Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save [it] from the Midianites.
The next judge in the line-up is Gideon. Gideon was not a courageous man, but a cautious one. His lack of courage did have a good side effect: he often checked in with God. And the account of his life does contain parallels with Jesus Christ.
First, Gideon did some clean-up in the Israelites’ worship. Judges 6:25-32 recounts Gideon’s tearing down of an altar to Baal and an Asherah next to it. Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-18, and John 2:13-18 all record Jesus going in an cleansing the temple in Jerusalem. John’s account includes the Jews asking Jesus by what authority He drove the money changers and such out of the temple. The Israelites got contentious with Gideon, too, and it was Gideon’s father who intervened and said If [Baal] is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar (Judges 6:31). More than once in the life of Jesus, it is recorded that the Jewish leadership of His time were ready to put Him to death, but He was not caught by them.
Second, God whittled down the number of people who were with Gideon. It is a frequently taught story in Sunday School classes that God whittled Gideon’s original 32,000 people down to only 300 in a couple rounds of tests (Judges 7:2-8). Near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He went up on a mountain to speak with the Father and came back down the mountain and chose the twelve apostles (Luke 6:12-16).
Third, Gideon wins victory over the enemy armies without lifting a sword. There are other victories that he wins, including the death of the enemy kings, but this first decisive victory is won without a weapon. In Judges 7:19-23, it is recorded that Gideon and his 300 had torches, trumpets, and clay pots. They smashed the clay pots, held up the torches, and blew the trumpets and the enemy armies were thrown into confusion and started killing each other. Jesus also secured His victory over sin and death without lifting a weapon of any kind. In fact, when Peter tries to use a sword in Jesus’ defense, