When God brings victories to His people, it doesn’t take long for His people to reveal that God was the sole purpose for the victory by demonstrating the naturally depraved heart of mankind. The scriptures show that God selects individuals that are least qualified and able to use as His instruments of righteousness so that as He accomplishes His work through such vessels, He would receive the glory. However, the Bible shows that once God accomplishes that which He desires, God’s instruments usually excel in proving their disqualifications and weakness. It doesn’t take long for the people of God to show that, without God’s own righteousness, they are weak, pitiful, and wicked.
The testimony of Gideon proves this idea to be true. In Judges 8:22-35 the Bible explains that the children of Israel were excited about the work God did through Gideon to defeat the Midianites and the Amalekites. The children of Israel wanted to make Gideon and his family the chief judge in Israel. Though Gideon was a man of weak faith and great fear, the children of Israel saw the work that God did through Gideon and attributed it to Gideon rather than God. The children of Israel wanted to make Gideon into a hero and sought to recruit his family into a great position of authority.
The Bible explains that Gideon was not tempted by the opportunity to rule and judge in Israel. Though the offer might have sounded good to some, Gideon turned down the opportunity to judge Israel. Instead, Gideon told the people that it would be better for the Lord to rule over the people. While Israel sought a man to rule as a king, Gideon rightly told the children of Israel that God needed to be their king, their ruler, their master, and chief authority. Gideon knew that his conquest over Midian was the work of the Lord. Gideon knew that he of himself was nothing special. Gideon knew that without the Lord, he would have never sought to advance against Midian, but instead would have kept hiding resources in caves like everyone else. Gideon knew that God was ultimately responsible for their victory and deliverance and therefore pleaded with Israel to acknowledge God as the cause of all Israel’s benefits.
While Gideon’s actions were noble in this area, the scriptures are candid to reveal his folly and vices. Judges 8:22-35 explains that when Gideon killed the kings of Midian and Amalek he took crescent ornaments that were on the necks of the kings’ camels. These were pagan ornaments that were likely attributed to pagan gods and idols. Like Achan at the battle of Ai, Gideon saw an opportunity to take the spoils of the enemy unto himself as a treat; but did so against the commands of God. Later after Gideon denied the position of judge, the Bible explains that he called for the men of Israel to give him their plunder from Midian. The scripture state that Gideon and his 300 had collected a great deal of gold earrings from their enemies. Gideon asked his men to give them all to him. While Gideon was not a man seeking to lord over people with authority, he was a man that was interested in riches.
Judges 8:22-35 teaches that upon receiving all of the gold earrings, Gideon made an ephod out of them. Gideon used the pagan idols and resources to fashion an item intended to be used to worship God. Unfortunately, the Bible shows that the children of Israel played the harlot with this ephod that Gideon made and it became a snare to Gideon’s family and the children of Israel. Though Gideon might have intended good, his actions were against the commands of God. The Lord appointed certain men to make specific items for worship that were dedicated to the high priests and the Levites. Gideon did not have authority to make an ephod. His idea simply resembled the construction of another idol in place of God whereas God told the children of Israel not to make a molded or carved image of Him out of anything, let alone pagan resources.
Though the hand of God to bring a great victory used Gideon, the testimony of Gideon shows that he was still a foolish man stuck in the ways of idolatry. It is interesting to note that before God used Gideon to advance against Midian, God commanded Gideon to destroy the altars of Baal from his father’s home. This shows that Gideon was raised in a home where idolatry was the norm. He was taught idolatry. He was not taught how to properly worship God according to the standards of God’s Word. Though Gideon’s father didn’t discipline Gideon for destroying the altars, the damage was already done. Gideon improperly learned that the way to thank and acknowledge God was through idols. God’s Word and commands clearly showed this not to be true. Such is what happens when the people of God depart from the Word of God.
Additionally, the scriptures explain that Gideon had seventy sons from many wives. This is not a family structure that God condoned. Once again, the testimony of Gideon shows that, though God used him, he still had deep-rooted habits in pagan culture. Gideon and his household were not accustomed to living according to the righteous standards of God. This is a testimony to the depraved nature of Israel at the time, but also the mercy and grace of God. Knowing how bad Israel was, God still delivered them and used a man that was least qualified to show the extent of forgiveness and mercy that He is willing to offer! It is true that Gideon might have meant well by making the ephod and raising his family according to the ways he was taught. However, that does not excuse his behavior and decisions. Gideon had flaws. Nevertheless, the Lord God Almighty was able to take one with such severe flaws and use him to do incredible things!
Yet still, Gideon, his family, and the children of Israel paid the price for their idolatry. Gideon’s actions were sufficient to steer the children of Israel away from God quickly. Even though Gideon wanted the people to seek God as their Judge, his actions pointed them back to the idols of Baal. If one’s actions don’t match one’s words, this is the result that takes place. One can say that others should worship and love God all they want, but if their own lives don’t reflect exclusive worship and love towards God in the manner of Christ, one will ultimately lead others into darkness. Though God was gracious to give the children of Israel rest from their enemies for 40 years, they brought idols back into their lives, and even more so when Gideon died. The scriptures explain that Gideon died and was buried with his family, but after his death, the children of Israel soon forgot about the Lord and the deliverance that He brought to His people. They served and worshiped the gods of their enemies in spite of the favor that God showed, and again put themselves in position for hardships and judgments.
The testimony of Gideon shows how desperately all people need the Lord and the magnitude of God’s mercy and grace. Gideon was used as an instrument in the hand of God to do amazing work that many call miraculous in nature. Nevertheless, the exploits of Gideon had nothing to do with Gideon. The testimony of Gideon before and after God used him prove that Gideon was just as messed up as the next person. He was an idol worshiper without faith that lived in fear and to appease the desires of his flesh. Yet in the hand of the Lord God Almighty, Gideon was a mighty man of valor, used as God’s righteous tool to deliver His people from bondage and oppression. The hand of God is merciful. Gideon deserved death like the rest of Israel for their rejection and denial of God. Even when Gideon thought he was honoring God, his ignorance of God’s Word shows that he was actually disobeying God. Yet God was faithful to His promises according to His mercy and grace. Judges 8:22-35 definitively shows that apart from God, all people are most pitiable; yet in the hand of God are able to do glorious things in His mercy! Clearly all people should seek to humbly remain in the grasp of the Lord God Almighty by faith, set apart from the idolatrous ways of the world.
The Lord will accomplish all of the things that He has proclaimed! There is not one facet of scripture that will not be fulfilled in the end. God’s Word is golden and His promises are true. When God says that He will bring victory to His people, He means it and nothing can keep God from doing so. The Lord is almighty and does not change, which means that even when people contend against Him, they are made to look silly in the process of His judgment against them. Thus, when the people of God hear and see the promises of God, they should rest assured that God’s will is going to be done in His time. He will bring victory as promised though the journey to victory is tiresome. He will make all things right and fair in judgment though it seems injustice rules the day now. The Lord will exalt the lowly and faithful and put down those who exalt themselves exactly as the Bible explains.
