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Bible Witness #2: Gideon -- From Coward to Hero

The following is the second in a series of fictionalized re-tellings of various stories of the Bible.  God has provided the Bible as a wonderful love letter to us.  Let us always praise His name.



[The following story is based on the events described in Judges 6-7]

All through the town there was the sound of music and laughter.  People were dancing, singing and celebrating as far as the eye could see.

Anon sat with his older friend sharing a bit of wine outside Anon's home.  They were leaving the more active celebrating to the younger people.  Anon looked around and commented, “This is just amazing.  Two weeks ago we were beaten, defeated and without hope, but now look at what the Lord has done for us.”

Bichri replied, “I am still in shock.  Just the idea that we now have food is incredible enough, but the idea that we have actually defeated those cruel dogs defies the imagination.  I had never thought things would turn around like this.”

“It boggles my mind to even see how our fortunes have changed to make today so different.  I would love to understand how this all came about.  I have heard so many rumors, with so many of them sounding so unlikely that I just can't begin to believe them.  The only thing that all the rumor have in common is that the Lord used Joash's son, Gideon, but beyond that, I can't tell fact from fiction.”

“I know what you mean,” said Bichri.  “We may never...”  Suddenly he interrupted himself, pointing and saying, “Hey, look over there.  Isn't that one of Gideon's servants?  Oh, what is his name?”

Anon looked and said, “I should know his name...yes, his name is Purah.”  He then called out, “Purah!  Over here.  Won't you join us and have a bit of wine?”

Purah, a small man with specks of gray in his beard, came over to the two older men.  He said, “Isn't this a wonderful evening?  We have much to be thankful for, don't we?”

Bichri replied, “We do indeed.  Would you join us for a cup of wine?”

Purah was enjoying his new status.  He knew full well, that a week ago these two men would never have invited him, a mere servant, to have wine with them.  He suspected that they wanted details about what the Lord had done through Gideon, but since he enjoyed telling the story, he sat down and accepted a cup of wine.

Anon said, “There are many rumors of how Gideon defeated the Midianites, we even heard that the Lord had turned them one-against-another or that an army of angels appeared to smite them dead.  There are so many stories and we don't know what is true and what isn't.  Could you tell us the true story?”

Purah said, “I was there for most of it.”  Taking a sip, he commented, “This is very good wine.”

“Here, have some more.” said Bichri, as he refilled Purah's cup.  “We would be very grateful to hear your accounting of the events.”

“Up until a week ago, everything was normal.  We would go about our duties.  Gideon was doing everything he could to survive the Midianites' terror.  Life wasn't very good because we lived in fear, but it was predictable.  I guess God heard our cries, because He came in to change our lives forever.”

“It all began a week ago.” Purah told them.  “One quiet afternoon, when everything seemed perfectly normal, my master, Gideon, rushed into the house and started shouting urgent orders.  He sent me after a young goat, others were building up the fire and preparing to make fresh unleavened bread.  When I got back, I helped him slaughter the goat, quickly cook some meat, placing it in a basket.  Gideon gathered up the meat, a pot of broth and the bread and rushed off with them.”

Bichri commented, “That was indeed odd behavior.”

“I was baffled.  I asked the others if he had said anything of what this was all about.  One of the servant-girls said that while she was making the bread, she thought she heard him say, 'Girl, don't burn that bread, it has to be good enough to serve an angel.'  We actually laughed when she told us that because it sounded so absurd.”

“Before long, Gideon returned.  He looked like he has seen a ghost.  He was pale, he was shaking and his eyes were almost vacant.  He stumbled into the house.  I ran to him and sat him down, calling for something for him to drink.  He started out babbling, not making any sense, but after a while we came to understand what had happened to our master.

“He told us how he was attempting to thresh wheat without allowing the Midianites to notice, so he was doing it in the wine vat.  It is hard to do a good job of threshing in a vat, but badly threshed wheat is better than no wheat at all; because surely the Midianites would have taken the wheat if they had seen it.  As he worked, he was keeping a watchful eye, just in case he should be noticed.  At one point, he looked up and saw a stranger there.  The stranger said, 'The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.'”

Purah paused to take another sip of wine.  Anon said, “That must have struck Gideon as odd.”

Purah replied, “Indeed.  My master had never been a warrior of any sort.  Since we have lived under the cruel hand of the dogs of Midian, the one who fights, ends up dead.  Gideon always knew that he was safest if he avoided notice.”

