Judges 7:14- “This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has handed the entire Midianite camp over to him.”
Gideon was threshing grain in a wine a press, to hide it from the marauding, when an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior” (Jud 6:12).
Gideon’s initial reaction to the angel speaks volumes about Israel’s misery at that time. For seven years, the Midianites, a ruthless band of desert dwellers, had terrorized God’s people. They destroyed the Israelites crops and livestock and laid waste to their land.
So when God’s messenger suddenly appeared to him, Gideon didn’t recoil in fear. He wasn’t filled with joy, either. And it seems he didn’t notice the title by which the angel addressed him. Instead, he seized on the angel’s first five words.
If the Lord is with us, Gideon asked, why has he handed us over to the Midianites?
The angel assured Gideon that God was, at that moment, raising up a military leader to deliver Israel from the ravaging Midianites. And that mighty warrior was Gideon himself.
Gideon’s response reflects disbelief. “Please, Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Look, my family is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in the my father’s house” (Judg 6:15). Gideon had no credentials, no experience, and no standing in the Israelite community. He was about as unlikely a military leader as you’ll ever find-but none of that mattered.
Gideon made the mistake that many people make when God calls them to action. He believed success depended on the one being called instead of on the One doing the calling. God quieted Gideon’s concerns with six simple words: “But I will be with you” (Judg 6:16).
Gideon still needed more convincing. He asked God to confirm his calling-and to prove his might-with a conspicuous sign. Gideon left a fleece on the ground overnight and asked God to make the evening dew settle only on the fleece, leaving the ground around it dry. The next morning, the fleece was soaked and the ground was dry.
Pushing his luck a bit, Gideon asked the Lord for one more conspicuous display of power. He left the fleece out overnight again. This time, though, Gideon asked the Lord to leave the fleece dry when the overnight dew settled over the rest of the land. The next morning, the ground was soaked and the fleece was dry.
Convinced, Gideon assembled an army of 32,000 men and went out to engage the Midianites and their allies in battle. At that point the Lord came to Gideon with another message: “You have too many people for Me to hand the Midianites over to you, or else Israel might brag: ‘I did it myself.” Now announce in the presence of the people: ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling may turn back and leave Mount Gilead” (Judg 7:2-3).
Twenty-two thousand men disqualified themselves on account of fear and trembling, leaving 10,000 to do battle against a fighting force described as being as innumerable as a “swarm of locusts” (judg 7:12).
But God wasn’t finished. He ordered Gideon to pare down his army even more, based on the way his men drank water from a stream. When the paring was done, Gideon was left with only 300 men. God said that was enough, and Gideon believed him.
He divided his men into three companies and equipped each soldier with a trumpet and a pitcher concealing a lighted torch. They sneaked into the Midianite camp under cover of darkness. At Gideon’s signal, the men blew their trumpets and smashed their pitchers.
The Midianites panicked. In the wild melee that followed, they attacked one another before fleeing in terror. Gideon and his men gave chase until they were finally able to end the Midianite threat once and for all. Thousands of Midianites fell to God’s force of Gideon and his 300 men.
Gideon returned from the battle a national hero. The IsraelitesJ begged him to rule over them as king. Even in victory, though, Gideon knew his place. “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you” (Judg 8:23).