In the sixth chapter of Judges we meet a fellow named Gideon. When I read the story of Gideon I picture a man, small in stature. The reason is because of the description that Gideon gives himself. He says I am from the least clan of Israel, and I am the weakest in my family. But Gideon ends up doing mighty things for God. We are going to look at when Gideon was introduced to us up until he builds an altar to the Lord.
The sixth chapter starts with explaining how Israel was doing as a nation.
“The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian for seven years.” Judges 6:1
This was not one of the best times of Israel’s history. Israel as a whole had been delivered over to the Midianites and were being oppressed by them. The Israelites would harvest the land and the Midianites would come in and take the harvest from them. It appears they were not occupying the land but they would come in and steal their produce and their livestock. They would come in and steal, and ravage and leave Israel as a wasteland.
“And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.” Judges 6:6
Israel was at a low point, they seemed to have forgotten God in the way they were living but when they got to the lowest point they knew the only way out and up was to look to God and to cry out to Him for help.
“When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites, the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. And I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.’” Judges 6:7-10
God points out to the Israelites what the problem was. The reason for the oppression from the Midianites was their own disobedience to God. Don’t miss this, God may have handed Israel over to be oppressed but He really never left them. He was still watching over Israel. I have said before to people and have had to say it to myself, “sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better.” Sometimes when we tend to continually want to go our own way God will allow us the freedom to do so just to show us how life without Him would be. God allowed Israel to be oppressed by Midian because of their disobedience. But the oppression was the very thing it was going to take to cause Israel to cry out to the Lord.
And this is where we find Gideon.
“Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belong to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites.” Judges 7:11
Gideon was hiding out in a winepress, beating out the wheat to get grain because he was trying to hide this part of the harvest from the Midianites. This angel fo the Lord comes and sits down near him while he is hiding out doing his work.
“And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” Judges 6:12
This angel of the Lord is referred to in commentary as a theophany. A pre-incarnate of Jesus showing himself to Gideon. So the angel comes in and talks to Gideon and calls him a “mighty man of valor”. Some translations say “mighty warrior”. Now here is this man, who may have been slight in stature beating out wheat in a winepress, hiding out and the angel of the Lord, Jesus calls him a mighty warrior and says “The Lord is with you”. Gideon is a little taken aback. He asks Him, if the Lord is with us, why is all this happening, why am I having to hide out, just to get something to eat, why am I having to work so hard? If God is with us, where are the miracles of deliverance that the Lord has done in the past. Oh haven’t we all felt that way before? Where we are having trouble seeing the hand of the Lord on our lives and our circumstances. That’s where Gideon is. But don’t miss this part. Even though Gideon was discouraged, he was still going about the day to day tasks of living.
“And the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” Judges 6:14
What does “this might of yours” mean to this small man, the least of his family, from the weakest clan? I think it’s because Gideon was found doing something, yes, he may have been hiding out while doing it, and he seems to have even been grumbling. But he was grumbling to the one who could save him. He knew where his help would come from if there was any help to be had at all. Sometimes coming to the end of our rope, to the end of ourselves is just what we need to realize that we need to reach out to the one who can help. I think Gideon caught God’s eyes because he was doing something.
Now of course, Gideon has a few minutes there of arguing with the Lord, about being the one to save Israel. He isn’t sure he is the one to do it. I love this next verse.
“And the Lord said to him, ‘But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.’” Judges 6:16
The Lord was calling Gideon to fight a battle and to save Israel and bring them back to him. But He wasn’t sending him out alone. Just like when the Lord gives us a battle to fight, He doesn’t send us out alone. He is always with us when we are fighting the battles that are His. It’s when we try to go it alone, that he allows us to be oppressed. What happens next is where our lesson lies today. Gideon goes on to ask for a sign. So he asks the Angel of the Lord to stay while he goes in and prepares food for him. When he comes out and lays the food out before the Angel of the Lord, He takes His staff and touches the food and fire comes up from the rock and consumes the food. And then the Angel of the Lord vanishes. Gideon is afraid because he realizes He has just seen the Lord face to face. But then peace.
“Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord is Peace (Jehovah-Shalom). To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.” Judges 6:24
Even in the midst of hardship and uncertainty, Gideon knew He had just seen God and that God was with Him and it brought Him peace. The Lord was his peace not his circumstances. Gideon was still going to have a battle in front of him. But he recognized that he would be fighting it with the Lord and that it what brought him peace. Because he knew Jehovah-Shalom!