Gideon Tears Down
25That night the Lord spoke to Gideon again:
Get your father's second-best bull, the one that's seven years old. Use it to pull down the altar where your father worships Baal and cut down the sacred pole next to the altar. 26Then build an altar for worshiping me on the highest part of the hill where your town is built. Use layers of stones for my altar, not just a pile of rocks. Cut up the wood from the pole, make a fire, kill the bull, and burn it as a sacrifice to me.
27Gideon chose ten of his servants to help him, and they did everything God had said. But since Gideon was afraid of his family and the other people in Ophrah, he did it all at night.
28When the people of the town got up the next morning, they saw that Baal's altar had been knocked over, and the sacred pole next to it had been cut down. Then they noticed the new altar covered with the remains of the sacrificed bull.
29“Who could have done such a thing?” they asked. And they kept on asking, until finally someone told them, “Gideon the son of Joash did it.”
30The men of the town went to Joash and said, “Your son Gideon knocked over Baal's altar and cut down the sacred pole next to it. Hand him over, so we can kill him!”
31The crowd pushed closer and closer, but Joash replied, “Are you trying to take revenge for Baal? Are you trying to rescue Baal? If you are, you will be the ones who are put to death, and it will happen before another day dawns. If Baal really is a god, let him take his own revenge on someone who tears down his altar.”
32That same day, Joash changed Gideon's name to Jerubbaal, explaining, “He tore down Baal's altar, so let Baal take revenge himself.”
Gideon Defeats the Midianites
33All the Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern nations got together and crossed the Jordan River. Then they invaded the land of Israel and set up camp in Jezreel Valley.
34The Lord's Spirit took control of Gideon, and Gideon blew a trumpet as a signal for the men in the Abiezer clan to follow him. 35He also sent messengers to the tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, telling the men of these tribes to come and join his army. Then they set out toward the enemy camp.
36-37Gideon prayed to God, “I know that you promised to help me rescue Israel, but I need proof. Tonight I'll spread a sheep skin on the stone floor of that threshing-place over there. If you really will help me rescue Israel, then tomorrow morning let there be dew on the skin, but let the stone floor be dry.”
38And that's just what happened. Early the next morning, Gideon got up and checked the sheep skin. He squeezed out enough water to fill a bowl. 39But Gideon prayed to God again. “Don't be angry with me,” Gideon said. “Let me try this just one more time, so I'll really be sure you'll help me. Only this time, let the skin be dry and the stone floor be wet.”
40That night, God made the stone floor wet with dew, but he kept the sheep skin dry.
The first thing that is necessary for Israel to have a restored relationship with God is for them to stop following other gods. God has been calling on the Israelites to do this but it has not made them repent. The Midianites have been oppressing the Israelites so it is natural that they think that Baal, the god of the Midianites, is stronger than God. God calls on Gideon to make things right by tearing down the area of worship to Baal and substituting an altar to God. It is interesting to see that Gideon is so fearful of the wrath of the Israelites that he does this under cover of night. And he was right to be fearful as Israelites come after him to kill him for destroying the altar. No doubt the subsequent attack by the Midianites confirms the Israelites’ fear that Baal will take revenge for the destruction of the altar.
It is always tempting to go along with the crowd and follow the “gods” that seem to be strong in this world. In our age, these “gods” are the things that have influence and success, things like consumerism and media. It is the things that promise to help you “get ahead.” But as we will see, God is stronger than all the “gods” of this world.
Gideon, like us, needs God to keep reassuring him that he is with him. It is one thing for Gideon to tear down the altar of Baal, but to go against the armies of the surrounding nations is huge. The story of setting out a fleece to have God’s reassurance is well known and some Christians will talk about “setting out a fleece” to ensure that they are following God’s plan. While God honours Gideon’s request, we cannot always test God in this way to make sure that he is with us. This was in many ways a special circumstance as Gideon was putting his nation at risk. We have God’s assurance that when we follow his commands, he is with us always (Matt. 28:20).
Thank you for the example of Gideon, who followed your commands. Help me to follow all your commands and to trust that you are with me and that you will lead and guide me. Through Jesus Christ, whom I follow with all my heart. Amen.
Janet Epp Buckingham
Janet lives in Ottawa, Canada and has served as the Director of Global Advocacy for the World Evangelical Alliance since July 2021. She is also the Executive Editor of the International Journal for Religious Freedom, the flagship publication of the International Institute for Religious Freedom. Books: Donald E. Buckingham, Carolyn Marcotte, Janet L. Epp Buckingham, Bonnie Manning, and Lee Thompson, Learning About Law, (McGraw-Hill Ryerson: Toronto, 1997); Janet Epp Buckingham, Withering Rights: Religious Freedom in Canada, (The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada: 2004