Opening Statement: He was a farmer who really enjoyed his trade. Unlike some farmers, he had no desire to be anything more than a farmer. He never had political ambitions, nor did he dream of becoming a military leader and yet God had a different plan for his life. I’m talking about Gideon – not the guy that wrote all the Bibles in the hotel rooms. The Gideon story in the Old Testament is unique in that it is the story of how God made a hero out of an unlikely person. It’s not just a story of great exploits; it is a transformation story as well.
God is looking for a Gideon today – men and women of faith, who are willing to step out and do great things for God.
Background: Before we get into the story, we need to set it up by looking quickly at Israel’s judges, the cycles, and the enemy they faced.
After Joshua had defeated all of Israel’s enemies and established the tribes of Israel in the Promised Land he died. Instead of appointing another main military leader, God would occasionally raise up men and women who were called “judges” to lead segments of the Israelites against local enemies. The very fact that they had to fight these enemies was due to their own disobedience at times. Nevertheless, God was gracious and would provide them with the necessary leadership to get them back on track. But even then, the leaders were less than they should have been.
The period of the judges is known as one of the lowest times in Israel’s history. You see, in their years of peace and prosperity the people began once again to wander from God’s will and as often happened, their moral decline was followed by military oppression from the outside. So for 300 years, the people of Israel bounce back and forth from being faithful and obedient to God to being disobedient to God. In each cycle Israel seems to have sunk lower than she had previously sunk before.
It is in this kind of setting that the Gideon story took place. Gideon was one of these local “judges” raised up by God to deliver a localized group of Israeli’s from a group of people known as the Midianites and the Amalekites (Judges 6:3). The Midianites were a nomadic people who would wait until the people of Israel had finished planting their crops and they would sweep down upon them
stealing their crops and herds and destroying what they couldn’t take with them. Well this went on for seven years (Judges 6:1) and it was starting to get a little old, and so the people cried out to God to deliver them, and He called someone to lead His people, firstly out of military oppression and secondly out of moral oppression. And that person was a man named Gideon.
With all of these things in mind, you’re now ready for the story.
Judges 6:11 pretty much says it all: 6:11 The Lord’s angelic messenger came and sat down under the oak tree in Ophrah owned by Joash the Abiezrite. He arrived while Joash’s son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress so he could hide it from the Midianites. Gideon is not exactly a picture of strength and courage here. He is hiding down in a winepress threshing wheat. Normally they used an open flat place where the winds and open air would blow away the chaff, but Gideon was hiding in a winepress beneath a tree, threshing wheat with a stick, desperately trying to save a little bit of food that he had hidden from the Midianites. Not only was he in the winepress physically but spiritually and emotionally. Gideon appears to be a timid and bitter man. While being challenged to deliver Israel, he said to the Angel of the Lord in Judges 6:13: 6:13 Gideon said to him, “Pardon me, but if the Lord is with us, why has such disaster overtaken us? Where are all his miraculous deeds our ancestors told us about? They said, ‘Did the Lord not bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to Midian.”
Gideon felt that he had nothing to offer to help improve things. He didn’t have the skills and power to turn things around he thought. He told the LORD’S angel in Judges 6:15: 6:15 Gideon said to him, “But Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Just look! My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my family.” You’ve got the wrong guy. You need a hardened warrior to do this. So, folks, I want you to look to your right and to your left. You guys are exactly the kind of warriors God is looking for to accomplish his purposes.
Judges 6:11-24New Living Translation (NLT)
11 Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”
Don’t let anybody but God tell you who you really are
John 15:16 (NLT)
You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.
Judges 6: 13-18 (NLT) 13 “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”
14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”
15 “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”
16 The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”
17 Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me. 18 Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you.”
He answered, “I will stay here until you return.”
Go in the strength that you have, don’t worry about measuring up to other believers
JUDGES 6: 19-24 (NLT) 19 Gideon hurried home. He cooked a young goat, and with a basket[a] of flour he baked some bread without yeast. Then, carrying the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, he brought them out and presented them to the angel, who was under the great tree.
20 The angel of God said to him, “Place the meat and the unleavened bread on this rock, and pour the broth over it.” And Gideon did as he was told. 21 Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and bread with the tip of the staff in his hand, and fire flamed up from the rock and consumed all he had brought. And the angel of the Lord disappeared.
22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”
23 “It is all right,” the Lord replied. “Do not be afraid. You will not die.” 24 And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the Lord is peace”). The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer to this day.
God wants a living sacrifice whose heart will burn for his purposes