What man would not like to be addressed by a personal envoy of God (or by God Himself) as a “mighty man of valour?” (Or woman as a “mighty woman of valor”?) We only find that designation once in Holy writ, ascribed to a young Israelite of the tribe of Manasseh who, when the visitor from heaven found him, was threshing wheat on the winepress floor trying to stay out of sight of any Midianites, fierce and formidable oppressors of Israel during the days when Israel had abandoned God for Baal and God had abandoned Israel in judgement as “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)
No one was more taken back to hear himself called a “mighty man of valour” than Gideon would have been! He said, in essence, that he was a nobody from nowhere, (Ju.6:15) but God overruled his objections by affirming that He was going to use Gideon to deliver Israel from the Midianite oppressors and that Gideon need not fear for God said, “Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.” (6:16)
As we read further into this amazing saga, we learn that Gideon offered a sacrifice to God in response to this astounding commission. He then obeyed God’s directive to destroy an altar to Baal that Gideon’s father, Joash, had erected. Gideon carried out these instructions without delay, assisted by 10 men in an overnight operation, causing a community-wide stir when daylight appeared revealing Baal’s altar that had been demolished, triggering a movement on the part of the town folks to demand the perpetrator of this brashness to be stoned to death. Joash, backslidden as he was, intervened for his son Gideon, reasoning with the Baal worshippers that Baal, were he indeed god, could and should defend his own honor.
By now, Gideon was “all in!” He sounded a trumpet signaling that fellow Israelis assemble to assist in the pending offensive, sending the call out to the tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali. In the meantime, he sought full-proof confirmation from his Commander in Chief, Almighty God, that He was still and ever with him in this gargantuan endeavor, asking that a fleece of wool would be wet with dew in the morning while all the ground around it would be dry; then, the next night, he asked that the fleece would be dry while all the ground around it would be wet in the morning. “And God did so that night.” Gideon was now ready to engage the Midianites.
32,000 Israelis had responded to Gideon’s call to assemble, but God told the mighty man that there were far too many men there because, after God had given them the victory, they would march home and would “vaunt themselves against me, saying, mine own hand hath saved me.” (7:2) Therefore, God instructed Gideon to send any man who had the least qualm about the impending conflict back home, and 22,000 took him up on that offer, leaving still too many men. So, God gave Gideon an ingenious plan to separate soldiers into two groups as they assembled at waters’ edge for a cool drink. One group would consist of men who lapped the water from the brook into their mouths with one hand while keeping their heads battle alert as they drank. The other group of men consisted of those who, when drinking, bent down on their hands and knees and were, while drinking, oblivious momentarily to their surrounding environment. The latter group was dismissed, leaving only 300 men to take on, in a matter of hours, an army that looked like grasshoppers for the multitude of it, with 1,000 camels to help lead the advance!
One more confirmation, a dream overheard by Gideon and his trusted servant Phurah, on the eve of the battle when, following orders from God, they had advanced close to the Midianites’ camp where they overheard a Midianite soldier sharing a dream that he had in which a barely cake tumbled down a hill rolling into the Midianite camp, flattening a tent. Gideon knew the interpretation of that dream as a confirmation that the host of the Midianites would soon be put to chase in a staggering victory for the Israelis.
That was it! Gideon, meeting with his men, divided them into three groups of 100 soldiers each, giving each soldier a trumpet, a pitcher and a lamp, telling them that on a given signal, Gideon blowing his trumpet, they should all blow their trumpets, break their pitchers and shout, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” The result: self-destruction by the 120,000 Midianite soldiers and a complete routing of them by Gideon’s band.
If I could end the story here it would be perfect, but the Bible does not end it here. Gideon, wisely refuses, though riding the crest of victory, to accede to the nation’s request that he become their ruler. (8:22) Then, in a stunning and bewildering turn of events, Gideon requests that the Israeli soldiers collect all the gold earrings worn by their defeated enemies along with the gold chains that adorned the necks of the Midianites’ camels. It was done almost as soon as the battle was over, and incomprehensibly Gideon, with the massive deposit of gold at his disposal, cast an image of Baal and placed it in a prominent place in his home town! We are then told (8:27) that all Israel went a whoring once again after the golden ephod “which became a snare to Gideon and to his house.”
The narrative regarding Gideon ends sadly with the story revealing that this once mighty man of valour took to himself “many wives” by which he would sire 70 sons who in time would all be slain by one of their brethren. (9:16).
My blog of June 29 was about the “mystery of iniquity.” This sad Old Testament tale underscores the truth expounded in that post. How could Gideon, so singularly used of God to defeat the Midianite oppressors, turn and cause his family and nation to again worship a god that was no god? The only explanation is “the mystery of iniquity.” Sin and its allurement, promising pleasure and producing pain, is inexplicable apart from the realization that spiritual warfare against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places is a reality to be reckoned with! By the way, Gideon is mentioned in the Hebrews 11 “hall of faith,” a list of faithful men and women of God of old. We will see Gideon and know him in heaven. Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. This amazing story tells us that God can use anyone to do whatever He chooses to do. There are no obstacles to our great God and He can and does often choose to use the weakest of human vessels to accomplish herculean tasks for His own glory. But because God has used you (or anyone) to advance His cause and kingdom in a marvelous manner, do not assume that you have earned any right to “call your own shots” pursuant to those victories. Mighty men (and women) can be set aside for service just as they were separated for service when they choose to make unwise and unscriptural decisions. Stay in His Word and in tune to His Spirit. Do not assume past victories assure future blessings. Avoid all of your life-long days the “mystery of iniquity.”