There is evidence of this truth all throughout the Bible. One of those examples is found in Judges 8:10-21. This portion of scripture explains that God enabled Gideon and his 300 men to finish the fight waged against them, bringing total victory as God had promised. The scriptures explain that God worked a miracle to jump start the victory, giving the children of Israel confidence in His promise to defeat the Midianites. God caused the Midianite and Amalekite to turn against one another in the dark so that there was great panic, and most of the damage against the enemy was done at that time. Once in flight, Gideon and his 300 men were able to give chase and further destroy a retreating army. The enemies of Israel knew that God was going to defeat them, so they ran and were killed in the process.
The Bible testifies that Gideon and his 300 men pursued the kings of the Midianites and Amalekites in order to end the fight and future threats of conflict. The kings Zebah and Zalmunna fled, and even though they were exhausted, Gideon and his men chased them down. Gideon asked for help from his brethren in Succoth and Penuel, but only received mocking from them. Therefore, Gideon and his men were forced to chase Zebah and Zalmunna down on their own, without food, continually trusting that the Lord would enable them to catch up, catch the enemy, and put them down. Judges 8:10-21 explains that the chase was long, but God was faithful.
Gideon and his men were able to capture Zebah and Zalmunna. Additionally, the massive Midian and Amalekite army was cut down to 15,000 men during the pursuit, but Gideon and his 300 men were able to destroy all of those men. Though the odds were stacked heavily against them from a human perspective, since God promised victory, Gideon and 300 men were able to defeat and destroy well over 15,000 men! Upon catch the kings of these armies, Gideon took Zebah and Zalmunna to Succoth and Penuel. Since his own brethren had mocked Gideon about catching the Midian and Amalekite kings, and refused to give them bread, Gideon took the captured kings back to those cities. Gideon wanted to show the elders of those cities that God was faithful and that their mocking would be judged. Gideon called for the elders of the city and told them to confess their fault and their selfishness in not wanting to help feed Gideon and his men. When the elders of Succoth and Penuel confessed their selfish indifference, the Bible explains that Gideon and his men killed those elders.
Some might be disturbed at why Gideon and his men were so quick to kill their brethren for not helping in a time of need. Gideon was only executing the righteousness of God according to the Law. There were many points in the Law that called for the children of Israel to use the excess that God provided to take care of those in need – especially their own brethren. God did not give the children of Israel excess in food, water, and other resources to horde for themselves. God never gives extra so that one can use it to lavish the desires of one’s own flesh in selfishness. God provided excess bread to Succoth and Penuel so that it could be shared with those in need, and those elders consciously rebelled against God by denying the help that Gideon and his men required. Those elders turned their cheeks in indifference to Gideon and his efforts even though God was using Gideon to deliver Israel from their enemies. The execution of those elders was according to the righteousness of God as stated in the Law.
Additionally, Judges 8:10-21 explains that Gideon destroyed Zebah and Zalmunna as well. Upon proving the promises of God as right and true, Gideon made efforts to finish the fight that Midian and Amalek had provoked against God and His people. However, wanting to teach his son about the judgment of God, Gideon called for his young son to perform the execution. The scriptures testify that Gideon’s son was scared being such a young age, and that Zebah and Zalmunna mocked Gideon as such, doubting that Gideon had the stomach to perform the execution and judgment of God himself. Gideon proved their mockery to be foolishness and Gideon finished the work of the Lord. Gideon killed Zebah and Zalmunna and executed the justice of God as He originally promised. Though Gideon was unqualified to do the work that God originally called him to do, God made it possible and fulfilled His promise. Though Israel was unqualified to do the work that God originally called them to do, God made it possible and fulfilled His promise. Though the enemy and onlookers of Israel mocked the servants of the Lord, God endured and remained faithful so that His promises were ultimately fulfilled in their time according to His Word. No matter the circumstances, and no matter the opposition, God’s Word is always fulfilled to perfection!
The work of the Lord is not for the faint-hearted. Though the Lord is the One that does the work to provide victory, the extent of participation that He allows His people to engage in is exhausting and difficult nonetheless. Faith is not an easy exercise. The Bible calls for the people of God to walk straight, not turning to the right or the left. This is hard to do. The Bible calls for the people of God to remain unspotted and blameless while walking with the Lord, taking every thought captive and making it subject to Christ. This is hard to do as well. The people of God are called to allow the Holy Spirit to fill one’s life, being the chief motivator to allow the character of Christ to shine through one’s life in “works” that reflect the denial of self and the flesh. This is exceptionally hard to do. Over time, this effort can be exhausting so that when God calls His people to perform certain tasks, God’s people might find that the work is much harder than originally anticipated.
In Judges 8:1-9 Gideon found out that the work God called him to do was much harder than originally anticipated. While God removed the factors in the work that were causing paralyzing fear, once Gideon engaged in the work of destroying the Midianites, he found that there were plenty of temptations to bring discouragement in the midst of the labor God called him to do. The scriptures state that after God did His job to turn the enemy armies against themselves, Gideon and his men began to pursue the Midianites to finish the job. They pursued their kings to totally eliminate them as a threat. Chasing these men through Israel, the neighboring tribes of Israel learned of the work God had been doing.
First, Judges 8:1-9 explains that the children of Ephraim heard about the fight that Gideon engaged in with Midian. The Bible explains that they were offended that they weren’t invited to the fight. The children of Ephraim were a large tribe and proficient in warfare. After hearing about the conflict, they were not happy with Gideon since Gideon did not call them to help. However, the Bible does not show that God called Ephraim to participate. The scriptures explain that Gideon sounded the trumpet to assemble those who were paying attention and were willing to heed the call of the Lord. Asher, Naphtali, Zebulun, and Manasseh responded because they were called to respond. Though Gideon sounded the trumpet, Ephraim did not respond. Ultimately, the scriptures show that God didn’t need them as the Lord only used 300 men to get the job done. Nonetheless, Ephraim gave Gideon a hard time.
Though Gideon was in the process of doing the Lord’s will, he had to deal with the complaints of his brethren. The people complained that they didn’t get to participate though God never called them to. The people complained about Gideon’s leadership and were offended about the manner in which Gideon was getting things done. Nonetheless, Gideon was in the will of God doing things the way he was commanded by the Lord God Almighty. Being confident in God’s purposes on account of the faith that God implanted and nurtured in him, Gideon reminded the people of Ephraim that the battle was not an opportunity to seek glory for self. Gideon reminded Ephraim that they had received great victories in the past. God had used Ephraim to do marvelous works in the past. They were well versed in warfare because of their experience in being used by the Lord as Gideon was being used. The fight against Midian was not an opportunity to build the resume of conquests, but was God’s deliverance from oppression. The fight against Midian was not an opportunity for the strong to stroke their own egos. Gideon reminded Ephraim about these truths, and Ephraim stood down, accepting the work God was doing.
The difficulty that Gideon experienced did not stop there. Judges 8:1-9 explains that as Gideon and his 300 men pursued the two kings of the Midianites, they went from town to town exhausted. Though God did most of the fighting by turning the enemy armies against themselves, Gideon and his men were doing the work of an army as 300 men. The fear-factor was removed, but the labor was still intense. They pursued the enemy with zeal seeking to remove the possibility of future threats, and absent resources, found it tiring to catch the two kings. As Gideon and his men traveled through the towns of their brethren in Israel, they sought help from the people of Succoth and Penuel. Gideon asked the people of these towns if they could have some bread in order to be refreshed to catch the enemy kings. Gideon let his brethren know that they were in the midst of delivering the children of Israel from the hand of the Midianites and were exhausted in their pursuit, but Succoth and Penuel offered no help. They would not give Gideon and his men the bread that they asked for.
