The account of Gideon’s life is recorded in Judges 6:11-8:32. The  backdrop for Gideon’s biography begins with the Israelites being ravaged by the  Midianites as a consequence of their disobedience to God (Judges 6:1). For seven years they faced invasions from  the Midianites, Amalekites, and Eastern foreigners who ruined their crops and  destroyed their cattle. Although they had been unfaithful to God by worshipping  the gods of the Amorites, they cried out to God for His help without realizing  why this was happening to them (Judges 6:6).  And so God sends them a prophet to remind them of how the one true God had  provided for them in the past and yet how quickly they had forsaken Him (Judges 6:8-10).

God hears their cries and graciously intervenes by sending an angel to Gideon  to call him into service (vs. 11-14). Gideon, whose name means “cutter” or  “cutter of trees,” belonged to an undistinguished family of the Abiezrites, but  from the angel’s greeting we can assume that Gideon had already proved to be a  mighty warrior (Judges  6:12). Though Gideon was a willing servant of God, he needed assurance that  it was, in fact, God calling him to this divine service (vs.17). In  accomplishing the mission set before him by God, Gideon proves himself to be  faithful, a mighty warrior, a strong leader of men (Judges  7:17), and a diplomat (Judges  8:1-3). As such, he is included in a fitting testimonial for the great men  of faith in Hebrews  11:32-34. Gideon was the fifth judge and renowned as the greatest of  Israel.

The highlights of Gideon’s life include his victorious battle  against Israel’s enemies. However, we mustn’t overlook his amazing faith, by  which he carried out God’s mission and which was first put to the test and  confirmed when he destroyed the Baal idols his father and the community had been  worshipping (Judges  6:25-27). Gideon’s battle triumph is preceded by God’s anointing (Judges 6:34). It was no small feat that Gideon managed to  enlist his tribesmen, the Abiezerites, to go into battle with him. These were  the men whose idols he had destroyed and who had renamed him “Jerub-baal” (Judges 6:32). Before  entering battle, Gideon’s troops number 32,000, but in obedience to God he  reduces them by 22,000 (Judges  7:2-3). Again in obedience to God he decreases the remaining 10,000 by a  further 9,700, leaving him with just 300 men (vss. 7-8). This was against an  enemy that is described as “thick as locusts” with “camels as numerous as the  grains of sand on the seashore” (Judges  7:12). With the battle finally won, the people suggest that Gideon rule over  them as their king, but he declines their accolades and tells them the Lord will  rule over them (Judges  8:22-23).

Gideon had proved his faithfulness to God, and his  obedience had required him to take a stand against his own father and tribe.  And, although he feared his own people (Judges  6:24), from the three requests he made for the Lord’s confirmation of His  will, it is evident he feared God much more. In battle he took on far greater  odds than were realistic to mere mortals. When the Israelites wanted to honor  him as their king for triumphing over their enemies and restoring Israel’s  pride, Gideon, recognizing God as the real victor in the battle, declines their  request and affords the rightful sovereignty to God. This was a great test of  Gideon’s faithfulness, when he could so easily have succumbed to pride by  accepting the people’s honor. So, it is with great surprise that we see Gideon  go on to compromise his faith by requesting they all contribute gold from the  plunder of the battle so he could create an “ephod,” a breastplate or mask used  in cultic worship (Judges  8:24-26). And, as we see in verse 27, it became a snare to Gideon and his  family.

From Gideon’s example we can learn that no matter how great the  odds against us may be, our faithful God is sovereign, and He will always see us  through whatever battles we face in life, as long as we remain faithful to His  calling and obedient to His commands. “Trust the Lord with all your heart and  lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He  will make your paths straight” (Proverbs  3:5-6). We can also see how God uses ordinary people to accomplish His  plans, although with Gideon, the key factor was his willingness to obey  God.

Sometimes, the most difficult people to witness our faith to are  our families. And we can see after Gideon destroys the false gods his family had  been worshipping that he receives an anointing from the Lord. It was because of  this anointing that he was able to accomplish the mission that God had set  before him. And it is with God’s anointing on our lives that we can truly claim  “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  Gideon had gone from being a warrior in hiding, threshing wheat at the foot of a  hill out of sight of the enemy, to vanquishing the same enemy in battle.  However, he was careful to ensure that it was God’s will he was obeying. As the  Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but  be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and  approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

However, unlike Gideon, who had  proved his faithfulness to God and received God’s answers to his requested signs  as an encouragement, we must not expect God to do likewise for those who request  signs from God because of their doubts or weak faith. There may be  times when everyone around us does lack the faith to go on, and it is up to us,  like Gideon, to take the lead by our example and encourage the weak among us (Judges 7:17; Romans 15:1).