When God called Gideon to deliver the people of Israel from the Midianites, he was a coward, an unbeliever, and had a negative self-concept. But, after God gave a crushing victory over the enemy, we discover a brave Gideon, courageous and fully confident in the power of God. In this article I want to look at how God raised Gideon as the leader of the Israelite army and judge of Israel and what principles we can learn for making disciples. We will study Judges, chapters 6-8.
1. Encourages him
When the angel of God came to Gideon, he was threshing wheat in the press, for fear of the Midianites. Every time the Israelites sowed crops, the enemy would come and plunder their crops. Here is how the Angel greeted him:
“And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, valiant warrior.” (Judges 6:12)(NASB).
God calls the fearful Gideon brave before he becomes truly brave. Words of encouragement are very necessary in working with people. They develop a sense of trust. Even if our disciples have not yet accomplished anything, let us always tell them that with God they will accomplish great things.
2. Teaches him to trust in God
Gideon’s response to the angel’s greeting was sharp and full of frustration toward God.
“Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did the Lord not bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to Midian.” (Judges 6:13)(NASB).
It is obvious that Gideon did not know the Word of God, because if he knew it, he would know that God gave the Jews into the hands of the enemies because of their idolatry and disobedience. Therefore, the Angel of the Lord does not argue with Gideon, but immediately tells him what to do:
“And the Lord looked at him and said, “Go in this strength of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” (Judges 6:14)(NASB)
God chooses a simple young man, Gideon, to deliver Israel from the hand of the enemy, whose army was as numerous as the “sand of the sea.” Gideon was powerless, but the fact that God sent him guaranteed his victory. We too have been commissioned to make disciples of all nations and to reconcile people with God. Of course, the mission is impossible, but with God everything is possible. This truth must motivate us and our disciples.
3. Insists, doesn’t give in
Although God called him and assured him of His presence, Gideon apologizes for not having the necessary abilities and resources.
“But he said to Him, “O Lord, how am I to save Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15)(NASB)
But God does not give in and promises Him once more that He will be with Him and give Him victory:
“Yet the Lord said to him, “I will certainly be with you, and you will defeat Midian as one man.” (Judges 6:16)(NASB).
Let us not give up when our disciples apologize for not being able to finish one task or another out of a lack of knowledge or resources. When God sends someone to work, let us teach them not to have high demands, but to start working with the few resources they have. God says to everyone – “Go with this power you have.”
4. Gives him a task
Before sending him to fight against the Midianites, God gave Gideon a commission to take the altars of Baal and Astarte from his father’s house and build an altar to the Lord in their place.
“Now on the same night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and tear down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it; and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly way, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.” (Judges 6:25-26)(NASB).
Gideon obeyed God, took 10 men with him, and did as the Lord commanded him. On the one hand, God tested Gideon’s obedience to Him. On the other hand, this experience raised Gideon and helped him overcome his fear and trust in God. After this incident, we read how Gideon was clothed with the Spirit of the Lord when he found out that the enemy’s army had surrounded the land. He took the initiative and called on the tribes of Israel to go and fight with him.
“So the Spirit of the Lord covered Gideon like clothing; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him. And he sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him; and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they came up to meet them.” (Judges 6:34-35)(NASB).
Many times, our disciples stagnate in growth because we do not give them responsibilities. We can never know their abilities without giving them some practical tasks. It may come as a surprise to them when they discover what God can do through them.
5. Tolerates his immaturity
Although it seems that at this stage, Gideon has already matured in his walk with God, his next gesture speaks the opposite. Gideon puts God to the test with a fleece. He begins his negotiations with the phrase: “If you want to save Israel through me, as you said…” Didn’t Gideon know that God wanted to deliver Israel out of His hand? He obviously knew, but he refused to believe in God from the Word.
“behold, I am putting a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will save Israel through me, as You have spoken.” (Judges 6:37)(NASB).
This fact indicated his spiritual immaturity. However, God is patient with him and pleases him. And we must arm ourselves patiently and tolerate the immaturity of our disciples. Be ready to go down to their level and serve them when needed.
6. He gives him clear instructions
After strengthening him in his calling, God now teaches Gideon how to choose his soldiers with whom to go to battle. We read in Judges 7:2-7 how God gives him very clear instructions. Out of 22,000 people, Gideon is left with only 300. He first sends the cowards home and then the ones who cleared the water from the river, like dogs. The cowards and those looking for comfort had nothing to look for in Gideon’s team. God’s work often involves persecution and shortages, so we need to make our disciples aware of these realities and have courageous people in our team who are fully dedicated to the work of the Gospel.
7. He defeats the enemy
As promised, God went with Gideon in this battle and gave him a crushing victory over the Midianites. In fact, Gideon with the 300 brave men did not even fight, but they witnessed how God fought for them. Their weapons of war were pitchers, trumpets and torches. That’s all. Their strength and bravery was their trust in God. Gideon’s personal example influenced 300 people who trusted in God’s power. We cannot be disciples of the Lord Jesus without becoming an example to them. We need to involve them in the ministry and show them our own example of trusting in God so that they can experience the Lord’s victories.
8. Gave him freedom of choice
When he reached the peak of his success as a deliverer and received the appreciation of the people, Gideon made a wrong move, which disqualified him as national leader. From the gold of Midian he made an ephod, and put it in his house, and made it a place for fornication to all the people.
“The weight of the gold earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, apart from the crescent amulets, the ear pendants, and the purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and apart from the neck chains that were on their camels’ necks. Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah; but all Israel committed infidelity with it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his household. (Judges 8:26-27)(NASB).
The ephod was the garment worn only by priests, and its place was in the house of God, not in the house of Gideon. Gideon took this step out of lack of knowledge of God’s Word. It was his responsibility to study God’s law. And although God formed him as a leader and did a great work through him, He still gave him free choice.
It’s a lesson for all of us. No matter how beautiful the works God does in our lives, we must always be vigilant to follow His Word closely. Let us not live on the victories of the past. The daily knowledge of God will provide us with victory over sin and provide us with rich fruits for His Kingdom.
Translated by Nicoleta Vicliuc