It is sad to see that the brethren of Gideon would not help the work of the Lord. Ephraim gave Gideon grief for not doing things in a way that embellished their own egos. The people of Gideon would not give resources to Gideon even though they were able. Gideon and his men were on their own, and seemingly had to wrestle with their own brethren while seeking to do good for their brethren, fighting against the enemy. The scriptures show that the children of Israel were very selfish at this point in their history. They were only looking out for self. Gideon and his men were doing the will of God to deliver Israel from oppression and the brethren of Gideon would not lend a hand in assistance even by supplying bread. The people would not even help meet the basic needs of God’s instruments, leaving God’s servants to fend for themselves while in the midst of battle. Hence, the Bible shows that the work of the Lord is HARD! God not only stripped Gideon of a large army, assembling only 300 men, but then Gideon received no help, only grief, from his people that should have been on his side in assistance. Gideon found it difficult even to have his basic needs of nourishment met while serving the Lord.
Sometimes, this is how it goes. Sometimes, God’s servants don’t get much help from God’s people. Sometimes, God’s people can be more of a hindrance to God’s work than the enemy. God is faithful to take care of His servants, and is faithful to provide victory over the enemy, but God expects His people to use the resources He provides to take care of one another and support one another according to His will and purposes. It’s ugly when that doesn’t take place. Nevertheless, God makes all things fair and equal. As Ephraim criticized Gideon for his leadership, God brought peace to the situation in the end. As Succoth and Penuel refused to extend a helping hand for Gideon, the Lord allowed Gideon to pronounce judgment against those cities for restricting their resources in selfishness. It is true that the work is hard and that circumstances in serving God can be discouraging as those called to help, sometimes are the greatest obstacle. Nevertheless, God is faithful to push His servants forward and bring total victory in His strength while making all things equal and fair in the end. Hence, God’s servants should not grow discouraged and downcast, but abide in faith, trusting the Lord will provide where His people don’t.
The Bible shows that God gives His people unusual commands as opportunities to demonstrate their faith. When God called Abraham, the Lord commanded him to leave his home country, his father, and go to a place that God would eventually reveal to him. When God called Joshua to lead the children of Israel against Jericho, He commanded Joshua to march around the walls of the great city for a week. When Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, He also called for those men to leave everything behind in order to walk with Him. Jesus plainly explained that those who wanted to save their lives (spiritually) must loose their lives (materially/fleshly). This is not an easy thing to do. The scriptures explain that the means by which this work takes place is through faith, at which time God actually does the work Himself. God simply asks His people to trust in the results of the work He ultimately does to provide the benefits that He promises, even though the circumstances He orchestrates to fulfill His promises look to be counterproductive to His work. Yet, God knowing the weaknesses of His people, is willing to patiently nurture faith into His people, which then allows Him to do the work He sets out to do.
This truth is illustrated through the testimony of Gideon. While Hebrews Chapter 11 revers Gideon as a great man of faith and a hero, the testimony of Gideon shows that it took him a long time to get there. Gideon was the least of his family, and his family was the least of his tribe. When God revealed Himself to Gideon as the Angel of the Lord, Gideon was cynical, pessimistic, and unbelieving towards God’s past works and towards God’s faithfulness. When God revealed His power to Gideon, he still doubted. When Gideon made efforts to obey God by destroying the idols of his household, he did so in secret on account of fear. When God assured Gideon that he would successfully defeat the Midianites, Amalekites, and people from the East, Gideon tested God twice, not trusting in the promises of God’s Word. The testimony of Gideon shows that he was unbelieving and fearful far more than he was confident and brave.
In Judges 7:9-25 the Bible explains that Gideon did not suddenly develop strength, courage and faith before he went to battle. God proclaimed to Gideon that the 32,000 men that assembled to fight against Midian was too large. God cut Gideon’s army down from 32,000 to 300. This made Gideon afraid. Judges 7:9-25 explains that as soon as God selected His 300 men, He immediately commanded Gideon to get those men ready to advance that night. However, knowing the weaknesses of His people, He anticipated Gideon’s fear and provided an opportunity for Gideon to be built up in faith. God told that if he was too afraid to advance against Midian with only 300 men, Gideon could take his servant Purah and spy on the camp of Midian to hear about the things they were saying about the army of Israel. Proving that he was still afraid, Gideon took his servant Purah to spy on the camp of Midian as God allowed.
This is important to recognize. God knew Gideon was afraid. God knew Gideon didn’t believe. God knew that Gideon needed help and was not qualified to do the work that God commanded him to do on his own. Yet one must recall that God did not select Gideon for his qualifications. God selected Gideon on account of his unbelief, fear, and weakness in order that He would be glorified in the nurturing work He would do to make Gideon a “mighty man of valor.” In that God allowed Gideon the opportunity to spy on the camp to build confidence in God’s promise of victory, God shows that He knows His people need help with faith and that He is patient to nurture faith into His people. He knows that His people are but dust of the earth and that His people need Him to do the things that please Him. Hence, God expresses His mercy, grace, forbearance and longsuffering in order to nurture them into the men and women He desires them to be!
The scriptures testify that when Gideon went into the camp of Midian, he heard two people having a conversation about a dream that one of them had. A man from Midian explained that he had a dream where a loaf of bread was rolling on the ground, hit a tent, and took the whole tent down! The man he explained that to interpreted the dream for him. He said that the loaf of bread was symbolic of Gideon and his army and that God was surely going to take down the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people from the East. The scriptures reveal that even the enemy had more faith in the promises and power of God than Gideon did. Thus, Gideon was able to see that the enemy was fearful of Gideon on account of the power of God – much like the circumstances that Joshua had when they were overtaking the Promised Land. Upon hearing this dream and its interpretation, and seeing the concern and fear of the enemy, Gideon was built up in confidence in the Lord!
Judges 7:9-25 explains that Gideon went back to the camp and prepared his people. He took the 300 men that God provided and further divided them up into companies of 100 men. He instructed each man to take an empty pitcher and a trumpet. He commanded each company to surround the camp of Midian and upon his signal, each man would break his pitcher and then sound their trumpet. Gideon was confident that this would startle the Midian camp since they advanced in the middle of the night while it was dark. The scriptures testify that as Gideon and his 300 men did this thing that God caused the people of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the East to panic in fear. The enemies of Israel arose in fear and in a chaotic scramble, they began to kill one another. God made it so that the enemy brought their own swords against one another. As the camp of Midian killed each other in fright, they began to flee and dispersed in every direction. Thus, Gideon and his 300 men didn’t have to do a thing. God indeed handed the enemy over in victory!
This testimony shows that while God asked Gideon to do a difficult thing, the difficult thing that God called Gideon to do was “trust.” God planned to do the actual work to bring victory all along. While the trimming of Gideon’s army to 300 might have seemed discouraging, one must look at the full context of God’s work to see that God never expected the 300 to yield swords against the enemy in heroic fashion. The heroism of the men would be defined by their willingness to advance in obedience, not in their strength to win the fight. God provided opportunities for Gideon to be nurtured in his faith, at which point he became confident in God’s promises and obedient to his commands. God did the rest. The Bible explains that as the armies of Midian fled, Gideon called the men of Manasseh, Naphtali, and Asher that were sent away to pursue the Midianites since the battle was in hand. The army of Israel only needed to chase a defeated people that God essentially handed over on a platter. The children of Israel were able to reclaim some of the land that Midian had taken from Israel, and two kings of Midian were captured, killed, and taken to Gideon. In the end, Israel enjoyed the victory that God did all the work to fulfill exactly as He promised!
