jesus Christ himself. They and we must get to the point of;
“…and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Rev 12:11b)
If we love the world and things of the world more than we love the Lord, we are lukewarm and liable to be “vomited out of his mouth” (Rev 3:16). Yet if we are found to be faithfully “preparing the wheat” as it were, that is reading and studying the bible with prayerful, humble hearts then the Lord is more likely to come to such a faithful remnant with words of kindness, as He addressed Gideon.
However, it will not be easy, but IF there is a remnant church that are still seeking the Lord’s face in the secret place, even in the dark times, then there is still some hope for the Lord’s people.”
Back to the story of Gideon now
So Gideon was right! When the men of the city found their idols destroyed they were immediately filled with a murderous intent! It says:
“Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, because he has torn down the altar of Baal, and because he has cut down the wooden image that was beside it.” (6:30)
Amazingly his dad shows some wisdom and stands up for him and tells these “would be murders” that if Baal really is a god, then let him sort it out himself! So that death crisis was averted as they took that on board, just in the nick of time!
Wet fleece, dry fleece…
So really we now start to get into the part of the story where Gideon raises an army of 32,000 men, who are initially willing to go fight the Midianites, under Gideon’s leadership.
However, as they are all gathering together Gideon is once again seeking God’s help to overcome his own fears and apprehensions about the forthcoming war. I think that maybe I would be in a similar state myself in a such a situation, wouldn’t you? This is the well-known bit of the story where Gideon puts the following request to the Lord:
“So Gideon said to God, “If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said— look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.” (6:36-37)
Then the next day he asks for it to be the other way around, as super-duper, extra confirmation that it REALY is God saying that He is with him. Do you know what I noticed? That it just states in the Bible, “And it was so” and also for the second request, “And God did so that night.” (6:38 & 40) Just simple as that!
No condemnation from God, just love! This struck me as a most wonderfully, kind, understanding, gracious, patient, marvelous God! And so He is, with his dear obedient followers. Praise His name! This brought such comfort to me. I think, that you can pick up a notion in Christendom that some folks think along the lines of “Oh, Gideon shouldn’t have asked God to do those wet fleece, dry fleece prayers”! But I would like to say have those people ever been in a situation that Gideon was facing? The thing is God was gracious and helpful, training Gideon to trust Him, and that was and is very comforting to me. In fact God even goes onto voluntarily arranging even MORE encouragement for this Bible hero, Gideon, as the story progresses. So let us rejoice in God’s goodness to his fearful servants rather than standing in judgement upon them, as who knows what we each may have to face in the days ahead.
God says, “Your army is too BIG”!
As we move into chapter seven we find the most amazing situation. Yes, the people had rallied to the cause, and 32,000 men were camping with Gideon whilst across the way, was the massive army of the Midianites! Now Gideon hears the shocking message from the Lord that his army is too big!
The Bible says:
“And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the “Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.” (7:2)
So what was the plan to reduce the size of the army so that God alone would get the glory? It was: ‘…Whoever is FEARFUL and AFRAID, let him turn and depart at once …”! (7:3)
And so 22,000 admitted to being afraid and straight away packed up to go back to their mountain caves to hide again!!
So now Gideon has just 10,000 men. OK, a small army, but God is with them so all will be well, yes? But no, God speaks once again, with the same message of the army is still too big! This time God gives precise instructions again of how to reduce the number of men in this army to fight God’s battle.
The bible says: “But the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there.” (7:4)
So God tells him to separate this group of 10,000 men simply by the way they take a drink of water!
The bible says:
“And the Lord said to Gideon, “Everyone who laps from the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set apart by himself; likewise everyone who gets down on his knees to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people got down on their knees to drink water.
Then the Lord said to Gideon, “By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people go, every man to his place.” (7:5-7)
Be Alert and not Afraid!
They say “God works in mysterious ways” and He certainly does, but this water drinking issue always puzzled me completely until recently. But then I happened upon the blog of a brother in the Lord, who made the observation, that the men who drank by lifting the water to their mouths as opposed to the ones who knelt and bent down, were the ones who remained alert at all times to danger! I feel that is a very key point here indeed. So now there is Gideon and just 300 men! But these 300 men, chosen by God, are both:
- Not afraid of the enemy &
- Remain constantly on the alert re the enemy!
Fear vs Faith
But before we move on I would like us to linger on these two important qualities in these men of God’s choosing. We can hear many messages on Fear versus Faith and it is a very important life issue. I have had to face and deal with (with God’s help) many fears. The enemy of our soul can sure seem to fan into flame our little fears into giant fears and then we can become immobilized. We can become like the 22,000 that just went back to hiding in caves! We have to learn to recognize our fears and pray for help and insight on how to overcome the fears that would otherwise incapacitate us. As we turn our FOCUS onto God and His commands and truths then our FAITH can grow to help us to overcome the FEARS.
We can think about Peter stepping out of the boat on the surface of the water towards
the Lord Jesus. As his eyes were on Jesus his faith was in Jesus and the miracle occurred but as his focus shifted to the natural surroundings his faith faltered and there was a consequential sinking effect as the fear took hold of him!
To be a useful vessel we must be filled with the Holy Spirit and with true Faith from God and in God alone! That’s what these 300 men and Gideon had to do and that’s what we have to do too!
