Throughout the book of Hebrews we have learned a good deal about God’s holiness. The sobriety of the warnings, the gravity of Christ’s sacrifice should remind us that God is a consuming fire. Yet I hope we have also learned much about God’s love.
Israel’s Oppression and Conviction [1-10]
This section may be chiastically arranged, with the stress laid on the Israelite’s crying out to the Lord.
- The people’s disobedience is stated 
- The Lord punishment of Israel (Midian) [2-5]
- The people cry out [6-7]
- The Lord’s prosecution of Israel (Egypt) [8-10a]
· The people’s disobedience is stated [10b]
Israel is severely punished. They cower in caves, as if death has come upon them and they are already in a grave of sorts. They are swarmed by man-locusts causing the death of their economy. The people were dead in their sins and suffering wages of sin (death).
Note: Sin is called “evil in sight of the Lord.” No attempt is to downplay the character or nature of sin. Sin is portrayed in all its vile wretchedness. Man would like to brighten it up and, if he would talk about it, do so in more cheery terms (shortcomings, faults, etc). Scripture would have us see it as God does though.
The crying out of the people brings the Lord’s word. It is a stinging word, but a necessary and gracious word. It is a gracious word because it echoes past graces. But it is a necessary word because it reminds them of how evil their apostasy is. They’ve sinned against grace. They’ve been unfaithful.
Remember, the crying out doesn’t necessarily mean repentance. They are sad and sorrowed, but not repentant. They are only missing the blessings of God. They hate the tyranny and want the good times of freedom back, but not necessarily the God of that freedom.
The call of Gideon [11-18]
This section is chiastically arranged, with the stress on the angel’s speech in verse 14.. The following pattern may be witnessed:
• Angel Appears 
• “The Lord is with you” 
• Gideon speaks of nation’s weakness 
• The Lord turns to him; charges him; sends him 
• Gideon speaks of his weakness 
• “I will be with you.” 
• Angel Stays [17-18]
Gideon states the problem succinctly: He and Israel are weak & worthless. They have no power to accomplish the Lord’s salvation in and of themselves. The passage though reminds us that salvation is always “of the Lord.”
At the very first we see the angel initiates things. God acts first in deliverance of his people. Then we are twice told where the power for salvation lies “the Lord is with you.” This is the Immanuel principle. Christ comes to us and abides with us, enabling.
The central point of the text is key. First, the angel turns to Gideon. Was he facing away? Or is he simply trying to remind us that God’s favor has turned to us? What ills have you when God turns towards you and makes his face to shine upon you?
Secondly, we hear the angel’s charge: “Go in this might of yours.” This may be confusing because Gideon has just confessed his (and his nation’s) powerlessness. But this is exactly where true spiritual strength lies: in our humility. Paul would confess, “His power is make perfect in weakness.” Indeed, humility takes more power than pride. Confessing one’s weakness is where God’s strength will be most vividly demonstrated.
Gideon’s Sign of Assurance [19-24]
God did not have to wait, but he accommodated himself to Gideon’s weakness. He provided a demonstration of his power in order to assure weak Gideon.
God has provided us with sensible signs too, for the purpose of bolstering our faith. In baptism and the Lord’s Supper he speaks to our weakness and assures us of his saving promise.
Gideon’s offering is a peace offering, but it does not bring peace. He is terrified. Perhaps Gideon was testing to see if it was really the Lord. Once he “gets the picture” he realizes what has happened. God
This passage may also be chiastically arranged:
• An offering of peace to the Lord 
• The Angel of the Lord acts 
• Fire springs up angel vanishes 
• The Angel of the Lord recognized 
• An offering of peace from the Lord [23-24]
The God is a consuming fire. No wonder Gideon was so terrified. Peace is offered, but the central focus is a good reminder: Don’t mess with God. Sin is not something he takes lightly. If he brings deliverance, he requires obedience and a right respect for His nature.
Testing Gideon's Faith & Mockery of Baal [25-32]
A Command to show Baal’s impotence [25-26]
B Gideon fears reprisal 
C Alter broken down - Baal lays defeated 
B Men threaten reprisal [29-30]
A Proclamation of Baal’s impotence [31-32]
Testing Gideon's faith
Everything in these verses puts Gideon’s faith to the test. Was he really convicted that God was to be followed? First he must tear down the alter to the foreign God. It is a cleansing of idols and an expression of one’s true devotion to the only God. You can hear God say, “There shall be no gods besides me.”
This wasn’t a simple task though. Family pressures were no doubt high as it was the family idol. Gideon does it, never the less.
The second challenge is offering the second bull as a sacrifice. It sounds simple enough, but it was a time of economic depression. Taking out a bull would be equivalent to taking out one of your tractors or possible channel of food. To make this offering would be to say, “I am in your hands, O God. Do with me as you will. I trust you shall be my deliverance and provider.”
Jesus would also say, “Sell all you have and give it to the poor. Then come follow me.” If we are going to follow the Lord, he demands we be ready to part with our savings and say goodbye to our estate.
You should snicker at the unfolding of these verses. Gideon’s father points out the impotence of Baal. Baal cannot even guard his own alter.
Weakness in Israel arises from their weak gods. Israel’s feeble state is due to its following an impotent god. The true God needs no defender, but he will use weakness (i.e. Gideon, and those like him) for His mighty purposes.
Gideon Clothed [33-35]
A People align for battle
B Gideon clothed with the Spirit
A People align for battle
Gideon is garbed with the Spirit. He has, in a very real sense, put on the armor of God. With the coming of the Spirit, we see a new birth. Israel is, in a sense, “born again.” The armies gather, but this time: Immanuel. God is with His people.
The Fleece [36-40]
It would seem that Gideon's weakness continues despite his being "clothed" with the Spirit? Some are ready to charge Gideon with sin for having asked for the signs. However, God doesn’t. God recognizes our frailty and he condescends to our humanity. He is patient with us and willingly assists us in our fears.
When we tell a 3 year old that he can pet the neighbor’s large (intimidating!) dog, he can still be scared. We do not call him a sissy. We encourage him and assure him that what we have said is true and can be believed.
In a similar way, the Lord acts to assure Gideon. In doing so He shows His power over Baal. Baal is supposedly the god of rain/dew. Yet, as the chiasmi suggest, the Lord shows that He alone controls the atmosphere.
The second test is greater than the first. In the first one would assume that the fleece would soak in the moisture and leave the ground dry. The second test provides more "durability" to the miracle as the fleece does not soak in a single drop. The lesson is clear: He is the God of the impossible; Baal is no contender.
We are not to set out "fleece" and expect God to answer our calls for a sign. We are instead to trust the word of the Lord and the signs he has already given us. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper are visible signs that God uses to bolster our weak faith. If we need confirmation that the Lord is a Saving God, all we need to do is remember the baptismal waters that flowed over us and partake of His Table.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.