Gideon, man of God
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Judges 6:1-33, 8:32
Devotional text: Hebrews 11:32
Today, we are continuing in the book of Judges as we celebrate Father’s Day. Last week, we began looking at the life of Gideon, who was the fifth judge of Israel. We saw how an angel of the Lord came to him declaring that God had chosen him to save his people from their eastern enemies.
We ended last week with Gideon tearing down his own father’s altar to the false god, Baal, along with the pole next to it. Then, he built an honorable altar to the one true God, and, using the wood scraps from the pole, sacrificed one of his father’s bulls to the God of Israel.
The next day, when the townspeople wanted to kill Gideon for what he had done, Joash, the father of Gideon, spoke up in his behalf. His words to the people were that if Baal did not like what Gideon had done, then he should defend himself, if he were truly a god.
Instead of being angry with his son, Joash protected him by his words, words that showed Joash’s own faith in the true God had not been lost. When Gideon stepped out by trusting in God, it became a first step in teaching Gideon that God could use him.
Now, continuing with Judges 6:33 and onward, we find that the Midianites, along with the other eastern countries, banded together “joining forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel.” This valley was one of the most fertile spots for growing crops. The takeover by the eastern countries would mean ruin for the livelihood of the Israelites.
Again, God used his chosen man, Gideon, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, would take action. In verses 34-35, Gideon blew a trumpet and summoned the tribes that were close by to follow him. However, before going to war, Gideon once again tested God.
Have you ever heard the term “putting out a fleece?” This phrase comes from Gideon, who said to God in verse 37, “Look, I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and the rest of the floor is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand as you said.” In the morning, it happened just as Gideon had asked.
However, Gideon, asking God not to be angry with him, asked another test of God with the fleece. This time, Gideon asked that the fleece be dry while the surrounding floor would be wet with dew. Once again, God did as Gideon had asked.
Even today, we hear of people testing God’s direction by “putting out a fleece,” although an actual fleece is not usually a part of the test.
As we seek to follow God’s direction, we do question if it is from God from time to time. God does not always make his direction known to us by answering a test to help us understand his will, but sometimes he surely does.
As we move onto chapter 7, we see how the tables have turned, as God tests Gideon’s trust in him to defeat the Midianites.
Gideon had gathered an army of 32,000 men. However, God informed him that was too many. Basically, God said to Gideon, “How will the people know they were delivered by my hands? There are so many warriors, they will boast that they themselves accomplished the defeat.”
Through various forms of winnowing down the numbers, Gideon was finally left with only 300 men against the vast army of the Midianites camped in the valley. Gideon began to feel nervous. Could the Midianites really be defeated by such few men? So, God advised Gideon to sneak into the enemy camp at night to see what the enemy warriors were thinking.
As Gideon, along with his servant Purah, went down to the camp undercover of night, they heard one of the men telling about a dream he had.
“A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midian camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed” (Judges 7:13b).
A friend of the one who had the dream interpreted it for him in the next verse: “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon, son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”
Gideon, encouraged by what he heard, worshiped God and woke the men back at his camp.
In verses 17-24, we find the 300 men going down to the edge of the enemy camp at about 10 p.m. Gideon’s army blew their trumpets loudly, smashing their jars and holding their torches. Together, as one, they shouted, “For the Lord and for Gideon!”
They created such confusion that the Midian army ran about, even fighting with one another. God had used Gideon to win the battle with just 300 men, retrieving the fertile lands along the Jordan River for Israel.
Before ending today’s life of Gideon, there are just a few more items to consider.
In Chapter 8:22-23, the Israelites wanted to make Gideon their king. Gideon refused, as he stated, “The Lord will rule over you.”
Afterward, verse 28 records that, “During Gideon’s lifetime, the land enjoyed peace for 40 years.” Before Gideon died, “at a good old age,” he had 16 wives and fathered 70 sons.
Gideon’s story begins with a young man unsure of his God. It ends with his wholehearted trust in God and his own growth into a mighty man who brought peace to his people. Gideon had tested God, and God had shown Gideon his power. As Gideon’s trust and willingness to follow God grew, God tested Gideon’s faith when he reduced the Israelite army from 32,000 to 300 men.
This is God, ever with us, ever helping us if we but put our trust in him.