Psalm 24:8, ESV
Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!
JUDGES 6:11-22, NIrV
11 The angel of the Lord came. He sat down under an oak tree in Ophrah. The tree belonged to Joash. He was from the family line of Abiezer. Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress at Ophrah. He was the son of Joash. Gideon was threshing in a winepress to hide the wheat from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon. He said, “Mighty warrior, the Lord is with you.”
13 “Pardon me, sir,” Gideon replied, “you say the Lord is with us. Then why has all this happened to us? Where are all the wonderful things he has done? Our people of long ago told us about them. They said, ‘Didn’t the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has deserted us. He has handed us over to Midian.”
14 The Lord turned to Gideon. He said to him, “You are strong. Go and save Israel from the power of Midian. I am sending you.”
15 “Pardon me, sir,” Gideon replied, “but how can I possibly save Israel? My family group is the weakest in the tribe of Manasseh. And I’m the least important member of my family.”
16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you. So you will strike down the Midianites. You will leave no one alive.”
17 Gideon replied, “If you are pleased with me, give me a special sign. Then I’ll know that it’s really you talking to me. 18 Please don’t go away until I come back. I’ll bring my offering and set it down in front of you.”
The Lord said, “I will wait until you return.”
19 Gideon went inside and prepared a young goat. From 36 pounds of flour he made bread without using yeast. He put the meat in a basket. In a pot he put soup made from the meat. Then he brought all of it and offered it to the Lord under the oak tree.
20 The angel of God said to Gideon, “Take the meat and the bread. Place them on this rock. Then pour out the soup.” So Gideon did it. 21 The angel of the Lord had a walking stick in his hand. With the tip of the stick he touched the meat and the bread. Fire blazed out of the rock. It burned up the meat and the bread. Then the angel of the Lord disappeared. 22 Gideon realized it was the angel of the Lord. He cried out, “Oh no, my Lord and King, I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”
As our story begins, we find the Israelites hiding in holes and caves after the mighty men of Midian marched in and munched up all their food. And they had no one else to blame but themselves. All this Midianite misery was a punishment from God for their sin. Still, when his people cried out for rescue, God did what he’d done four times already in this book: send a judge to rescue them! Unlike Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar, Gideon didn’t want the job of a judge. But it didn’t matter how weak Gideon thought he was, the all-powerful Lord God would fight for him – and God never loses a battle!
+ Who did God send to tell Gideon he’d been chosen to rescue his people? (vs. 11)
+ What miracle did the angel do to show Gideon that God would be with him? (vs. 21)
JUDGES 6:25-32, NIrV
25 That same night the Lord spoke to Gideon. He said, “Get the second bull from your father’s herd. Get the one that is seven years old. Tear down the altar your father built to honor the god named Baal. Cut down the pole beside it. The pole is used to worship the female god named Asherah. 26 Then build the right kind of altar. Build it to honor the Lord your God. Build it on top of this hill. Then use the wood from the Asherah pole you cut down. Sacrifice the second bull as a burnt offering.”
27 So Gideon went and got ten of his servants. He did just as the Lord had told him. But he was afraid of his family. He was also afraid of the people in the town. So he did everything at night instead of during the day.
28 In the morning the people in the town got up. They saw that Baal’s altar had been torn down. The Asherah pole beside it had been cut down. And the second bull had been sacrificed on the new altar that had been built.
29 They asked each other, “Who did this?”
They looked into the matter carefully. Someone told them, “Gideon, the son of Joash, did it.”
30 The people in the town spoke to Joash. They ordered him, “Bring your son out here. He must die. He has torn down Baal’s altar. He has cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”
31 But Joash replied to the angry crowd around him. He asked, “Are you going to stand up for Baal? Are you trying to save him? Those who stand up for him will be put to death by morning! Is Baal really a god? If he is, he can stand up for himself when someone tears down his altar.” 32 That’s why they gave Gideon the name Jerub-Baal on that day. Gideon had torn down Baal’s altar. So they said, “Let Baal take his stand against him.”
The Israelites were so sinful, they built altars (piles of stones to burn sacrifices) to worship the pretend god Baal and tall poles to worship the pretend goddess Asherah. Even Gideon’s own dad joined in on these wicked ways! So God gave Gideon his first job as a judge: grab some strong bulls and knock those wicked things down! Gideon got right to work… as soon as it was dark and no one could see him. When his neighbors saw the destruction the next day, boy were they mad! But before they could kill his son, Gideon’s dad spoke up: “If Baal is real, then let him fight his own battles, not you!”
