We meet God’s next “might man of valor”; Gideon. He is a quiet and unassuming and not sure if it is God who is calling him to rise up.
The Midianites are taking every last scrap of food they can find. Apparently they weren’t finding it all though because Gideon was threshing some wheat in a wine press. Very ingenious!
When the angel of the Lord first appeared he was hanging out under a tree before he approached Gideon. I wonder what he was thinking about while he sat there. Could he see Gideon from where he was sitting? Did Gideon notice him under the tree? Did he vanish and then reappear beside Gideon or did he call out to him from where he was?
The angel’s greeting was certainly a surprise to Gideon. “The Lord is with you, O might man of valor” (verse 12b). I would have started looking around for who he was talking to! I wonder if Gideon did. Or had Gideon been secretly seething with anger at Israel’s circumstances and saying, quietly to himself at least, “If only the Lord would choose me, I would fight for Him.”
Gideon latched onto the first part of the greeting and ignored the second for a while. “The Lord is with you.” Gideon wasn’t rude but his reply was close to; “Oh yah? Well prove it.” He had heard the stories all his life of the wonderful miracles God did for the people of Israel but he hadn’t personally seen one in his lifetime. In fact he had seen suffering instead and he blamed it on the Lord. “But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian” (verse 13b). NO mention here of the fact that ISRAEL had forsaken the Lord first and earned their punishment, per their covenant with the Lord.
The angel’s answer to me can be taken two ways. First there is the flippant attitude of “Oh, you are doing so well on your own then ‘go in this might of YOURS and save Israel from Midian’ (verse 14b). You say God has wronged you and been quiet, then use your own power to save Israel.”
The second way is the angel telling Gideon that the power he has heard about in the past will be in him. “The God that your fathers told you about is ready to help you right this situation. ‘Go in THIS might of yours (for He is giving it to you) and save Israel from the hands of Midian; do not I send you?’ (verse 14). I’m giving you access to HIS power; the same power you have heard stories about ALL your life!”
I PICK #2! Apparently so did Gideon. He KNEW he didn’t have the power to do the job himself. “Are you sure you know who you are talking to? I come from a weakest clan of my whole tribe and am the runt of my family. I’m not strong by ANY stretch of the imagination nor am I important enough for this job!”
God had an answer for that! “And the Lord said to him, ‘But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man’” (verse 16).
I was wondering about the second part of this encouragement myself. I recognized that God told Gideon that he would have work to do but what did the “strike the Midianites as one man” mean. I think I received an answer in my spirit for that. Instead of having to fight on multiple fronts or against a hoard of people, God was promising Gideon that He would make him the equal of ALL of Midian combined. Mono e Mono. Gideon would take them on as easily as he would take on a single man; IF he went in God’s strength.
But Gideon wasn’t fully convinced that the one talking to him had the authority to give him access to God’s power. “How do I know that you really represent God or that God is speaking directly to me through you? This could all be some kind of trick to get me killed. I’m going to need some proof that you are who you say you are.”
Gideon asks for a sign but he didn’t say what kind of sign he needed beyond the angel of the Lord waiting while he ran and got something. “Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you” (verse 18a).
Gideon’s gift wasn’t something he had ready and waiting. It took him time to prepare it. “So Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basked, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the terebinith and presented them” (verse 19). Gideon had to kill the goat, dress it, cook it, pour off the broth into a bowl, arrange the meat in a basket, make the bread from scratch, bake it, and finally carry it all out to his esteemed visitor. I’m giving this process a MINIMUM of 30 minutes with an upper limit of two hours.
God’s emissary waited patiently under his tree. Remind you of two other emissaries who waited on a meal? How about the two men who visited Abraham and Sarah with the news that Sarah would have a baby by that same time next year.
When Gideon got back the angel told him to do something strange with the “present” he brought. He told him to put the food on the rock. He had Gideon stack it all together and pour the broth on it. Talk about messy! Did Gideon put a plate under it? Did he leave the meat in the basket? Did he wonder about the instructions he was given? Did he have any inkling of what was coming next? Once everything was set on the rock did he think they were going to sit down together and eat the meal he had prepared? Did he stand and wait with anticipation at this point? Or did he simply believe he was giving a gift of hospitality to his visitor who would later share some sign with him that he could hold onto?
The angel wasn’t wasting any time. He waited patiently for Gideon’s return and now that he had Gideon’s full attention he was going to give him a sign he would not soon forget. No. It wasn’t as big as parting the Red Sea but it was unmistakable. It was fire from Heaven, or more appropriately, from the rock. No parlor trick. No slight of hand. Genuine, bonafide, power of God!
The rest of the conversation God had as a heart to heart with Gideon. He had seen with his own eyes the proof of what he was being called to do. He was ready to listen AND obey.
I’m curious about the fact that Gideon built and altar then and there. God had told the people NOT to be building altars wherever they wanted. He told them that they were to go to the ONE He had sanctioned in the city He chose as His own. There were already too many altars in that vicinity and they were NOT His!
Dealing with that problem would be Gideon’s first task. He had to tear down his father’s altars to Baal and Asherah. They would be the fuel for the fire he set on his altar to the Lord. I can’t think of a better use for those pieces of wood and stone!
Gideon was still afraid even after he saw the sign he asked for. He was willing to do as God told him but not in front of his family or the town’s people. He did as the Lord commanded, in secret. He enlisted the help of ten servants who were faithful to him as helpers. These altars were used by the town’s people and Gideon didn’t want to be caught in the act.
I identify with Gideon a lot! I want to be SURE who I am listening to. I KNOW it is NOT MY power but HIS that does the work. There are many areas in my life that I hold back in because I don’t know how it is going to come across to those who are watching me. I’m even holding back on naming those areas right now. I have been ‘burned’ by people’s responses when I do speak up and prefer to fight my fight quietly. This does NOT mean that I don’t stand for what God calls me to. It means that I sometimes work behind the scenes instead of on the main stage. It means that I will offer personal insight instead of insisting on religious dogma. It means that my ways may not look like yours but I’m still serving God how HE has called me to. Gideon did exactly what God told him to do, just quietly and behind the scenes. When God is ready HE will thrust Gideon into the limelight for His future purposes. But not until GOD is ready to do so. I’m MORE than happy to wait for that day in my life.
Father God, don’t let me run away from the things You call me to! If it can be done quietly, please let me do so. If not, then give me the courage I need to step into the light. But don’t let me be fooled by who is telling me to leave the quiet places. I want to hear YOU speak, not my own ego or vain imaginations or Satan’s whispers. Lead me where You would have me go. I place my life in YOUR hands and NO others. Thank You that I can ALWAYS trust You with my life, even if it involves losing it for You.