lessons up till now have been in the book of Joshua. Now we get acquainted
with the next book, Judges. Many years had passed since the Battle of
Jericho. Joshua and all the men of his time had died. The children of
Israel were now living in the land which God had given them. What land
was that? (Canaan). The Israelites had won many battles and driven out
many enemies, but they had not always been obedient. God had said, “Drive
out ALL the heathen nations before you, and then you will have the land
for yourselves.” But they had not done this. They allowed some of
the heathen nations to stay in the land, and this got them into trouble.
These other nations became very strong, and then they fought against Israel..
God had told the Israelites that they were never to mix with these nations,
or marry into them, or turn to their idols—but they did. Instead
of teaching the nations about the one true, living God who had led them,
Israel began to turn to the idols of other nations.
When the children of Israel went their own way in disobedience, God allowed
the heathen nations around them to march in and take possession of the
land. One of these nations was Midian. There were so many people in this
nation that the Bible says “The Midianites were like grasshoppers
for multitude.” First the Midianites came with all their tents,
cattle, sheep, and camels and camped along the borders of Israel. The
Midianite flocks and herds grazed in the pasture-lands of Israel; then
they began to rob the Israelites of the food that grew in Israel’s
fields and vineyards; and finally they even crowded the Israelites out
of their homes and drove them away to hide in dens and caves in the valleys.
What a time of trouble this was!
As at other times when trouble came upon them, now the Israelites remembered
God and cried again to him for help. In answer to their prayer, God sent
a prophet to remind them of the wonderful things He had done in the past.
When Christians are discouraged, it helps to remember the things that
God has done for us.
One day after the prophet had spoken to the people, an Israelite named
Gideon was threshing wheat in a wine-press to hide it from the Midianites
so they could not take it away from him.
Gideon had very little wheat, for he had no oxen to thresh it; and he
was so fearful of the enemy that he threshed not on the barn floor, but
in the wine-press. While Gideon worked, the angel of the Lord appeared
to him and said unto him, “The Lord is with thee, mighty warrior.”
(KJV says “Thou mighty man of valor.”) Gideon did not know
at first that his visitor was from heaven.
The Lord looked upon Gideon and said, “Go in the strength you have
and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you? (KJV
says, “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the
hand of the Midianites; have not I sent thee?”
It is clear that the angel was the Lord Jesus himself before he came to
the earth. This is known as a theophany,. (Christ has always been with
God the Father long before the creation of the world, and in Old Testament
times appeared sometimes as an angel.)
Gideon answered, “How can I do such a great work? For I am of a
poor family, and am the least in my father’s house.” Gideon
felt powerless, didn’t he?
Then the Lord said unto him, “I will be with you, and you will strike
down the Midianites as if they were but one man.” (KJV says, “Surely
I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.”)
Now Gideon was not the kind of man that Israel would have chosen for a
leader. Gideon had faith in God, but his faith was weak; yet God chose
this man for his work and then equipped him with the Spirit for the task.
Gideon had been so greatly discouraged because of the troubles and poverty
of his people that he was not very quick to believe the Lord’s word.
Perhaps he thought it seemed too wonderful to be true that God would use
him to bring about such a deliverance. So he asked for a sign from the
angel. He said, “If you will remain here until I return again and
bring you a present, then I will believe that you have surely spoken to
me the words of God.” So the angel waited until Gideon returned
with some food, then, instead of eating it, the angel told Gideon to place
the meat and bread upon a rock nearby and to pour out the broth. Gideon
obeyed, and the angel touched the meat and bread with the staff that he
carried in his hand. Like a flash the rock flamed up in fire and burned
the meat and bread. And the angel disappeared out of sight.
Then Gideon knew that it had been the Lord who had been there with him,
and he was afraid he would die because he had seen God face to face. But
the Lord spoke to him and comforted him.
Now the people where Gideon lived were worshiping the idol called Baal.
Even Gideon’s father had an altar of Baal standing in his yard.
The Lord spoke to Gideon again the same night and told him to tear this
altar down and destroy the trees nearby where the people bowed down before
the images of Baal.
Gideon knew the people would be angry if they should see him tearing down
their idol, so he waited until night, and then he called some servants
to help him. He cut down the grove of trees where they worshiped the idol
and threw down the altar of Baal. A new altar was built to the living
God and a sacrifice was offered.
When the people of the neighborhood came the next morning to worship Baal
they found Baal’s altar torn down—and all the places to bow
down before him—lying in ruins. When they learned that Gideon had
done this, they said, “Bring him here and we will put him to death,
because he has done this.”
But Gideon’s father bravely said, “If Baal is a god, he is
able to take care of himself and protect his own altar.” Could Baal
do this? Why not? (Of course he could not do that because he was only
a god made of wood or stone.)
When the people saw that Baal could not harm the one who destroyed his
altar, they were no longer angry with Gideon. Perhaps they felt foolish
because they had been worshiping such a god.
Judges 6, verse 34 says, “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon
Gideon.” (This means “clothed Gideon.” God’s Spirit
enveloped Gideon so that he became the instrument used of the Spirit in
accomplishing God’s purpose.) After this happened, Gideon sent messengers
to the different part of the land and called the soldiers of Israel together.
But first, Gideon wanted to be very sure that God would be with him before
he tried to drive the Midianites away. So he asked again for a sign from
God. This time he placed a piece of wool at nightfall on a smooth floor
where no roof had been built overhead. Gideon asked God to cause only
the fleece of wool to become wet with dew. When morning came, he found
the ground dry everywhere, but the fleece of wool was covered with dew.
Gideon wrung a bowlful of water out of it.
Still Gideon was not satisfied. He prayed that God might not be angry
with him if he should ask the third time for a sign. Now he placed the
fleece of wool out as before, and he asked God to cause the dew to lie
everywhere except on the fleece. And when morning came the fleece was
dry while the ground about it was wet. Then Gideon believed that surely
God was ready to help him. Notice that God was patient in spite of Gideon’s
doubts, and the Lord strengthened his confidence. Do you know what it
is to get discouraged sometimes?
Maybe a stack of dishes looks so big you think you
will never get them washed!
Perhaps a lesson looks so long you think you can never
get it done.
Maybe a memory verse looks hard, and you get discouraged
and don’t even try to learn it.
How can we overcome discouragement? By looking to the Lord and believing
what He says in the Scriptures rather than feeling sorry for ourselves.
God’s Word will make us strong. That is why we learn verses from
the Bible. We can say them when we get discouraged, and God uses His Word
to give us courage.
For example, the Lord promises to never leave nor forsake Christians,
and we know from Phillipians 1:6 that Christians can be “confident
of this very thing, that the Lord who has begun a good work in us will
perform it until the day of Christ. (until His return.)
If you’ve never believed in Jesus Christ, God is merciful to sinners.
Call upon Him today to forgive your sins.
Father, we praise you that you know our thoughts—all our ways—you
know our faults, and our personality. You know every situation we are
in just as you knew Gideon’s fears when he was hiding by the wine-press.
Thank you for the account of Gideon and the way you gave him courage.
May you give us courage each day as we walk with You. If there is one
who has not yet trusted in Jesus as Savior, I pray you will enable them
to do this today. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
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