The Faith of Gideon

The whole list was too long to include. As the writer of Hebrews traces the history of God’s revelation to men through cataloguing a list of the faithful, he runs out of time.  After mentioning the walls of Jericho he states in            Hebrews 11:32-35 – 32 And what more shall I say?  For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.   He assumes his readers know Jthese people and their story of faith. We may know them as well. But let’s take the time to look back and investigate these other people of faith.

I.   The Judges; God-Appointed Deliverers:  Following Joshua’s death Israel became idolatrous and worshipped the Canaanite God, Baal. They failed to drive out all of the Canaanite nations, as God had instructed. God became angry and punished them by allowing their enemies to oppress them. Because of the severe oppression they would cry out to God and he would send a leader (judge) to deliver them from their enemy and they would serve God for a while. Notice the description of this cycle in

  • Judges 2:11-19 – 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress. 16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the Lord’s commands. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

A.  This was a period of testing for Israel. Judg 2:21-2221 I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died,  22 so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.”    Our text in Hebrews 11, speaks of the exceptional faith of some of these God-appointed deliverers called the judges.  Their courage and faithfulness was to be a model for all of Israel. Their faith was the means whereby Israel could overcome their enemies and live in peace. Each generation was obligated to exhibit its own faith in God.

 

I.  The Call of Gideon:  One of these faithful judges was named Gideon. We first meet him in Judges 6, as he is threshing wheat for his father’s house. Judg 6:11-12 – Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites.  12 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!”   The Midianites were severely oppressing Israel; raiding their crops and destroying their homes (Israelites hiding in caves and hiding their food.) Because they began to cry to God, He was ready to send them a deliverer. Gideon, as a courageous man, was God’s choice. 

A.  How did Gideon respond?  Judg 6:133 Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”  Gideon was reluctant to believe that God was with Israel. If He was, why were they suffering?  Of course, this is precisely the deduction that God expected from Gideon. Israel’s struggles were because they had abandoned God and He was not with them. But the Lord was with Gideon, and this was a test of Gideon’s faith, in spite of the trouble surrounding him. He had heard about God’s power and concern for Israel. Was Gideon able to believe what he had heard about God from his fathers?

1.  Judges 6:1414 Then the Lord turned to him and said,”Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”  God calls for Gideon to trust Him personally.  YOU go and save Israel. I have called YOU. God’s question to Gideon needs to ring in our ears whenever we begin to excuse ourselves from teaching others, and doing God’s work in the church because others fail – “Have I not sent you?”

2.  Judges 6:15-165 So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.”   Gideon’s lack of self-confidence is reminiscent of Moses. He does not feel qualified for the job. He is not the strongest one. God’s answer is always the same – “I will be with you” – trust me and you will succeed.

3.  Gideon asked for a sign that he truly speaking with God. He does this a few times (v. 36-40). What does this say about Gideon’s faith?  Is it faulty?  God is not reluctant to provide the signs that Gideon requests. When the sign is given, (his offering is consumed by fire from a rock) Gideon believes and responds in courageous faith.  Vs. 22So Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.”   He is so convinced of God’s promise (you will not die) that he calls the place “The Lord is peace” (v. 24). 

a.  It would seem that Gideon is one who wants to make sure he is moving in the right direction. He is not asking for a sign in order to avoid obedience, but rather to confirm the authority on which to act. He wants to make sure that God is the one speaking to him. This type of inquiry is the beginning of true faith (Rom 10:17faith comes by hearing the words of God). Burton Coffman rightly comments,  “In our own times, we cannot ask God for a sign as did Moses and Gideon, because we have the “perfect” revelation from God already certified unto us in the sacred pages of the Holy Bible.”   But we must certainly “test the spirits to see if they are from God” (1 john 4:1)

II.  Gideon’s First Assignment:  Where do you start when you are called to save a whole nation?  Judg 6:25-27 25 Now it came to pass the same night that the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s young bull, the second bull of seven years old, and tear down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the wooden image that is beside it;  26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on top of this rock in the proper arrangement, and take the second bull and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the image which you shall cut down.”  27 So Gideon took ten men from among his servants and did as the Lord had said to him. But because he feared his father’s household and the men of the city too much to do it by day, he did it by night.    Gideon was commanded to start at home and get rid of his father’ altar to Baal.  In ironic genius , Gideon used the wood of the altar to sacrifice a true offering to God, using the calf his father had saved for his own sacrifice. (second may translate “fatted”)

A.   When he was identified as the perpetrator, Gideon, was in danger of being stoned. But his father stood up in his defense and told the people to allow Baal to plead for himself.  From this circumstance Gideon received the name of Jerubbaal, i.e., “let Baal contend” (Judg 6:25-32)

III.  Gideon’s Victory:  (Judges 7) When the Midianites and their allies once more invaded the land of Israel, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he gathered together an army from the tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali.