The Bible teaches that, while God’s people are promised victory, and even have the privilege of participating in His work to bring victory, He is ultimately responsible for the victory that is enjoyed. The people of God are able to persevere through the wiles of the enemy and the temptations of the flesh by the provision of strength that God gives. The people of God are able to overcome the fear and sting of death because of the work that God Himself has done to destroy sin and death for those who believe. The people of God are able to enjoy the benefits of eternal life because of the essence of God that He desires to share of Himself. In fact, the scriptures teach that God will exercise His sovereign control over all things in order to prove that He alone is responsible for the victories and spiritual benefits that He gives. Mankind cannot take credit for having anything to do with the promises of God.
God powerfully communicated this truth through the testimony of Gideon. In Judges 7:1-8 the Bible shows that He was unwilling to share His glory with those He used to achieve His victory. God was merciful to acknowledge the suffering of His people. God was gracious to respond in favor of Israel, promising victory over the Midianites. God was faithful to call a man to lead His people into battle to destroy the oppressors of Israel. However, God wanted to make sure that His people understood that He alone was responsible for the deliverance that His people would experience. The testimony of Gideon shows that Gideon was not a man of great faith, valor, or experience. He was least amongst his family, which was least amongst his tribe. He was pessimistic about God’s presence and promises. When God revealed Himself to Gideon, He had trouble believing. Even when Gideon obeyed the Lord to destroy the altar of Baal in his household, he did so in secret. Thus, God selected a man that, of his own resources and ability, would never have been able to lead Israel to victory unless it were for the Lord.
When God called Gideon that he would lead Israel to victory over the Midianites, He gathered an army to Gideon to prove Himself as faithful. The testimony of Gideon does not suggest that he had the means or nerve to assemble an army unto himself. Therefore, God put it on the hearts of the people to go to Gideon. However, once that army was assembled, Judges 7:1-8 explains that God did extra work to assure His hand was seen as the cause of Israel’s victory. Judges 7:1-8 explains that the army that surrounded Israel was too big. God called men from the tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali in order to fight against the Midianites. God filled Gideon with the Holy Spirit so that 32,000 men responded to fight. Judges 7:1-8 explains that this number of men was too much. Though the Lord assembled them, He had no intention on using them.
The testimony explains that as God looked at the army, He assured Gideon that the army would shrink. The Lord plainly told Gideon that He wanted to assure that all of Israel knew that God alone was responsible for the victory that Gideon was about to enjoy. Therefore, God told Gideon how He would create impossible circumstances to overcome so that when Israel overcame them, He would be recognized as the means by which deliverance came. God first told Gideon to dismiss all of the men that were fearful and afraid to fight. Though they might have responded to the call, the Bible shows that many were still afraid of the task at hand. As Gideon dismissed the fearful, 22,000 of the men left! Though 32,000 responded, well more than half of the men were terrified of the circumstances, and at the first chance to leave, they departed leaving only 10,000 men left.
However, God expressed that the army was still too big! Though an army of 32,000 had been shrunk down to only 10,000 before the fight even started, God wanted Gideon’s resources to be even less. God told Gideon that He would sort out those He wanted to go with Gideon. The Bible shows that when God desires to do a work, He will select the men and women that He wants. He will sort through His people to assemble the team He desires to accomplish His will. The test that God performed to select His army proved that His servants are not selected on account of their talents or gifts, but simply by the grace of God. God told Gideon to send the remaining 10,000 men to drink from the river and allow them to drink. God said that each man would drink water one of two ways: either by stooping down to their knees to lap water like dogs, or by using their hand to bring the water up to their mouth. The scriptures state that only 300 men used their hands to bring the water up to their mouth. God used this method to identity the men He wanted to fight along side Gideon.
When God selected His army to fight against the Midianites, the Amalekites, and the people from the East, God only wanted 300 men. God would use 300 men to destroy 3 whole people groups! Then, when one considers the method that God used to select His people, one must confess that these men were not men that were special, unique, or exceptional. These 300 men were simply men that were not afraid of the task at hand, and drank water with their hands. It is true that God would be faithful to bring the victory that He promised, but the tools He would use to do so would be made exceptional by nature of being in His hand. Gideon and his 300 men would not be able to take credit for the work that God would do. God used His sovereign control over all things to create impossible circumstances, and used average men that were fearless to do an incredible miracle. Thus, any victory that God’s people receive must be the work of God, and God alone. Therefore, all glory be to the God Most High, not to the men and women He mercifully and graciously uses to do His work.
When the people of God experience victory, the Bible teaches that the people of God have nothing to do with the victory. God does all of the work that needs to be done in order for victory to be achieved. While some might reference the faith of the believer as a contributing factor to give the believer a sense of contribution, the Bible plainly teaches that God even provides the faith His people express in times where faith is required to advance towards victory. While this doesn’t really bode well for the people of God, it speaks volumes to the extent of God’s forbearance, mercy, and grace! God, knowing the frame and nature of His creation, is patient to work with His people. God is slow to anger and not easily agitated. When God’s people display unbelief and disability, God doesn’t swiftly cut His people off, looking for more qualified candidates that He can use as instruments of His righteousness. Instead, God will display the extent of His power and sovereign control, seeking out the least qualified and providing them with all that is necessary to advance to victory by His own wisdom and strength.
The testimony of Gideon is a great example to show this concept as true. While Gideon eventually expresses great faith and bravery to advance against three powerful armies assembled against Israel, leading them to victory, the Bible is candid to reveal that Gideon’s faith and bravery did not come from within himself. The testimony of Judges 6:33-40 shows that Gideon was just as fearful and doubtful as any other person might be when called to advance against an enemy in unfavorable circumstances. The Bible does not show that Gideon exemplified exceptional leadership qualities. The scriptures instead show that Gideon had a tendency to focus on his circumstances rather than His God that transcends all circumstances, controlling all things to meet His purposes and promises.
Judges 6:33-40 explains that the Midianites, Amalekites, and the people from the East gathered together against Israel and camped deep in the valley of Jezreel. Seeing that Israel was weak and afraid, these armies formed together to take advantage of Israel. The Bible explained how the Midianites and the Amalekites spent seven years raiding the children of Israel to the point where Israel responded by digging out caves to hide in out of fear. Though Israel had been used by God to achieve great conquests in the past, Gideon’s generation was far from the Lord, living in fear instead of faith. The Midianites and Amalekites knew that they would not face any opposition against Israel, and that God’s people would cower in fear. Therefore, they prepared to advance heavily against the children of Israel.
