5 Powerful Lessons from Gideon's Doubt
5 Powerful Lessons from Gideon's Doubt
Annette Griffin Contributing Writer
Through the story of Gideon, we see that God often chooses small fish to remind us that He is the master of the sea.
Have you ever felt outnumbered—like a small fish in an ocean of sharks? In the Old Testament, the Israelites were a fickle group. One generation loved the Lord with all their hearts, then the next would rise with a bent toward evil that put the pagan nations to shame. Still, God’s love and faithfulness toward His people remained steadfast. Even when He delivered them into the hands of their enemies, for discipline, God heard the Israelites’ repentant cries. Through the story of Gideon, we see that God often chooses small fish to remind us that He is the master of the sea.
What Happened in the Story of Gideon?
In Judges 6, we’re told that the Israelites turned from God and embraced the evil customs of neighboring lands. As a result of their disobedience and idolatry, God delivered His people into the hands of their enemies. For seven years they suffered the consequences of their waywardness. The Midianites and Amalekites burned their homes to the ground, rampaged their villages, and confiscated their crops and livestock—till the Israelites had no hope of survival.
Out of desperation, the Israelites called out to the God of their ancestors, who they’d all but forgotten. God heard their cries. He sent a prophet to expose their sin, then sent an angel of the Lord to help prepare an unlikely champion for Israel’s deliverance.
Gideon was the youngest son of Joash and belonged to the weakest tribe of Manasseh. The young man was so afraid of the murderous band of tormentors at large, that he chose to thresh his wheat in a winepress, for fear he might be ambushed in the field. So when an angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and declared, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior,” and instructed him to, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.” Gideon had a difficult time believing God and accepting the divine commission.
But as an act of faith, Gideon made a sacrifice to the Lord and reluctantly moved forward into his God-given calling. Before God could begin His campaign to deliver Israel, the pagan idols of Gideon’s clan had to be abolished. Under the cover of night and with fear and trembling, Gideon obeyed God’s command; he destroyed his father’s pagan altars, erected an altar to the Lord, and sacrificed a bull upon it.
The next morning the village was furious when they discovered that Gideon was responsible for demolishing altars of their pagan gods. When the townspeople insisted that Gideon die for the act, Joash wisely stepped in and said, “If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.” His suggestion seemed logical to the people, and they relented.
Meanwhile, the Midianites, Amalekites, and a host of other rebels joined forces. They marched to the valley of Jezreel to annihilate God’s people. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon. He blew a trumpet to rally the neighboring Israelite communities for war. But still, Gideon struggled with fear and doubt.
He asked God to give him a sign. “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised,” he said, “look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” God was merciful to Gideon and fulfilled his request. Still unsure, Gideon asked God to give him one more sign through the fleece. Once again God confirmed that He would indeed save Israel.
Early the next morning, Gideon and 32,000 Israelites prepared for battle. But God told Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.” So at the Lord’s careful direction, Gideon began sending soldiers home until only 300 warriors remained to fight.
Even though their enemies swarmed every inch of the valley below them, Gideon and his small army found their courage in the Lord. But the battle would not be won by their own might or power. Armed only with trumpets and torch jars the Israelites went to war.
On Gideon’s command, the Israelite warriors blew their trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” While each man held his position, the enemy screamed in horror. The Lord caused confusion throughout the Midianite camp—those who didn’t turn their swords upon each other fled for their lives.
In 6 Important Reminders from Gideon's Life, Ashley Hooker sums up Gideon’s incredible testimony of faith this way: “Gideon’s life is a remarkable one. He answered, obeyed, trusted, and waited on God. He is an example to us that no matter who we are, where we came from, or our current situation can keep God from using us for His glory.”
Why Was Gideon Allowed to Test God?
God saw a mighty man of valor when He looked at Gideon’s heart. Since Gideon was the youngest in his family and his tribe was considered the smallest of Israel, he was surely overlooked by everyone in the village. But God’s standard doesn’t rest on human estimation. His ways are higher than ours. Jesus said, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God's sight” (Luke 16:15).
Israel had given itself over to the detestable beliefs and practices of the pagan nations. God saw in Gideon the man He had created him to be—not the sinful man he had become. When Gideon stepped out in obedience, despite his doubts and fear, and tore down his father’s pagan altars—God ignited his faith. But that faith still required cultivation.
Just like God chose to whittle away the number of Israelite warriors so that He would receive the glory from the victory over the Midianites, he chose a frightened young man, with no merit or strong faith of his own, so that through Gideon’s weakness God’s power would be revealed as perfect.
