AN EXPOSITION OF JUDGES 6:1-21
A Timid Warrior
1 AND the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.
2 And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.
3 And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them;
4 And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.
5 For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.
6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.
7 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,
The Message of the
8 That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage;
9 And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land;
10 And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.
11 And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abi-ezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
It was a quiet day when the Stranger sat down under an oak tree in the town of Ophrah. The Stranger traveled with a staff in his hand (6:21). He did not look tired. Perhaps he was just being friendly as he watched Gideon, the son of Joash, at work. Under more normal circumstances the wheat was threshed upon open floors, or in the open field. Oxen would tread out the grain with their hoofs. Only poor people knocked out the little kernels of corn they had gleaned with a stick (Ruth 2:17). For Gideon, a member of the Abiezer family in the tribe of Manasseh, these were distressing days. The Midianites had come to the area and devoured all the food supply much like a flood of refugees might do in any generation. People could thresh what little food they could find into a pressing tub, which was nothing more than a hole that had been dug out, or hewn in the rock.
It is a sad situation that is presented. Life has reduced this man to a very humble situation with limited resources, and surrounded on every side by enemies. What Gideon does not realize is that he is not really alone in the circumstances of life. His income is gone. He has little hope for tomorrow. Still, he is not alone for nearby, under the Oak Tree, sits Jehovah God Himself in a visible self-revelation. But God is still a stranger. Suddenly, the Stranger spoke. “Gideon, Jehovah is with thee, thou brave hero.”
12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
Some Bible commentators have seen in these words a Divine sense of humor, bordering on sarcasm. Gideon was not a brave hero. He was a poor man, from a humble tribe with little food to eat. And yet, the Stranger told him, that in the sight of God, he was something far different.
13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? But now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.
Gideon doubted the truth of what he had just heard. He asked the Stranger a very logical question. “If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen to us?” (Judges 6:13). To Gideon, God was not being faithful. How could a loving and faithful God allow so much suffering and sorrow? God must not be so good after all. Such thoughts of God are harsh. It is easy to believe in a God of love when all is going right. But God wants us to know the depths of our faith and commitment. Will we love God even when things become challenging? Once the goodness and greatness of God is brought into question, it becomes easier for the heart to think more harsh things about the Lord. “Where are all of God’s miracles?” asked Gideon. Like others, Gideon had been taught what God did for the Exodus generation. Now, under pressure, he doubts whether God really did for Israel what others said he did. In his anger and pain Gideon came to a wrong conclusion. “But now the Lord hath forsaken us.” Gideon had reflected upon the military and economic situation, and he saw no possibility of escaping the hardships of time. Gideon was a man without hope.
14 And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
The Stranger looked upon Gideon. It was the look of love. Though he did not fully realize it, Gideon was the object of special favor and grace. The Lord knows His own. He looked upon Gideon. It was the look of Divine sovereignty. God fixed His eyes upon Gideon, and said in essence, “I will have you in my service. I will use you.” Gideon knew that the Stranger was staring at him, and when the Stranger spoke, it was the voice of unusual authority. “Gideon, go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have not I sent thee?” These few simple words transformed Gideon. By grace, his mind was illuminated and he understood. The Stranger was none other than very God Himself. The Angel of the Lord is the Lord God Himself. Theologians calls this a theophany, which is a personal manifestation of God prior to His incarnation.
15 And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.
Gideon perceived that He was speaking to Someone who was not mere man. But how was it possible that he, Gideon, could be so used as a Deliverer of Israel. “Lord,” said Gideon. “My family is weak, and I am the least in my father’s house.” All this was true. Gideon had no name recognition. His family had no ties, no financial or political connections. How could Gideon lead a nation?
16 And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
The answer of the Lord was, “Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.” Observe from the narrative the following truths. First, the grace of God is present in the most difficult of circumstances. For God to take on the form of a man is no dishonor. The Lord considers man the crowning glory of His creation, made in His image. Though sin has removed that image the glory remains. Second, God is pleased to communicate with individuals. Even when faith is weak, even when His presence is not immediately recognized, the Lord takes the initiative to speak. Third, while individuals do not always know why the Lord allows bad things to happen, there is a purpose. However, God is under no obligation to explain Himself, and usually does not. The “Why?” question of Gideon goes unanswered (Judges 6:13). The doubt goes unchallenged, and the wrong is not debated. God does not argue with His creation, but He will command it. Fourth, because faith grows weak, the Lord wills two things to enhance its renewal. First, the LORD repeats His promise over and over again (Judges 6:14, 16). Second, the Lord will provide circumstantial evidence of His will.
17 And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
The faith of Gideon was renewed, but it was still a weak faith, for Gideon needed a sign. People of strong faith walk by the Spirit, and not by sight.
18 Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again.
Gideon was at the very least convinced that he stood in the presence of someone majestic. A natural impulse surged through his heart to give God a sacrificial gift. Gideon would offer a kid of the goats and unleavened cakes of an ephah, about 22 ½ pounds of meal. He brought the flesh in a basket and the broth in a pot out to the oak tree and placed it all before the Lord (Judges 6:20, 21).
19 And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out unto him under the oak, and presented it.
20 And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so.
21 Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight.
The Angel of the Lord had commanded Gideon to lay the flesh and the cakes upon a rock close by, and to pour the broth upon it. This arrangement of the rocks would form an altar for the offering to be presented to God. When Gideon had done as he was directed, the Angel of the Lord touched the food with the end of his staff. Fire came out of the rock and consumed the food. Suddenly, the Angel of the Lord vanished out of sight. What did it all mean? For Gideon, this transaction meant two things. First, his prayer request for a sign had been granted (Judges 6:17). Gideon had asked for evidence of God’s grace, and received it. Second, his sacrificial gift had been accepted. The consuming fire, ignited by the touch of God took the humble offering that Gideon had offered. Let every Christian offer to God an acceptable sacrifice in life.