Gideon’s story is the story of an ordinary man in the hands of an extra ordinary God.
The background: The period of judges in the history of Israel is remarked as one of the darkest times. Under Joshua, the people of God entered Canaan and the tribes were assigned different portions to conquer from its inhabitants. God instructed the Israelites to drive the natives completely and not to have any communion with them. Until the time of Joshua, the people remained faithful to the Lord. However, afterward they became rebellious and followed the heathen gods. Instead of driving the natives out, they entered into close relationship with them (inter-marriages). In sum, they lost their godly identity. One phrase sums up the time – Jud. 17:6. The result: life in the promised land became a period of unending misery. For almost 350 years, until the arrival of Samuel the prophet, the people of God went through several cycles of slavery and deliverance. The old inhabitants of the land and surrounding nations began to plunder Israel. Whenever Israel turned away from God, God gave them into the hands of their enemies. Out of oppression when the Israelites cried out to the Lord, he raised Judges to deliver them.The judges were the leaders or Military warriors upon whom the spirit of God was abundant to bring about deliverance. From Othaniel to Samson, overall we read about fifteen judges. We are going to meditate upon one of the deliverance episodes and the man whom God used in the process.
Immediate Background: Read Jud.6:1-10
Seven years of captivity under the Midianites – a time of great fear and subjection. The Midianites were one of the nomad tribes living in the surroundings who were known for conducting raids and plunder. They were always a threat for Israel.
This was clearly the consequence of disobeying God and following other gods. After a time, God heard their cry – four times God rescued them prior to this and he was about to show them His mercy once more. He was in search for a person to give leadership. Whenever God has a task to be fulfilled, he always searches for people (Ezek. 22:30). The call to Christian leadership is always the result of a need. Perhaps, the reason why God has brought you to this place and letting you hear his voice is that he has something in his mind. Isa 6:8. Maybe, there is something that he wants to do in your college, your company, your city, your church, etc. The Lord of Harvests!
God’s call to Gideon: Jud. 6:11-14
God’s eyes fell upon a man working with haste in the field – a man by name Gideon, son of Joash, from the sub-tribe called Abiezerite of Manaseh.
A few things from the conversation between the angel and Gideon: (Angel of the Lord – Jesus in pre-incarnate form)
vs 12: “you are a brave man (mighty warrior), and the Lord is with you” – This would have surprised Gideon/ he would have considered it as a sarcastic comment. In reality, he was fearful in nature like men of his time (11-hiding from the Midianites, 27 – afraid of his family and others, 21-22 – afraid to kill the enemies). Of course, it is true that Gideon was not a courageous man – a man suited to be a warrior by birth/ temperament. However, God was looking at what he could do with Gideon the fearful. God was looking at Gideon’s potential. God was addressing Gideon as a warrior not looking at what he was at that point but what he would become in the future because of God.
Vs 13: “But then Lord…” Gideon was a man with spiritual expectations – the questions he asked the angel shows that Gideon has been thinking about all that was happening to his nation – he was frustrated about God’s inaction and silence – why is God not acting? Why is that we are not seeing a breakthrough? Why is not God acting like in the past? Why is he not raising a Moses? These thoughts have been troubling him for a while. Here was a man waiting for a breakthrough (ex: spiritually indifferent Easu and ambitious Jacob). While looking at history, there have been people like Gideon. During the Welsh Revival, a woman prayed, “Lord, if you don’t do this upon your promise, I dont think I could ever trust you again.” John knox prayed, “Lord give me scotland or die.” Why don’t you do something Lord? Are you a person with this sort of spiritual intent?
vs. 14: God would have smiled to himself (I have come to the right person). “Go and use this strength of yours to free Israel…” I have been waiting for someone with this spiritual vigor and you have it…you are the one…you are the Moses for this generation. I have chosen you as the leader. I am sending you. Some men of God have been through this experience.
I. Gideon’s Reservations and God’s Assurances: Jud.6: 15-24
When God called Gideon, he couldn’t believe it – “Me the deliverer, God you must be joking, you got it wrong.” “How can I save Israel?”
Gideon’s Excuses: Look at my background: my clan is the weakest in my tribe. Moreover, I am the least in the family. (unsaid: I am not courageous).
God’s answer: Yes, I know all that but I am going to be with you. You are the man I have chosen to defeat the Midianites.
Friends, we all have our own excuses for not doing what God wants us to do.
“I don’t have leadership qualities”
“By nature I am an introvert, fearful by nature…”
“I can’t speak well…English”
“I don’t have enough worldly wisdom”
“I can’t stand in front of people”
“I am not looking good,” etc, etc.
