Summary: When everything they had tried had turned out wrong, and when all had seemed lost, the Israelites cried out to God for help. By grace, God heard the cry of His people and intervened to raise up a leader who could both judge and lead His people.
The year was 1150 B.C. and the Israelites were in terrible circumstances. The military strength that they once had was no longer there and their enemies, the Midianites, had stolen most of their possessions.
When everything they had tried had turned out wrong, and when all had seemed lost, the Israelites cried out to God for help. By grace, God heard the cry of His people and intervened to raise up a leader who could both judge and lead His people.
For seven years the Midianites had oppressed Israel. Because the Israelite people had turned away from God, He used the Midianites to get Israel’s attention. For seven consecutive harvests, the Midianites and their allies had plundered Israel. They had swept across the land taking both livestock and crops. The Israelites had become a nation in poverty and they began to seek God once again.
In the 6th chapter of Judges we learn that God sent an angel to call Gideon to deliver Israel from the Midianites. The angel told Gideon that God had selected him to be Israel’s leader and the one who would deliver the Israelite people from the Midianites.
Gideon was shocked! He felt so unworthy and incapable. He didn’t want to do it. He began to make excuses and cite all the reasons why he was the wrong choice and could not be successful. Why call me? My family is very poor, and besides that, I am the least in my father’s house! God’s answer to Gideon was the same answer that he had given to Moses earlier when Moses didn’t want to accept the calling of God. He said, “Surely I will be with thee.” And here at Mountain View Union Church this morning, God tells you and I the same thing.
In verse 17 Gideon said, “If now I have found grace in thy sight, then show me a sign that thou talkest to me.” In verse 18 he asked the angel of God, “Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee.” The angel answered and said, “I will tarry until thou come again. Gideon, like Moses, wanted and needed a reassuring sign, and God did not fail him.
Gideon wanted to see if God would accept his offering. He prepared an offering of goat and cakes and put it in a basket along with the broth in a pot, and brought it out to the angel that sat under the oak tree.
The angel instructed Gideon to place the basket upon the rocks and to pour the broth over it. Fire came out of the rock and consumed the sacrifice. Gideon realized that truly the Lord had called, but still he was afraid. God encouraged Gideon to overcome his fears and to follow his calling by faith.
25. And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it:
26. And build an altar unto the Lord thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.
27. Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the Lord had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night.
That night, in obedience to the Lord, Gideon destroyed an altar which his father had erected to the false God, Baal, and the wooden image beside it, and instead erected another altar, but this time to Jehovah. In the morning that followed, the men of the city were ready to kill him for his bold act, but his father, Joash, intervened, saying that if Baal were truly a God, he should be able to defend himself.
Some people might fault Gideon for tearing down the altar at night because of fear, but we must not lose sight of the fact that he did obey the Lord. All of us have fear, and fear in and of itself, is not necessarily wrong. It is when it keeps us from obeying the Lord that it becomes an obstacle to faith and is sin.
The Midianites and their two allies occupied the large valley of Jezreel, and it was from that fertile region that they could launch their raids. Now, for the 8th consecutive year, they crossed the Jordan intent on stealing and plundering the crops and possessions of the Israelite people.