This chapter tells about the calling of the great warrior-judge Gideon. When we meet him, the people of Israel are repeating their familiar cycle of sin for the fourth time. As before, they had seen God deliver them through the ministry and leadership of a judge, but they again sinned against His mercy in turning back to the worship of idols, bowing down before the altars and images of false gods.
Predictably, the Lord allowed them to be overpowered and bullied, this time by the Midianites. The oppression was so severe that some of the Israelites had to abandon their farms to hide in the hills, living in caves and standing by helplessly as the Midianites stole their crops. This went on for seven years before God’s wayward people thought to turn back to Him and cry out for help. Before God sent a judge to deliver them He sent a preacher to expose their sin (v.7-10).
The first time we encounter Gideon, the Lord calls him a “mighty man of valor” (v.12). Gideon didn’t look very mighty, hunkered down in a winepress, hiding from the enemy. While he expressed his doubts and insecurities, the Lord kept building him up: “The Lord is with you” (v.12), “Go use your might to save Israel” (v.14), “I will be with you and you shall strike the Midianites” (v.16). God often calls those who are weak and then shows Himself to be strong through them. He delights in using “the least” (v.15) to do His greatest work.
In a display of divine patience, the Lord gave Gideon miraculous signs to confirm His power: He consumed the sacrifice with fire from the rock (v.17-24) and granted the famous signs of the fleece (v.36-40). Notice that He did not rebuke Gideon for asking for these signs. God understands us. He knows we need assurance.
Before God gave Gideon command over an army, He gave him a smaller task in his own back yard. He was to desecrate and destroy the altars and idols of his father. Obedience in this private battle of competing spiritual convictions gave Gideon confidence in the great public battles he would lead. A well-worn adage says, “Before public victories for God, there must be private victories with God.”
If God could use Gideon to do His will, He can use anybody. Surrender your weakness, fear, and insecurity to Him today — and He will replace your inability with His ability. There is no limit to what He can do through you if you will trust Him and obey.