1Then once again the Israelites started disobeying the Lord, so he let the nation of Midian control Israel for seven years. 2The Midianites were so cruel that many Israelites ran to the mountains and hid in caves.
3Every time the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites invaded Israel together with the Amalekites and other eastern nations. 4-5They rode in on their camels, set up their tents, and then let their livestock eat the crops as far as the town of Gaza. The Midianites stole food, sheep, cattle, and donkeys. Like a swarm of locusts, they could not be counted, and they ruined the land wherever they went.
6-7The Midianites took almost everything that belonged to the Israelites, and the Israelites begged the Lord for help. 8-9Then the Lord sent a prophet to them with this message:
I am the Lord God of Israel, so listen to what I say. You were slaves in Egypt, but I set you free and led you out of Egypt into this land. And when nations here made life miserable for you, I rescued you and helped you get rid of them and take their land. 10I am your God, and I told you not to worship Amorite gods, even though you are living in the land of the Amorites. But you refused to listen.
The Lord Chooses Gideon
11One day an angel from the Lord went to the town of Ophrah and sat down under the big tree that belonged to Joash, a member of the Abiezer clan. Joash's son Gideon was nearby, threshing grain in a shallow pit, where he could not be seen by the Midianites.
12The angel appeared and spoke to Gideon, “The Lord is helping you, and you are a strong warrior.”
13Gideon answered, “Please don't take this wrong, but if the Lord is helping us, then why have all of these awful things happened? We've heard how the Lord performed miracles and rescued our ancestors from Egypt. But those things happened long ago. Now the Lord has abandoned us to the Midianites.”
14Then the Lord himself said, “Gideon, you will be strong, because I am giving you the power to rescue Israel from the Midianites.”
15Gideon replied, “But how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest one in Manasseh, and everyone else in my family is more important than I am.”
16“Gideon,” the Lord answered, “you can rescue Israel because I am going to help you! Defeating the Midianites will be as easy as beating up one man.”
17Gideon said, “It's hard to believe that I'm actually talking to the Lord. Please do something so I'll know that you really are the Lord. 18And wait here until I bring you an offering.”
“All right, I'll wait,” the Lord answered.
19Gideon went home and killed a young goat, then started boiling the meat. Next, he opened a big sack of flour and made it into thin bread. When the meat was done, he put it in a basket and poured the broth into a clay cooking pot. He took the meat, the broth, and the bread and placed them under the big tree.
20God's angel said, “Gideon, put the meat and the bread on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” Gideon did as he was told. 21The angel was holding a walking stick, and he touched the meat and the bread with the end of the stick. Flames jumped from the rock and burned up the meat and the bread.
When Gideon looked, the angel was gone. 22Gideon realized that he had seen one of the Lord's angels. “Oh!” he moaned. “Now I'm going to die.”
23“Calm down!” the Lord told Gideon. “There's nothing to be afraid of. You're not going to die.”
24Gideon built an altar for worshiping the Lord and called it “The Lord Calms Our Fears.” It still stands there in Ophrah, a town in the territory of the Abiezer clan.
Have you ever been in the place where Gideon was where everything looks bleak? The Israelites were sorely oppressed. When Gideon experiences a miraculous event, he is initially deeply cynical. There are many cynical people in our society who will not believe any promises of something good happening and most of us are far from being oppressed to the point of starvation. How would you respond if someone you did not know came and called you a “strong warrior”? Would you respond with a smart response?
God sees things in us that we do not see ourselves. Sometimes he calls us to things that seem beyond us. What we learn from the story of Gideon is that God can call the least of the least even when everything looks grim.
It takes a lot for Gideon to believe that the angel of the Lord is the real deal. When he does, he is overwhelmed. Would it surprise you to find God calling on you to follow him bravely and courageously, to be his “strong warrior”? Would you have to overcome your own cynicism about life? God calls each of us every day to be courageous followers of Jesus Christ.
Dear Father God,
Please help me to overcome my cynicism and overcome my doubts and be strong for you. Help me to be the kind of person that calms people’s fears. Through Jesus Christ, who is my strength and who calms my fears. Amen.