Israel had been experiencing a period of judges, whom God used to turn the nation’s attention back to Him. God’s people were constantly influenced by the pagan tribes surrounding them and often guilty of worshiping other gods, which was a direct violation of His commandments. When Israel turned their hearts away from God, He allowed their enemies to oppress them until they finally cried out to Him for deliverance. God would respond to their cry by sending a judge to Israel who would free them from oppression and restore the nation’s relationship with Him. Here are the judges God had already used to turn Israel back to Him: Othniel (Judges 3:7-11), Ehud (Judges 3:12-30), Shamgar (Judges 3:31), and Deborah and Barak (Judges 4-5). Unfortunately, Israel would soon return to their evil ways after a judge would die.
After the time of Deborah and Barak (Judges 4-5), Israel had rest in the land for 40 years (Judges 5:31); however, the children of Israel “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (6:1a) and were oppressed by the Midianites for seven years (6:1b-2). This oppression was the worst they had faced during the time of the judges. During this seven-year oppression, Israel hid in caves/mountains out of fear (6:2); furthermore, during Israel’s harvest of their crops, the Midianites would destroy their food supply and leave them without any sustenance (6:3-6). Israel’s desperate situation caused them to cry out to the Lord and He sent a prophet to expose their sin and disobedience (6:7-10). About this same time that the prophet came to Israel, the Angel of the Lord (pre-incarnate Christ) appeared to Gideon who was threshing wheat in a hidden location so that the Midianites could not destroy it (6:11). The Angel said to Gideon, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (6:12). In response to the words of the Angel, Gideon said, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites” (6:13). Gideon refused to believe that God was with Israel because of their current circumstances, but the Angel assured Gideon that God was going to use him to deliver Israel from the oppression of the Midianites (6:14-16). Gideon was still skeptical about the words of the Angel so he requested a sign from God that he could lead Israel to victory over the Midianites (6:17). The Angel did give Gideon a sign by miraculously causing fire to come out of the rock where Gideon had placed an offering he had prepared for the Angel of the Lord (6:18-21). Upon witnessing this supernatural act of the Angel, Gideon realized that he had been in the presence of the Lord and built Him an altar as an act of worship (6:22-24).
On the same night Gideon built the altar, the Lord appeared to him and said, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old. Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it. Then build an altar to the LORD your God here on this hilltop sanctuary, laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down” (6:25-26, NLT). Gideon obeyed the word of the Lord and took ten men with him to carry out the command of the Lord (6:27). When the men of the city discovered what Gideon had done, they demanded that his father, Joash, bring him out so that they could kill him (6:28-30). Joash refused to bring out his son to the men of the city and told them that if Baal was real, he could take revenge on his own (6:31). From that day forward Gideon’s father referred to him as Jerubbaal, which means let Baal contend (6:32). Soon after this incident, the Midianites and Amalekites gathered themselves together to fight against Israel but the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and he quickly assembled an army of soldiers (6:33-35). Still having a few doubts concerning the outcome of this battle, Gideon asked God to provide another sign that He would give Israel the victory through him (6:36-40). Gideon laid out a fleece asking that it would be wet with dew the next morning, while the rest of the ground surrounding it is dry (6:36-37). God answered his request (6:38). Gideon then asked for another sign, but this time he asked that the fleece would be dry and the ground surrounding the fleece would be wet with dew (6:39). Once again, God answered Gideon’s request and proved that He would give Israel the victory by his hands (6:40). The actions of Gideon demonstrate that God understands our lack of faith and is sometimes willing to strengthen our faith through performing the miraculous.
Dear God, allow me to see a sign of Your presence with me.