Though Israel was not faithful to God to call out to Him for help, God was faithful to Himself to respond against the enemies of Israel. It is true that God used Midian and Amalek to discipline the unbelief and sin of His people, allowing them to oppress Israel for many years. However, God exercised His sovereignty to ensure that those people groups did not utterly destroy Israel. Since God made eternally unconditional promises that He swore unto Himself, He restrained Midian and Amalek from going too far. Hence, while Midian, Amalek, and the people from the East conspired together to do great damage, God responded against them. God would not allow His people to be beaten past the point of His discipline. Therefore, the Bible explains that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon! The Bible teaches that God will not allow temptation to come upon His people in a manner that is beyond what His people can handle. Thought it may seem like God allows trials to spiral out of control, becoming too much for His people to bear, He is always involved, restraining the circumstances from utterly destroying the faith of His people. God never lets the circumstances surmount to a point where the eternally unconditional promises that He made to His people are at risk. God filled Gideon with the Holy Spirit as Israel’s enemies assembled to ruin Israel. This is proof that God ALWAYS responds to help His people when in need – even if His people don’t call out to Him. This is a stark contrast to the response of Baal. When Gideon destroyed the idols of Baal, the false god did not respond at all, and Gideon went unharmed. When the Midianites, Amalekites, and people of the East threatened to obliterate Israel, God responded!
The scriptures testify that when Gideon was filled with the Spirit of the Lord, He blew the trumpet to signal the assembly of the armies of Israel. The Bible explains that the Abiezrites, Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali all assembled behind Gideon! Though Israel had been afraid of the Midianites for seven years, suddenly Israel was willing to assemble together and fight. When the Spirit of God filled the people of God, the people of God were ready to respond. This shows that people will remain in fear and isolate themselves when the Spirit is not leading God’s people. In contrast, when the Holy Spirit fills, motivates, and directs God’s people, God’s people are suddenly willing to advance regardless of how the circumstances appear. The details of Judges 6:33-40 explain that God was bringing His people together for His purposes. If not for the Holy Spirit, Gideon would have never blown the trumpet, and the four tribes of northern Israel would have never assembled together.
The extent of God’s involvement in Israel’s victory is amplified through the next part of Gideon’s testimony. Though God had assured Gideon that He would use Gideon to save Israel from their enemies, Gideon doubted. Though Gideon saw the power of God as He consumed the offering that Gideon gave to the Angel of the Lord, Gideon doubted. Though Gideon was filled with the Holy Spirit, Gideon doubted. Though God had assembled a great army behind Gideon, he doubted. Judges 6:33-40 explains that Gideon questioned God’s promises and asked yet for more proof of God’s promise. Gideon wanted more signs to validate God’s Word as if God were lying or playing a joke on Gideon. Gideon asked God to prove Himself with a fleece. Gideon put a piece of fleece on the floor, and told God to make the fleece wet with dew over night, while leaving the ground around it totally dry. Though Gideon was expressing great unbelief, God appeased Gideon according to His grace, and made it so that Gideon was able to fill a whole bowl with the water that came from the fleece, while the ground around it was dry.
That wasn’t good enough for Gideon. After God had proved Himself again, Gideon sought the Lord to test Him again. Gideon’s unbelief was so great, that Gideon even felt compelled to apologize and ask for God’s mercy on account of his continual tests of validate that he was giving to God. Gideon asked God not to be angry with him, as if he knew the things he was doing would likely anger anyone else. Thus, Gideon asked God to validate His Word and promises by reversing the outcome of the last test. Gideon wanted to put the fleece down and see if God would be willing to have the surrounding ground be wet with dew while the fleece remained dry. God exercised restrain in anger. He did not get frustrated with Gideon. God was merciful to Gideon, and graciously complied. God indeed caused the ground around the fleece to be wet with dew while the fleece remained dry.
Clearly Gideon did not have faith of himself. He tested God over and over, imploring God to validate Himself and His Word. Though Gideon saw the power of God, he doubted whether or not God would really let that power flow through him to save Israel. Though Gideon possessed the Spirit of the Lord, Gideon doubted whether or not God would really use him to lead the men that had assembled to fight. Israel had departed so far from the Lord that Gideon had no understanding of the faithfulness of God concerning His Word. Gideon could not trust in the promises of God, so God did what was necessary to build that trust into him. Knowing that His people had departed from His commands, statutes, and laws, God saw that Gideon had no understanding of His righteousness and the power of His Word and promises. Therefore, while Gideon’s requests and tests might have frustrated others, God was patient, and nurtured faith into Gideon, preparing him to be the mighty man of valor that God promised he would become from the beginning!
When a person desires to be used by the Lord, one must consider that the Lord only uses certain types of people as His instruments of righteousness. While it is true that God uses all people to accomplish His purposes, the Lord only uses certain folks to administrate His righteousness. This does not mean that one must be “qualified” with certain merits or talents to be used of the Lord. Instead, the Bible shows that one must desire the Lord more than anything. The people of God must worship God, and God alone in order to be utilized servants of the Lord. The Bible shows that God openly invites His people to engage in and participate in the work that He does to deliver people from the bondage of sin. However, God expects that when people serve Him, they serve Him alone. This requires the people of God to forsake any idols, false gods, or any other ways of thinking that would resemble idolatry. When the people of God have the Lord as their priority, seeking His purposes and promises exclusively above all things, God will do miraculous wonders!
This truth is illustrated in the testimony of Gideon. The testimony of Gideon is well know, explaining that God did an amazing work through him to bring a great victory over the Midianites to deliver Israel from their oppression. However, Judges 6:25-32 explains that God needed Gideon to purify his heart before God was willing to engage him in the ministry. Judges 6:25-32 explains that after Gideon offered the Angel of the Lord a sacrifice, and Gideon understood the true identity of the Angel to be the Lord Himself, that Gideon returned home. Gideon acknowledged God as “The Lord of Peace” (Jehovah Shalom) and was looking forward to the work God would do to bring peace into Israel. The scriptures testify that later that same night, the Lord called out to Gideon and gave him a command. Gideon was told to destroy the idols of Baal that were in his father’s household.
It is true that the Angel of the Lord visited Gideon and referred to him as a “mighty man of valor.” It is true that the Lord saw Gideon for what he would become in the Lord, and not for the man of weak faith and bitterness that he was. However, the change that God would orchestrate in Gideon would require cooperation. Gideon would have to take an active role in the change that God desired to do. Gideon would have to submit to God in order to allow God the opportunity to transform him into the mighty man of valor that God desired Gideon to be. According to Judges 6:25-32, Gideon’s involvement in the Lord’s work involved Gideon making a change in the object of his worship. God would not perform such a change and would not use Gideon as an instrument of righteous deliverance unless Gideon destroyed the idols in his life. God commanded the children of Israel to worship Him as the Almighty God, and Him alone. God does not change, and neither to His commands. Thus, if Gideon was to receive the benefits of God’s work, Gideon had to obey the primary commands that God gave to ensure that God was truly the Lord of his life.
The scriptures reveal that Gideon still had some growing to do. Though he would become a mighty man of valor over time by the work of the Lord, Judges 6:25-32 explains that Gideon still had issues of fear to deal with. The Bible explains that Gideon was willing to obey the Lord. He was willing to destroy the altars and idols of Baal in his father’s household. However, he feared the response of his father and the people of the city his father lived in. Though Gideon had come face-to-face with the Almighty God through the Angel of the Lord, Gideon was afraid of publicly obeying the Lord’s commands. Though Gideon saw the power of God as He consumed the sacrifice that Gideon prepared, he was still afraid of mere men. Though God referred to Gideon as a mighty man of valor and assured Gideon that he would deliver Israel from the Midianites, Gideon was concerned about what his own people might do to him for destroying the idols, as if those men could affect the Word and purposes of God.
