The Israelites lived in prosperity for forty years. Seemingly, they had all they needed without God’s supernatural intervention. They worshipped the gods of the local people –gods that didn’t require them to conform to a life of sacrificial obedience. God set in motion a sequence of events to show the Israelites what they had become. First, He handed them over to the Midianites –oppressive pillagers– for seven years to open their eyes and realize how far they had wandered away from Him. Then, He raised up a most unlikely man –Gideon– to lead them back to Him.
Gideon’s story demonstrates God’s faithfulness in spite of the people’s rebellious nature. It begins with Gideon questioning the reality of God’s compassion –basically saying “Where have You been? The only things I know about You are through legends that have been handed down from my fathers about miracles that occurred years ago. What have You done lately? Do You really care about us?”
Gideon called his men to prepare for battle. Thirty-two thousand came in response. God winnowed his army down to a band of just three hundred simple men. These few men were supposed to rout an army of 135,000 experienced soldiers! The new leader was apprehensive about the difference in the size of the forces. God sent him down to the enemy’s camp to overhear one of the soldiers telling a friend about a dream he had. The friend explained that God had given Midian and all the camp into Gideon’s hand!
It’s one of the classic Sunday School stories that we heard as children. Each man carried a trumpet and a torch hidden in an empty pitcher. The charge was made in the dark of night and confusion reigned. The enemy soldiers slew one another and those who escaped were hunted down and killed.
With the war behind them, Israel once again became complacent. She wanted Gideon and his offspring to be her leaders –to continue their prosperity. All his remaining life, Gideon struggled to keep God in the forefront. In just a few more years the story would be repeated with the people choosing Saul as the king instead of God.
Gideon had even made a memorial out of the earrings of the destroyed enemy. When all of those earrings were melted down, their overall weight was over forty pounds. That was a huge army that was defeated! And it was accomplished with only three hundred little-known, ordinary men –not proven warriors with superior strength– to demonstrate that the war was obviously won by God. Ah, but human nature prevailed and the people exalted Gideon instead of God. The stories they told their children were of Gideon’s leadership rather than on God’s faithfulness.
God gives us –that’s you and me– Midianites to turn us to Him. His desire is to make a people for Himself that will live eternally with Him. That takes continuous changes until we are joined with Jesus as His bride.