And the angel of the LORD appeared unto [Gideon], and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. (Judges 6:12)
The Midianites and the Amalekites had been harassing the Israelites for over seven years. These ancient-day terrorists waited until their crops were harvested, and they would swoop down like locusts and strip the land clean of all that the Israelites had worked for, including their livestock. “[Because] of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds” (Judges 6:2).
Their affliction resulted from the vicious cycle of disobedience to God, God’s punishment for their disobedience, a cry to God for deliverance, God’s mercy and forgiveness at the hand of a deliverer, followed by a time of peace, and then the cycle started over again. They never learned! So, here they were again. “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years” (Judges 6:1).
Gideon, of the tribe of Manasseh, feared the Midianites like the rest of Israel did. He devised a plan to hide his wheat harvest from the raiders by threshing it under a tree near a winepress. Normally, this would have been done in the open on a hard threshing floor. An animal – an ox, donkey, mule, etc. – walked on the wheat to break the husk surrounding the kernel. Once that was done, the wheat was tossed in the air allowing the wind to carry away the chaff (the husk) leaving the kernel to fall to the ground to be gathered. Gideon’s method involved a lot of extra work, but it would not raise any suspicion from the Midianites.
In this cowering position, “the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour” (Judges 6:12). This was no ordinary angel. Without exception, “the Angel of the LORD” in the Old Testament is the “preincarnate” Christ known as a “theophany” or “Christophany” in theological terms. We know this because the “angel” takes full credit for what God is going to do and accepts sacrifices offered to Him. No ordinary angel does that; instead, they say, “Thus saith the LORD” and give full credit to God.
I can imagine Gideon’s reaction to the Angel addressing him as “thou mighty man of valor.” Here he was hiding in fear of the Midianites. I can see him looking around to see if there was anyone else nearby. Seeing no one else around, I hear him say, “Who? Me? Are you talking to Me?” Gideon must have been incredulous!
Gideon felt, and rightly so, that God had forsaken Israel. He recalled how God had delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage and brought them into the Promised Land by many miracles, but now they were handed over to the Midianites. “And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” (Judges 6:14). First God calls him a “mighty man of valor,” and now he is told that he – the cowering wheat farmer – will save Israel from the Midianites. Note how the Angel gives the command directly. “Have I not sent thee?” He does not say, “Thus saith the LORD;” He is the LORD.
Like Moses, Gideon offered up excuses as to why he was not the right man for the job. “And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15). But Jesus assured him that He was the right man. “And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:16). Gideon would not be alone in this effort.
Gideon still needed more proof. So, he brought an offering of a kid (young goat), unleavened bread, and flour and laid it on a rock. The Angel put out His staff and touched the offering, and it was instantly consumed in fire showing that God accepted the offering. At this point, Gideon realized that he was face-to-face with God giving him another reason for fear. He remembered what God said to Moses: “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Exodus 33:20). Jesus understood Gideon’s fear. “And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die” (Judges 6:23).
Gideon’s first assignment was to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and replace it with an altar to God. Gideon still had reservations, so he performed the task at night. The following day, the men of the town came looking for Gideon to kill him for destroying the Baal altar. His father, obviously repentant, defended him. “And Joash [Gideon’s father] said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar” (Judges 6:31). This gave Gideon confirmation that God was with him.
“Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel” (Judges 6:33). Gideon’s next assignment was to get rid of Israel’s enemies. Gideon still had reservations and needed further proof. So, he put God to the test. First, he challenged God by laying out a fleece on the ground and asking God to send dew on the fleece only, but leave the ground dry. God answered his request. The next night he did the same but wanted the ground to be wet with dew and the fleece to remain dry. God again answered his request. Gideon was convinced.
Gideon rallied an army of 32,000 men from Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. The opposing army boasted at least 135,000 men. Gideon’s army faced four-to-one odds. God wanted all the credit for the victory, so He told Gideon to send all the fearful home. Twenty-two thousand (22,000) left leaving Gideon with only 10,000 men. The odds now were about 14 to 1. God said that was still too many.
There was spring near Gideon’s camp, and God gave a test. Any man who stooped down on hands and knees to drink from the spring was to be sent home. Those who cupped water in their hand and lapped up the water from their hands – showing that they remained vigilant – were kept. Gideon’s army was now down to just 300 men. The odds were now 450 to 1 – better odds for God!
Understandably, Gideon had doubts. To assuage his fear, God told Gideon to take his aid, Phurah, and sneak into the Midianite camp at night to spy it out. When he came near one of the tents, he overheard one man tell his companion of his dream. His companion interpreted the dream as an omen that Gideon would attack the camp and destroy them all. Hearing this gave Gideon courage.
Gideon took his 300 men that same night and divided them into three companies surrounding the enemy camp. With rams’ horns, torches, and clay jars, Gideon’s army stood and made a lot of noise. They surprised and startled the enemy to the point of panic, and they turned their swords each against the other. Gideon’s army did nothing to win the battle except make a lot of noise. God won the battle for them.
We often face obstacles, problems, and troubles that seem insurmountable for us. We fear because we know full well that we cannot overcome our trials. They are too big and too difficult for us to conquer. When we do try to fix them ourselves, we usually end up making things worse for ourselves. It is at these times that we need to hear God say, “The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour … Surely I will be with thee.” He does not need our strength to fight our battles. He just needs our faith and trust in Him. “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14).
Often, we fear the unknown – all the “what-ifs” of life. God is already in our tomorrows, and He has it all under control. Jesus said that He knows His own, and His own know Him. And those who belong to Him have the assurance that “… all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). The LORD is with thee.
Do you live in fear of what the future holds for you? Do you feel helpless to face all the troubles in your life? Why not let God take control of your life? You will not regret it and retirement is out of this world. Check out my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”