Gideon had spent seven years in terror, hiding from his enemies. With the mercy of a father who instructs his frightened child in the ways of courage, God met Gideon at the point of his need. He nurtured Gideon’s frail faith by answering his requests concerning the fleece. Far different from the evil motives of the Israelites at Massah and Meribah, Gideon’s testing of the Lord reflected the questioning of his own understanding, rather than a lack of faith in who God was and what He could do.
After God permitted the fleece testing, He then put Gideon’s burgeoning faith to the test by refusing to “let Gideon have a cushion of a bulky army,” explains Hope Bolinger in Who Was Gideon?
Gideon rose to the occasion and trusted God. After the defeat of the Midianites, Israel viewed Gideon differently and asked him to rule over them, but his faith empowered him to refuse the honor and proclaim, “the LORD will rule over you” (Judges 8:22-23). Gideon understood that the power of God had secured Israel’s victory, not his own. And for that reason, he is included among the great men of faith listed in Hebrews 11.
5 Ways God Transformed Gideon's Doubt
“What mighty calling from the Lord do we struggle with most? What list of weaknesses do we make for ourselves; weaknesses that we believe invalidate us from serving God in a mighty way? What arguments do we make with the Lord when He calls us to step out of the comfort zone of our winepresses?” asks Jennifer Waddle in Gideon: A Fearful Man with a Mighty Mission
Regardless of our weaknesses—and often because of them—God has called each of us to a unique mission. Here are five ways God transformed Gideon’s doubt into a heritage of faith that secured Israel’s peace for 40 years:
God called Gideon—When God wants to use a person for His glory, He calls them by name. That name may not be the same moniker we’re given at birth, nor the same label branded upon us through worldly judgment. By all appearances, Gideon was not hero material. Yet, God sent an angel of the Lord to speak into existence the reality of Gideon’s calling when he declared him to be a “mighty warrior.” The tiny spark of faith ignited by the Lord’s calling chipped away at Gideon’s doubt. That seed of faith began to grow as Gideon recognized the “God who gives life to the dead and calls into being what does not yet exist” (Romans 4:17). Who has God called you to be? Are you walking in faith toward that calling?
God met Gideon—God may have imparted His initial message to Gideon through a prophet and an angel, but when Gideon began seeking the Lord, God showed up on the scene. In Jeremiah 29:13 God says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Sometimes a sincere heart will seek God through reverent admission of doubt. Gideon was desperate to believe that the God of his ancestors was real, active, and still willing to rescue wayward Israel. Knowing his doubts and questions were not rebellious in nature, God lovingly answered Gideon by revealing Himself as the God who sees, sends, and saves (Judges 6:14-16). Have you sought the God who is still in the business of seeing, sending, and saving?
God forgave Gideon—Before the restoration of Israel could occur, repentance had to happen. God’s people had traded worship of the One True Living God for that of lifeless idols. Those altars had to be torn down. It wasn’t enough for Israel to cry out to God in regret over their sin or grieve over the consequences. The idols had to be destroyed. When Gideon obeyed that command, he took the first step away from doubt and into faith (James 2:17). Are you holding onto idols of the heart that need to be demolished before your faith can grow?
God tested Gideon—In James 1:3-4 we’re told that the testing of our faith matures and completes us. God graciously provided Gideon with ample evidence of His power and sovereignty through the fleece. But that knowledge would’ve remained dormant had God not given Gideon an opportunity to exercise his belief in that revelation. When God pared down the number of Israelite warriors, Gideon was forced to trust God. As he did, his faith grew into a powerful weapon that God used to free Israel of Midianite oppression and free Gideon of doubt. What mountains in your life need to be moved? What enemies need vanquishing? The battle belongs to the Lord. Have you stepped out in faith, lately?
God used Gideon—“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong; God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:29). Through a timid, unlikely hero God rescued Israel. Gideon also went on to become Israel’s greatest judge. But these achievements pale in comparison to the transformative work God accomplish inside Gideon. As this fearful man began to walk with God by faith, he literally became a new creation. The old doubt passed away and all things became new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Are you walking in the newness of life? If not, what doubts are holding you back from being used by God for His glory?
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Annette Marie Griffin is an award-winning author and speaker who has managed and directed children’s and youth programs for more than 20 years. Her debut children’s book, What Is A Family? released through Familius Publishing in 2020. Annette has also written curriculum for character growth and development of elementary-age children and has developed parent training seminars to benefit the community. Her passion is to help wanderers find home. She and her husband have five children—three who have already flown the coop and two adopted teens still roosting at home—plus two adorable grands who add immeasurable joy and laughter to the whole flock.
This article is part of our People from the Bible Series featuring the most well-known historical names and figures from Scripture. We have compiled these articles to help you study those whom God chose to set before us as examples in His Word. May their lives and walks with God strengthen your faith and encourage your soul.