Clearly, Gideon still had room to grow in his faith even though he was willing to obey the commands of the Lord. Gideon recognized the authority of God, but still feared the consequence of upsetting men. Gideon sought to obey the righteous commands of God and remove the idols from his life, but was reluctant to offend those around him. Hence, the Bible explains that Gideon waited until it was night to do as the Lord commanded so that he wouldn’t get caught. Gideon waited until it was dark, and then proceeded to take the idol of his father, burn it up, and built a new altar unto the Lord and offer Him a sacrifice instead. Scripture explains that the people of the town were indeed offended as they discovered what had been done on the following morning. As the men of the town saw the destruction of Baal and saw that Gideon’s offering was still burning before the Lord, they were angry. They sought to find the man responsible and kill them! Though Gideon lived amongst the children of Israel, the men sought to kill their own brethren because they were offended at the way Baal was treated, not God. The children of Israel had departed so far from the Lord that they were willing to kill their own to protect the integrity of a false god, denying the very God that brought them into the land they were corrupting.
Judges 6:25-32 testifies that Gideon’s father intervened. As the people discovered that Gideon was responsible for the destruction of the idol and altar, they sought him out. Yet Joash, Gideon’s father, defended his son by revealing a practical truth about ALL idols. Joash plainly told the people of his town, “If he is a god, let him plead for himself, because his altar has been torn down!” The children of Israel had taken false gods and put them in the place of the Lord God Almighty. The testimony of the Book of Judges thus far has revealed that God is active and responsive to His people. He is functional and faithful to fulfill His promises. When His people are in danger, He responds. Moreover, when God is offended He responds! Baal on the other hand did nothing in response to Gideon’s destruction. Baal was not functional, was not active, and was not responsive. Joash’s point was that Baal was not real, and thus, not worthy of worship. The destruction of Baal’s altar might have been offensive to the children of Israel, but could not offend Baal because Baal was fake. The children of Israel were willing to kill their own people over a made up concept and philosophy that provided no value, profit, or benefit.
As a result of Gideon’s obedience to the Lord, his father wanted to recognize his work and honor Gideon. Gideon’s name was actually changed to “Jerubbaal,” which referenced the saying, “Let Baal plead against him because he has torn down his altar.” Gideon quickly developed a reputation as a Godly man, willing to destroy the idols that offended God. Gideon was suddenly known as the one willing to stand firm for the Lord, even if he had a little fear in the work he did. Gideon was suddenly qualified to receive the benefits of the Lord’s work, being known as the one that stood in favor of God and His commands instead of Baal and other false gods. All God desires is that His people serve Him and Him alone in order to be His instruments of righteousness. God desires to take the weak and make them strong in Him according to His eternal purposes. God desires to take the fearful and make them bold in Him according to His eternal purposes. God desires to take the unlikely and make them conduits of His righteousness and glory according to His eternal purposes. However, God first requires His people to come out of idolatry and the worship of man-made objects, philosophies, ideas, and cultural standards in order to exalt Him to the place of Master in one’s own life. Then, and only then, is God willing to conduct the miraculous transformation He desires that brings great benefits to those who are used in such a glorious way!
The Bible teaches that while the details of God’s work are complex, the overall purpose of God is actually pretty simple. God’s purposes are pretty singular in focus, and the Bible shows that He uses a lot of the same methods to achieve His purposes. The Bible shows that God has been progressively working towards the fulfillment of the same promise, which has a few other promises that stem from His main promise to overcome darkness – destroy the works of sin, death, hell, and the devil. Thus, when one examines the words of God and the works of God, one should examine the manner in which God speaks and the manner in which God works to know how He is working towards the fulfillment of those promises. While God swore upon Himself to deal with sin and the darkness that surrounds it, it is important to recognize that God’s promises to Israel and the ways that He engages with Israel are a physical reflection of the spiritual work God does for everyone else. Therefore, one can look to the history of Israel to see how God acknowledges sin, deals with it, and brings benefits to His people as a result.
An example of God’s work process against sin can be clearly seen in His engagement with the children of Israel in Judges 6:11-24. This portion of scripture describes God’s calling of Gideon, the mighty man of valor that took a small army of 300 to defeat the large Midianite army to bring peace to Israel. This portion of scripture reveals that Gideon was not a man of great strength, power, or confidence. In fact, the scriptures explain that Gideon wasn’t even a man of great faith when God first approached him. Knowing this, it is important to examine the details of God’s work through Gideon in order to understand the patterns of God’s work methods.
Judges 6:11-24 explains God saw the sin in Israel and responded against it by disciplining Israel through Midianite oppression. After the children of Israel had gone seven whole years trying to take care of their difficulties on their own and failing, they finally called out to the Lord. God responded by His mercy and according to His faithfulness to Himself according to the promises He made to Israel. The Bible teaches that God first responded by sending a prophet to speak the Word of God. This prophet went throughout Israel proclaiming the identity of God and reminding the people about God’s power, His promises, and His past provision. The prophet sought to encourage the people by reminding them that God was greater than those who were oppressing Israel, so the children of Israel had nothing to fear if they were to trust in God’s faithfulness. Nevertheless, they remained fearful and pessimistic about God’s willingness to respond; not fully repenting of their sin, acknowledging it as the cause of their oppression.
When God saw that His people were still afraid, God took more aggressive action. Rather than speaking through a prophet, He took on the form of a man and spoke to the children of Israel Himself! Judges 6:11-24 explains that God responded to Israel as “the Angel of the Lord.” When examining the appearances of the Angel of the Lord, it is critical to closely look at the details of the Angel’s actions and words to know that the Angel is God in fleshly form (Jesus Christ). The testimony of Judges 6:11-24 explains that the Angel appeared in Ophrah and spoke to Gideon. Gideon was in the middle of trying to hide his family’s crops from the Midianites, showing that he was just as afraid and intimidated as the rest of Israel. When the Angel of the Lord first approached Gideon, He introduced Himself by saying that the presence of the Lord was with Gideon, and then referred to Gideon as a “mighty man of valor.” Little did Gideon know at that time that the Lord God Himself was speaking to him.
It is important to recognize the perspective of God as the Angel of the Lord compared to the circumstances of Gideon at the time the Lord approached him. Gideon was living in the same fear and concern that the rest of Israel was. In fact, when the Angel of the Lord assured Gideon that the presence of the Lord was in his midst, Gideon criticized the Lord. He expressed bitterness at the mention of the Lord, questioning His involvement with Israel – past and present. Gideon stated, if God were with Israel, then why was life hard. This is a familiar sentiment amongst many people! Yet like many people, Gideon was not willing to take responsibility for his own unbelief and transgression. Gideon questioned the promises of God by saying things like, “If God were here with us, and we His people, where are the miracles that people said He used to do?” Though God was standing right in front of Gideon, he did not express humility, honor, or faith. Instead, Gideon was complaining, criticizing, and doubting. This is hardly a “mighty man of valor.”
Though Gideon responded to God as a bitter man in fear and unbelief, the Lord referred to him as a “mighty man of valor” anyway. This shows that one’s condition is not as one currently sees his or her self, but is as God sees the person after the completion of His work. Gideon was not a mighty man of valor at the time God said it, but God called him that because of the work that God would do through Gideon. Gideon was referred to in a favorable way from the Lord, but only on account of God’s presence and God’s own work – not based on Gideon’s natural self. The approval that one has with God is NEVER based on one’s natural self, but upon one’s acceptance of God’s presence and one’s willingness to allow God to work through them. The Bible shows that though a person might begin life in a bitter and unfaithful manner, God is willing and able to change their condition to resemble God’s own might!
