And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abi-ezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, the Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. (Judges 6:11-12)
Several years ago back home in Alabama, a stray mutt adopted my family. He was a black lab/chow/retriever mix. We decided to give him a Bible name and ended up choosing Gideon. My dad likes to call him a "mighty dog of valor" (he did kill a 'possum under the deck once).
Now, I'm sure we're all familiar with this man who was the 6th judge of Israel. And I believe there is an interesting lesson the Lord would have us learn from his life.
The fact that the angel of the Lord addressed Gideon as a "mighty man of valor" is really almost comical. In fact, when we read the story of Gideon's life, it seems there is much that would contradict the statement.
- When the angel addresses him in chapter 6, he's out back behind the winepress threshing his wheat because he's afraid of the Midianites who are ruling over Israel at this point. He then argues with the angel and with the Lord and tries to offer up some excuses as to why he couldn't possibly be the one to deliver Israel from the Midianites.
- That night, God tells Gideon He wants him to throw down the altar of Baal his father had set up and build an altar to the Lord. Gideon took 10 men and did what the Lord had said, but he did it in the middle of the night because he feared his father's household, and the men of the city (v. 27).
- At the end of chapter 6 God gathers an army of men for Gideon, but Gideon decides he needs another sign. He puts out a fleece at night and asks the Lord to put dew on the fleece only and let the ground be dry. Gideon went out in the morning, and it was done. So he goes off to battle and destroys Midian…well no, actually he asks God for another sign. He puts out another fleece and asks the Lord to let the dew be upon the ground but let the fleece be dry. Again, God makes it happen.
- In chapter 7, God reduces Gideon's army from 32,000 to 300. Then God told Gideon, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand. But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host: And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host…Did you catch what just happened? God told Gideon, go down if you're afraid, and Gideon went…and he did overhear one man telling another about his dream…a cake of barley bread that rolled down into the host and flattened out the tent. And his fellow answered…this is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.
And you know the rest of the story, Gideon and his 300 did go out with a pitcher in one hand and a trumpet in the other and they did defeat the Midianites that night under the battle cry of The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.
All that to get to a very simple lesson. God called Gideon a mighty man of valor. God told Gideon to go in this thy might. But in Gideon's life, we see plenty of evidence of fear.
Now, if we were to examine our own lives, I'd believe there would be an occasion or two where we knew what was right, we knew what needed to be done according to the word of God, but we were afraid to do it. I'm sure there has been some occasion when we had a wide open door to witness but were simply too afraid to walk through that door.
We must realize that living the Christian life the way God wants us to live it according to the Bible is something that is going to take some courage. Moses' last charge to Joshua was to be strong and very courageous to observe all the law (Joshua 1:7). David told Solomon in his dying days to be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed (1 Chronicles 28:20).
But here is the blessing we learn from the life of Gideon. God can use a fearful man who submits his fear to the will of God. Gideon was definitely afraid, but his fear was overcome by his obedience to God's word, and God granted the victory.
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)