Gideon, Called By God
Judges 6:11; Judges 6:14-16
11And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
14And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? 15And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. 16And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
Judges 7:16-19, 21, 22
16And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers. 17And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do. 18When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. 19So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands.
21And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled. 22And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man’s sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath.
Gideon, the son of Joash, was of the tribe of Manassah. Gideon, along with the children of Israel, was experiencing a sorrowful plight. He was threshing his wheat in a hidden place to keep it from the Midianites. He lived in a constant state of fear.
God often used heathen nations to punish Israel when God’s people sinned. This time the enemy was the Midian Military. There was no way the Israelites could deal with the situation in their strength alone.
The Midianites were fierce people. They joined with the Amalekites and other desert people and caused Israel many problems. They were as numerous as swarms of locusts.
The people had worked so hard to raise their crops. Afterwards, the Midianites would come in and gather their crops.
They forced the Israelites out of their homes and they had to take refuge in hastily constructed fortresses and even in dens in the mountains which were only fit for wild beasts. They drove away their cattle and sheep. The children of Israel were reduced to the lowest depths of misery for a period of seven years.
When the angel appeared to Gideon, he was hiding in a winepress, threshing wheat. Ordinarily, wheat would have been threshed in the open so the wind could carry away the chaff. It would have been difficult to thresh grain in a winepress but Gideon could not afford to let the Midianites see him. They would have quickly seized his wheat.
The angel of the Lord appeared to him with a comforting message. Gideon was called a “mighty man of valor” and was told that the LORD was with him. The angel reminded him of this privilege that was his as a child of Jeremiah. Gideon responded with an anxious question: If the LORD is with us, why then has all this befallen us?
Gideon must have been startled to be addressed as a “mighty man of valor.” He certainly did not feel like one and immediately expressed his discouragement at his people’s plight.
The LORD looked upon Gideon and said, “Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.”
What we must do, like Gideon, is use what we have in obedience to God and He will multiply it.
And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.
Gideon was reluctant to respond to the call of God. He was naturally overwhelmed by his own insignificance. It was the same with Moses, Saul and Samson; however, poverty and weakness are no arguments against the exceeding riches of God’s grace and power. Telling God of our own helplessness in the face of His all-sufficient promise only reveals our lack of faith in His Word.
God sees the potential in His people even when they are not aware of it. Often in the Bible and in church history, God has chosen unlikely instruments to show what His power can accomplish even when rational attributes seem to be lacking. This should be an encouragement to all of us.
There are always two sides of God’s call – His power and the individual’s response. “I will be with thee” was all the authority Gideon needed. He was not marching under his own orders, but God’s; yet, it was Gideon’s hand that would smite the enemy. This is an example of God and man working together.
God calls and equips His servants and His servants yield themselves for the LORD’s use. This is how God’s work has always been done. The nature of Gideon’s leadership is seen in the words: “The Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon” (Judges 6:34). This would make the difference between success and failure.
Following God’s instructions, Gideon first purified his own house.
25And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: 26And 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. 27Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night. 28And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built. 29And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they enquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing. 30Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it. 31And Joash said unto all that stood against him, 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. 32Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.
Gideon tore down his father’s altars to Baal and set up in its place an altar to the one true God. This he did, in the face of great danger and in peril of his life but the LORD gave him courage to face the indignant men of Ophrah and quell their hostility.
History records that many people fail because they do not have a dominating purpose to unify their lives. If we are to achieve a worthwhile ambition, we must become as Gideon eventually became – dedicated to the task to which God has called us. Fitness for the service of God can only be found in the Spirit of God. The coming of the Spirit of God upon Gideon transformed him. Gideon began to gather men for the challenge. This hardly seems like the man hiding himself while doing his threshing and questioning whether God was still with His people. The timidity of Gideon’s nature showed itself again. Although he was successful in gathering an army, “if” began to fill his mind. In Judges 6:36 Gideon said to God, “If…”
People in the Old Testament were human and just like us today. They were subject to the same shortcomings and needed God’s help. In the account of Gideon we can see how patient the LORD is with His children when they wrestle with fears and misgivings. Even though he had heard God’s promise, it is likely that he still could not quite believe that God could use him. None of us are immune to times when we are discouraged by our own frailties.
