The story of Gideon gets space in many children's Bibles and storybooks, because it's so visual and adventurous. A basically ordinary guy is called by God to deliver his people from
the Midianites, and defeats a much, much larger army, and the foreign army collapses in confusion. What a story! But there's more here than meets the eye. Let's look.
The Spirit of God "clothed Gideon" (Judges 6:34) and he blew a trumpet as a call to arms. But then he asked the Lord for a sign (Judges 6:36-40) by putting out a fleece and asking the Lord to make it wet one night, then dry the next. The Creator of the universe plays along with him. After Gideon gathers an army of 32,000 fighters, God tells him to reduce the number ("You're too many, and you will say you delivered yourselves" the Lord says). Only 300 troops are left!
This puts Gideon into a sweat, because there are 135,000 in the opposing army (Judges 8:10) and that's 450-to-one odds. So God sends him into the enemy camp to hear a soldier telling his buddy about his dream, which his buddy interprets to mean that "Gideon the son of Joash" is going to defeat their army. Worshiping God, Gideon sets up his troops around the Midianites, each holding a trumpet and a pitcher or jar with a torch inside. They break their clay jars and hold their torches up, blowing on their trumpets and shouting, "A sword for the Lord and for Gideon," and the army basically defeats itself. Hooray!
But again, this is a lot more than an army story. Here are some of these pictures that come into focus for us in the New Testament:
- Jesus tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they are "clothed with power" (Luke 24:49) -- the same word as the Spirit of God clothing Gideon.
- God spoke to Gideon over and over. Jesus taught his disciples, and he sent the Holy Spirit to speak to the church after he ascended to the Father. The Holy Spirit is still speaking to us.
- The torches symbolized God's presence in different ways, among them light (John 1, and many other references) and the power of the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:6, "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ").
- The clay jars hid the torches until the right time, then were broken to reveal the light. We are holding that light of the Gospel in the clay jars of our own lives (2 Cor. 4:7) which are humble containers for such great truth. Jesus also tells us not to hide our light under a basket -- probably referring to this story too (Mat. 5:14-16).
- We could also say that the Good News shines out of the "cracks and holes" in our persons, which can stand for our trials in this life.
- We could also say we must be willing to let ourselves be broken (1 Pet. 5:6) so the Gospel can be released instead of hidden, spoken instead of kept silent within.
God's work doesn't get done except by God's methods. I must surrender to being humbled so he can have his way, even when I don't understand it. Are you willing to be humbled also?