God’s Gracious Answer to an Anxious Warrior

But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and blew a trumpet. . . . And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold I will put a Reece of wool on the threshing floor; if there be dew on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the ground, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by my hand. Judges 6:34, 36

What a beautiful history this really is for the children of God! This kind of revelation gives them encouragement in their lives of faith. We all need this.

The scene is the valley of Megiddo, also called the valley of Jezreel. God is preparing Gideon for the battle and the deliverance He will give them from the thousands of Midianites. For several years they have invaded the land and harvested all the crops, leaving the Israelites starving. God calls Gideon, the least in his father’s house to lead the Israelites in the attack. First of all Gideon must destroy the idol in his father’s house. Reformation always begins at home, and with the removal of our idols. With the seventh invasion of these enemies of Israel, there is a holy reaction in Gideon. He is filled with the Spirit. With the blowing of the trumpet he calls the Israelites unto battle against this overwhelming army of godless invaders.

It was in the valley of Jezreel, also called the valley of Megiddo. Don‘t overlook this. Immediately this reminds us of the well-known word Armageddon of the Book of Revelation.

Armageddon (valley of Jezreel, Esdraelon) was a very important place in the history of Israel throughout the ages. It was in a strategic geographical position. Perhaps there is no place on earth where more blood has literally been shed than in this valley. This should not surprise us since the church is principally always fighting the battle of Armageddon. This is also true of every individual Christian who also sings, Stand up, stand up for Jesus. He has to battle against sin in so many forms, and its results. His last enemy is death, says Paul. In this valley of Megiddo Sisera met defeat at the hands of Deborah by the deliverance of the Lord. Here king Saul was defeated and died. In the same general area Elijah killed the 450 Baal prophets. Later the house of Ahab was extinguished here by Jehu. And so we can go on. It was a common battleground. The Armageddon of Revelation is the climax of all the “miniature” Armageddons, of which this one with Gideon is one. In all of them the world opposes and oppresses the church with overwhelming odds so that, from the natural viewpoint or that of human calculation, the cause of the Lord in the church is hopeless. But Jesus Christ is the general of the armies of the Lord. He always was and always will be. At this time we see Gideon on the scene as a type or shadow of the great Christ to come.

Gideon is filled with the Spirit. He blows the trumpet. His heroic faith is “contagious,” as such faith always is. Often it takes only one mighty man to bring about a great change. The people in this instance respond and come out by the thousands. Gideon is the man of the hour, filled with courage and hope. Hasn’t the Lord so led His people throughout the ages? Countless heroes of faith have been equipped like this with the Spirit, as true, genuine Christian soldiers in the cause of the Lord.

In ourselves we are always weak. Gideon felt this too, as the youngest member of the family. But when we have the Spirit of the Lord, we have faith, we have courage, and we can face it.

What a mighty man this Gideon is! His very life is at stake, but why should he be afraid?!

And yet . . .

He is afraid. Now he is not so sure. He asks the Lord for signs, signs to strengthen his faith. Let on one night the fleece of wool be dry and the ground wet with dew and on the next night the ground dry and the fleece wet. Suddenly this mighty man seems to become weak. His faith begins to waver, somewhat. Is he sure, absolutely positive that the Lord will be with him? There is some, perhaps even a lot of uncertainty, and resulting fear.

But how can this be, at one moment so strong, filled with the Spirit, and shortly after that in doubt. I’m glad that this is recorded in the Bible. It gives comfort and encouragement to millions of saints who are like Gideon. We are strong at one time, we sing and have peace in the daily as well as the greater problems of life; then at another time we wonder, we doubt, we are so afraid. We ask questions. And we don’t find Gideon’s behavior so strange, not at all. Of course, it is all because of unbelief. But what Christian doesn”t have unbelief?

Gideon asks for signs. And isn’t it most remarkable that God doesn’t become angry with him, not even when he asks for two signs?

Asking for signs in unbelief is rather common in Scripture. We think of the wicked Pharisees who several times asked the Savior for signs. The only sign they received was that of Jonah the prophet. This simply was a sign of judgment. Then we think also of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, of the Emmaus travelers and also of Thomas. In all these and other cases the Lord seems to make a big distinction between no faith at all and weak faith. Gideon belongs with the group who at one time can say, with our God we can run through a troop or jump over the wall, and the next time feel and say, we can never make it. ·They know so well the words, “Lord I believe, but help me in my unbelief.” The giant Abraham is also in this class. All Christians are.

Prayers arising out of such anxious hearts are answered. Where there is this kind of disposition of heart and frame of mind our gracious Lord is so understanding and patient. And He gives abundant signs. And with His answers our faith is strengthened. Gideon’s faith received great encouragement with the dry and wet fleece.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Lord would so answer us today? Or that He would still give us such visible signs? So we often think. But—what fools we are!

First of all, we in the New Testament, have not only the record of Gideon, but also of so many other instances were God helped His struggling, unbelieving children with their many infirmities in the struggles of Armageddon. Gideon had only one revelation, we have the records of hundreds of instances where God gave help in His understanding love and patience in Christ. We have the complete Word of God, preaching of the Word every Sunday and the Sacraments. In all this the Lord gives us the Gospel, the good news of the promise. Take note, the promise, the promise! Isn’t the Gospel the good news of the promise, the promise of His love, the promise of His faithfulness to His children in the struggles of faith?

What we need is faith to believe these promises. Gideon believed the signs given him. This we often don’t even do. And this makes our sin worse than Gideon’s.

Every day our Lord is there in the promise of the Word, in a special way every Sunday with the preaching of the Word, and in a unique way every time the Sacraments are administered. God is always there in His faithful love in the Word and the Sacraments. And believing those problems we receive much of the Spirit. Lord, increase our faith.

John Blankespoor is pastor of the Pine Creek Christian Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan.