By Marc W. Gibson
Gideon was one of the great men of the Old Testament. His story (Judges 6-8) is remembered largely for the thrill- ing account of his leadership of the valiant 300 men and their destruction of the Midianite army, which brought 40 years of peace and relief from harsh Midianite oppression. What may be an even more interesting facet of this story is the need that Gideon had for assurance from God. Early on, Gideon asked three times for a sign, and later, God offered an opportunity for Gideon to gain some needed assurance. I believe we can see Gideon, like so many Bible characters, as a man like ourselves. He was someone that needed as- surance from God, and God was willing to provide it.
Assurances Requested By Gideon
After seven years of Midianite oppression, the Angel of the Lord (who was a person of Deity, see Judg. 6:14, 22-23; Exod. 33:20) appeared to Gideon at his father’s winepress. What we observe in Gideon is a man full of negativity, self-deprecation, and criticism. Yet, here was a man who, in the eyes of the Lord, could accomplish great things. Responding to the charge to go and save Israel with the Lord’s help, Gideon asks for a sign in order to know whether it was really the Lord talking with him (Judg. 6:17-24). The Lord could have noted Gideon’s apparent lack of faith, refused to give a sign, and chosen someone else. Instead, the Lord responded to the meat and bread offering that Gideon prepared and made fire rise out of a rock to consume it. This assured Gideon that indeed it was the Lord to whom he had been speaking.
After first carrying out an important task in his home- town and gathering an army to meet the Midianite forces, Gideon again called upon God for assurance that God would save Israel by his hand (6:36). Gideon proposed a test: he would place a fleece of wool on the threshing floor, and if the fleece had dew on it the next morning while the ground around it remained dry, he would acknowledge that the Lord would save Israel by his hand (6:37). It was quite bold of Gideon to test the Lord’s word in this way, but the Lord accommodated his wishes and made it happen as Gideon had proposed (6:38). Still not completely satisfied, Gideon pleaded with the Lord not to be angry as he pro- posed another test with the fleece of wool, this time asking that the fleece be dry while the ground was wet with dew (6:39). We can surely understand why Gideon was afraid that the Lord might be angry at his repeat- ed requests for assurance. But again the Lord does as
Gideon requests (6:40). Why didn’t God refuse to do any more signs, and rebuke Gideon for his apparent lack of faith? Why did God continue to forbear?
Gideon Finds Assurance Always Available
One answer is that God knew the character of Gideon. Gideon was the type of person who wanted to be sure of what he was doing. It was not that he did not want to do what was required of him, but rather that he wanted as much assurance as possible that the Lord was with him to guarantee success. The fact that the Lord knew the sincere heart of Gideon is demonstrated in the next stage of the story. After the Lord systematically whittled Gideon’s army of 32,000 men down to 300 valiant soldiers (7:1-7), he commanded Gideon to “go down against the camp (of the Midianites), for I have delivered it into your hand” (7:9). It is most interesting that the Lord then adds, “But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah, your servant, and you shall hear what they say; and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp” (7:10-11a). The Lord made available to Gideon an opportunity for further assurance if he felt he needed it. True to his character, Gideon wasted no time in going down to the Midianite camp where he overheard one Midianite soldier telling another soldier about a dream. The dream revealed to Gideon the assurance he needed — God would deliver the Midianite camp into his hand (7:11-14). With full assurance of mind, Gideon returned to tell his army, “Arise, for the Lord has delivered the camp of Midian into your hand” (7:15). The rest of the account tells of the mighty victory that Gideon and his valiant 300 men won with the help of the Lord.
God Provides Assurance For All
Gideon was a man who accomplished great things for God, but he was also a man who needed an extra dose of assurance. Many of us can relate to this. Some may race forward into spiritual battle on the first note of assurance from God, while others seek to fill their cup full of divine assurance before they advance. This reflects a difference in the character of people, and God can distinguish between the sincere seeker and the belligerent scoffer. Thomas, the apostle of Jesus, is another example of the same type of character as Gideon. He needed more assurance of Jesus’ resurrection than just the word of his fellow disciples. Jesus provided that assurance because Thomas, though skeptical at first, sincerely wanted to know the truth (John 20:24-28). A multitude of assurances are provided in God’s Word in order that the faithful of our day might be blessed as “those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29).
You may be a person who needs great assurance of truth. No problem — God provides assurance aplenty to make complete the faith and hope of every believer who seeks him. Whether you are an Isaiah who says, “Here am I; send me!” or a Gideon who says, “How can I save Israel?”, let your mind dwell on his word as you seek his strength. Drink from the abundant fountain of confidence that nourished the faithful heroes of old. If you love God and his truth, God will assure your heart, and work in you “both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).