“Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help…” – Judges 6:6

Judges 6-8

The Israelites are no different in the book of Judges than they were with Moses – fickle. Devoted to God one minute, to Baal and foreign gods the next. Despicable, wishy-washy people… until of course you consider that they stand as a metaphor for us… mmm:)

The oppression of the Midianites impoverished the Israelites so much that they called on the LORD, in whose eyes they had been doing evil for the last seven years (another low in one of their many cycles of obedience/disobedience). In response to the Israelites’ distress call, God sends a prophet that says, “Okay, I save you from the Egyptians. I save you from your oppressors and gave you their land. But then I told you not to worship the foreign gods of this land, and you didn’t listen.” Here a human would add: “So I’m fed up with you! Good luck, you’re on your own. Hope you can find a way to defeat those nasty Midianites, cause I’m just going to sit and watch this one!”

But God didn’t. 🙂 Instead he sent a messenger (the angel of the LORD) to Gideon. When the angel of the LORD walked up, Gideon was sneakily threshing wheat in a winepress, in order to keep the Midianites from noticing and raiding. OK, normally people do not thresh wheat in their winepress – this was an act of desperation. If not for the common oppression among the Israelites, Gideon probably would have been looked on as a little *cuckoo!* by his peers. For one thing, the winepress was too small, so you could only thresh a small amount of grain at a time, making it a rather ted-i-ous project!

So when the angel of the LORD greets Gideon by saying, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior,” it’s a laugh!

But moving on, here’s a few things that stood out to me, that have to do with how Gideon entered into battle and fought it, with the Lord’s direction. And yes I’m going to use numbers to list these points, as it makes me sound just that much smarter. 🙂

  1. “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family,” Gideon protests to the angel. God chose the fewest of the few, the weakest of the weak, to fight this battle. This isn’t that odd, though, as God follows this pattern throughout the Bible, into nowadays. He prefers weak vessels. They’re not full of themselves, so they can be filled with God.
  2. God patiently responds to Gideon’s request(s) for proof. He burns up the offering He tells Gideon to prepare, when Gideon asks for evidence that God has chosen him, and that’s it really God talking to him. After that, the Spirit of the LORD comes upon (or “clothes”) Gideon, but this doesn’t mean Gideon’s without hesitation and doubts. After he’s amassed an army, Gideon asks for proof that the battle will be successful, and lays a fleece on the ground, asking God that the fleece be wet and the ground dry the next morning. And a third time he asks for proof – because Gideon wasn’t quite smart enough (okay, I probably would have done the same… :)) to realize until later that it would be only natural for the fleece to remain wet while the ground was dry – so he asks God to repeat the miracle, but in reverse (the ground wet and the fleece dry).
  3. I marvel at God’s patience here. He must have smiled when Gideon first asked Him to keep the fleece wet and the ground dry, as He knew the request that would come the next morning… “Um, God? Could we do that again?” When Gideon got pre-battle jitters as well, God steadied his courage by leading him to overhear a conversation between two scared Midianite soldiers. From His calling of Gideon to Gideon’s fall to greed in his old age, God remained patient and faithful to this man who was the least of the least, only a “mighty warrior” because the Lord had called him so and made him so.

    Sorry, this is getting long. 🙂 I don’t mean to prattle on so much, but I write this out not necessarily because you need/want to read it, but because I want to set it down in written words. So if you do enjoy reading it, that’s a plus! 🙂

  4. To be successful in battle, Gideon first had to tear down his family’s altar to false gods, and build an altar to the true God. Yes, Gideon did it at nighttime, an act that again seems the opposite of the character of a “mighty warrior”. Considering the village’s violent response, though, I would’ve done the same! I love the response of Gideon’s father, Joash, when he spoke to the crowd intent on murdering his son. He says, “If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.” What logic! This is up there with the man in Acts, who advised the Council to leave the Christians alone, as if they were not of God, they would scatter, and if they were of God, who could stop them?
  5. Before the Israelites could fight the Midianites, they had to become less. God pars them down until their original force of over 30,000 becomes 300. Yikes! Verse 12 in chapter 7 says the Midianites were “as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore.” I think I would be one of those Israelite men who left! “Yeah – I don’ think so! Outta here!” Before you can fight a battle, God makes you smaller. He strips away the layers you don’t need – in Gideon’s case, the men who didn’t want to fight, and the men who weren’t ready to fight. This stripping away leaves you feeling pretty naked and vulnerable before your insurmountable enemy, but in fact you’ve become stronger. Less of you = more of God. You out of the way = God stepping in and moving powerfully in your life.

And what a mighty victory in the end! An army of 300 defeated an army of at least 135,000 men. I can’t even comprehend that number. Could you imagine watching? Talk about an epic Hollywood movie! Actually let’s not imagine it… I’m sure it was gruesome… 😛 The Israelites but ran towards the Midian camp in the dark, breaking pots, waving torches, and yelling like teenager hooligans, and the Midianite soldiers starting killing each other. I don’t think the Bible mentions a single Israelite lost in this battle.

So I don’t want to do all this preaching and give you the wrong idea that I’ve got everything in life figured out. NO! So here’s a couple things that puzzle me. There’s only two, as I understand everything else so completely I could write a dissertation about it (kidding, kidding! :)). Here’s the bullet points again:

  • Why was it, in the Midian soldier’s dream, that their camp was smashed by a loaf of barley bread? How bizarre is that??
  • How exactly do you smash a pitcher with a torch inside of it? How much noise would that make? I guess you multiply it by 300, but still? Could the torch burn with the pitcher on top?
  • What was God’s reaction to some of Gideon’s choices? To repaying those that didn’t give his men bread by whipping them with thorns, and tearing down the tower, killing every man in their city? When he asked for so much gold from the thankful Israelites? From when we first meet him til his death, Gideon doesn’t make much of a spiritual role model. But God certainly did great things through him.

Okay, if you read that whole post, you deserve a Dove chocolate or something. Sadly I can’t pull a Willie Wonka stunt and hand you a chocolate bar through the screen. Wish I could. That would be sweet. So you’ll have to go hound out a chocolate for yourself and – no wait, don’t eat it! – give it to your mom. Cause the satisfaction of watching your mom eat it is so much greater than you eating it, right? Of course right. 🙂

God bless!