Gideon’s name is synonymous with victory against the odds. Gideon led an army of 300 elite fighting men and whipped up on an army of 135,000. When they were through the enemy had over 120,000 casualties with the remaining 15,000 running for their life.
But when we really look at Judges 6-8 Gideon is actually a very weak and scared individual. Gideon’s faith is weak too. His moral decision making is poor and Judges Chapter 9 reveals that Gideon’s legacy is absolutely tragic. Despite Gideon’s wavering and weaknesses God used Gideon in a miraculous way.
God used Gideon not because he was strong or a military genius, but because Gideon was weak. There was to be no doubt that the glory for the victory and deliverance of Israel goes to God. There is a hero in the Gideon story and the hero is the Lord God Almighty.
When we are introduced to Gideon we find him in Israel hiding along with all his countrymen from foreign invaders that would come at will and ravage the land and keep the Israelites weak and impoverished. The invaders that kept the country in fear were the Midianites. The Amalekites were helping them keep Israel oppressed too.
The Israelites would hide from these invaders in shelters in the mountains and in caves. When we find Gideon was himself hiding in a wine press threshing wheat there to keep some grain undetected from the Midianites.
Gideon is living in what we call the period of the Judges. He does not know it but he himself would become one of the Judges of this period. There was a pattern that emerged during this period of the judges. The cycle went like this: Sin, Punishment, Repentance, deliverance and then peace.
The last deliverance had occurred during the deliverance where God used Deborah. This deliverance had taken place forty years previously. The cycle had come almost full circle. There had been a period of peace following the deliverance associated with Deborah.
During this time of peace Israel has gradually become more and more active in Baal worship (the sin). As we find out Israel’s Baal worship was so entrenched that anybody who interfered with Israel’s Baal worship could be killed by the Israelites.
Seven years Israel was given over to the Midianites. Israel probably started their Ball worship during their 40 years of peace. Coasting along like a car out of gas. They lived in caves. Israel would plant crops and Midianites and Amalekites would come in and invade and destroy everything. They would ruin the land and kill the livestock.
That Baal worship brought on the punishment. The invasion of the Midianites who devastated Israel, terrified them caused them to live in caves to hide and kept them impoverished. Now we begin to see a repentance of Israel in Judges 6:6 where they cried to the Lord for help. When the Israelites cried to the Lord for help the Lord sent them a prophet. A prophet was sent to tell Israel why they were in this plight and that God has not lost power. He reminds the people of how the Lord brought them out of Egypt.
Then after the prophet the angel of the Lord came to Gideon. Gideon does not recognize this angel of the Lord who has come to help him. To Gideon he seemed like some stranger who wonders in and talks about the Lord.
This visitor calls Gideon a mighty warrior and tells Gideon the Lord is with Israel. Gideon is polite but he has some questions. If the Lord is with us why is all this happening?
The Lord turned and said, “go in the strength you have”. Gideon has objections. If I am a mighty warrior why am I in a hiding place threshing this wheat scared of the Midianites? And I am the weakest in my family from the least tribe, he objects.
Theologians call this manifest appearance of the Lord a Theophany. The Lord answers Gideon. I will be with you and you will strike down all the Midianites together. Gideon wants a sign. Gideon prepared an offering and placed them on the rock. The Lord touched the meat with his staff fire came from the rock and consumed the meat!
Now Gideon really knew he met the Lord. He even thought he would die from this experience. But the Lord said Peace-Shalom. Gideon built an altar there known and called it Jehovah-Shalom, The Lord is Peace. The Lord’s presence means peace.
The Lord gave Gideon a very challenging command in his preparation to deliver Israel from the Midianites. If God is going to deliver Israel they must turn from their Baal worship. Tear down the Baal Altars in your home town. The Lord told him to cut down the Baal idol poles of him family and town and use them to make a burned offering. Gideon was scared of his family and town so he did this tearing down at night. They were about to kill Gideon and his father stepped in and reasoned with them just how powerless the gods of Baal were.
The Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon. The Amalekites and Midianites joined forces and Gideon summoned the men to fight. The Spirit of the Lord comes on Gideon (6:34). Gideon blows the trumpet and calls the people to take up arms against the Midianites.
Gideon’s name is synonymous with a sign or two signs of the fleece. Before this battle Gideon wants a sign, a fleece. He wants two of them actually. He gets his sign. First the fleece is wet and the ground is dry. Then the fleece is dry and the ground is wet. There can be no doubt God is with Gideon.
A person of great faith would not put out a fleece. That is the point with Gideon really. He was weak he was hiding and God was going to use this weak person to do great things. Praise the Lord that God uses the weak. Praise the Lord that he uses the foolish to confound the wise.
The Midianites had 135,000 in their army and camels. Gideon had an army of 32,000. The odds seem way in favor of Midian. But God wants all the credit for this victory. There is going to be no boasting in human strength so Gideon is to pare down his army.
If you are afraid take one step back. No just take 1,000 steps back. That got rid of 22,000 of them. Still too many. Next the Lord gives conditions of how the men drink. If they go down to their knees they are eliminated. There are 7,000 who leave now they are down to 300 to face 135,000.
Every soldier faces the odds of one against 450 soldiers with camels. The Lord likes those odds. A victory sure won’t happen in human strength. The victory and the glory belongs to the Lord.
Gideon wants one more sign and he gets it. It came from a dream one of his 300 soldiers had. That was what Gideon needed and he called the men to get the weapons of war. It was a unique outfitting of 300 clay jars, 300 torches and 300 trumpets. Three teams of 100 surrounded the enemy camp before dawn. Break the jars, blast the trumpets and shout.
The battle was miraculous. There was confusion in the camp and the enemy turned on one another. The Lord caused this panic. 120,000 were killed and 15,000 fled under pursuit. Deliverance of Israel! The victory belongs to God.
The lesson for us: God will use us in spite of our weaknesses. Gideon was weak yet the Spirit of the Lord empowered Gideon. The same power is available for us in Christ. When we are weak we are strong if we trust in the Lord. Christ makes the difference between adequacy and inadequacy. Any excuse of weakness melts away with the Spirit of the Lord in Christ.
God used Gideon in his weakness and he will use us if we submit to Christ. We don’t need a fleece. We need to allow Christ to use us. When I am weak then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phil 4:13. To God be the glory.