Judges 6:11-24 explains that the Angel of the Lord sought to encourage Gideon by explaining His purpose for Gideon. The Lord plainly told Gideon that he would deliver Israel from the hand of the Midianites. The Lord plainly told Gideon that He specifically came into the world in the form of the Angel of the Lord to engage with Gideon, send him into battle, and do a miraculous work through him in spite of his condition. Gideon responded by explaining the full depth of his condition. Gideon was not from a powerful family, but from the smallest and weakest in the area. Gideon was not abnormally strong in his family, but instead was the smallest and the weakest in his family. Thus, the scriptures show that, of all the people in Israel that God could have selected to do His work, He selected the smallest and weakest man from the smallest and weakest family, and referred to Him as a “mighty man of valor.” The scriptures teach that when God’s people are weak, He is strong. Hence, the Bible shows that God is more likely to select those who are weak in a worldly sense in order to flex His supernaturally superior strength through that person for His glory. When God saw the sin of Israel, this is the way He responded in order to teach His people that He is greater than he who is in the world, fully able and willing to address dire spiritual issues that human beings are unable to deal with. This is how God proves Himself able and willing to fulfill His promises to forgive sins!
When Gideon heard the command of the Angel of the Lord, he continued to demonstrate the lack of faith and qualifications that he had when God approached him. Gideon requested a sign. Gideon wanted proof that the words of the Angel were true. Gideon wanted to verify the words of the Lord by providing a sacrifice. Gideon asked the Lord to wait while he prepared a young goat, some unleavened bread, and an ephah of flour. The Angel of the Lord agreed to wait for Gideon. This shows that the Lord is willing to do what He needs to do in order to build the faith of His people. Gideon did not believe. Hence, God did what needed to be done in order for Gideon to have faith. Though the Book of Hebrews mentions Gideon has having great faith, Judges 6:11-24 explains that Gideon had faith because the Lord gave it to him. Even the faith of God’s heroes comes from God Himself. When God sees the sins of His people, knowing that faith is the only way to please Him, God will reveal Himself in whatever way necessary in order to instill faith into the hearts of His people – despite qualifications or merits.
When Gideon brought his offering back, the scriptures explain that the Angel of the Lord cast out His rod, touched the offerings, and fire came forth out of nowhere to consume the offering. Then the Angel of the Lord disappeared! The Bible teaches that God alone is worthy to receive offerings and sacrifices. The Bible teaches that God alone is a consuming fire. Yet here, the Bible shows that the Angel of the Lord, also referred to as “the Angel of God” and “the Lord,” consumed the sacrifice in a manner that was equal to the ways God the Father had consumed sacrifices. At that moment, Gideon began to believe. Seeing the miracle that took place before him, Gideon realized that he was not talking to some strange man. The Bible explains that Gideon called the man, “the Angel of the Lord,” and confessed in fear and awe that he had seen the Lord face-to-face. The Bible teaches that when God sees sin in His people and the Word of God through the prophets of God does not suffice, God will reveal Himself to His people in a clearer manner to instill the quality of faith that is pleasing to Him, thereby allowing Him to deal with the sins of His people.
As Gideon made his proclamation about seeing the Angel of the Lord, the Angel of the Lord revealed Himself to Gideon again. The Lord told Gideon, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” Notice how God engages with His people when they receive the revelation that He gives. God’s purpose is to provide peace and to assure His people that they will not die. God’s purpose is to remove fear by instilling faith in His identity based on His revelation, first through the Word, then through the physical embodiment of the Word – Jesus Christ (though here called the Angel of the Lord). When God sees sin, He responds with His Word in order to provide peace to His people in the midst of threatening circumstances. God reminds His people of His identity, His promises, and the consequences of sin. Yet God is merciful, gracious, and faithful to take additional steps to encourage His people in more personal ways. God does the work that needs to be done in order that His people will have a quality of faith that pleases Him. His aim is to instill faith, and after faith, peace. God’s work against sin causes God to reveal Himself, which then causes the people of God to praise God, at which point the people of God can receive the peace of God. This is why Gideon built an altar at that moment and called the Lord Jehovah Shalom – the Lord Is Peace. Those who desire to have the peace of God must receive God’s revelation of Himself as the embodiment of the Word (Jesus Christ) in His work to oppose sin and unbelief in the hearts of His people, praise Him for His revelation, grace, and glory, and trust in the results of God’s work though they might not be evident at the current moment.
The scriptures explain that when one is justified by faith (saved), one is not made righteous, but instead, declared righteous in spite of one’s remaining unrighteousness. While those who have been justified are also equipped with the Spirit of God so that the righteousness of Christ flows through the believer, one still maintains a fleshly nature. The Apostle Paul explained that this dynamic facilitates a spiritual war within the hearts of all believers. The natural instincts of all people are wicked, which contradict the holy and righteous ways of the Holy Spirit. While the Holy Spirit tries to convict the flesh concerning the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the flesh often overpowers the flesh so that believers continue to sin, even while they try not to. This means that, while God’s people are being perfected into His image, they are far from perfect. Mistakes will be made. Sin will continue to rear it’s ugly head. Darkness will still exist to some degree in the lives of God’s people.
This means that God’s people often experience rollercoasters of spiritual highs and lows. There are seasons where God’s people are immediately responsive and submissive to the convictions of the Holy Spirit; and there are seasons where God’s people ignore the Holy Spirit and do what is appealing to natural desires. Thankfully, the Bible explains that God is patient with His people. The Bible teaches that God is the God of all mercies. The Bible teaches that He is well aware of the weaknesses of His people and is willing to work through them to demonstrate His power, glory, and grace. This means that, once a person is declared a child of God, a person is always considered a child of God in spite of mistakes. This truth is powerfully demonstrated through God’s interaction with the children of Israel. Equally as powerful is the insight the scriptures provide that explain how God works with the weaknesses of His people – through the testimony of Israel - to set them back on track when venturing off His course.
In Judges 6:1-10 the Bible explains that the children of Israel regressed in their faith again. After the Lord provided 40 years of rest from their enemies, Israel began to depart from the Lord again. The scriptures explain that the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, which is a reference to their pursuit of idols and false gods in place of God’s own holy and righteous commands. The children of Israel rebelled against God. Therefore, as God had in the past when Israel rebelled, the Lord sent the enemies of Israel against Israel to oppress them. This time, the Lord sent the Midianites. The Bible explains that the Midianites prevailed against Israel to the extent that Israel was terrified. The children of Israel built dens and caves in the mountains to hide from the Midianites, knowing that they wouldn’t be able to successfully oppose them.
As the Midianites oppressed and intimidated the children of Israel, other surrounding enemies of Israel took notice and sought to take advantage of the opportunity. Judges 6:1-10 explains that the Amalekites and other nations from the east would raid Israel and destroy their crops, steal their cattle resources, and bring havoc into the land. The children of Israel were discouraged, afraid, and weakened. Though God had promised to give the children of Israel a great land inheritance and make them a great nation, the children of Israel were weak and pitiful, and the land was being destroyed. This was the consequence that God promised according to the Law when the children of Israel rebelled against God’s commands. Though God is faithful to remain connected to His people in the midst of seasons of sin, the Lord is just to discipline His children. Though God is merciful to keep the sins of His people from coming to full fruition (eternal death), He is just to allow some of the consequences of sin to run their course causing pain and affliction on God’s people.
