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Gideon (Judges 6)

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Gideon And Midian

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CHAPTER 6 Jun. 9 
Israel Oppressed by Midian
The children of Israel did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh, and Yahweh delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years. 2The hand of Midian prevailed against Israel, and because of Midian the Israelites made themselves dens in the mountains, the caves and the strongholds. 3So when Israel had sown their seed, the Midianites, the Amalekites and the people of the east came up against them 4and they encamped against them, and destroyed the crops as far as Gaza, and left no sustenance in Israel, neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. 5For they came with their livestock and their tents; they came up as locusts for multitude; both they and their camels were without number, and they came into the land to destroy it. 6Israel was brought very low because of Midian and the children of Israel cried to Yahweh. 7When the Israelites cried to Yahweh because of Midian 8Yahweh sent a prophet to them, and he said to them, Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel, ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of slavery, 9and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all who oppressed you, drove them out from before you, and gave you their land. 10I said to you, I am Yahweh your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But you have not listened to My voice’.
11The angel of Yahweh came and sat under the oak which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash, the Abiezrite, and his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. 12The angel of Yahweh appeared to him and said, Yahweh is with you, you mighty man of valour! 13Gideon said to him Oh, my lord, if Yahweh is with us why then has all this happened to us? Where are all His wondrous works which our fathers told us of, saying ‘Didn’t Yahweh bring us up from Egypt?’ But now Yahweh has forsaken us and delivered us into the hand of Midian. 14Yahweh looked at him and said, Go in the strength of this One and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Haven’t I sent you? 15He said to him, O Lord, how can I save Israel? My family is the poorest in Manasseh and I am the least in my father’s house. 16Yahweh said to him Surely I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man. 17He said to Him, If now I have found grace in Your eyes, then show me a sign that it is really You Who talk with me. 18Please don’t go away until I come to you and bring out my present and lay it before you. He said, I will wait until you come back. 19Gideon went in and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes of an ephah of meal. He put the meat in a basket and he put the broth in a pot and brought it out to him under the oak and presented it. 20The angel of God said to him, Take the meat and the unleavened cakes and lay them on this rock and pour out the broth. He did so. 21Then the angel of Yahweh stretched out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes, and fire went up out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes, and the angel of Yahweh departed out of his sight. 22Gideon saw that he was the angel of Yahweh, and Gideon said, Alas, Lord Yahweh! I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face! 23Yahweh said to him, Peace! Don’t be afraid. You will not die. 24Then Gideon built an altar there to Yahweh and called it Yahweh is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
Gideon Destroys the Altar of Baal
25The same night Yahweh said to him, Take your father’s bull, the second bull seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that your father has and cut down the Asherah that is by it, 26build an altar to Yahweh your God on the top of this stronghold in the proper way, and take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you cut down. 27Then Gideon took ten of his servants and did as Yahweh had spoken to him, and because he feared his father’s household and the men of the city, he could not do it by day, so he did it by night. 28When the men of the city arose early in the morning, the altar of Baal was broken down and the Asherah was cut down that was by it and the second bull had been offered on the altar that was built. 29They said one to another, Who has done this? When they inquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash has done this. 30Then the men of the city said to Joash, Bring out your son that he may die, because he has broken down the altar of Baal and because he has cut down the Asherah that was by it. 31Joash said to all who stood against him, Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? He who will contend for him, let him be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has broken down his altar. 32Therefore on that day he named him Jerub-Baal, saying, Let Baal contend against him because he has broken down his altar. 
The Midianites and Amalekites Invade
33Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the east assembled themselves together and they crossed over and encamped in the valley of Jezreel. 34But the Spirit of Yahweh came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered together after him. 35He sent messengers throughout all Manasseh and they also were gathered together after him, and he sent messengers to Asher, to Zebulun and to Naphtali and they came up to meet them. 36Gideon said to God, If You will save Israel by my hand, as You have spoken, 37I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will save Israel by my hand as You have said. 38That is what happened, for he got up early the next day and squeezed the fleece together and wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. 39Gideon said to God, Don’t let Your anger be kindled against me and I will speak but this once. Please let me make a trial just this once more with the fleece. Let it now be dry only on the fleece and on all the ground let there be dew. 40God did so that night, for it was dry on the fleece only and there was dew on all the ground. 


6:2 The Israelites who fled to the dens and caves at this time are described as heroes of faith because of what they did (Heb. 11:38). And yet their domination by the Philistines was a result of their idolatry. They were idolatrous, and yet some had faith; and it was this faith which was perceived by God. God is so eager to perceive spirituality and faith amongst His people, despite their weakness in other areas; we should have the same positive attitude to each other.
6:12 You mighty man of valour- Gideon’s constant need for Divine reassurance indicates he wasn’t so brave; but God addressed him according to his spiritual potential. He does the same with us, hence the challenges He sometimes gives us which appear far beyond what we feel capable of.
6:12,13 We need to realize that God deals with us as individuals. No matter how functional and holy, or dysfunctional and evil, is our church, we are still treated by the Father as His individual children. So many have struggled with this, tending to see themselves rather as inevitably part of a community, faceless cogs in a machine. And this is actually quite attractive to humanity- hence the popularity of Roman Catholicism. God told Gideon: “Yahweh is with you” [you singular], and yet Gideon responds: “Oh, my Lord, if Yahweh is with us…” (:13). Gideon had to be taught that God saw him as a separate, unique individual, and didn’t deal with him automatically merely as part of a community as a whole. But it was a slow process. When Gideon saw in a dream a man saying that God had delivered Midian into his [singular] hand, Gideon then tells Israel that God had delivered Midian into their hands (7:14,15). He still found it so hard to believe that God treated him as so important to Him. It could be that Gideon intentionally misunderstood the offer of personal strengthening by arguing back that if Yahweh is really with us, then why are they suffering so much (6:13). He flinched at the personal call of his Angel to action- just as we can, seeking instead to take refuge behind the community. Yet God Himself turns to Gideon and bids him "go in the strength of this One"- the Hebrew grammar referring to the Angel. And this is the same call to us- to go in the strength of the Angel which goes before us, and seek to replicate Him, Heaven's plan for us, on this earth. And God backed up this call to Gideon to follow the Angel by saying he should go out in faith, because “I will be with you” (:16)- a direct quotation from the Angelic manifestation to Moses in Ex. 3:12. It's an interesting exercise to follow the parallels between the Angelic commander of Yahweh's armies, and Joshua as the human commander of them on earth. And one doesn't have to be a military leader in iron-age Israel to feel that same call to follow the Angel.
6:13 Gideon knew that God forsaking Israel was a punishment for their sin (as in 2 Kings 21:14; Is. 2:6; Jer. 23:33). God would forsake Israel only if they forsook Him (Dt. 31:16,17; 2 Chron. 15:2). This opens up our understanding of Christ’s cry from the cross “Why have You forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46). It seems He was so identified with us that He genuinely felt He was bearing the punishment for sin as a sinner; thus although He never sinned, He genuinely felt as a sinner, so that not even our sin means that Christ can’t empathize with us.
6:31 Joash told the Baal worshippers to let Baal plead for himself, rather than them pleading for him. He was saying that they were assuming that they had to ‘play God’ for Baal; they had to manifest the god they thought existed. Joash says that if Baal really exists, he himself will act for himself, openly. And this of course is where the One True God excels; He does act for Himself, and doesn’t rely solely upon manifesting Himself through men in order to achieve anything. He doesn’t need us to as it were apologize for Him through ‘apologetics’; He Himself is witness unto Himself regardless of us.