I think this is God’s standard answer for all man’s excuses – I am sending you and I will be with you ( ex: Moses, Jeremiah, Disciples -Matt. 28:19-20)
When God lays a burden in hearts or calls us to do something for him, what he expects from us is our mere availability. Before even we telling him our inabilities and inadequacies, he knows them much more than we do.
II. Gideon’s Leadership and God’s Might: Jud.6:25-8:21
God acts mightily when his people are led by spiritual leaders. This is what we seen throughout the Scripture and this is what is evidenced here as well.
Gideon’s ministry started with a step of risk. Leadership involves willingness to take risk for God (Jud.6: 25-32). Most things have been achieved by people who were willing to take risk for God (consider Moses, Esther and Nehemiah who had to stand before the mightiest rulers of this earth.) Martin Luther had caused a stir in Germany with his new teachings which was against the Roman church. 17th April 1521 stood the 37 year old Martin Luther before a huge audience under trail. The great Roman church had asked the young man to recant and take back his heretical writings. He asked the counsel for a day to think. That night he prayed and consulted with some of his close friends. Saying no was such a risky thing. It would cost his life. The next day, he was asked the same question, “ Will you recant or not?” to which Luther said, “Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” Are you willing to obey only God and take risks for him? Note that Gideon was still afraid in his heart. He was able to take this huge risk by faith I believe.
Gideon receives the unction of the Holy Spirit. Gideon was a man who was possessed by the Holy Spirit (6:34) “clothed himself with Gideon” An special term expressed repeated in I chr. 12:18, 2 chr. 24:20 – a man who came under the complete control of the Spirit. One of the professors at Dallas Theological Seminary, Howard Hendricks, years ago used to say to his students – I quote him: ‘Men, every morning I pray, ‘Lord, here am I. I want to be your suit of clothes today. I want You to take me and use me. Lord, just walk around in me today”.
I cannot over emphasise the need of this upon Christian leaders today. This unction of the Spirit is received through total surrender and obedience. Gideon, I believe received this unction because of his obedience (6:25-26). Symbolically speaking, he destroyed all the idols that were evil in the sight of God and set an altar for the living God. Paul emphasizes this in Ephesians 5:15-18. (Let the Holy Spirit fill you).
- A Spirit filled man does not fall upon his own impulses or wisdom. He or she wants to make sure that the Lord is in it. (Jud.6:35-40)/ Eph.5:17
- A Spirit filled man depends on God’s strategy for victory (Jud.7:1-25). 32,000 men against 135000; reduced to 10000, then God reduces the group further to 300 (7:12-13). Gideon’s faith was being tested. Will he depend on God or the army? Will he go or have second thoughts? Look at the weapons used by them (Jud.7:16) – empty jars, trumpets and torches. The Midianites and others were completely routed. How? (Jud.7:21-22). We all need to keep this in mind – Zech. 4:6. Paul wrote: The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual.
- A Spirit filled person is not overcome by discouragements (Jud.8:1-3, 4-7) – men of Ephraim (critical and resentful) & men of succoth (cynical and non-cooperative).
III. Gideon’s Compromises and its Consequences: Jud. 8:22-35
Christian life has to be lived with utter carefulness. The Devil is out like a roaring Lion to trap the careless one. Paul exhorts in I Cor.10:12. Gideon’s last days were a bit of tragedy. Soon after the great victory, Gideon’s gradual fall occurs.
First step towards decline: Gideon collected the gold ornaments from the booty and made an ephod (worn on priestly garment – here may be a cultic object) and set it up in his city (Jud.8;22-27). Why did he do it? Perhaps, wanted to build a memorial – wanted to accumulate wealth– wanted God to lead his people with Urim and Thumim – wanted to be seen as an achiever (trophy) – Whatever was his intention, he did not consult it with the Lord. It was his own plan. This led to idolatry. The man who brought Israelites out of Idolatry because of carelessness now reinstitutes it. What a failure? Probably, he could control people from doing that during his lifetime but people became worse after his death (Jud.8:33-35). Leaders need to be really careful about the way they live. Their misconduct can affect the people they lead. Leaders will lose moral courage and will use their influence. Gideon though said that he didn’t want to be a king, but indulged himself like a Monarch (Jud.8:29-31). This is what we call as hypocrisy. (Abimelech means ‘my father is king’)
We have many examples in the Scripture who began well but couldn’t finish well – Saul, Samson, Uzziah, Asa, Judas, Demas, etc. If you look at the lives, the fall was most often gradual, probably without they themselves realizing it. A little bit of carelessness, a small compromise here and there. We need to be constantly aware of the things that come into our lives in the form of the little things…the songs of Solomon talks about the little foxes that destroy the vineyard…the little yeast that spoils the whole dough….Paul remarked, “do not allow Satan to even have a foothold.” May give us the grace to finish the race well.
By Sam K John