After seven years of oppression, the children of Israel finally cried out to the Lord for help. It is interesting to note that God’s people went a full seven years hiding and crying amongst themselves because of the Midianites rather than calling out to the Lord God Almighty. The Bible shows that human beings have the tendency to fail trying manage life without God. The children of Israel went seven years building dens and hiding in caves to manage their own problems according to their own flawed wisdom rather than seeking the Lord’s provision and wisdom. Nevertheless, God was patient with His people and waited them out without allowing more intense destruction. When the children of God cried out, God was faithful to His promises and responded.
It is important to recognize the manner in which God responded. Judges 6:1-10 explains that God responded to the failure of His people by sending a prophet. When God’s people suffered on account of their sin and sought God’s forgiveness and help, God sent a man to communicate the Word! Judges 6:1-10 explains that the prophet reminded the children of Israel of who God was. He reminded Israel that God is the Lord God Almighty who brought the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt with a strong hand. The prophet reminded the children of Israel that God was the One who took initiative to remove His people from bondage because He desires His people to be free from oppression. God’s purpose is not that His people should suffer in afflictions of bondage as evidenced by His work to remove Israel from Egypt. The prophet reminded Israel that God was the One that originally gave Israel the Promised Land. The land was once a good land where Israel had rest and an abundance of resources. When God’s people rebelled and then later sought the Lord, God sent a prophet to speak the Word of God, reminding the people about who God is and what His promises are.
Additionally, the Bible explains that God reminded the people of His righteousness. The prophet reminded the people of God’s commands and also reminded them of the consequences God assured the people would suffer on account of disobedience. While the children of Israel should not have feared their enemies, remembering the identity and promises of God, they were afraid because they were disobedient. The scriptures reveal that people who disobey God end up being afraid of things that should not instill fear. Disobedience instills fear towards things that shouldn’t bring fear. God assured this consequence in His laws and statutes, but the children of Israel forgot them. Nonetheless, the Bible shows that despite the weaknesses and wickedness of His people, God was faithful. He reconnected with His people in the midst of their sin by the Word. God didn’t require Israel to clean themselves up to receive His favor. Rather, God sent a prophet to preach the Word of God, thereby rekindling the relationship between God and His people before the next phase of His work of deliverance. Hence, the Bible teaches that when God’s people inevitably fail, the Word of God is the tool that God uses to close the distance between Him and His people that sin causes.
The scriptures teach that God is willing and able to use anyone that desires His will and purposes to be fulfilled. Those who seek the fulfillment of God’s promises and submit to God’s commands are frequently used as tools in the hands of the Almighty to accomplish His will. The people of God are able to participate in the victories that God brings in this manner. The Bible teaches that God will destroy all of His enemies. The Bible teaches that God will reign supreme in the end. The Bible teaches that God’s will is going to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Those desire for the purposes of God to be fulfilled and submit to God’s ways are used as instruments of God’s power. Regardless of one’s qualifications, experience, resources, or abilities, God will ensure that those who humbly submit to Him and desire His promises will be successful in victory as God’s instruments.
The song that Deborah and Barak sang in Judges 5:1-31 is a reflection of this truth. The scriptures show that Deborah and Barak sought to praise the Lord in response to the victory that God brought against Sisera and Jabin. The song they sang was a testimony to the work that God did against the Canaanites. The song details the miraculous provision that God gave for victory and the means by which it came. The song explains that God provided victory using the same types of miraculous circumstances that He did during the time of Joshua when the people first overtook the land. God worked in ways to ensure the people knew that He was the Author of the success that they would have.
The song begins by attributing praises unto the Lord for the work that He did. The song called for Israel to bless the Lord on account of the work that God does with willing servants, in spite of their ability or qualifications. The song begins by praise God for His willingness to use any willing vessel. The scriptures testify that the people God used were merely participants as witnesses to God’s work. Judges 5:1-31 testifies that the earth trembled, the clouds poured water, and the mountains gushed. The song explains that God sent a torrent through the Kishon River. The Lord brought a storm that flooded the Kishon River, thereby rendering the 900 iron chariots of Sisera ineffective. God exercised His ability as Creator to cripple the resources of the Canaanites, rendering them ineffective. The manner in which Israel defeated Sisera was undeniably the work of the Lord God Almighty!
The scriptures also state that God used Deborah and Barak as leaders to participate in His work. While the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali went to fight, Deborah and Barak roused them up. Though the army of Israel served more in a capacity as witnesses to God’s work, they were assembled together by Deborah and Barak. God first rose up Deborah and referred to her as “a mother in Israel.” While Deborah was a prophetess, it is important to recognize God’s perspective here. God used Deborah in a nurturing capacity for all of Israel by speaking His Word to her and through her. Deborah was a mother to Israel by communicating the Word of God, His righteousness, and His judgments to the children of Israel. The spiritual nourishment that Deborah provided was effective to encourage the people (especially Barak) and gave the people confidence in the Lord when it was needed. As a result of her ministry, Barak was encouraged in the Lord, and the people followed him into battle against the well-equipped Canaanite army. As a result of Deborah’s ministry, the people were willing to submit themselves to the work of the Lord, and were willing to entrust their lives to Him for His purposes.
Judges 5:1-31 explains that God used the least likely of men and women to bring victory in Israel against a powerful army. Though the oppression of the Canaanites affected the regions of Benjamin and Ephraim, they did not participate in the fight. Though the battle took place in West Manasseh, they did not participate in the fight. In fact, angels actually spoke curses against Judah since they were mighty and able to fight well, but they did not participate in the fight either. The tribe of Dan was near by, but they did not fight. The tribes that engaged in battle were Naphtali and Zebulun. They traveled south to fight in the region of West Manasseh even though they were not well equipped, well trained, or even in the area of conflict. They heard the call of Barak, trusted in the power of God, and entrusted their lives into the hands of the Almighty God to be used for His purposes according to His promises. Likewise, as those two tribes fought against the large army of Sisera, the commander himself was destroyed by the hand of a woman in a tent away from the battle. Jael was a woman that served Sisera milk, not a seasoned warrior. Yet God used her hands to drive a tent peg through Sisera’s head to officially end the battle. The great and powerful Sisera sank at the hand of a woman in a tent after she served him milk.
The song that Deborah and Barak sang ended with their agreement with God’s victory and the manner in which He brings it. They rejoiced the fact that God won the battle for Israel. They also rejoiced over the fact that God was willing to use the unqualified and unlikely to achieve victory. God didn’t use the powerful, the strong, the experience, the well-equipped, or the wise. God simply used those who were willing, whether they had ability or not. God exercised His sovereign control as Creator to ensure that those who submitted themselves to His purposes would be guaranteed victory. God only required His people to desire the fulfillment of His promises, and trust in His purposes. Deborah and Barak knew that God would destroy all of His enemies that oppose His ways. Thus, they desired God’s glory to shine through those who desired His will as the sun shines in full strength. The children of Israel were able to enjoy rest from their enemies for 40 years as a result of God’s work.