The other point to linger upon is the matter of “alertness”. This is also crucial when you are in a battle. And an obedient servant of the Lord is often in some sort of spiritual battle. I remember becoming keenly aware of the scriptures that said we are to “watch and pray”. I used to jokingly say, “But what have I to watch?” I suppose there is so much one can watch on the internet but one needs to be selective. I feel that getting at least some understanding on the current state of the church and the world is beneficial to remaining alert and helps consequently in the “praying” part of our Lord’s commandment to “Watch and pray”. Also to stay spiritually alert requires spending time in God’s company with private bible reading and prayer and praise, growing in the love relationship with Him. This latter is absolutely vital for the Christian who wants to be strong in the Lord.
Ephesians 6:10-13 exhorts us:
“ Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.“
A Dream from God!
We now reach an amazing part of this story where God has given one of the enemies a certain dream, then God has instructed Gideon to go to a certain place whilst at the exact right moment God then has the enemy relating the dream to a friend who gives the interpretation in Gideon’s hearing. This is ALL due to the love of God for his people, and particularly to help Gideon lead these 300 men into what would otherwise be a death trap for the lot of them. God was in charge of this wonderful sequence of events as He said to Gideon, “If you are afraid…” So God arranged it to take away ALL Gideon’s last remaining vestiges of fear prior to going in against the enemy.
So the dream, as scripture states it:
“And when Gideon had come, there was a man telling a dream to his companion. He said, “I have had a dream: To my surprise, a loaf of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian; it came to a tent and struck it so that it fell and overturned, and the tent collapsed.”
Then his companion answered and said, “This is nothing else but the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel! Into his hand God has delivered Midian and the whole camp.” (7:13-14)
Wow! And yes, Gideon too was overawed upon hearing this too! The bible tells us that “he worshiped.” (7:15) A most appropriate response I reckon.
Just think about this for a minute longer. God has orchestrated this whole sequence of events just to remove all Gideon’s remaining anxieties about the battle ahead. God knew that Gideon required FULL TRUST in HIM to lead the 300 men against an enormous army. Now after all the many “signs” that God has given to Gideon, he is finally ready. He now has his FULL trust in the Lord.
Finally the Fight!
So eventually after all of God’s preparations and encouragement to Gideon and the 300 men, they were now going to have to fight. However, much we pray, we still have to get on and do something as well. That’s just life!
The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!
Gideon had them split into three groups and at Gideon’s instruction at the same precise moment they all shouted, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” They blew the trumpets and broke the jars so that the lights were then visible. So there was a simultaneous shouting and sudden lights and smashing pottery and blowing of trumpets. Then the Lord caused fear to fill the enemy in the camp and the Lord caused these enemies to attack and kill one another or to run away in fear! Then the 300 men in the Lord’s army were joined by other men of Israel to finish off the job.
“Thus Midian was subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted their heads no more. And the country was quiet for forty years in the days of Gideon.” (Judges 8:28)
Gideon is certainly one of my “Bible Heroes”!! He has ticked those boxes of obedience to God, Faith in God, honesty in God’s sight, courage to take on huge tasks and enemies and a worshiper of God.
Maybe I could also conclude simply by saying that the Lord is looking for:-
those FEW who are FAITHFUL to Him,
those with FAITH in Him alone,
those who allow the Lord to deal with their FEARS,
those who are ALERT TO FIGHT the Lord’s battles.
Or just maybe I will let someone else have the last word, in which case I leave you with a quotation from Zac Poonen, from his article, “Needed – Men of God” (1971), that I happened upon last night, as he sums this up very nicely.
“Throughout the centuries, the men and women whom God has been able to use to rout the forces of darkness, to make a lasting impact upon the heathen for His Name and to establish a testimony for His glory, have always been few in number. The blessings of God are received by many but the working remnant that labours together with God has always been a small group. Out of Gideon’s army of 32,000, God could use only 300. The proportion has been about the same throughout church-history. Few are willing to pay the price of being part of that remnant. The eyes of the Lord, I believe, are running to and fro throughout our land today looking for such men – men of spiritual caliber – whom He can use to glorify His great Name where it is at present being reproached.”
So will you rise to this challenge?
Will you stay alert, watching and praying in these darkening days that the world has ahead?
Will you be like Gideon and his 300 men, whose confidence was in the Lord alone?
If so this may very well lead to a life of much “aloneness”. You may feel like a fish swimming against the tide at times as others seem to not want to heed your warnings. You may feel like Elijah when he cried out to the Lord, “I alone am left …” (1 Kings 19:14) BUT remember that there was and are always others whom the Lord has reserved as His remnant church, also standing up for God’s truth all over the world.
I just want to add here that I am not unaware that Gideon went astray somewhat later in life. We read of such problems in Judges 8:24-32. When the people wanted him and his sons to “rule over them” and to be as their king, he refuses to do so telling them, “the Lord shall rule over you,” BUT then it says that he made a golden ephod and set it up in the city of Ophrah. Apparently this was an article that only the High Priest who was of the tribe of Levi ought to have, not someone from the tribe of Manessah (as was Gideon) and certainly not to be held in the local city of Ophrah either. We can note the following disasterous consequences of his wrong decision to copy the religious practice of the priestly office in a manner contrary to the Lord’s commandments.
“And all Israel played the harlot with it there. It became a snare to Gideon and his house.” (Judges 8:27)
The Bible tells us people’s good points and their bad points, their highs and their lows, and we can take encouragement from the faith and good deeds of believers who have gone before us whilst at the same time taking heed of the warnings where those people went astray. It is important to start, continue and end our lives in a Godly fashion.
“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall”
(1 Cor 10:11-12)
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