When God gives us something to do, He expects us to do it. That is when good stuff gets done, when God’s people obey Him.
Gideon is best known for putting out a fleece and asking God to drench it, but there’s so much to learn from this valiant warrior.
When the angel of the Lord came to Gideon, he was hiding out in the winepress threshing wheat, hoping to not be detected by the Midianites, who like locusts, ravished all the food of the land, time and time again. They were a powerful gang of bullies who would come and take what was not theirs and leave nothing for the one who sowed and tended the crops.
At the time, the Israelites were living in the land of the Amorites and instructed by God to not fear the gods of the Amorites, but the Israelites disobeyed. Just as with our own disobedience, theirs was followed by oppression by their enemies.
The oppression reminded the Israelites to call out to their own God, the one, true God for help. God replied by sending a prophet to lay the facts straight regarding God’s deliverance in the past and their own disregard for His commandments. Then God sent the angel who appeared to Gideon.
Gideon questioned the angel, “Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? But now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites” (Judges 6:13).
God replied with a directive for Gideon. He did not engage in debate, nor did He communicate anything impertinent. He told Gideon to “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” (verse 14).
Gideon’s confidence was as weak as a wet noodle. He was full of questions and reasons why he was not the one for the job. After all, he was threshing wheat in a wine press at night to avoid trouble with them.
After waiting patiently for Gideon to voice his concerns, God said, “Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man” (verse 16, emphasis added). The whole of them smited as simply and surely as one man: all these bullies that were more populous than grasshoppers; “for both they and their camels were without number” (verse 5).
I imagine Gideon was caught off guard, thankful God was really there and cared, and he was amazed that God wanted to use him—the weakest in his family from the weakest tribe.
Gideon respected God and wanted to offer thanks and sacrifice. He also needed to be sure he understood God’s directive clearly, so he asked the angel to stay put while he went to prepare a sacrifice: no quick, easy task. Verse 19 tells us that “Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought I tout unto him under the oak, and presented it.” That’s a lot of work anytime but especially in the dark of night. Still, it was important to Gideon to be sure.
The exchange continued between Gideon and the angel and God with directives for Gideon and his needing assurance. It’s important to note that even though it may have made absolutely no sense to Gideon, he obeyed God, and God honored that obedience.
When the angel of the Lord told Gideon to “throw down the altar of Baal that [his] father hath, and cut down the grove that [was] beside it: and build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of [the] rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove,” Gideon obeyed. He and ten of his men servants worked hard for the next few hours to do exactly as God instructed.
When folks awoke to find Baal’s altar cast down and the grove cut, they wanted to kill Gideon. Thankfully Gideon’s father wisely rebuked them saying that if Baal was really a god that he could plead for and defend himself.
The visit from the angel of God was the pivot point in Gideon’s life as well as for the children of Israel. Gideon’s own family had left God. Gideon’s people left God, thinking wrongly that God had left them.
Gideon appeared to listen intently, engage, and obey God’s directives, thus building a strong, personal relationship with God and shaping his nation and their relationship with God.
Just as God gave Gideon the steps to accomplish as he needed them, and He provided assurance that Gideon wasn’t misunderstanding, God gives us what to do as we need to do it, and the next step won’t come if we don’t obey the one right ahead of us. As a teacher and parent, my motto was always, “Do what you should when you should how you should why you should, and you’ll be happy with the outcome.”
Gideon obeyed each step, and he was reverent to God. He wanted assurance he wasn’t misunderstanding God’s directives, but we never see that he doubted God after his encounter with the angel that night.
God prepared Gideon through several tasks. Upon obedience to each, God gave Gideon another directive.
Then we get to the big moment that all the preparation was leading up to: overtaking the Midianites. Gideon had not voiced concern to God, but just as God knows our own human emotions and tendency to fear such giant tasks, God gave Gideon the directive and also a step of preparation for his heart to be fully courageous. Judges 7:10 records that after God told Gideon the main directive to conquer the Midianites and Amalekites, He said, “But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host: and thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host."
God knew Gideon was such a conscientious person that this preparation would yield great results. God knows our needs and delivers right on time. If we trust and obey as He gives us steps to do, our tasks grow more important. We needn’t worry about preparation for the tasks. God handles that and lets us know what to do, just as He directed and prepared Gideon.
Sure enough, Gideon and Phurah sneaked down to hear what the enemy army was saying in their nighttime camp. One man told another of a dream he had. The other man interpreted it as God giving them over to Gideon’s hand (7:13-15).
Immediately upon hearing the interpretation of the dream, Gideon worshiped God.
Overhearing the dream and interpretation gave Gideon the confidence he needed to pursue this army that “lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude…and as the sand by the sea for multitude” (7:12).
God gives us directives every day, whether it is in His Word or as a direct result of our prayer time. Sometimes it may be a directive given to us by His Word and prayer, and confirmed by things in our lives, maybe even something someone says. Just like the assurance God gave Gideon by his overhearing the conversation at the enemy camp. God desires for us to obey, even when we don’t understand or see the next step. Often, as was the case for Gideon, God gave him the call, but then each step was given one at a time.
Gideon was told by the angel that night, “The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour” (Judges 6:12). By this Gideon was called by God to serve in a mighty way. Gideon was confused by the angel addressing him as a “mighty man of valour” since he didn’t see himself that way, and obviously his peers did not either. God doesn’t see us how we see ourselves or how others see us. God sees us as how He created us: mighty for His purpose. For us to live up to that vision, we must live in Him, seeking Him and obeying Him one step at a time.