Gideon wiped the sweat off his brow as he threshed the wheat in the winepress. Threshing wheat in a winepress? Anyone but a fool knew you threshed wheat on a hill where the wind would snatch the chaff and carry it away.
However, Gideon had no choice – threshing wheat out in the open would mean the despised Midanites would snatch it up and carry it away. Thus, Gideon labored in the secrecy of the winepress. For far too long, the Midianites had covered the countryside like a plague of locusts, consuming all food in sight. For years, Israel had cried to the Lord for help, but it seemed it was no use: God had abandoned them. Suddenly, an angel appeared before Gideon.
“Hail, mighty warrior, the Lord is with you.”
Gideon resisted the temptation to turn around to see if there was somebody standing behind him. The angel couldn’t have been talking to him. Mighty warrior? A true mighty warrior would be out fighting the Midianites, not cowering in the winepress, nearly paralyzed with fear that the Midianites would see him and take his family’s last bit of food.
“The Lord says, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” Somehow, the angel’s voice had both quiet authority and thundering power.
“Go and save Israel?” Gideon stammered, “I am the least in my tribe, and my tribe is the smallest in all Israel.”
Gideon wasn’t sure whether this was just a delusion or wishful thinking. “Lord, please forgive me for asking for a sign, I’m going to lay a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If it’s really you, have the entire floor be dry, and the fleece wet with dew.”
Gideon lay awake all night. What if he went down to the threshing floor and found it had all been a dream? Worse yet==what would he do if it hadn’t been a dream?
Gideon rose early the next morning and ran to the threshing floor, his heart hammering in anticipation. His steps slowed as he walked across the dry, dusty threshing floor. He slowly picked up the sopping wet fleece, and wrung out a bowlful of dew.
But how could puny Gideon face the Midianites? He had to be sure. Clearing his throat, he said, “Please forgive me for asking for one more sign. This time, make the fleece dry and the floor wet.”
Once again, Gideon could not sleep. Not because he wondered what he would find, he knew all too well, and he also knew what much happen next.
The next morning, he walked across the wet threshing floor, and picked up the bone-dry fleece.
Several days later, Gideon stood at the top of a hill, surveying the aftermath of battle. He remembered how he had felt when he had fist laid eyes on the Midianite army, stretching as far as he could see. He had felt confident at first: after all, he did have an army of 32,000. Then, the Lord told him to send home everyone who was afraid. (Just a few short days earlier, Gideon would have had to send himself home!) However, now he knew God was with them. Therefore, he sent the fearful soldiers home, leaving 10,000. But even 10,000 were too many, and a few hours later Gideon was down to 300 warriors, from 32,000 to 10,000 and now down to 300? The Lord had said there were too many men. With a large number of men, Israel would think she had delivered herself. Gideon surveyed the battlefield and smiled wryly. There was no question of who had won this battle. The Midianites had turned on each other, wiping out their own army. The army that had been as countless as the stars in the sky lay dead.
Hail mighty warrior! As we labor, threshing the wheat of our lives in the winepress of fear , hiding from our personal Midianites, God calls us to the battle. What battle? The battle can be as individual as we are-but the victory is always the Lord’s. Hail mighty warriors, the Lord is with you!
(For more on Gideon, read Judges 6:11 – 7:23)
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