Judges 7:9-11 And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the hose; for I have delivered it into thine hand. But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host: And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then he went down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host.
Let’s take a quick walk through Judges 6-7 – Gideon’s victory over the Midianites. I have been encouraged by what I found in this passage, and I hope you will be encouraged too.
The children of Israel turned away from the Lord, and He punished their wickedness by turning them over to the Midianites for seven years. The Midianites moved into the land of Israel, taking homes, land, and livestock. They forced the Israelites to seek shelter in mountains and caves. They left no sustenance (Judges 6:4). Israel was impoverished and afraid.
Gideon, like his fellow countrymen, was afraid of the Midianites too. While he threshed wheat in hiding, the Lord came to him and said, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour” (Judges 6:12). He responded, questioning the Lord: If the Lord is with us, why are these bad things happening? Didn’t He do miracles for our fathers? Where is He now?
The Lord didn’t get angry with Gideon’s response. Instead, He told Gideon that he will save Israel from the Midianites. Gideon said, “I am poor and the youngest of my father’s house; I have no qualifications to drive out the enemy.” The Lord responded, “Surely I will be with thee” (Judges 6:16). “I need a sign”, said Gideon. “Stay here ‘til I come back with a present for you.” It seems like a simple sign Gideon asked for, but when he returned the Lord was still there waiting for him. Gideon had prepared an offering for the Lord which the Lord received and set on fire, similar to the burning bush for Moses.
At this point, Gideon knows he was talking to the same God who brought Israel out of Egypt. He is going to deliver Israel again, this time by Gideon’s hand. Even though he knows God is on his side, Gideon is afraid. God commands that he break down the altar of Baal, but Gideon does it by night “because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city” (Judges 6:27).
After the alter of Baal is broken, Gideon called for reinforcements from four tribes of Israel to help defeat the Midianites. When they were gathered, Gideon asked for two more signs from the Lord: first that the fleece he set out overnight be the only thing with dew on it, and second, the next night, that the fleece be the only thing that is dry. God didn’t get impatient with Gideon because God understands human fear. He understands that sometimes we need continual affirmation that He is right there beside us.
Something else that is different about the signs of the fleece. Gideon wasn’t the only one present for these two signs. I heard a preacher say once that perhaps the signs of the fleece were not for Gideon, but for the children of Israel, to assure them that Gideon was God’s chosen man. Whether the signs of the fleece were for Gideon or for the children of Israel, God didn’t get impatient. He gave them both signs to encourage them and remind them that He was definitely going to lead them to victory.
Gideon’s army began as thirty-two thousand men, but God told them they were too many. This was God’s battle, not Israel’s. God had Gideon narrow down the men ‘til he was left with three hundred. I’m sure Gideon started to wonder. Why is God doing this? What is going on? How do three hundred defeat multitudes like the sand of the sea?
God knows just what we need and when we need it. In His mercy, God gave Gideon a fourth sign without Gideon even having to ask for it. God told Gideon to go into the camp of the Midianites, quietly, and then He said, “But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host” (Judges 7:10). God knew Gideon was afraid. He didn’t chastise him for his fear. He simply said, “If you’re afraid, don’t go alone.” Gideon found his courage that night. He found the ultimate sign that God was with him, a sign that he hadn’t asked for, but that God willingly gave him anyway. He found two Midianites talking about a dream. When one explained that a cake of barley bread rolled into the camp and toppled a tent, the other exclaimed, “This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host” (Judges 7:14). They didn’t know Gideon could hear them. God had provided the final bit of encouragement Gideon needed to lead his tiny army to victory.
Gideon returned to his camp, divided his men, and surrounded the Midianites. They brought lamps hidden inside clay pitchers and trumpets. When the men were in position, they broke the pitchers, shone their lamps, blew on the trumpets, and cried, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon” (Judges 7:20). The Midianites were afraid and plunged into chaos trying to get away from Gideon. They turned on each other as they fled. Gideon, who had once been afraid, was now chasing a fleeing and frightened multitude. Never again does the Bible say Gideon was afraid. He chased the enemy out of Israel and sent the tribes to destroy enemy cities. Gideon’s victory over Midian led to forty years of peace in Israel – peace without fear.
Did you notice throughout Judges 6-7 God never got impatient with Gideon’s fear? He never chastised Gideon for being afraid. He did not say “No” when Gideon asked for signs; He even gave a sign that Gideon didn’t ask for. God understands that people feel fear, even when we know He is with us. How do we combat fear? We must maintain our relationship with Him by reading His Word and talking to Him through prayer. The more we know the Word, the more we know the Lord of the Word. Rest on His promises like this one: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Since God cannot lie, then He most definitely is with us, just like He was with Gideon.
I hope this encourages you today. You are not alone. You don’t have to face your fears alone. God is with you. He knows your fear, and He knows how to help you with that fear. And, best of all, He wants to help you with your fear.