Gideon – Judges 6


What if you have a garden, and you work hard all spring and summer to make that garden produce abundantly. But every year, just about the time you’re ready to gather in the harvest, your neighbors swoop down and take your produce away from you by force. This goes on year after year, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

If you can imagine that scenario, then you’ll have some idea of the suffering the Jews experienced every harvest when the Midianites made their annual raids. For seven years, God allowed the Midianites and their allies to ravage “the land of milk and honey,” leaving the people in the deepest poverty.

About the time of the eighth Midianite invasion, God called a farmer in Manasseh named Gideon to become the deliverer of His people. Gideon started his career as somewhat of a coward (Judg. 6), then became a conqueror (7:1-8:21). But more space is devoted to Gideon in the Book of Judges (100 verses) than to any other judge; and Gideon is the only judge whose personal struggles with his faith are recorded. Gideon is a great encouragement to people who have a hard time accepting themselves and believing that God can make anything out of them or do anything with them.

Before the Lord could use Gideon in His service, He had to deal with four doubts that plagued him and were obstacles to his faith. These doubts can be expressed in four questions.

  1. “Does God really care about us?” (Judg. 6:1-13)

The Lord has forsaken us!” was Gideon’s response to the Lord’s message (v. 13, nkjv); and yet the Lord had given Israel proof of His personal concern.

He had disciplined them (vv. 1-6).My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:11-12, nkjv; and see Heb. 12:5-11). Charles Spurgeon said, “The Lord does not permit His children to sin successfully.” God is not a “permissive parent” who allows His children to do as they please, for His ultimate purpose is that they might be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). The Father wants to be able to look at each member of His spiritual family and say, “This is My beloved child, in whom I am well pleased” (see Matt. 3:17; 12:18; 17:5).

Discipline is evidence of God’s sorrow for sin and His love for His people. Obedience to the Lord builds character, but sin destroys character; and God cannot sit idly by and watch His children destroy themselves.

Israel had already experienced forty-three years of suffering under the harsh rule of the neighboring nations, but they hadn’t yet learned their lesson and turned away from the heathen idols. Unless our suffering leads to repentance, it accomplishes no lasting good; and unless our repentance is evidence of a holy desire to turn from sin, not just escape from pain, repentance is only remorse. Discipline assures us that we are truly God’s children, that our Father loves us, and that we can’t get away with rebellion.

The Midianites organized a coalition of nations to invade the land (Judg. 6:3), and all that Israel could do was flee to the hills and hide from the enemy. When the Jews returned to their homes, they found only devastation; and they had to face another year without adequate food.

He had rebuked them (vv. 7-10). Previous to this, an angel of the Lord, probably the Son of God, had come to Bochim to reprove Israel for her sins (2:1-5); and now an unnamed prophet came to repeat the message. Often in the Old Testament, when the Lord denounced His people for their disobedience, He reminded them of the wonderful way He had delivered them from Egypt. He also reminded them of His generosity in giving them the land and helping them overcome their enemies. If the Jews were suffering from Gentile bondage, it wasn’t God’s fault! He had given them everything they needed.

When you read the New Testament epistles, you can’t help but notice that the apostles took the same approach when they admonished the believers to whom they wrote. The apostles repeatedly reminded the Christians that God had saved them so that they might live obediently and serve the Lord faithfully. As God’s children, they were to walk worthy of their high and heavenly calling (Eph. 4:1) and live like people who were seated with Christ in glory (Col. 3:lff). The motive for Christian living is not that we might gain something we don’t have but that we might live up to what we already have in Christ.

The purpose of chastening is to make God’s children willing to listen to God’s Word. Often after spanking a child, parents will reassure the child of their love and then gently admonish the child to listen to what they say and obey it. God speaks to His children, either through the loving voice of Scripture or the heavy hand of chastening; and if we ignore the first, we must endure the second. One way or another, the Lord is going to get our attention and deal with us.

Now He came down to help them (vv. 11-13). The people were crying out to the Lord for help (6:7), as people usually do when they’re in trouble. The Israelites gave no evidence of real repentance, but their affliction moved God’s loving heart. “In all their affliction He was afflicted” (Isa. 63:9). “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Ps. 103:10, niv). God in His mercy doesn’t give us what we do deserve; and in His grace, He gives us what we don’t deserve.

