One of my favourite characters in the Bible is Gideon. The reason why Gideon is such a likeable character is really because we all see ourselves in him. Gideon was a man who exhibited doubts which hindered his faith many times, and yet he is mentioned in the book of Hebrews Chapter 11 which we call the “Faith Hall of Fame.” Before God could use Gideon to deliver the Israelites from the menace of the Midianites, God had to deliver Gideon from his faithlessness; God had to empower him to overcome doubt; God had to release him from his own feeling of inadequacy.
Gideon was a very insecure man, nobody could accuse him of having self-esteem or a healthy self-image. He was insecure about his tribe, his clan; he was even insecure about his own place in his family. He was lacking in faith, vision, courage, credentials, background, and preparation. He was hiding and threshing some wheat away from the Midianites when the Angel of the LORD (the Pre-incarnate Christ) appeared to him (Judges 6:11). He felt defeated, negative and hopeless, but God was still able to use him. In fact, the Angel of the LORD greeted him by calling him ‘A Mighty man of valour’ Why? This is because the Lord saw him as He wants to make him to be. The Lord sees you and I with the potential that He has for us; the Lord sees you as you can be, not what you are. The Lord sees you in the context of your dependence on his resources, not your human inadequacies. The Angel of the LORD said to Gideon (Judges 6:14):
“Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?”
The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and so the Lord gave them into the hand of the Midian for seven years (Judges 6:1). It was not until the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites that God called upon Gideon to go on the rescue mission. Although Gideon appeared to have a willing heart to God’s calling, he wanted to be sure, and so he asked of the Lord, “If you really want me to go, show me a sign?” Gideon asked for confirmation not just once, but on three occasions, and God graciously assured him three times – through the sign of the consuming fire on the offering (Judges 6:17-19); the wet fleece, and the dry fleece (Judges 6:36-40).
Gideon was not asking for God’s confirmation just for the fun of it, or even out of pure doubt, he genuinely wanted to know. He did not seek God’s confirmation on the cheap either, he sacrificed at a huge cost. He did not offer to the Lord that which cost him nothing. With food so scarce, crops being stolen, and livestock being slaughtered by the Midianites, he took a huge offering and presented it to the Lord. And when the fire consumed it all, he was not only terrified, but he immediately built an altar and called the place Jehovah Shalom, God is my Peace (Judges 6:24).
Before taking on the Midianites, God knew Gideon still needed further encouragement and so, God graciously gave him the opportunity to overhear the conversation of the Midianite camp (Judges 7:9-15). Gideon overheard a discussion about a dream which tells of how God will certainly give him victory (even with the poorest) against the Midianites. The moment Gideon heard the dreams and its interpretation, he was overwhelmed with the grace and mercy of God and he began to worship God.
Gideon’s assignment was not an easy one, but God was with him, and that alone was more than enough. Before Gideon could declare war on the Midianites, he had to declare war on Baal just as the LORD directed him. The Bible reveals that Baal is a symbol of Satan. Baal was the god of the Phoenician. Gideon’s father had stooped so low that he became a priest of Baal. And so, for Gideon to challenge Baal as God asked him to do, he had to admit that he has to defy his father, family, neighbour, culture, and all the pressures of society all around him. Gideon was to stand up and be counted; he was to swim against the current of culture; he was to stand against the flood of society. When Gideon destroyed the altar of Baal in his father’s house, the people were up at arms, they were angry and wanted to kill him, but God even used his compromising, backsliding apostate father who sold out to Baal to defend him (Judges 6:25-32).
Gideon originally travelled with 32,000 men to take on the Midianites who were like a swamp of locusts in number. But God said to Gideon (Judges 7:7), “With just 300 men, I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” To be sure, it was not the 300 that defeated the 132,000. No! It was God who took on the well-armed powerful Midianite army. Less is more when God is in it. Gideon’s victory was in obeying of God’s strategy; Gideon’s victory was in trusting of God’s promises; Gideon’s victory was in following God’s direction.
When God sends, He equips; when God leads, He guides; when God promise, He fulfils. Doubt sees the obstacle, but faith sees the way. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). Faith is not taking wild-risk, no! Faith is taking a risk that is firmly anchored and deeply rooted in the solid reliability of what God has promised. Real faith is acting on the promises of God. Someone said the following, “We may be able to offer sacrifices like Cain, weep like Esau, serve like Gehazi, flee Sodom like Lot’s wife, minister like Korah the Levite, prophesy like king Saul, make long prayers like the Pharisees, be a disciple like Judas, be a seeker like the rich young ruler, and tremble like Felix – but all without faith.” Without faith, it is impossible to please God, and we are just into religion without Christ.
This is the amazing thing of all, God was not looking for the most courageous person, or the most powerful warrior, or the best strategist, or the greatest thinker, no! God was looking for a man who was conscious of his own weakness. God was looking for a man who was willing to depend on God’s power, not his own. God was looking for a man who was willing to grow in his faith in God. God was looking for a man who was willing to take Him at His word even though he may ask for it three times.
Gideon expressed total inadequacy and lack of qualifications. But God specialises in this situation, God specializes in using the most unlikely people. As we see through the life of Gideon, God loves to take an inadequate weak insecure person and He transforms him/her to serve His purpose in life. God does not have difficulty using the weak and the insecure, but He has difficulty using the proud, arrogant, haughty and the self-confident. God is always looking for a person with a willing heart willing to utterly depend on Him and Him alone, and willing to seek first and foremost the glory of God.
Gideon started well, but he finished somewhat badly. Gideon used the gold from the plunder from the defeated Midian and made it into an ephod (official sacred dress of the high priest) which he placed in Ophrah, his town. But all of Israel ended up worshipping the ephod as an idol, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. Although the land remained peaceful for 40 years during Gideon’s lifetime, as soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and prostituted after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. They did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side, and they also failed to show any loyalty to the family of Gideon (Jerubbaal) in spite of all the good things he had done for them (Jude 8:24-35).
Gideon started well by seeking God’s glory, but as I read through the book of Judges, it seems to me that he ended seeking his own glory. Gideon perhaps had a private agenda all along. Perhaps he wanted to become the high priest, and that was his downfall. According to law, the high priest must be from the tribe of the Levi, not Manasseh, Ephraim, nor Benjamin. But Gideon perhaps wanted to take for himself that which was not his. And as a result, the whole nation suffered.
To conclude with, as I examine my own life, the question I’m confronted with is this, “Am I seeking God’s glory? Or Am I seeking my own glory?” We must be very careful in taking that which is not ours, because in doing so, you and I may end up not receiving God’s blessing. “God’s work done God’s way will always get God’s blessing.” – Hudson Taylor. Lastly, we also most declare war on Baal (Satan and the little idols) in our lives before we can declare war on the Midianites (giants we dare to face).