God understands and can use people who are humbled by their weaknesses better than those who are so self-absorbed and do not feel they need His help. It is better to wait until we are assured of what God called us to do rather than plunging recklessly ahead in a battle we are unprepared to fight. God did not reprove Gideon for his cautious approach.
Gideon first asked if he had understood the LORD correctly, requesting that if he had, that a fleece be put on the ground that would be wet in the morning while the ground around it would be dry. God’s answer was emphatic. The fleece was so wet that Gideon wrung out a bowl full of water from the fleece. The ground around it was dry!
Then in Judges 6 Verses 39, 40, 41, Gideon decided to use the fleece method once more although Verse 39 indicates he feared he might be on the verge of incurring God’s displeasure. Nevertheless, he asked for one more confirmation and God graciously answered. In the morning the fleece was dry while the ground was wet. The writer of the Scriptures wanted it clearly understood: this was no mere coincidence!
39And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let It now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. 40And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.
God understands human frailty and accommodated Gideon’s desire for added assurance. When God uses His children, He knows He is not dealing with perfection. How patient He is with our fears and questions. When the victory over Midian was won, there would be no question about who brought it about: GOD.
There were 32,000 in Gideon’s army while the enemy troops numbered 120,000 yet the Lord told Gideon he had too many. He was told to weed some out. The first test eliminated the fearful and the self-interested who would have been a hindrance to the work. When the count was taken, it was discovered that only ten thousand men remained. A second test further reduced Gideon’s army to 300 men.
We may learn one lesson from this thinning of the ranks, namely, that we need not be anxious to count heads when we are sure that we are doing God’s work. We don’t have to be afraid of being in a minority. The three hundred had God with them and that was enough to make them heroes.
In trying to determine the best time to attack, Gideon and his servants were able to get near enough to the Midianite camp to hear a dream interpreted. Gideon heard his own name mentioned as the leader that they dreaded. Gideon thanked God for new strength for the battle.
Dividing the band of heroes into three companies of one hundred each, he gave each a trumpet, an empty earthen pitcher and a torch which was to be concealed in the pitcher until the right moment. God was with them. Gideon did not ask his followers to do something that he was unwilling to do.
Every man, as one of God’s chosen, had a trumpet, a pitcher and a lamp. Every man’s faith was in the “Sword of the LORD.” Each soldier sounded his trumpet as an individual testimony for God. The pitchers were then dashed together and broken into countless fragments. Then came the united cry and the great battle was quickly won.
The Midianites, confused and frightened, rushed headlong and began to kill one another. The result: the country had forty years of quietness in the days of Gideon.
In Judges 7 we can read the details of Gideon’s army being reduced, Gideon’s following God’s military “leadership”: His strategies of trumpet and lamps in pitchers. The Ephraimites took two princes of the Midianites: Oreb and Zeeb. Oreb they slew upon the rock of Oreb and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and they pursued Midian and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side of the Jordan.
Gideon’s call to become a leader and a deliverer was successful as a result of praying and obeying God’s leadership.
We may not be visited by an angel but God will give Divine inspiration to let us know what our gifts and callings really are. We are responsible to listen to the leadings of the Holy Spirit and employ our gifts in ministry unto the glory of God.
God does not call people for any ministry and then abandon them. The fact is that God desires to work through us. This is the way He chooses to do His great work in the world, through people.
God recognizes our potential for ministry even though we may not. He referred to Gideon as a “mighty man of valor” even before Gideon had any idea that he might ever achieve any greatness.
God sees the unlimited potential for ministry of any person who obeys His call.
Author: Nannie Mae Jordan
(Transcribed by Joyce Carter Transcribed and Formatted by Jerry Knight)