Fear Not: Gideon

Fear Not: Gideon

Fear Not: Gideon.

“When Gideon realized that it was the Angel of Yahweh, he cried out, ‘Oh, Sovereign Lord, I’m doomed! I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face!’ ‘It is all right,’ Yahweh replied, ‘Do not be afraid. You  will not die.'”  (Judges 6:22-24).

The era of the Judges was a difficult period in Israel’s history. After taking the Promised Land for God’s chosen people, Joshua died and it was time for the Israelites to develop their unique national culture based on the worship and obedience of Yahweh. Unfortunately, this newfound national life disintegrated while they were possessing the land. There was moral and spiritual anarchy as the Israelites fell into idolatry, mixing worship of the Canaanite god Baal with Yahweh. Morally, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (17:6). So the people had to endure constant oppression from their enemies as punishment for getting on such an evil track. The repeating cycle of sin, oppression, and salvation continued for 400 years. To bring order out of the chaos, God would occasionally raise up military leaders who would save the Israelites from their enemies. These national military leaders were called Judges. God intervened out of sheer grace during this era, and one time involved a clever man named Gideon.

Gideon was the youngest member of an insignificant family in Israel. He was a farmer by trade. His nation of Israel was slowly starving to death because of their enemy the Midianites. They would sweep into Israel as a marauding force and steal their crops and livestock. This frightening state of affairs had been going on for seven years, and Israel seemed hopeless with these devastating raids. And here is Gideon, understandably fearful, threshing his wheat out of sight from the Midianites in his winepress. He was afraid the enemy would swoop in and steal his wheat, so he secretly threshed his wheat, hiding in his family’s winepress.

Suddenly the Angel of Yahweh appeared to Gideon and called him, of all things, a “mighty warrior.” (6:12). This unique Angel was a distinctive heavenly Messenger who appears in many stories in the Hebrew Bible. Early Church theologians, and many scholars since then, consider the Angel of Yahweh to be the pre-incarnate Jesus making an appearance. This Angel represents the Lord, speaks for the Lord, and is accepted as being Yahweh Himself by eye-witnesses, including Gideon in this case. The Scripture is clear that no one can see God face to face and survive the experience. (Exodus 33:20). And we know that God is a spirit (John 4:24). So logically, any manifestation of God in the form of a man must be Jesus. These special appearances of Christ in the Old Testament are called Christophanies.

This special Angel greeted Gideon and said that Yahweh was with him. Gideon was doubtful, and he wasn’t sure at first if this person was an angel or a man. The Angel made it clear that Yahweh wanted Gideon to lead the rescue efforts against the Midianites. To convince Gideon that this was truly God’s plan, the Angel performed a miracle, making a fire come out of a rock. (6:21).

At this point in the conversation Gideon panicked. He knew he had seen the divine Angel of God face to face, and he thought he would surely die, since that could not be done. Gideon knew this was not a typical angelic messenger. Speaking with this particular Angel was like speaking with Yahweh Himself! But the Angel of God told Gideon to be at peace… ‘Fear not, you will not die.’ (6:23). Because of Gideon’s fear of the holy presence of God, Yahweh confirms His offer of peace, and the Angel asked Gideon to calm his fears. Yahweh’s peace efforts finally convinced Gideon of his divine calling. And so, at that spot, Gideon built an altar and named it Yahweh-Shalom, Lord-is-Peace. Gideon’s amazing story of how he conquered the Midianites is in Judges 6-8. Enjoy the story of Gideon. It’s one-of-a-kind.

An Answer to Fear:  It’s okay to be a bit skeptical at first if you hear what appears to be a word from the Lord. “Test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  And “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” (1 John 4:1). Once you are convinced that you have heard from God, “Be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16). It is a virtue to be faithful, and it’s a sin to be spiritually gullible. Depend on God’s sufficiency and the wisdom of the saints around you, and your fears will evaporate. Ask God to keep speaking to you as you walk with Him, and He will keep shining His light on your path. 

Take Heart: “In my distress I prayed to the Lord. The Lord answered me and set me free in a broad place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can mere people do to me?”  (Psalm 118:5-6).