That banner was unfurled over a dark moment in Israel’s history. At the time, the Midianites covered the land like a blanket of innumerable grasshoppers (Judges 6:5). Israel had been greatly plundered and oppressed because of the Midianites. What was particularly stinging about the oppression was the fact that this situation was on account of their own sin. That is plain from Judges 6:1 where we read that “the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD.” For their sin of turning from Jehovah, the Righteous Jehovah gave Israel into the hand of their enemies. Israel is chastised for their sin.
We learn from the context that after the prophet came to rebuke them (Judges 6:7-11), Israel apparently repented of their sin. In that dark moment of oppression, Jehovah in mercy unfurls His banner of deliverance as seen and confessed by the mouth of Gideon. Jehovah gave a banner to Gideon and His repentant Israel, who feared Jehovah (Psalm 60:4). That banner would be displayed over the battle field for the sake of Jehovah’s glory and the salvation of God’s people. Under that banner Gideon was commissioned to fight. Under that banner he would go forth to the battle field as one man against thousands.
In Judges 6:11 we find that the Angel of Jehovah went and appeared in a small and insignificant town which was Ophrah. His purpose was to appear to Gideon in order to appoint him to the position of deliverer of Israel. When the Angel of Jehovah appeared to Gideon, Gideon was hiding and secretly threshing wheat in the wine press in order to keep his wheat from being taken by the Midianites. While Gideon is busy with the task at hand, the Angel appeared to him, and announces to Gideon, “The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour!”
How contrary was what the angel said to reality. So thought Gideon as reflected in his immediate response. “Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all His miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, “Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us in the hand of the Midianites” (Judges 6:13).
Gideon shows himself a spiritual man who understood the Israel’s history very well and in light of that understood the times in which the Israelites lived. Here in Gideon is the evidence of the beginning of the spiritual valour of which the Angel spoke. That response is the evidence of the working of God’s grace and Spirit in his heart and mind.
Again the Angel responds unhesitatingly: “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” (Judges 6:14) Gideon was Jehovah’s choice for deliverer and judge over Israel.
He was the correct choice, too. Sometimes a child of God will question improperly Jehovah’s choice of him to a particular vocation in life. He may question Jehovah’s wisdom in using him in this or that particularly difficult situation in the home, school, or congregation.
Gideon also improperly questions Jehovah’s wisdom here. Was he the right choice? Gideon did not think so. He was surprised and gave three reasons why Jehovah’s decision made little sense to him (Judges 6:15).
First, he objected that his family was poor. If he were to be leader, he needed power. He needed the power of wealth, prestige, and a good blood line to command the allegiance and abilities of his soldiers. Besides, what kind of enthusiasm could a poor man generate in his troops before an enemy that was without number, both they and their camels (Judges 6:5)? Who would listen to the wisdom of a poor man (Ecclesiastes 9:16)? Gideon appeared to present a valid objection.
In addition, he reminded the Angel of Jehovah that he was from the tribe of Manasseh. What Gideon meant was that according to his knowledge of history a leader ought not come out of Manasseh. Had not the promises which were given to Israel shown that Shiloh would not come out of Manasseh, but out of Judah? Besides, did not the Angel remember from Israel’s history that Jacob had put his right hand on Ephraim’s head, and not Manasseh’s? Was not Joshua from that tribe of Ephraim? What nobility and valiant leaders could Manasseh produce? The Angel of Jehovah had come to Manasseh and in Manasseh had come to Ophrah, which was an insignificant town in the bottom comer of Manasseh’s inheritance on the west side of the Jordan. So insignificant and unnoticed it was that we might have problems even finding it on our Bible map today. Perhaps, Gideon had another valid objection.
Finally, Gideon wondered about the wisdom of Jehovah’s decision by reminding the Angel of the fact that he was the least in his father’s house. Gideon believed that there were others in his family line that were more gifted and far more confident of themselves than he. His family name would have been the last family to become a household name in Israel. In Gideon’s mind, this was strike three. But, were these valid objections?
No. “Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.” (Judges 6:16). The Angel of Jehovah affirms without hesitation and without debate the wisdom of God’s choice for leading Israel’s army under Jehovah’s banner against the foe. This was Jehovah’s correct choice.
That’s true of all of Jehovah’s soldiers whom He calls in the church militant to fight under His banner against the enemy. Though outwardly the world scoffs at God’s sovereign and wise choice and though we might even improperly question God’s wisdom concerning ourselves, nevertheless, it is the truth that Jehovah makes no mistakes. His sovereign wisdom is perfect in selecting us for the warfare of faith, and in selecting Gideon for delivering Israel from under the oppression of the Midianites. The New Testament supports that truth.
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence. (I Corinthians 1:25-29).
