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3 Lessons on Listening to God’s Voice from the Story of Gideon

The story of Gideon is found in Judges 6-8. When the story of Gideon opens the Israelites are being terrorized by the Midianites for seven years. The Israelites cry to the Lord for help, and God reminds them of all that He’s done for them in the past.

The story of Gideon can teach us much about obeying God even when we doubt.

Who Was Gideon and What Is His Story?

When we see Gideon, he is threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress. This isn’t the normal place to thresh wheat. You would normally thresh wheat in the field. But Gideon was afraid because of the constant turmoil caused by the Midianites.

An angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and says, “Mighty warrior, the Lord is with you!”

Gideon was probably feeling the exact opposite of a warrior. He was afraid of his enemy before and now he hears an angel of the Lord’s voice. He was probably trembling in his sandals and thinking, “Who me?”

However, he did gather the courage to ask the Lord why He was allowing the Midianites to overtake his people.

The Lord simply said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel. I am sending you!”

Gideon probably regretted asking after he heard the Lord’s answer. The Lord was asking him to save his people? How could he do such an immense task? He was weak and he came from a family of meek people.

The Lord reiterated, “I will be with you and you will destroy the Midianites easily.”

Gideon assumed he wasn’t going to get off the hook. So he asked the Lord to prove to him that He was actually the Lord. Gideon wanted proof. Gideon asked him to wait there while he prepared a sacrificial meal to bring back to the Lord.

The Lord agreed and waited for Gideon to return.

He brought the meal back and offered it to the Lord. The angel of God said to place the meal on a rock. Then the angel touched the meat and bread with his staff and fire instantly consumed it all. An incredible sign that made Gideon wonder if he was going to die since he had seen the Lord up close.

The Lord assured Gideon that he wouldn’t die.

Gideon built an altar and named that exact spot Yahweh-Shalom or “The Lord is peace.” The Lord asked him to sacrifice a bull as a burnt offering using the wood of an Asherah pole as the kindling. Gideon obeyed but he prepared the sacrifice at night because he was afraid of what his father’s household and the other townspeople would think. The next day, the townspeople did come after the one who had destroyed their shrine to Baal. They realized it was Gideon, but Gideon’s father defended him.

Even after all of this, Gideon still doubted that the Lord could use him in such a big way. How could he rescue Israel?

Gideon asked for another sign. He left a wool fleece on the threshing floor and asked God to make the fleece wet with dew by morning but leave the ground around it dry.

God did so in another sign.

Gideon must not have been sure yet, so he asked for another sign. He put out another fleece and asked God to let it remain dry while the ground got wet with dew.

God did so in yet another sign.

Gideon finally believed that the Lord was with him, so he gathered his army and went out in search of the armies of Midian. But the Lord told Gideon a strange thing—that he had too many warriors with him. If they beat the Midian army, they would think that it was because of their own strength, and they saved themselves.

God told Gideon to say, “Whoever is timid and afraid may leave this mountain and go home.”

22,000 men went home. 10,000 men were left. More than half of Gideon’s army was afraid.

The Lord still thought that there were too many warriors in Gideon’s army. So, He told Gideon to have the men go to the stream and get a drink. Some of the men cupped water in their hands and lapped it up with their tongues. The other men kneeled down and drank with their mouths from the stream.

300 men were in the first group. The Lord said that those 300 men were the ones that would have victory over the Midianites. The Lord was looking for the least warrior-like men for the job. These men would be humble, not prideful, after a victory. They would give the credit to God for a victory.

Bible open to book of Judges, Judges summary
Photo Credit: ©Sparrowstock 

Gideon’s Victory and God’s Faithfulness

The Lord said that it was now time for Gideon and his small army to fight the Midianites. He knew these men would still be afraid to go, so He told a few of them to go down to the Midianite camp and quietly listen to what their enemy was saying.