When you consider the kind of man Gideon was at this time, you wonder why God selected him; but God often chooses the “weak things of this world” to accomplish great things for His glory (1 Cor. 1:26-29). Gideon’s family worshiped Baal (Judg. 6:25-32), although we have no reason to believe that Gideon joined them. When Gideon called himself “the least in my father’s house” (v. 15), he may have been suggesting that his family treated him like an outcast because he didn’t worship Baal. Gideon wasn’t a man of strong faith or courage, and God had to patiently work with him to prepare him for leadership. God is always ready to make us what we ought to be if we’re willing to submit to His will (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:12-13).

Gideon’s negative response to the Lord’s words indicates his lack of faith and spiritual perception. Here was Almighty God telling him that He was with him and would make him a conqueror, and Gideon replied by denying everything God said! God would have to spend time with Gideon turning his question marks into exclamation points. Gideon was living by sight, not by faith, and had he remained that way he would never have been named among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11.

  1. “Does God know what He’s doing?” (Judg. 6:14-24)

Gideon’s first response was to question God’s concern for His people, but then he questioned God’s wisdom in choosing him to be the nation’s deliverer. The Lord’s statements recorded in verses 12 and 14 should have given Gideon all the assurance he needed, but he wouldn’t believe God’s Word. In this he was like Moses (Ex. 3:7-12), whose story Gideon surely knew since he was acquainted with Hebrew history (Judg. 6:13).

It has often been said that “God’s commandments are God’s enablements.” Once God has called and commissioned us, all we have to do is obey Him by faith, and He will do the rest. God cannot lie and God never fails. Faith means obeying God in spite of what we see, how we feel, or what the consequences might be. Our modern “practical” world laughs at faith without realizing that people live by faith all day long. “If there was no faith, there would be no living in this world,” wrote humorist John Billings nearly a century ago. “We couldn’t even eat hash with safety.”

Gideon’s statement about the poverty of his family is a bit perplexing in light of the fact that he had ten servants who assisted him (v. 27). It may be that the clan of Abiezer, to which Gideon’s family belonged, was not an important clan in Manasseh; or perhaps Gideon’s statement was simply the standard way to respond to a compliment, as when people used to sign their letters “Your Obedient Servant.” In any event, Gideon seemed to think that God could do nothing because he and his family were nothing.

Once God has revealed His will to us, we must never question His wisdom or argue with His plans. “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?” (Rom. 11:34, niv; see Isa. 40:13 and 1 Cor. 2:16) “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?” (Job 11:7, nkjv) A.W. Tozer wrote, “All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time.” That being true, who are we to question Him?

When you review God’s gracious promises to Gideon, you wonder why this young man wavered in his faith. God promised to be with him. God called him a “mighty man of valor” and promised that he would save Israel from the Midianites and smite them “as one man.” God’s Word is “the word of faith” (Rom. 10:8), and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). But Gideon didn’t receive that Word and needed assurance beyond the character of Almighty God.

Gideon asked for a sign to assure him that it was really the Lord who was speaking to him (1 Cor. 1:22), and the Lord was gracious to accommodate Himself to Gideon’s unbelief. Gideon prepared a sacrifice, which was a costly thing to do at a time when food was scarce. An ephah of flour was about a half a bushel, enough to make bread for a family for several days. It probably took him an hour to dress the meat and prepare the unleavened cakes, but God waited for him to return and then consumed the offering by bringing fire from the rock.

The sudden appearance of the fire and disappearance of the visitor convinced Gideon that indeed he had seen God and spoken to Him, and this frightened him even more. Since the Jews believed it was fatal for sinful man to look upon God, Gideon was sure he would die. The human heart is indeed deceitful: Gideon asked to see a sign, and after seeing it, he was sure that the God who gave him the sign would now kill him! There is always “joy and peace in believing” (Rom. 15:13), but unbelief brings fear and worry.

