4 July 2022

Gideon's calling: How can I?

Bible study by Major Mal Davies

Major Mal Davies considers how Gideon went from threshing wheat to leading Israel.

Key text

After Moses came Joshua, and after Joshua came...? The book of Joshua ends with a report of his death and burial and the following book, Judges, commences with fighting and confusion as the Israelites lacked a leader.

In Judges 2:10 and 11 we read: ‘Another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals.’

God’s response – as captured in Judges 2:16 – was to raise up judges, champions who delivered the Israelites and provided leadership and justice. For the period between settlement in Canaan (the promised land) and the commencement of the monarchy (with Saul proclaimed king), a series of these judges ruled for varying periods of time.

Pause and reflect

  • Can you recall a situation you found yourself in when there was a lack of clear leadership?
  • What went wrong, and how was the problem resolved?

In our study passage, we find that the Israelites had again rebelled against God and, for seven years, the Midianites dominated them. Then an angel of the Lord appears at Ophrah and speaks to Gideon, son of Joash, referring to him as ‘mighty warrior’ (v12).

A field of wheat

Judges 6:11 and 12

Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’

Read the passage

It may be that the angel thought more highly of Gideon than he did. After all, the preceding verse says that Gideon was effectively hiding – ‘threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites’ (v11). A mighty warrior who hides!

Gideon’s fearful mindset is perhaps also revealed when he replies to the angel: ‘If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?’ He then adds: ‘The Lord has abandoned us’ (v13).

This is an interesting take on the situation because, in reality, the Israelites had abandoned God. The book of Judges shows a repeated pattern: the Israelites rebel against God, they are dominated by a neighbouring nation or people, they repent and then God provides them with a judge. No part of that cycle says that God abandoned his people.

Pause and reflect

  • Does God ever choose to abandon us or can he be silent for a reason? (See Psalms 13 and 88.)
  • If you feel a distance between God and yourself, how can you seek to close the gap and have a renewed sense of his presence?

Gideon is advised to go ‘in the strength you have’ (v14) to which he replies, possibly with some exasperation: ‘But how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family’ (v15).

That question – ‘How can I?’ – has been the ready reply for countless generations of believers when God calls them to do something that seems beyond them. Thousands of years ago it was the plea of Moses (see Exodus 3:11). Today it is often the plea of Christians when God calls them into action.

Pause and reflect

  • Have you ever used the ‘How can I?’ response with God? What did he want you to do? Did you end up doing it or not?
  • When you plead your inadequacy to God, are you just being humble? What are you really worried about?

God assures Gideon of his presence and Gideon says, ‘Oh, good. OK then. In that case, I’ll go.’

Wait! No, he doesn’t! Instead he says: ‘Give me a sign that it is really you talking to me’ (v17). Moses took a similar approach in Exodus 4:1–9 when God showed him several signs to demonstrate that it was God giving the instructions.

Gideon prepares some food and places it on a rock, where the Lord produces an intense fire that destroys the food immediately. Gideon is so convinced that he builds an altar there.

Pause and reflect

  • When you sense God is saying something to you, how do you know it’s from God?
  • Is there any way to test whether advice or an instruction is from God? (See 1 John 4:1–6.)

The Bible is full of stories of lives being turned around after an encounter with God. Gideon is one such example. From a position of fear, hiding from the Midianites and questioning God, he agrees to ‘save Israel out of Midian’s hand’ (v14).

He goes with God’s encouragement: ‘Do not be afraid’ (v23).

Let's pray

Father, although I may feel unworthy, inadequate, incapable and unqualified for the task you have in mind, give me a trusting heart, willing to obey your call.


Bible study by

Major Mal Davies

Major Mal Davies


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