+ What did God tell Gideon to do after destroying the altar? (vs. 26)
+ Why didn’t Baal destroy Gideon for tearing down his altar?
JUDGES 6:33-40, NIrV
33 All the Midianites and Amalekites gathered their armies together. Other tribes from the east joined them. All of them went across the Jordan River. They camped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon. So Gideon blew a trumpet to send for the men of Abiezer. He told them to follow him. 35 He sent messengers all through Manasseh’s territory. He called for the men of Manasseh to fight. He also sent messengers to the men of Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali. So all those men went up to join the others.
36 Gideon said to God, “You promised you would use me to save Israel. 37 Please do something for me. I’ll put a piece of wool on the threshing floor. Suppose dew is only on the wool tomorrow morning. And suppose the ground all around it is dry. Then I will know that you will use me to save Israel. I’ll know that your promise will come true.” 38 And that’s what happened. Gideon got up early the next day. He squeezed the dew out of the wool. The water filled a bowl.
39 Then Gideon said to God, “Don’t be angry with me. Let me ask you for just one more thing. Let me use the wool for one more test. But this time make the wool dry. And let the ground be covered with dew.” 40 So that night God did it. Only the wool was dry. The ground all around it was covered with dew.
God had promised to hand Gideon’s enemies over to him on a silver platter. Still, Gideon felt sheepish about his chances against the mighty men of Midian. Because God’s promise wasn’t enough for him, Gideon asked to see a miracle. “God, I’ll lay out some fleece from a sheep tonight. If it’s soaking wet with dew and everywhere else is dry, I’ll finally be sure you’ll use me to save Israel.” Amazingly, God granted Gideon’s ridiculous request and did the deed with the dew. And when that one miracle wasn’t enough for Gideon, God reversed it and did it all over again the next night!
+ How could God make dew appear only in specific places for Gideon?
+ Why did Gideon keep asking God to do miraculous signs for him? (vs. 37)
JUDGES 7:1-8, NIRV
1 Early in the morning Jerub-Baal and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. Jerub-Baal was another name for Gideon. The camp of Midian was north of Gideon’s camp. It was in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “I want to hand Midian over to you. But you have too many men for me to do that. Then Israel might brag, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ 3 So here is what I want you to announce to the army. Tell them, ‘Those who tremble with fear can turn back. They can leave Mount Gilead.’ ” So 22,000 men left. But 10,000 remained.
4 The Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. So take them down to the water. There I will reduce the number of them for you. If I say, ‘This one will go with you,’ he will go. But if I say, ‘That one will not go with you,’ he will not go.”
5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord said to him, “Some men will drink the way dogs do. They will lap up the water with their tongues. Separate them from those who get down on their knees to drink.” 6 Three hundred men brought up the water to their mouths with their hands. And they lapped it up the way dogs do. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
7 The Lord spoke to Gideon. He said, “With the help of the 300 men who lapped up the water I will save you. I will hand the Midianites over to you. Let all the other men go home.” 8 So Gideon sent those Israelites home. But he kept the 300 men. They took over the supplies and trumpets the others had left.
The Midianites had set up their camp in the valley below where Gideon was.
As Gideon prepared for the big battle, God told him there was a problem: “You have too many soldiers.” I’m sure Gideon thought, “Midian is mighty! We need all the men we can get!” But God was proving a point to his people. This battle would be won by the power of Israel’s God, not the might of their army. So he told Gideon to make an announcement: “Anyone who is filled with fear may leave.” And that’s exactly what 22,000 of his men did! Even after that, God still thought Gideon’s army was too big. So he had the men perform a drinking test, then sent all but 300 of them home!
+ Describe God’s water drinking test. (vs. 5-7)
JUDGES 7:9-15, NIRV
9 During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up. Go down against the camp. I am going to hand it over to you. 10 But what if you are afraid to attack? Then go down to the camp with your servant Purah. 11 Listen to what they are saying. After that, you will not be afraid to attack the camp.” So Gideon and his servant Purah went down to the edge of the camp. 12 The Midianites had set up their camp in the valley. So had the Amalekites and all the other tribes from the east. There were so many of them that they looked like huge numbers of locusts. Like the grains of sand on the seashore, their camels couldn’t be counted.
13 Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend about his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came rolling into the camp of Midian. It hit a tent with great force. The tent turned over and fell down flat.”
14 His friend replied, “That can only be the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash. Gideon is from Israel. God has handed the Midianites over to him. He has given him the whole camp.”