God had to give Gideon a message of peace to prepare him for fighting a war. Unless we’re at peace with God, we can’t face the enemy with confidence and fight the Lord’s battles. It was customary for the Jews to identify special events and places by putting up monuments, so Gideon built an altar and called it “The Lord is peace.” The Hebrew word for “peace” (shalom) means much more than a cessation of hostilities but carries with it the ideas of well-being, health, and prosperity. Gideon now believed the Lord was able to use him, not because of who he was, but because of who God was.

Whenever God calls us to a task that we think is beyond us, we must be careful to look to God and not to ourselves. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” God asked Abraham (Gen. 18:14); and the answer comes, “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). Job discovered that God could do everything (Job 42:2), and Jeremiah admitted that there was nothing too hard for God (Jer. 32:17). Jesus told His disciples, “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26); and Paul testified, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13, nkjv).

  1. “Will God take care of me?” (Judg. 6:25-32)

What kind of a day did Gideon have after his dramatic meeting with the Lord? Remember, he belonged to a family that worshiped Baal; and if he challenged the Midianites in the name of the Lord, it meant defying his father, his family, his neighbors, and the multitudes of people in Israel who were worshiping Baal. My guess is that Gideon had his emotional ups and downs that day, rejoicing that God was planning to deliver Israel, but trembling at the thought of being named the leader of the army.

Knowing that Gideon was still afraid, God assigned him a task right at home to show him that He would see him through. After all, if we don’t practice our faith at home, how can we practice it sincerely anyplace else? Gideon had to take his stand in his own village before he dared to face the enemy on the battlefield.

Before God gives His servants great victories in public, He sometimes prepares them by giving them smaller victories at home. Before David killed the giant Goliath in the sight of two armies, he learned to trust God by killing a lion and a bear in the field where nobody saw it but God (1 Sam. 17:32-37). When we prove that we’re faithful with a few things, God will trust us with greater things (Matt. 25:21).

The assignment wasn’t an easy one. God told him to destroy the altar dedicated to Baal, build an altar to the Lord, and sacrifice one of his father’s valuable bullocks, using the wood of the Asherah pole for fuel. Jewish altars were made of uncut stones and were simple, but Baal’s altars were elaborate and next to them was a wooden pillar (“grove,” Judg. 6:26; “Asherah pole,” niv) dedicated to the goddess Asherah, whose worship involved unspeakably vile practices. Since altars to Baal were built on high places, it would have been difficult to obey God’s orders without attracting attention.

Gideon had every right to destroy Baal worship because this is what God had commanded in His Law (Ex. 34:12-13; Deut. 7:5). For that matter, he had the right to stone everybody who was involved in Baal worship (Deut. 13), but God didn’t include that in His instructions.

Gideon decided to obey the Lord at night when the village was asleep. This showed his fear (Judg. 6:27); he wasn’t sure God could or would see him through. “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:40, nkjv) “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid” (Isa. 12:2, nkjv). After all the encouragements God had given him, Gideon’s faith should have been strong; but before we judge him, we’d better look at ourselves and see how much we trust the Lord.

It’s worth noting that true believers can’t build an altar to the Lord unless first they tear down the altars they’ve built to the false gods they worship. Our God is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5) and will not share His glory or our love with another. Gideon had privately built his own altar to the Lord (Jud 6:24), but now he had to take his public stand; and he had to do it without compromise. Before he could declare war on Midian, he had to declare war on Baal.

When ten other men are involved, it’s not easy to keep your plans a secret; so it wasn’t long before the whole town knew that Gideon was the one who had destroyed his father’s idols. The men of the city considered this a capital offense and wanted to kill Gideon. (According to God’s law, it was the idol-worshipers who should have been slain! See Deut. 13:6-9.) Gideon was no doubt wondering what would happen to him, but God proved Himself well able to handle the situation.

Joash, Gideon’s father, had every reason to be angry with his son. Gideon had smashed his father’s altar to Baal and replaced it with an altar to Jehovah. He had sacrificed his father’s prize bull to the Lord and had used the sacred Asherah pole for fuel. (See Isa. 44:13-20.) But God so worked in Joash’s heart that he defended Gideon before the town mob and even insulted Baal! “What kind of a god is Baal that he can’t even defend himself?” asked Joash. (Elijah would take a similar approach years later. See 1 Kings 18:27.) “What kind of a god is Baal that he can’t even plead his own cause?” Joash asked.’ Because of this, the men of the town gave Gideon the nickname “Jerubbaal,” which means “let Baal contend” or “Baal’s antagonist.”