A.  The sign of the fleece: Again seeking divine confirmation that God was on his side, Gideon asked for a sign. He asked that the dew should fall on a fleece spread upon the threshing floor, while the ground all around should be dry. In the morning the fleece was so wet that Gideon wrung out of it a bowl of water.  The next night the miracle was reversed.  The ground around the fleece was wet and the fleece perfectly dry (Judg 6:36-40).  Gideon was convinced once again. He got ready to fight the enemy.

  • Unger says …. “The sign itself was to manifest the strength of divine assistance to his weakness of faith. Dew, in the Scriptures, is a symbol of the beneficent power of God, which quickens, revives, and invigorates the objects of nature when they have been parched by the burning heat of the sun’s rays”  So this sign may have represented the cyclical aspect of God’s provision for Israel. When Israel was being blessed wit the dew of God’s grace, the nations around them were without it. But when Israel was dry, the nations around were strengthened.

B.  God’s battle plan:  Gideon advanced against the enemy and encamped near the brook Harod, in the valley of Jezreel.  The army of the Midianites and their allies numbered about 135,000 (Judg 8:10), whereas the Israelites mustered only 32,000. Gideon was far out numbered. This made God’s next instructions rather puzzling. 

1.  Judges 7:22 And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’   This was a test of Gideon’s faith.  If you claim spiritual victory for yourself you claim it against God.

  • Keil and Delitzsch Commentary says… “While the Lord was willing to strengthen the feeble faith of Gideon by the sign with the fleece of wool, and thus to raise him up to full confidence in the divine omnipotence, He also required of him, when thus strengthened, an attestation of his faith, by the purification of his army that he might give the whole glory to Him, and accept the victory over that great multitude from His hand alone.”

2. Just as with the fall of Jericho, this was not simply a military encounter. It was a national test of faith.  One commentator wrote: It must be remembered that this whole movement was essentially a religious one. It began with prayer (Judg 6:6,7), it was followed up by repentance (Judg 6:27,28), and the great purpose of it was to turn the hearts of the nation back to the God of their fathers. The Lord himself, therefore, graciously forwarded this end by making it plain that the deliverance from their oppression was his work, and his only.

3.  Gideon ordered that all the fainthearted to go home (7:3). Twenty-two thousand went home immediately. It was now 135,000 vs. 10,000. But even this number the Lord regarded as too great.

4.  Gideon was commanded to test them in the matter of drinking. Those who knelt to drink(putting their face to the water) were rejected. Only those who took the water into their hands and “lapped it like a dog” from the hollow of their hands could stay. Note: why this distinction? The Bible does not say.  I have heard some surmise that those who did not get down on their knees were constantly looking for the enemy and showed themselves to be more alert and better warriors. But I believe that such reasoning defies the very reason for the test.  God did not need good warriors. He was going to do this Himself.  This test reduced the number to 300 men.  

  • Jamieson’s Commentary states…”It is scarcely possible to conceive a severer trial than the command to attack the overwhelming forces of the enemy, with such a handful of followers. But Gideon’s faith in the divine assurance of victory was stedfast; and it is for this he is so highly commended  (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

5.  At God’s invitation Gideon posed as a servant and infiltrated the enemy’s camp. (Judg 7:12Now the Midianites and Amalekites, all the people of the East, were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude. ) By God’s design he overheard a Midianite telling of his dream, in which a cake of barley bread overthrew a tent. The Mideanite interpreted his dream to speak about Gideon’s coming victory over the Mideanites. Regarding this dream as indicating divine cooperation, Gideon began the attack without delay.

6.  He divided his 300 men into three companies and gave them all trumpets and empty pitchers, with torches in their hands. The pitchers were to hide the burning torches during the advance and to increase the noise at the time of the attack by dashing them to pieces. The noise and sudden lighting up of the burning torches would naturally deceive the enemy as to the numbers of Gideon’s army.  

7.  The enemy was confused and were unable to indentify who was a firend or foe. Judg 7:22 – The Lord set every man’s sword against his companion throughout the whole camp;   They enemy fled. Gideon chased them southward and enlists the Ephraimites in the complete victory.  The Midianites had been so humiliated that “they did not lift up their heads anymore. And the land was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon.”   

Conclusion:  Israel was delivered by trusting in God’s plan and obeying His words. It was faitht hat overcame. By faith Gideon..out of weakness was made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens”  (Heb. 11).

  • There is no victory without faith. But faith that does not respond in obedience is dead in itself. (James 2).  Gideon’s courage in the face of overwhelming odds was an element of his absolute faith in God.    Rom 8:31-391 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”  37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.