“And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.
And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds. And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.” (Judges 6:1-5)
Forty years after Shamgar, Deborah and Barak had delivered Israel from the Philistines and Canaanites, the younger generation came into power with no real understanding of the part God had played in their past, and no consciousness of the importance of obeying his word. As a result, God turned them over to the Midianites, one of the groups descended from Esau for seven years to learn the consequences of disobedience.
The Midianites and their nomadic relatives the Amalekites made repeated raids on Israel, destroying homes and crops and forcing the people to take shelter in the caves and overhangs of the mountains. Their goal was to destroy the land, and brought vast herds livestock and people to strip the land.
“And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD. And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites, That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land; And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.” (Judges 6:6-10)
After seven years, Israel was destitute. They finally accepted that only by depending on God fully could they hope to regain their former state. When they finally were willing to make that commitment, God sent a prophet to remind them of his covenant and what he had done for them in the past. People are usually unwilling to acknowledge God’s claims until they are convinced that they are going to lose everything. Only then are they willing to give up their own desires in exchange for some kind of hope.
“And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
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.” (Judges 6:11-13)
Hoping to keep the Midianites from taking or destroying what little wheat he had been able to salvage, Gideon had hidden it in the winepress and was secretly threshing it. He didn’t feel much like a hero or that the Lord was blessing him very much. God wasn’t doing miracles like the ones in the stories of the past and it seemed like God had deserted them. Almost every Christian has similar times of despair and depression in his life.
“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?” (Judges 6:14)
Gideon had been completely humiliated by his state. Now God told him that if he would go in that power he would save Israel from the Midianites because it was God who was sending him. In II Corinthians 12:10, Paul said, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” Only when we are fully aware of our own inadequacy are we able to fully comprehend and exercise the power of God. Our pride prevents us from accessing his power.
“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.
And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.” (Judges 6:15-16)
Gideon was fully aware of his own insufficiency. His family was one of the poorest in the tribe of Manasseh, and he was one of the least respected in his family. He was not a person who would be expected to deliver Israel. His humble circumstances would enable people to understand it was God that gave the victory rather than Gideon’s fighting ability.
“And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then show me a sign that thou talkest with me. Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee.
And he said, I will tarry until thou come again.
And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out unto him under the oak, and presented it.” (Judges 6:17-19)
Gideon then asked for reassurance that it was God who was speaking to him. This is an important step in following the Lord, because as Paul says in II Corinthians 11:13-15, not every message or messenger is from God. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” I John 4:1 commands, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
“And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight.
And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face.
And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.” (Judges 6:20-23)
In Luke 24:39 Jesus said, “…for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” In order to produce a physical effect, a spirit must get a living being to do it for him by influencing it‘s mind. That the Angel was able to physically burn up his offering himself indicated that he had the power of God. A Mormon man told me that because they have no physical body a Satanic spirit could be identified by the fact they could not shake hands. While he is right, they often take control of a person who can, so it is not a very useful test.
“Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.” (Judges 6:24)
What a difference between Gideon‘s and Barak‘s response to God‘s calling.