After Deborah and Barak helped the Israelites stand up to their bullying neighbors, they enjoyed forty years of peace in the land with Deborah as their judge.
But the next generation of Israelites forgot about God’s protection, once again. They chose to worship as their neighbors did and stopped looking to God for their safety.
Their neighbors began stealing the Israelites’ food. Whenever the Israelites would plant crops, the Midianites and Amalekites rode in on camels and set up tents. They brought their livestock to eat up all the crops the Israelites had worked so hard to grow. They even stole their sheep, cows, and donkeys. After they left, the land was stripped of everything.
One day an angel from the Lord went to visit a young man named Gideon. The angel sat down under a tree and watched as Gideon hid in a shallow pit to do his farm work, so the Midianites would not see him and steal his food.
The angel moved closer to Gideon and stood shining before him. “Hello, Strong Warrior!” the angel addressed Gideon. “The Lord is with you.”
Gideon looked up in surprise. “Strong warrior? I don’t think so! I don’t mean to be rude, but if the Lord is with us, why are our neighbors always stealing our food? It feels more like God has forgotten about us. I’ve heard the stories about how He helped our ancestors escape from Egypt, but that was forever ago. Now God is just letting bad things happen to us.”
This time, God Himself spoke directly to Gideon. “Yes, you are a strong warrior, Gideon,” God told him. “You are strong, because I am making you strong. I am giving you the power to rescue Israel from the Midianites.”
“Me?” Gideon asked “I’m the least important person in my family, and my family is the least important family in our tribe.”
“Don’t worry, Gideon,” God reassured him. “With My help, standing up to all the Midianites will feel like fighting only one man.”
But before Gideon could stand up to the Midianites, God wanted him to remind everyone why they had lost God’s protection. The Israelites didn’t realize that it was they who had forgotten God, not the other way around. They had broken God’s first and second commandment. The way their neighbors worshiped seemed so exciting. Their statues were beautiful and tempting. God told Gideon to get rid of the altar his father had built.
When the rest of Gideon’s family saw this the next morning, they were angry and wanted to punish him. But Gideon’s father, Joash, said, “Well, if this statue were really a god, it would have defended itself. Let the statue punish Gideon if it’s real.”
As Gideon prepared to take action against the Midianites, he prayed to God. “Oh, Lord! Please give me a sign that this is really what you want me to do. When I put some wool on the stone floor, please let only the wool be damp in the morning, while the stone is dry.”
The next morning, Gideon woke up to find that there was morning dew on the wool, but none on the stone ground. When he squeezed it, enough water came out to fill a bowl.
But Gideon still felt nervous, so he prayed to God again. “I’m sorry for asking this, God,” Gideon said. “But just to double-check, I’ll leave the wool out on the stone floor overnight again. This time let the wool be dry and the stone floor be wet with dew.”
When Gideon woke up the next morning, he saw that the stone floor was wet, while the wool was completely dry. Knowing what a brave thing Gideon was being asked to do, God showed him grace and gave him proof that He would really be giving the Israelites His protection again.