This is part two in a series on Gideon. See the first post.
The story of Gideon in Judges 6-7 is a study in contrast around the theme of fear. For our fear-filled lives, we need to learn from the Gideon we see cowering in a wine press driven by the wrong kind of fear – the fear of what man can do against him. By the end of the story, Gideon has been energized by a different kind of fear – the fear of God who can do all things through His mighty arm. But moving from fearing man to fearing God is not an easy path.
Gideon’s story begins with a desperate circumstance confronting a fearful and powerless servant. Repeatedly, Midianites had come against Gideon and his people ruthlessly, dealing death, dispensing destruction, and devastating the hope of the nation. Though we don’t face literal Midianites, we all have found ourselves in Gideon’s spot – feeling fearful and powerless facing what seems like a hopeless circumstance.
Then God spoke into the story. A prophet came with a word from God that spoke hope, gave power, and promised deliverance. The prophet confronted Gideon and the nation with the real problem – failing to follow God’s Word. And now God would restore them provided they would heed His Word. A second messenger followed the first – this time an angel with a personal word for Gideon and with that word a new description – valor. By the end of the story Gideon has cut down the sacred grove of the chief idol in the region and summoned an entire army to gather to fight against the invading enemies. But this courage did not develop all at once – before Gideon could conquer Midianites he had to conquer his fear and that would prove the more difficult task.
Gideon’s talk with the Angel of the Lord resulted in enough faith to summon ten of his servants and cut down the idol grove that belonged to his family. But this faith was indeed small – it was not daylight faith but hidden in the night. However, God honored this small faith that produced this fearful obedience and from such small beginnings faith began to grow. And so did the task from God.
Having feared God more than fearing his own father’s house, Gideon must now face a new and greater fear – that of an entire army of Midianites. And while his faith was stronger, there was more growing to do, and that growth required God’s gracious patience with a doubting servant whose doubt was expressed in sheepskins! There is an interesting detail however that we easily overlook in this story – though fearing, Gideon acts in belief even before he sets out the fleece. Gideon summons the army to gather and then he sets out the fleece to see whether God will really deliver Israel through Gideon’s hand. And that is how faith often grows – it learns to obey in spite of fear. And God graciously honors our trembling obedience with gracious confirmation and with eventual victory.
But that is a story for another post.