The two listeners nodded in agreement as Purah continued, “As Gideon talked more with the stranger, he began to suspect that the stranger wasn't a man at all, but actually an angel of God.  However, if this were indeed an angel, that made his words even more scary.  The angel was telling Gideon that he should go in strength and deliver Israel from the power of Midian.  Gideon had spent his life hiding from the attention of the Midianite forces.  While he desperately wanted to see the end of the Midianite oppression, he knew how vicious they could be.”

“He tried hard to convince the visitor that he was not the man for the job, but the angel explained that Gideon would not be doing this in his own power.  The angel said that God was sending him and so he would be working with God's power.  He said that Gideon would be able to strike Midian, like it was just one man.

“My master didn't know what to do.  If this stranger really was an angel and God really was behind him, then he would be guaranteed success, but if this man wasn't of God, then those actions would be suicide.  Then, it occurred to him that the only way he can know what to do is to obtain a clear answer concerning the nature of this stranger.  He asked the man for a sign and requested that he might wait while Gideon prepared a gift for him.  The man agreed.

“That was when Gideon came to us for the food.  He brought the food back under the oak tree, to offer them to the stranger.  The man told Gideon to put the unleavened bread and the meat on a stone, and to pour the broth over it.  After Gideon did that, the stranger touched the end of his staff to the food.  Suddenly, fire leapt up from the rock, totally consuming the meal.  When Gideon looked up, the stranger was gone, except Gideon now knew for sure that this had not been a man, but an angel.”

Both of Purah's listeners were open-mouthed in astonishment.  Purah paused to take a drink of his wine, then continued, “As he stood there, looking at the rock with nothing but ashes on top of it, he realized what this all meant.  He has been visited by an angel of God.  An angel had called him to save Israel.  He was going to fight the Midianites.  He had actually seen an angel of the Lord face-to-face.  He was terrified by the enormity of the situation.  Just as his understanding was growing into something too big for him to bear, the voice of the Lord came to him, saying, 'Peace to you.  Don't be afraid, for you will not die.'”

“As Gideon came to this part of his story, he suddenly jumped up, saying, 'That was an angel of God!  Purah, come with me!'  We went out under the oak tree, where I saw the blackened rock, exactly as Gideon had described.  He started giving me instructions to gather rocks and bring them to him.  He placed the rocks to construct an altar.  When he was finished it was almost nightfall.  He called the altar, Yahweh Shalom, the peace of God.  To me, there was a real sense of power at that altar.

“Gideon got on his face to pray at the new altar.  Right then and there, God gave him instructions.  I never heard anything, but my master came away from his time of prayer with a fully-constructed plan of what he must do.

“A few hours later, under the cover of darkness, Gideon, myself and nine other male servants headed out on his mission. We took with us two bulls, one that was young and another that was 7 years old.  We went out to the altar of Baal, owned by my master's father.  After we got there, we tore down the altar to Baal and chopped down the Asherah pole that was nearby.  We then built another altar to the Lord.  Gideon had us place the seven-year old bull on top of the wood from the chopped up Asherah pole, as a burnt offering.  During this entire process, we were keeping a vigilant watch because we did not want anybody to catch us performing these acts.

“We finally made to our beds shortly before dawn.  We were exhausted, but felt like we had started something important.  Somehow, we were all caught up in Gideon's urgency of purpose and never did think much about what would happen the next day.

“By the time we awoke a few hours later, our actions had already been noticed and the talk everywhere was, 'Who did this?'  Before long, the men of the city came to Joash, the father of Gideon, and demanded that he bring out his son, saying, 'He must die because he tore down Baal's altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it!'”

At this point, Purah had to pause his telling of the story as a noisy band of revelers came past where they were.  He took this opportunity to get another sip of his wine.  Anon re-filled all three cups while they waited for the noisy shouting and singing to fade to the point they could talk again.

As the sound level faded, Bichri said, “Did you have any idea how Joash was going to reply?”

“No, but I know I was scared!” said Purah.  “but, I don't think that Gideon had any idea how this was going to come out either, these men were out for blood, they were so angry.”

Anon asked, “So, obviously they didn't kill him.  What turned the tide?”

“It was Joash...well...as I think about it, it must have been God working through Joash.  Nothing short of God could have turned that angry, blood-thirsty crowd away in meek submission.  Joash's words were something like, 'Would you plead Baal's case for him?  Would you save him?  Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning!  If he is a god, let him plead his own case, because someone tore down his altar.'

“After Joash spoke these words, there was a little residual grumbling and arguing, but the crowd's abandonment of their cause was already inevitable.  With these words the crowd lost their momentum, but that wasn't the end to the repercussions of our nocturnal actions.”

“Of course, the Midianites looked at our action as an uprising.  They weren't going to let anybody get away with this without consequences, very severe consequences.  They immediately prepared to smash any thoughts of taking action against them or their gods.  As we saw armies of Midianites, Amalekites and Qedemites gathering across the Jordan, it was terrifying, but not for Gideon.  He said he wasn't scared because the Spirit of the Lord was on him.  Instead of cowering, like almost everybody else, he began to blow the ram's horn.  Soon, his call to arms was taken up by others and it spread across the countryside.  Gideon sent messengers to all corners of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Nephtali calling for help.  Soon, men were coming from everywhere, ready to fight for Israel.

“As the men gathered, first in the tens, then hundreds, then in the thousands, it was so inspiring.  But even so, I could not completely escape the fear of the vicious, malevolent Midianites.  I knew how they were and what they capable of.  My memory is forever branded with the image of them chopping and trampling my dear sister to death, laughing the whole time, just because she had attempted to protect a child from them.  There is no end to their evil cruelty.”

Bichri said, “Those dogs!  They inflicted such obscenities on us!”

The three men fell into silence for a moment as each recalled some of the nightmares each had experienced at the hands of the Midianites.  Then Anon prompted Purah to continue the story by saying, “So, the army of the Midianites was building and so was the army of Israel.  What happened then?”

“Finally,” said Purah, “the day came that Gideon's army moved out early one morning and went to camp by the spring of Harod.  The army of Midian was in a valley a short distance to the north.  It was there, in our new camp, that the Lord spoke to Gideon again.  At that time, I did not know the Lord had spoken to him or what He had said, but Gideon got up in front of the accumulated fighting men with an announcement.”

“He told them that if any of them were afraid, then they should go home.  While I don't pretend to know anything about military strategy, I thought this was a risky announcement.  I was even more concerned that he had made a terrible mistake as I watched the majority of our army leave.  With that single announcement, the army was chopped down from over 30,000 men to under 10,000.  As I watched all those fighters leave, I wished I had the option to go with them, but, of course, that wasn't a choice I could make.  Whether we lived or died, my place was next to Gideon.  But, I must say that I felt like our odds of dying had just increased significantly.

“Gideon then commanded the men to go down to the water and drink.  As they drank, he hand-picked out a small group of men, perhaps 300.  He sent the rest of the men back to their tents.  Once this smaller group was chosen and the others were gone, we took provisions and trumpets and moved forward to a position above the Midianite camp.

“That night, Gideon came to me saying, 'Purah, come with me.  We have work to do before we sleep tonight.'  He took me to his tent.  We talked quietly while we waited for the camp to become silent.  I wanted to ask him why he had sent so many fighters away, but didn't know how to ask without it sounding like I was questioning his judgment, but he saved me the trouble.  He shared with me about how strange he found it that the Lord was guiding his steps.  He said that he felt the Spirit of the Lord come over him the moment he saw the forces of the Midianites gathering in the valley of Jezreel.  At that moment, God spoke to him and he knew exactly what he was supposed to do.  He said that since that moment, the Lord had never been far away.

“He said that he didn't always understand what the Lord was planning, but the steps he was supposed to take were clear.  I asked him, 'What do you mean that you don't understand?' 

“He replied that he was terribly baffled when he stood there looking down on the ocean of fighting men, all prepared to fight for Israel, and he heard the Lord say, 'You have too many people for Me to hand the Midianites over to you, or Israel might think they did it themselves.' It was then, at the Lord's instruction, that Gideon told all the fearful soldiers to leave. He knew he had to be obedient to what the Lord asked, but he was really worried as he watched the thousands of fighting men leave.

Purah continued his story, “Gideon went on to tell me that even though he didn't know what the Lord was up to, following His instruction was incredibly satisfying.  He felt like he had been created specifically for this moment.  He described to me how the Lord had selected the 300 fighters.  God had spoken to him with perfect clarity, telling Gideon that He would identify each person that was to go with Gideon.  Man-by-man, God told Gideon which he could take and which were to stay.  At that moment, when Gideon stood looking at the 300, he was totally satisfied and confident of success.

“Then Gideon told me, 'That confidence didn't last.  Although, the Lord said that He is ready to hand over the Midianite camp, I got nervous again.  That is what you and I are doing tonight, the Lord is going to show me how he will work.'  With that ominous statement, he got up and we began to prepare to go out.

“As Gideon led, it became apparent that we were heading directly toward the enemy camp.  I got really nervous because the army of the Midianites, Amalekites and Qedemites was huge.  Their camels alone seemed to be as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore.  The more we crept toward their camp, the more despairing I became.  I thought, 'How could a little troop of 300 ever do more than annoy this never-ending force?'”

“As we came closer, we finally got so close that we could overhear two men talking.  We heard one say to the other, 'Listen, I had a dream: a loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp, struck a tent, and it fell.  The loaf turned the tent upside down so that it collapsed.'  Then his friend replied, 'This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon, son of Joash, the Israelite.  God has handed the entire Midianite camp over to him.'  As we overheard those words, I looked over at Gideon and a huge grin appeared on his face.  Gideon gestured that we were to head back to our camp.”

“When we arrived, he woke the men and divided them into three groups.  I was, of course, in Gideon's company.  He gave each of us a trumpet and an empty pitcher with a torch inside it.  It was obvious that the men were following orders, but had absolutely no idea what Gideon was up to.  Then, Gideon explained, he told us that each company was to spread out in a line on one side of the camp.  We were told that we were to follow Gideon's example, to blow their trumpets and break the pitchers when he did.  Then, we were to shout, 'The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!'”

“Gideon and our company were on the south side of the camp.  In the light of the waning moon, I could barely make out the men on each side of me, even though they were only about 20 feet away.  We took our positions and waited to allow time for all 3 companies to get ready.  As we stood there, doubts started coming into my mind.

“I thought, how are 300 men supposed to create anything other than a small disturbance to an army of tens of thousands?  I worried about how, as I would be standing here holding a torch in the night, I would be an easy target for an archer.  My mind reviewed the plan and questions came to mind.  How exactly am I supposed to break the pitcher?  With the trumpet?  I though about how it would be nice to have another hand, so I could pick up a rock and hit the pitcher while I hold the torch and trumpet.  It suddenly occurred to me that Gideon's whole plan would be over in half a minute, then what were we supposed to do?  Most of all, I wondered how the Midianites would respond when we revealed our presence.

“Standing there in the darkness, holding a trumpet in my left hand and a covered torch in my right, I was becoming terrified as these thoughts ricocheted through my mind.

“Suddenly, there was light off to my right where Gideon was.  In every direction, torches were appearing out of the night, then the sound of trumpets started.  I was momentarily dazzled into inactivity, by the sight and sound, but quickly I brought my trumpet to my lips and blew as hard as I could.  Even though I hadn't really figured out how I was going to break the pitcher, almost of it's own accord, the covered torch streaked toward the ground with the pitcher smashing on the ground.  I lifted the flame high and I finished blowing the trumpet.  I grabbed a new gulp of air and shouted out, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!

“I wasn't sure what to do next, so I paused for a moment.  What I saw and heard astonished me.  All through the camp were the sounds of sheer terror.  On top of that, there were the sounds of battle!  I saw tents burst into flame and other out-of-control fires shooting up out of the darkness.  The Midianites couldn't have been more terrified if an army of ghosts had appeared right in their tents as they slept!

“At that point, I realized that the Lord was fighting for us!  My fear gone, I blew my trumpet and shouted out of praise for the Living God!  This wasn't our battle, it was the Lord's!  From the sights sounds coming from the camp, the Midianites were obviously in a total panic, to the point that they were fighting one another.”

Bichri spoke under his breath, “Hallelujah!”

Purah went on without a pause, “I looked around and saw that most of the torch-bearing Israelites were still on the perimeter of the camp.  The torches and trumpet blasts seemed to be scaring the Midianites like doves flushed out of a thicket by boys.  The Midianites were clearly in a panicked, disorganized retreat with every man concerned only with his own survival.

“We realized, that without even drawing our swords and against all odds, the Midianites were defeated.  We were in no position to accept any credit for the victory, it was entirely God's victory.  The Lord had heard our cries and seen our suffering at the hands of the Midianites, so he defeated them for us.”

Anon and Bichri together said, “Praise the Lord!”

“That was indeed an incredible story.” said Anon, “We do appreciate you telling us what really happened.  In many ways, the truth is more amazing than all the rumors. “

Purah said, “I saw it with my own eyes and I hardly believe it.  This is a story that will be told for many generations, so even the children of our children's children will know that our God is powerful and hears the cries of our heart.  I thank you so much for the wine, but if you will excuse me, I must get back to my duties.”

As Purah walked away, Anon and Bichri sat for a long time, experiencing quiet awe of the Lord God Almighty.



My novel, Burst Into Flames: A Parable is now available as a free eBook or available in print. Go to http://crosswaysconcepts.com for more information.

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