They heard them speak of a dream that meant that God has given victory to Gideon and the Israelites. The Israelites hadn’t begun to fight yet, and they were already having the beginning of a victory. Their enemy was starting to be afraid of them. This was another sign from God. Gideon heard this prophesy and bowed in worship before the Lord.

Gideon was emboldened to lead his army now. He led his men on a charge around the Midian camp, blowing rams’ horns and shouting “For the Lord and for Gideon!” They held the horns in their left hands and blazing torches in their right hands. They shouted again, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”

Then they watched as the Midianites scrambled in panic, searching for an escape.

Their panic even caused them to fight against one another. All the Midianites ran far away. Gideon’s army won by the strength of the Lord God. Midian never recovered after this embarrassing trouncing.

Gideon collected gold jewelry from his hometown to make a sacred ephod as a memorial to what the Lord had done for them.

During the rest of Gideon’s lifetime (about 40 years) there was peace in the land of Israel. But after Gideon died, the people forgot the Lord their God who had rescued them from their enemy. They worshipped the memorial that Gideon made, and they attributed it to Baal instead of their real God. They forgot their real God as well as the legacy of Gideon.

But God didn’t forget. He remembered Gideon’s achievements in His hall of faith in Hebrews 11 where Gideon is mentioned by name in verse 32. How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.

What Can We Learn from the Story of Gideon?

Gideon shrunk back and hid when he saw evil. I also tend to doubt and hide when I see bad things happening. In a fallen world, bad things are inevitable. Life can be scary, and I tend to want to hide. It is easy to feel doubtful even when I’m trying to do God’s will. The unknown is scary. I am reluctant but God is with me. He will help me to overcome my doubts.

People do bad things. God is not complicit in this. He hates evil. I ask, Why do you allow such-in-such to happen, Lord? He wants me to see the bad things in the world and then wonder what I can do to make a difference. One thing I can always do is pray about them. Prayer is the first step for us and the most important. God can use prayer to change things.

I don’t feel up to a task, but the Lord says He is with me. I obey but He carries me through and makes things work. Gideon needed to remember that God was with him. I need to remember that God is with me. And He will be with me until the very end of the age.

It’s also okay to ask for a sign sometimes. I need confirmation that it is actually God’s voice I’m hearing. Other voices can get stuck in my head such as the lies of the world, the enemy, and my own deceptive longings and wants. So, I can pray for a sign and ask the Lord if it is really Him that I’m hearing.

How do I know when I am hearing from God?

  1. Ask myself if it lines up with the written word of Scripture. God will never tell me to do something that contradicts Scripture.
  2. Get counsel from other Christians who also read God’s Word. Other people can give me a fresh perspective.
  3. Pray for God’s peace to confirm if I am actually hearing from God. God is not a god of confusion. He wants me to be at rest as He guides me.

The Lord doesn’t usually want the warriors of the world to do His will. They will typically take the credit for themselves. God wants people who are humble, people who know they make mistakes, in other words, people who know they need God. God didn’t make us to be independently-minded. He created us to need Him like a sheep desperately needs a shepherd.

Finally, when the Lord gives me a victory, I need to remember and recount that victory years later. People tend to forget the Lord their God even after He rescues them from their enemy. I need reminders so I don’t forget. People tend to worship the thing that seems most relative to their daily earthly lives, and they tend to forget what is relevant to their eternal well-being.

Gideon pushed past his doubts and obeyed God. Even while I am in the middle of my doubts and fears, God is going ahead of me preparing the way for a victory. I can:

  • Remember all that God has done for me in my past.
  • Trust that God is with me as I take each step in my present.
  • Not forget that God was the reason for my victories.

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/cineuno 


headshot of author Jenni HeerenJennifer Heeren loves to write and wants to live in such a way that people are encouraged by her writing and her attitude. She loves to write devotional articles and stories that bring people hope and encouragement. Her cup is always at least half-full, even when circumstances aren’t ideal. She regularly contributes to Crosswalk. Her debut novel is available on Amazon. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband. Visit her at her website and/or on Facebook.

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