That is why Gideon, who was not very mighty, not noble, and not confident, was Jehovah’s correct choice to march under that banner which gives Jehovah alone the glory. God chooses and uses the weak and despised to show the wonder of salvation by Him alone. The subsequent history concerning Gideon which we will examine in the next issues make that truth abundantly clear.
However, Gideon was not so sure of his appointment to be the earthly general in Jehovah’s army in Israel. He seeks a sign that his commission is really true and that Jehovah will be with him against that huge host of the Midianites. He seeks as he said “a sign that thou talkest with me.” He wanted to know for certain that what the angel said to him was indeed true. So, Gideon proposes that the angel wait until Gideon bring forth a present (a meat offering). Gideon returns with a prepared kid, unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour in a basket, and with a kettle of broth. This he puts under the oak tree upon the rock as directed by the Angel. In fact, the Angel commands him to lay the bread and the meat upon the rock, and pour out the broth upon the meat and bread on the rock under the oak tree.
Then the Angel gives Gideon the sign which he requested. The Angel of Jehovah with the end of His rod touches the Gideon’s meat offering, and immediately the offering is consumed. While fire rose up out of the rock to consume completely the meat offering, the Angel disappeared.
Unmistakably Gideon knew Who that man was. That was no mere man or prophet, but that was the Lord Jehovah! Jehovah had spoken with him. Gideon feared for his life! He had seen the Angel of Jehovah face to face! He expected to be consumed with fire like that meat offering on the rock under the oak tree.
But, behold, Jehovah comforts the heart of Gideon, “Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die!”
What is Jehovah saying? “Gideon you will not be consumed by Me. You will live. You have peace. You will not die because I am with thee, Gideon. That is true because another will die in your place and in His blood you are covered in My sight so that the fire of my wrath will consume Him and not you. He will remove that wrath which you and Israel do deserve. Because of that great work to come, that is why Israel is not consumed. That is why you, Gideon, are not consumed.”
Yes, Jehovah has made peace with His chosen people in the blood of the Lamb whose blood was shed on Calvary. That is the blood of the everlasting Covenant of peace with Jehovah.
In the confession of that principle, Gideon builds an altar and calls the Name of that place where Jehovah reveals Himself, Jehovah-Shalom. That was the banner which Jehovah unfurled. Now, under that banner which was unfurled before his spiritual eyes and confessed with his believing heart, Gideon must now go forward in faith into the battlefield against the Midianite horde.
We in the New Testament march under the same banner. We are given the banner of Christ crucified and risen again. It is the truth that our sins are forgiven in the blood of Christ, the Captain of our salvation. It is the truth that Christ died on the cross and by that death conquered the dominion of darkness. It is the truth that Christ arose in victory and reigns in His people by His Word and Spirit. Thus, Jehovah gives us also the banner of peace, Jehovah-shalom! That is the banner of our Lord Jesus Christ Who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14) and who made that peace through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20).
What is that peace? It is not an earthly peace. It does not mean earthly life without conflict. Gideon would immediately be shown that reality as we will see in more detail next time. He would learn that fighting under the banner of Jehovah-shalom, did not mean family peace or compromise. It would mean conflict. True peace is spiritual. The peace of Jehovah is essentially peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ by His Spirit who works peace in our hearts and consciences. It is peace founded on the truth and enjoyed in the faithful confession of the truth. Under that banner, Jehovah commissions Gideon to lead forth His people to battle the Midianites.
Notice that Jehovah chooses and uses an unconfident, insignificant, and unknown Gideon to lead His people. But, does not Jehovah do the same today?
Jehovah has given us the glorious banner of the Reformed Faith. Yet, under that banner, Jehovah commissions men to fight the battle of faith. He commissions in the church officebearers and the individual believer anointed with the Spirit to fight under that banner. But, it is plainly clear that Jehovah has gathered around His Great Standard an army of weak soldiers. Jehovah gathers the uneducated, poor, despised, and sinners around His standard. Looking at ourselves, we would say, “Surely, we will be defeated! It is a lost cause right from the get-go!”
We learn that because this is Jehovah’s banner, the battle is also Jehovah’s. He uses us who are weak that no flesh will glory in His presence, but that all the glory of the victory is to Him alone. Thus, Jehovah reminds us that we have nothing to fear because Jesus Christ is the Captain of our salvation and the Captain Who fights in and through us by His Spirit. Because that is true, the God of peace, will bruise Satan and his dominion under your feet (Romans 16:20). Yes, our feet by the sovereign grace and Spirit of Christ will march on the battlefield of faith to stand firmly on the neck of our enemies. We shall receive the victory in full.
Upon that sure promise and in a tranquil trust in Jehovah, both young soldiers and veteran soldiers of the church militant must fight the battle of faith. Though we fight in an age of spiritual darkness and against mighty enemies, Jehovah has unfurled His Banner over us, Jehovah-Shalom! Under that banner, He commissions His church militant to fight.
Since Jehovah is for us, who can be against us? ❖