15 Gideon heard the man explain what the dream meant. Then Gideon bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel. He called out, “Get up! The Lord has handed the Midianites over to you.”
The Lord knew Gideon was having a hard time believing his promise. So God kindly did something to let Gideon know beyond a shadow of a doubt that victory was guaranteed. That night, Gideon and his servant snuck over to snoop on his enemies. But Gideon didn’t overhear their secret battle plans – he heard them talking about their weird dreams! “A round cake of bread rolled over my tent and flipped it over”, one soldier said. “That’s a sign,” his buddy replied, “With God’s help, Gideon will flatten our entire camp!” After hearing this, Gideon finally believed what God had promised.
+ As Gideon snuck into the camp, how big was the army he saw? (vs. 12)
+ What did Gideon do and say after hearing about the enemy soldier’s dream? (vs. 15)
JUDGES 7:16-23, NIRV
16 Gideon separated the 300 men into three fighting groups. He put a trumpet and an empty jar into the hands of each man. And he put a torch inside each jar.
17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Do what I do. I’ll go to the edge of the enemy camp. Then do exactly as I do. 18 I and everyone with me will blow our trumpets. Then blow your trumpets from your positions all around the camp. And shout the battle cry, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon!’ ”
19 Gideon and the 100 men with him reached the edge of the enemy camp. It was about ten o’clock at night. It was just after the guard had been changed. Gideon and his men blew their trumpets. They broke the jars that were in their hands. 20 The three fighting groups blew their trumpets. They smashed their jars. They held their torches in their left hands. They held in their right hands the trumpets they were going to blow. Then they shouted the battle cry, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 Each man stayed in his position around the camp. But all the Midianites ran away in fear. They were crying out as they ran.
22 When the 300 trumpets were blown, the Lord caused all the men in the enemy camp to start fighting one another. They attacked one another with their swords. The army ran away to Beth Shittah toward Zererah. They ran all the way to the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 23 Israelites from the tribes of Naphtali, Asher and all of Manasseh were called out. They chased the Midianites.
In the past, God won battles for his people by knocking down walls, raining down deadly iceballs, and even stopping the sun! With only 300 men on Israel’s side and 135,000 on the other, it would take another miracle for his people to come out on top. But as always, God had everything perfectly under control. This time, he planned to win the battle not with an eye-popping wonder, but with a sneaky battle plan!
That night, Gideon split his 300 men into three groups and ordered them to spread out around the enemy. Normally you’d want to bring a sword or spear with you to a battle, but Gideon gave his men trumpets, torches, and jars. As they lit them, the men hid their torches inside the jars so they wouldn’t be seen in the dark of the night.
With their enemies comfortably snoozing away the evening, Gideon and his group blew their trumpets and smashed their jars. Not only did this make an ear-splitting sound, it revealed the light of their torches. Right away, Gideon’s other groups did the same, smashing their jars and blowing their trumpets.
What would it have been like to be a sleeping enemy soldier on that night? One second, you’re sound asleep. And the next? You’re startled awake by blaring trumpets and smashing jars. As you rub your eyes to see what’s going on, you see torches surrounding you on all sides. To the groggy Midianite soldiers, it would have looked like they were being circled by a massive army, not a small group of only 300 men!
God used this tricky plan to make the mighty men of Midian panic. In all the noise and confusion, Israel’s enemies actually started to fight each other with their swords! When he saw that God had turned his big and bad enemies into scaredy cats, Gideon sent messengers, calling for all Israelites in the area to come and finish the battle.
Gideon was the fifth judge God sent to rescue his people. Five times now in this book, God has rescued his people from the absolute mess they created because of their sin. Nobody thought Gideon was a good choice to rescue his people, even Gideon himself! But that didn’t matter – the mighty Lord God promised to fight with him. With God on his side, there was no possible way Gideon could lose!
Each God-sent savior in the book of Judges point us forward to the day when God sent the greatest rescuer of all: his Son, Jesus! Because of their sin, the Israelites needed to be rescued from the mighty men of Midian. But sinners like you and me face an even greater punishment for our sin – a forever fiery death away from God’s good kingdom! Thankfully, like God sent Gideon to defeat Israel’s enemies, Jesus came to defeat ours. And he won the victory over our enemy of sin and death when he died on the cross and rose from the dead.
+ Why could an army of 300 men defeat another army of 135,000 men?
+ Because they were scared, what did the enemy soldiers start doing? (vs. 22)