JUDGES 6: MIGHTY WARRIOR HACKS
HOW TO BECOME A MIGHTY WARRIOR
The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.
7 When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”
11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
“Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD…” (v.1). So, God gave them into the hands of one of their enemies, and once again “they cried out to the LORD for help” (v. 6). You’ve seen that before, right!? Forgive the repetition, and let me apologize in advance, because you’ll see it again…and again…and again in Judges. Remember, it’s a recurring theme! This go-round it’s a group of enemies, led by the Midianites, who are beating up on Israel, and life is unbearable! Their enemies are oppressing them so severely that the Israelites are close to starvation.
Enter Gideon, a most unlikely hero. When we first meet Gideon, he is threshing wheat in a winepress (v. 11). If you are unfamiliar with wheat threshing and winepresses, you could easily miss the humor of this scene. Threshing wheat in ancient times meant removing the wheat kernel from its husk by laying the grain on a hard surface and beating it with a stick to break open the husk. Then, with a winnowing fork, the wheat was thrown into the air, allowing the wind to blow away the husk and the kernel to fall to the ground.
Obviously, that is a more efficient process if done out in the open air. But, Gideon is threshing wheat in a winepress, which was a large pit dug out of rock. Grapes were poured into the pit, and people stomped on them until all the juice was mashed out, allowing the juice to flow through a trough where it was collected. A winepress was not the place to thresh wheat, but Gideon was so afraid the Midianites would steal his grain if they saw him that he was trying to hide from them.
Now, here’s the part of the story that is amusing. The LORD appeared to Gideon, saying, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” No doubt, Gideon was startled. He’s hiding, and this man appears out of nowhere. Gideon must have thought, “Who is this guy?” (He did not yet know it was the LORD). And calling Gideon a mighty warrior, Gideon must have thought, “Get real, sir! Me, a mighty warrior? You’ve got to be kidding. Yea, sure, I’m so mighty I’m hiding in this winepress, afraid of my own shadow.”
Although Gideon was unable to see himself as a mighty warrior, the LORD saw Gideon as he would be once God empowered him. And, indeed, not long afterward, “the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon” (vs.34 – the second time this expression appears in Judges), and he became the mighty warrior God saw him to be.
Gideon’s problem was that his eyes were only on himself and not on God. That’s the same problem many of us have. God calls us to serve him, but we don’t believe we are up for the task. The problem is not so much a lack of faith in ourselves as it is a lack of faith in God. We’d do well to read and re-read Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:20, which says that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Take it from Gideon—when you get your eyes off yourself and place them on the source of all strength, God will enable you to do more than you ever believed possible.
Father in heaven, why am I so quick to look to myself for strength and so slow to look to you? Forgive me for my slowness to come to you. Remind me that you have promised to work within me, and that you can do immeasurably more than I can ask or think. In Jesus' Name, Amen!
Dr. Dan Dozier
Dan Dozier preaches for the Rural Hill Church of Christ in Antioch, TN. Dr. Dozier holds degrees from Lipscomb University, Harding School of Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate from Abilene Christian University. He has been married to his high school sweetheart, JaneLee, since 1972. They have three married children and eight grandchildren.