Often the unbelieving world gives demeaning nicknames to faithful servants of God. D.L. Moody was known as “Crazy Moody” when he was building his famous Sunday school in Chicago, but nobody would call him that today; and Charles Spurgeon was frequently lampooned and caricatured in the British press. If we are given nicknames because we honor the name of Jesus, then let’s wear them like medals and keep on glorifying Him!

Gideon learned a valuable lesson that day: If he obeyed the Lord, even with fear in his heart, the Lord would protect him and receive the glory. Gideon needed to remember this as he mustered his army and prepared to attack the enemy.

  1. “Does God keep His promises?” (Judg. 6:33-40)

The Midianites and their allies made their annual invasion about that time as more than 135,000 men (8:10; 7:12) moved into the Valley of Jezreel. It was time for Gideon to act, and the Spirit of God gave him the wisdom and power that he needed. (See Judg. 3:10; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14.) As we seek to do God’s will, His Word to us is always, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit” (Zech. 4:6).

Gideon blew the trumpet first in his own hometown, and the men of Abiezer rallied behind him. Gideon’s reformation in the town had actually accomplished something! Then he sent messengers throughout his own tribe of Manasseh as well as the neighboring tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. These four tribes were near the Valley of Jezreel, and therefore the invading army affected them most. Thus at Gideon’s call, 32,000 men responded.

But what chance did 32,000 men have against an army of 135,000 men plus numberless camels? (Judg. 7:12) This is the first mention in the Bible of camels being used in warfare, and certainly they would have given their riders speed and mobility on the battlefield. The Jews were outnumbered and would certainly be out-maneuvered, except for one thing: Jehovah God was on their side, and He had promised them victory.

Nevertheless, Gideon doubted God’s promise. Did God really want him to lead the Jewish army? What did he know about warfare? After all, he was only an ordinary farmer; and there were others in the tribes who could do a much better job. So, before he led the attack, he asked God to give him two more signs.

The phrase “putting out the fleece” is a familiar one in religious circles. It means asking God to guide us in a decision by fulfilling some condition that we lay down. In my pastoral ministry, I’ve met all kinds of people who have gotten themselves into trouble by “putting out the fleece.” If they received a phone call at a certain hour from a certain person, God was telling them to do this; or if the weather changed at a certain time, God was telling them to do something else.

“Putting out the fleece” is not a biblical method for determining the will of God. Rather, it’s an approach used by people like Gideon who lack the faith to trust God to do what He said He would do. Twice Gideon reminded God of what He had said (6:36-37), and twice Gideon asked God to reaffirm His promises with a miracle. The fact that God stooped to Gideon’s weakness only proves that He’s a gracious God who understands how we’re made (Ps. 103:14). Who are we to tell God what conditions He must meet, especially when He has already spoken to us in His Word? “Putting out the fleece” is not only an evidence of our unbelief, but it’s also an evidence of our pride. God has to do what I tell Him to do before I’ll do what He tells me to do!

Gideon spent two days playing the fleece game with God at the threshing floor. The first night, he asked God to make the fleece wet but keep the ground dry (in this incident the Bible uses “floor” and “ground” interchangeably) and God did it. The second night, the test was much harder; for he wanted the threshing floor to be wet but the fleece dry. The ground of a threshing floor is ordinarily very hard and normally would not be greatly affected by the dew. But the next morning, Gideon found dry fleece but wet ground.

There was nothing for Gideon to do but to confront the enemy and trust God for the victory. “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4, nkjv).

In the next post, we’ll continue Gideon’s story in Judges chapter 7.

To view other posts, about Gideon, see: How to Fight Against Fear, God Will Test You or We Can Be Transformed By God.



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Sources: Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – History.
Life Application Study Bible.

About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
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1 Response to Gideon – Judges 6

  1. Pingback: Gideon – Judges 7 | Upwards Church

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