“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. 12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. 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. 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? 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. 16 And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.” (Judges 6:11-16)
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, but he did not look tired. Perhaps he was just being curious as he sat down to rest, and to watch Gideon, the son of Joash, at work, who was busy threshing wheat by a winepress.
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. Only scared people tried to hide their work.
The Stranger knew that something was wrong with the situation before him. He was correct in his assessment of the moment. For Gideon, a member of the Abiezer family in the tribe of Manasseh, these were distressing days. The Midianites had come to the area to devour all the food supply, much like a flood of refugees, or illegal aliens might destroy a nation’s resources in any generation. People would thresh what little food they could find into a pressing tub, which was nothing more than a hole that had been dug out or cut in the rock.
It was a sad situation that was presented for the Stanger’s consideration. Life had reduced this man to very humble circumstances, with limited resources. He and his nation were surrounded on every side by enemies. What Gideon did not realize, was that he was not really alone in the circumstances of life. His income was gone. He had little hope for the future. Still, he was not alone, for nearby, under the Oak Tree sat Jehovah God Himself in a visible self-revelation. But God was a Stranger in the land. The Lord was a Stranger to Gideon. However, that was about to change. Suddenly, the Stranger spoke. “Gideon, Jehovah is with thee, thou brave hero.”
Some Bible commentators have seen in these words a Divine sense of humor, bordering on sarcasm. Gideon was not a brave hero. Not at this moment in time. In fact, Gideon was a poor and fearful 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.
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 dark thoughts of God are harsh.
It is easy to believe in a God of love when all is going right. But God wants 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.
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 saw no possibility of escaping the hardships of time. Gideon was a man without hope.
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. The Stranger continued to look 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 call this a theophany which is a personal manifestation of God prior to His incarnation.
Gideon perceived that He was speaking to Someone who was not mere man. But how was it possible, that he, Gideon, could be used as a military 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? The answer of the Lord came. “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. A divine promise has been made. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5) God is a gentleman. He keeps His word.
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 in order to comfort and encourage our hearts. But we must learn to listen to the voice of God through His Word, by His Spirit, in His Church.
Third, while individuals do not always know why the Lord allows bad things to happen, there is a purpose. There are no accidents in the life of a Christian. There are only instances of divine faithfulness through testing. Some of our trials are a great mystery, and God is under no obligation to explain Himself, and usually does not. The “Why?” question of Gideon goes unanswered. (Judges 6:13) God does not argue with His creation, but He will command it. So Gideon was told what to do.
Fourth, because Gideon’s faith fluctuated, the Lord repeated His promise to be with His Man of Valor. “Gideon, have not I sent thee?” (Judges 6:14) “Gideon, surely I will be with thee.” (Judges 6:16)
With his courage renewed, a natural impulse surges through Gideon’s 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.
That is a lot of food for one person! But a grateful hearts wants to give, and give some more. Gideon brought the cooked food 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)
The Angel of the Lord then commanded Gideon to lay the food he prepared, 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, and fire came out of the rock and consumed the food.
Suddenly, the Angel of the Lord vanished out of sight. Gideon was left to wonder in amazement. “What did it all mean?” For Gideon, this transaction meant two truths.
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. If any needs a sign from God of His love, there is the Cross. Jesus Christ stretched out His arms in love and died to save sinners.
Second, his sacrificial gift had been accepted. The consuming fire ignited by the touch of God took the humble offering that Gideon had offered. The fear of Gideon was replaced by faith. (Judges 6:25-32)
Now, by way of application, in the life of every person there is a turning point where a critical revelation is made with far reaching repercussions.
Sometimes that important moment of revelation proves to be one of wonder, as when Gideon realized to whom he was speaking. Sometimes the revelation brings only heartache and sorrow as when the Rich Young Ruler was made aware of his covetousness. He went away from Jesus in sorrow.
On the night that Gideon had fellowship with the Stranger who sat under an oak tree, he reached a crossroad of life. Before him was set the revealed Lord, and made known to him was the will of God. Would Gideon believe and obey the Lord’s will? What would he do with this moment of revelation?
Perhaps today is your moment of decision. You are facing a great challenge in life. You are facing this challenge with fear of the future, and no faith in God. You are simply existing from day to day, without hope, and with a heart full of anger and apprehension. The life of Gideon reminds us that we are not alone. You are not alone. God is present in your hour of need. But you must reach out to Him in faith, and listen to His word. Then, you must obey His royal commands.
If this is your situation, I am going to invite you to call upon the Lord afresh. Offer the Lord your life, your love, and your heart. He will accept your offering, in this very hour, and you can know that the Lord will go with you to fight your battles.
You might be fighting a battle with loneliness, or a loss of some sort. It may be a battle with a besetting sin. It may be a battle with finances. It may be a battle with depression, or disappointment.
The life of Gideon tells us to have faith in the Lord. The future is as bright as the promises of God.