Gideon, the Mighty Man of Courage
Gideon was a Jewish farmer who lived in Israel. The year was around 1050 B.C. and thousands of warring Midianites like locusts had descended upon Gideon’s land, causing misery and starvation to the Israelite people. The Midianites were wild nomadic people from the Aramean desert, who stole everything in sight - all the animals and all the crops. They left the Israelite farmers and village people desperate and destitute. (Judges 6)
God had promised to protect His people, the Israelites, and bless them with abundance if they would follow Him. But Gideon’s generation was not following God. They still expected Him to bless them but they were worshipping Baal and other idol gods and had forgotten the God of their fathers. Scripture says that: “the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord,” (Judges 6:1a) and “The Midianites so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.” (Judges 6:6) And of course God heard their cry and rushed in to help.
God sent a prophet to speak to the Israelites and tell them that he would protect them from the Midianites if they would come back to Him and worship Him only and turn from worshipping their idols. And then God called Gideon to deliver His people from the Midianites, promising Gideon that He would be with him. But Gideon was afraid to lead and told God that he was not able to do what God was asking of him. (Judges 6:15) Gideon was a coward and referred to himself as the least in his father’s house and a member of the poorest clan in Israel. That was his excuse for trying to get out of doing what God had asked him to do.
But God didn’t take “no” for an answer from Gideon. Scripture tells us that God sent an angel to Gideon calling him again to be God’s man for the job. Gideon looked up to see a bright angel standing there and then the angel gave him this greeting: “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of courage.” (Judges 6:12) Why would the angel call Gideon a “mighty man of courage” when in reality Gideon was trembling with fear?
The exciting thing here is that God didn’t call Gideon what he was as a natural man without God. But God called Gideon what He knew that Gideon had the ability to be in Him. With God and in God’s strength Gideon, the frightened coward could become Gideon, the mighty man of courage!
And this principle is the same for you and me. Without God and in our own strength we can sometimes be frightened little people. But with God we can do anything that needs doing since God promises to be with us and give us the strength through Christ (Philippians 4:13) Perhaps we need to stop looking at what we think we are and start listening to God and believing Him and what He says we are in Him!
Gideon asked God for several signs to prove that He would be with him in battle. And God patiently worked with Gideon’s insecurities and game him the signs he asked for and more. (Judges 6:36-40) Finally, after many proofs and signs, Gideon believed God and gave in to God’s request to lead his people in battle and free them from the Midianite invasion.
Gideon’s first job as the Lord’s warrior was to tear down an altar to Baal, as Israel had always been commanded to do. (Exodus 34:13, Deuteronomy 7:5) This altar belonged to Gideon’s father and Gideon took ten men and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family, he tore down his father’s alter to Baal at night so he wouldn’t be seen. The next morning the men in his town demanded that Gideon die, but Gideon’s father Joash, stopped them.
After this the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and he obeyed God and went throughout the land calling out men to come with him and fight the Midianites. Thousands of men answered the call and God spoke to Gideon and told him that there were too many men in his army. “Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave” the Lord said. So 22,000 men left leaving 10,000 to fight. The Lord spoke to Gideon again saying that there were still too many men, and more men were sent home. Finally, when there were only 300 men left, the Lord spoke to Gideon and said that He would use those 300 men to drive out the many thousands of Midianites from the land. God wanted the Israelites to know that He would win the battle for them instead of letting them believe that they would win it in their own strength.
Gideon listened to the Lord’s instructions and then he divided his 300 men into three groups. Each fighting man was given a trumpet and an empty jar with a torch inside. Listening to God’s instructions, Gideon led his men out to fight in the middle of the night. The men followed Gideon and when they got to the edge of the enemy camp they all blew their trumpets and broke their jars so that their torches would be seen. Then they all shouted “For the Lord and for Gideon” and continued blowing their trumpets.
While Gideon’s 300 men held their positions around the enemy camp, the Midianites rushed out of their tents terrified. God muddled their minds and caused the Midianites throughout their camps to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled in confusion, killing one another as they went. And Gideon and his armies drove them out of their land. After that the Israelites tore down all of their many altars to Baal and they started worshipping God again. And there was finally peace and prosperity in the land of Israel for that whole generation – until the next generation came along and forgot God again and built new altars to Baal. (Judges 7 and 8)
Why would God choose Gideon as a leader when Gideon didn’t seem to have any special talents? And it seemed to take Gideon a long time to trust God enough to even agree to take the job God wanted him to take. God must have seen that Gideon was capable of eventually trusting Him and believing in Him. Scripture says that “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) God’s Spirit did not come onto Gideon until after he believed God enough to take down the family’s altar to Baal.
We read in Scripture that God looks for people who will be open to Him and trust Him. Scripture says: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth to find those who are open to Him so He can strengthen their hearts.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) God is looking for people who are available to Him. He often finds that ordinary people are more available to Him than powerful and famous people. And Scripture says that when God does find people who want Him, He strengthens and blesses them and equips them to successfully do what He leads them to do. And best of all God pours onto these believers His unconditional love. What does God see when He looks into your heart? Are you one of the people God is looking for and hoping to find?