-The next generation of judges begin to arise in this chapter that begins with the sons of Israel once again doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD. Therefore, the LORD gave them into the hands of Midian for seven long-arduous years. The power of Midian prevailed over Israel causing the sons of Israel to hide in mountains and caves and strongholds. When Israel would sow their land, the Midianites, along with the dreaded Amalekites and other sons of the east, came up against them and destroyed the produce of the earth as far west as Gaza. They left no sustenance in Israel. Sheep, oxen, and donkeys were confiscated too. These enemies would come in like locusts in number with their own livestock and tents including an innumerable amount of camels. They were a devastating force sent by the LORD due to Israel’s disobedience. “So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the LORD (Judges 6:1-6).”
-Midian, which was to the east and south of Edom and to the east of the Sinai Peninsula, were nomadic marauders who brought the wrath of God for seven seasons of what should have been growth in the land. But, when the chosen people finally cried out to their covenant Master, He sent a prophet to them to remind them that it is was He who brought them up from Egypt and out of the house of slavery. The LORD alone was their Deliverer from their oppressors, and He, by Himself, dispossessed their enemies and gave them their Promised Land. The LORD reprimanded them, “I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not obeyed Me (Judges 6:7-10).”
-Now He would take action in the most unusual and unique way as the Creative Engineer that He is. The angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah (in the Jezreel Valley of Manasseh), which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. Joash’s youngest son, Gideon, was beating out wheat in the wine press. This was a hiding place from the Midianites. They were in constant fear of being raided and stolen from. Therefore, a wine press was being used for another purpose here with the beating out of the wheat in secret for sustenance. The angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, who now takes center stage as God’s called one. The angel says to him, “The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.” Gideon’s first response was not that of confidence or assurance. He questioned why the LORD would be with his people. The miracles of his nation’s fathers had disappeared, or so he thought. He had heard of the fame of the LORD, but that seemed a foreign concept in his current state of oppression. He and the people of Israel were feeling abandoned and devoured in these current circumstances with the Midianites. However, the LORD reassured him, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” Gideon still lacked faith. He asked “how” he could possibly deliver Israel. He was from the “least” family in Manasseh. Further than that, he was the youngest in his father’s house. But we can discern the LORD had a plan as He responded, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” Now Gideon wanted more than just the word of the LORD. He asked for a series of signs beginning with an offering that he asked the LORD to stay for. The angel of the LORD remained until Gideon returned with a young goat and unleavened bread. At the LORD’s command he lay the meat and bread on a rock and poured out broth on it. The angel of the LORD put out the end of the staff that was in His Hand and touched the meat and unleavened bread causing fire to spring up from the rock consuming the meat and bread instantly. “Then the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight.” Gideon now knew something special was going on, duh!?! He proclaimed, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.” God told him, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.” Out of reverence and awe Gideon immediately built an altar there to his God and named it “The LORD is Peace.” This altar remained until at least the writing of this text (Judges 6:11-24).
-That very night the LORD spoke to the enlightened and chosen one further, “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it; and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.” Gideon did this in obedience, but he did it in the cover of night. He took ten men of his servants and followed the LORD’s directions. He was still afraid of his father’s household and men of the city. These false gods were political figures, and a disruption to them could certainly cause tension in the community. When morning came and Gideon’s deed was discovered with the Baal altar torn down, the Asherah cut down, and the second bull sacrificed on the newly constructed altar which had been built, the men of the city asked, “Who did this thing?” It was quickly surmised that Gideon had done it. They wanted him brought out to be killed. Joash, Gideon’s father, stands up for his son at this point. He asks, “Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him?” He implored them to see if Baal had the power to defend his name by himself. So he renamed his son Jerubbaal, meaning “Let Baal contend against him.” No small disturbance was created when Baal did not contend for himself. The powers that were began to assemble themselves with the unrest that was going on in Ophrah. All the Midianites, the Amalekites, and the sons of the east came over the Jordan and camped in the valley of Jezreel. “So the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him.” Messengers were sent out throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali to come up and meet with this new leader of revolt (Judges 6:25-35).
-Gideon just wanted some more signs now to cement the call of God on his mission. He spoke to God asking that a fleece of wool that he put out at night on the threshing floor contain dew on it with dry ground all around it. This, to Gideon, would prove that the LORD was with him to deliver Israel. And so it was that God put water in the fleece only. When Gideon arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained a bowl full of water from the dew in it. Gideon respectfully asked for one more assurance that the LORD was with him. He reversed the request just to make sure the dewed fleece was more than coincidence. This test was that the fleece remain dry while the dew saturated the ground. “God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground (Judges 6:36-40).” After three miraculous signs now, God had indeed spoken, and Gideon (or Jerubbaal) could go forward with all the confidence he needed to deliver the sons of Israel.
-*Application* Talk about speaking life into a situation. Gideon was anything but a “valiant warrior” when the LORD called upon him. He was fearfully beating out wheat in a wine press, cowering from his enemies. He questioned when he was told that the LORD was with him. He doubted the veracity of the angel’s claims for his country at this low point in their national history. He rationalized that he was from the “least” family in Manasseh and the youngest of his father’s house. But God keep speaking life into a helpless situation to give hope, confidence, and clarity. After some serious and miraculous convincing, God moved His servant forward in faith and dependence. That’s how the LORD works in our lives too. Seek Him out and listen for His Voice when we have questions. Be earnest, be respectful, and have the right heart to do only His will. He will show us Himself more powerfully than we could ever imagine. He turns sissies into valiant warriors.
Verse to Memorize: Judges 6:16