Forty good years with Deborah leading the Israelites is followed by, “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord…” Here we go again! The Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples were tormenting the Israelites by destroying crops and killing livestock “like swarms of locusts…they invaded the land to ravage it” (Judges 6:5-6). Finally, the people cried out to the Lord and he sent them a prophet.
When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Judges 6:12-13
Gideon is not convinced he is the guy to deliver the Israelites from the Midians. “Pardon me, my lord…” he continues, but the Lord answers Gideon with the assurance he will be with him. Gideon asks for a sign and the angel agrees by consuming a meal and disappearing! The Lord gives Gideon a task–this is interesting: “Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it” (Judges 6:25). Gideon, with the help of 10 servants, does what the Lord commands, but does it at night so no one can see…seriously, he’s afraid. The people figure it out soon enough and approach Gideon’s father, “Bring out your son. He must die…” But Joash, Gideon’s father makes this remarkable statement:
Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar. Judges 6:31
Here’s the interesting part: Gideon was tasked to break down his father’s altar to Baal and his father immediately comes to Gideon’s defense.
The Fleece and The Dew
This part of the story is significant to me and my journey as one who calls himself a Christ follower. The Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern people (M-A-O) join forces again and begin to torment the Israelites. “Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon, and he blew a trumpet” to summon the tribes to war, but Gideon is unsure of his calling again, so he asks the Lord for a sign:
I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand. Judges 6:37
Ok…done. Now what?
Do not be angry with me…allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew. Judges 6:39
Test #2 completed. God did what Gideon requested.
When I was a preteen, somewhere between 10 and 12, I read this story and asked God for a sign to confirm for me his calling in my life. I took a towel and put it on my bicycle (overnight) and asked God to show he is real by making the towel wet with dew and the ground dry. That test failed, so I tried test two: towel on the bike, make it dry and everything else covered with dew. Failed. Living in Baton Rouge, where the humidity is often in the 90% range, there was dew everywhere and on everything. I was a bit discouraged. It seemed God was not one who listened to prayer. Sigh.
That Sunday (it seems like the second test was on a Saturday) we went to church as usual. I sat with my family and listened to a sermon on Judges 6-8. One of the key points in the sermon was:
Do not think you can test the Lord. He is not your magic genie sitting around waiting for your every demand.
Gulp! Did the pastor know what I was doing this week? Mind you this was back in the 70’s, spy cams were only in fiction!! God spoke to me quite clearly that day and I knew he was indeed real and I would follow him as best I could. I wish I were a better storyteller, that I could somehow craft words to describe this moment better, but this was the event that changed my life for good. I’ve made lots of poor choices that seem to diminish my contribution to Christ, but I remain confident that he will still use me in the last chapters of my life and time here on earth. Please Lord, fill me and use me today!
Gideon Defeats the Midianites
The Lord tells Gideon he has too many men and culls the list down to just 300. The Lord provided the unconventional means to demonstrate his love for Israel,
Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. Judges 7:19
The Midianites went crazy! The Lord caused them to turn on each other and they ran out of camp, killing each other in panic. Gideon and his small militia pursued them and killed the leaders.
Another 40 years of peace followed by downfall, “they also failed to show any loyalty to the family of Gideon in spite of all the good things he had done for them (Judges 8:35).