Gideon Meets Jesus

In Judges 6, Jesus Christ appears as “the angel [or messenger] of the Lord” from Heaven. His visit is to one man, Gideon, who is hiding out, threshing wheat in a winepress. This would indicate absolute poverty, because he must have had little wheat to thresh, in a small walled winepress instead of an open area, with no wind to help separate the edible from the inedible parts of the grain. This would also indicate fear, because he is literally hiding for his life, trying to get enough food to survive during what felt like the apocalyptic end of the world. In a bit of comedic satire, Jesus calls Gideon, “O mighty man of valor.” 

In meeting Gideon, we are introduced to a man who, from the beginning, struggles with fear and anxiety. No less than seven times Gideon’s fear is mentioned, with most in this opening chapter of his life. The most frequent command in the Bible in some form or fashion is “fear not,” and often nearby God says in some manner the same thing that Jesus says to Gideon: “The LORD is with you[.]” Bible commentators tend to criticize Gideon for his ongoing struggles with fear and anxiety, but the truth is that many people also struggle, and he’s a lot like us. In the Gideon story, we see that courage is not the absence of fear but rather the overcoming of fear. This is made possible when we, as believers like Gideon, remember that God is for us, goes with us, and rules over us so that we are not alone. In the same way, imagine walking alone through a dangerous inner city late at night, and then consider how differently you would feel if escorted by armed soldiers assigned to protect you? God repeatedly reminds us that, when we are fearful, it is often because we have forgotten that He is with us. When Moses demonstrated similar fear at his calling from God, God also told him, “I will be with you.” 

Gideon’s fear arises when Jesus responds to his whining about his life with the plan to send Gideon to lead a counteroffensive, exchanging farming for fighting. Gideon responds in fear, likely rightly saying that his clan (extended family) is the smallest, and he’s the runt in the litter. Nonetheless, Jesus promises the secret to success: “I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites[.]” God promises victory will come, and Gideon struggles to believe it. In the same way, the Bible is clear that, in the end, King Jesus will return to defeat all His foes and ours, but we often struggle to live in faith believing those promises. 

Gideon is the only judge in the book to whom Jesus speaks directly. Nonetheless, unsure of his calling, Gideon then asks for a “sign” from Jesus to prove He is the Lord and what He says is true. On one hand, Gideon may be showing unbelief, since He’s asking Jesus for a sign just like the scribes and Pharisees would many years later. On the other hand, Gideon may be a brand-new believer, and the thought of one poor small farmer leading an army against an alliance of trained soldiers from multiple surrounding nations that had ruled their land for seven oppressive years understandably brings some fear. However, Gideon also has some faith, as he asks Jesus for a sign and eventually obeys. Gideon is a lot like us – a mixture of faith and fear in trusting God’s promises and commands. Even though Jesus says, “you will not die,” Gideon struggles to fully trust the Lord in obedience. If we are honest, none of us has consistently responded to God’s call on our lives to do difficult, if not seemingly impossible, things, with pure faith that lacked any doubt or fear. In studying Gideon, the Bible commentators are consistently critical of his mixture of fear with faith – but I doubt most of them have ever been sent untrained into war. It is a lot easier to criticize Gideon from the safe confines of a library than do what he did and, in war, literally risk your life and the lives of other men. 

Jesus graciously gives Gideon a supernatural sign, and, after the miracle, Jesus disappears. Jesus treats Gideon like He treats us; knowing we are struggling to trust Him, He sometimes shows up in miraculous or providential ways. Gideon responds in faith and worship: “Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, The LORD Is Peace.” 

Throughout life, there are many days that we do not remember. There are a few days, however, that we will never forget. For Gideon, this is one of those days.  

Think back on a time when God revealed Himself to you amid difficult circumstances.

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