Verses 1-10: The children of Israel are given up to the Midianites and the Amelakites. God does this because of their continued disobedience. These aggressors cause the children of Israel to make hideaways for themselves in the mountains. Their livestock and harvest were taken from them. A prophet informed them the reason of these hardships: God, who had led them out of Egypt and given them so much, told them not to pay heed to the false gods of the Amorites, but they had not listened.
Verses 11-35: Gideon, the son of Joash is here chosen by God to save Israel from the Midianites. The Angel of the Lord came to deliver this message to Gideon. Gideon does not take this proclamation as truth at first. Instead, he tests the Angel of the Lord by bringing him an offering. When the Angel of the Lord consumes the offering with fire, Gideon believes.
Later that night, God instructs Gideon to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and build a proper one to God. Gideon does so, but by the cover of night because he is scared of the repercussions.
When it is discovered that Gideon tore down the altar, other men want to punish him. However, Joash, his father, defends his actions and claims that if Baal was powerful as such, he could defend himself. Since Baal does not exist, and the logic is sound, no challenge is made to Gideon and his standing seems to improve among the people.
In a menacing development, the Midianites gather closer, threatening. Gideon has enough charisma to draw the Abezrites, and members of the tribes of Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali to himself, in preparation to defend or war.
Verses 35-41: Gideon, although strong and dedicated to God, still needs assurance that God will truly help him in the upcoming conflict with the Midianites. He asks God twice for a miracle to confirm: fleece on the threshing floor and the dispersion of the dew on either the floor only or the fleece only. God complies with both requests and gives Gideon the assurance he was seeking. Gideon’s requests aren’t depicted as being needy or flippant; they are presented as respectful and in some way necessary for Gideon.
Looking at Gideon, it is easy to judge him. He doesn’t believe the Angel of the Lord until he can confirm the truth in his own way. Then he seeks to further strengthen his own resolve by asking God himself to prove that He will help Gideon defeat the Midianites. In light of all the strong history of the work of God, and how He blessed Israel, Gideon had to have God prove his identity multiple times.
Gideon must have grown up with the knowledge of God, but the “presence” of Baal and the like would have been an influence all his life also. Was Gideon just being cautious? Maybe He had been witness to sorcery or tricks that were presented as works of Baal or other false gods and part of him believed they had power. Perhaps asking God to prove it was Gideon’s only way to assure himself that it was the one true God he was now serving. In any case, God chose Gideon and was patient with his requests, granting each of them in turn.
Remember from verse 15, Gideon says that his clan is the weakest in Manasseh and that he is the least in his father’s house. So we know that God chose Gideon not because of his standing in the community or because of his strength as a warrior. No, God saw something in Gideon that neither Gideon not those around him could see. That quality of leadership, of strength, of confidence was kindled by God within Gideon.
God, working in a person, making them something they could not be on their own, blessing them with grace, being patient and loving, providing a way out of quandary.
Has God done this for you? I can say with absolute confidence that God has done that for me!