Faithful While Fearful


I. Great Oppression from the Midianties – 6:1-6

A. According the pattern, the Israelites “did evil in the sight of the Lord and he brought an oppressor on them for discipline and to make them know of their dependence on him.

B. The Midianites, along with the Amalekites, would raid Israelite homes and farms taking all their produce and stealing all their livestock.

C. As result the Israelites were forced to find remote areas (“the dens, the caves, and the strongholds which are in the mountains”) in order to find some semblance of order and to eke out a living.

D. In their oppressed and impoverished state, The Israelites “cried out to the Lord.”

E. Though we could easily criticize the Israelites for their emergency-driven religion, we should look at this phenomenon as a warning against the same tendency in our lives. Emergencies tend to make us more earnest in our solicitations to heaven and more sobered about the issues of life. National crises typically tend to bring about increased church attendance (and other religious activities) which tends to diminish when the sense of foreboding dissipates. At the same time we find that sinners must be driven to an end of themselves, must be stripped of self-righteousness, see the reality of their condemned state, and every other refuge must be eliminated before they will know their desperate need of redemption.


II. The Lord Justifies His Actions in Sending the Oppressor – 7-10

A. Upon their cry for relief, the Lord sent a prophet with a message. In every situation we need a word from God and should dread a famine of the word of God worse that a famine of physical food.

B. The prophet’s message consisted of three parts.

  1. He reminded the people of how God had claimed this nation as his own in delivering them from Egypt and giving them a land by driving out other nations before them.
  2. He had told them not to “fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.” Their gods were not gods at all and could do them neither harm nor good. The only danger they would confront would be the fickleness and corruption of their own hearts.
  3. In spite of all these mighty works for their benefit and the warning about other gods, they had not obeyed his voice. As far as the text records, the prophet made no promise of deliverance but only justified the ways of God with this ungrateful and rebellious people. They had, however, heard from God and that was better than silence. A revelation of one’s condition and the reason for it, tends toward openness to a solution.


III.  The Angel of the Lord and Gideon

A. The Angel of the Lord is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. He is the revelation of the glory, compassion, and power of the triune God, having received in the covenant of redemption the works in the Old Testament that prefigure redemption and the work in the New Testament that constitutes redemption.

  1. He comes with full authority of the purpose of God and the power of God. In an ironical attribution to Gideon of that which was not yet true of him, he addressed him as “Mighty man of valor” and commanding Gideon to “Go in this might of yours” with the promise of victory because “I have sent you.”
  2. In verse sixteen the text calls him “the Lord,” with the second promise of victory combined with the encouragement, “Surely, I will be with you.”
  3. He received and consumed an offering that was brought to him. As in the later case of Elijah’s preparation of an offering and pouring liquid on it (2 Kings 18), so Gideon prepared a sacrifice, poured broth on it and saw fire consume it, flaming up out of the rock (verse 21).
  4. He recognized that he had seen one whose glory could have been the cause of his death and responded in fear when the “Angel of the Lord departed from his sight.”
  5. The “Angel of the Lord” appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3 – this time in a fire that did not consume) and called Israel his people, stating the he had seen their oppression in Egypt, and is called God throughout the text of Exodus 3 and identifies himself as “I Am Who I Am.”

B. Gideon, in a preview to his attitude throughout the text, is hidden in a winepress threshing wheat, fearful, understandably, of the Midianites.

  1. Upon the greeting of the Angel of the Lord, Gideon began to complain that the Lord was not with them but had forsaken them. He made no inquiry at all concerning the hope that was resident in the greeting. The default attitude in times of stress is complaint.
  2. Having complained of Midianite oppression, he responds to the challenge that he do something about it, even with the promise of effectual aid from his mysteriously august visitor, with excuses that his insignificance and weakness disqualified him from undertaking the task. It is much easier to complain and find fault with our situation and with others than to take a challenge to use one’s life to rectify wrongs and work for reformation. “My clan is the weakest . . . and I am the least.”
  3. When destroying the image of Baal, even with ten servants available to him as a show of strength, he did it at night “because he feared his father’s household and the men of the city” (27).
  4. He hid in his father’s home when the men of the city came to get him for this action (30) and left his father to defend him from their anger.
  5. In addition to excuses and hesitance after each of three promises of the Lord’s presence with him to accomplish his assignment (12, 14, 16), he asked for signs four times to verify the truthfulness of the word that the Lord had spoken.
  • Verse 17, “Show me a sign that it is You who talk with me.” This was answered with the creation of fire from a rock that consumed the meat of a young goat, unleavened bread made from an ephah of flour, and broth that had been poured over the whole of it.
  • Verse 36 – “If you will save Israel by my hand” make the fleece wet and the ground dry.
  • Verse 39 – “Let me speak just once more” – make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.
  • 7:10, 13 – “If you are afraid to go down,” the Lord said, and allowed Gideon to go quietly on a scouting mission during which he heard men speaking of a dream in which God had delivered the entire camp of the Midianites into the hand of Gideon.
  • At that point, Gideon worshiped and returned to the camp with the command, “Arise for the Lord has delivered the camp of Midian into your hand” (7:15).


IV. The Actions of Gideon

A. He destroyed the image of Baal that had been erected by his own father. In spite of his timidity, he destroyed that image and sacrificed his Father’s young bull to the Lord on an altar built in “the proper arrangement.” Though filled with trembling and maintaining as much anonymity as possibility he did what was right in order to make a statement of the Lord’s prerogatives in Israel. As a result his father responded with an Elijah-like challenge for Baal to take of himself if he indeed is a god (6:31; cf. 2 Kings 18:27).

B. At this point the text informs us that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon.” He blew the trumpet for the gathering of an army and sent messengers to four tribes. 32,000 men came to the call.

C. So that the size of the army would not be credited with the victory rather than the promise of the Lord(7:2), The Lord diminished the army twice, so that from 32000, the army was reduced to 300. These three hundred, without sword and without attack, but with pitchers, torches, and trumpets began a panic in which the Midianite army turned on itself and began a panicked retreat that drew fighting men from other tribes of Israel to pursue them.


V. Thinking Through the Text

A. How much more honoring to the Lord would it be if we could receive the word of God without reservation, in full confidence, and need no other assurance than that God has spoken.

B. God’s patience with Gideon should be an encouragement to us all, for on how many occasions have we been slow to respond in a situation in which we knew what to do for the honor of God but have been intimidated by a sense of insufficiency or fearful. The words of Paul to Timothy must find a place in our consciences, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind . . .Do not be ashamed, therefore, of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:7, 8).

C. God will never leave us or forsake us. We know that God will sustain his people and work in all situations for his own glory and for our conformity to Christ. Even in weakness, the Lord will use our halting labors and difficult faithfulness to accomplish what he intends and to strengthen and sanctify us.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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