Gideon, who lived approximately 1175-1100 BC, abruptly appears on the pages of Scripture when secretly he was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianite enemies. Looking up, Gideon sees the angel of the Lord sitting under an Oak tree (Judges 6:11). Israel had been worshiping idols for many years while being under God’s discipline for it through the Midianite armies who raided their lands regularly. The angel of the Lord gets straight to the point, the LORD is with you, O mighty man of valour… go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian (Judges 6:12-14).
Confronted with this incredible heavenly assignment, Gideon stands and argues as to why it has taken the Lord so long to come to the aide of idolatrous Israel. Furthermore, following his arguments of being an insignificant man, yet understanding who it was that was instructing him, Gideon says, if now I have found favour in your eyes, then show me a sign (Judges 6:17). Gideon promptly prepared a meal of Goat for he and the angel to enjoy. But the angel of the LORD reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight (Judges 6:21). That was convincing enough for Gideon.
Gideon immediately begins his campaign against Israel’s Midianite enemies with astounding success. However, Gideon never overcame his desire to see signs as evidence of God’s authenticity. Judges 6:33-7:40 records his double challenge for God to prove Himself by wetting and drying a woollen fleece unnaturally, to which the Lord obliged. Having his faith emboldened by this, and enabled by the Lord’s divine military interventions, Gideon led Israel into great victories over their enemies.
However, their remained hidden heart issues within Gideon which He never allowed the Lord to have victory over. One such issue was the matter of unforgiveness which led to revenge. When the leaders of Succoth and Penuel (Judges 8:5-8, 16-17) would not feed Gideon’s hungry army he threatens them and later returned to fulfil his violent threats.
The men of Israel later asked Gideon, rule over us?… since …you have saved us from the hand of Midian. But Gideon wisely responded, I will not rule over you… the LORD will rule over you (Judges 8:22-23). This was Gideon’s most righteous decision; he had learned his place under the sovereign rule of God.
Sadly, Gideon did not end the race of life well. Apart from having many wives, 70 sons, and a concubine (Jdg 8:29-31), he did not remain completely faithful to the Lord. Following his decline to national rulership, Gideon collected gold that his soldiers had gathered from the dead Midianites. From that gold he formed an “ephod.” This was some type of breastplate or mask used in idol worship (Jdg 8:24-26). He placed the ephod in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family (Judges 8:27 NIV).
We learn from Gideon that God’s presence is never based upon our worthiness but upon God’s gracious will. Gideon was a mixed bag. He had some great qualities of faith, and some equally shameful ones. Fortunately for Gideon, as for us, God was consistently gracious in all His dealings with him, as with us. Therefore, Hebrews 11:32 finds Gideon recorded amongst the great leaders of faith.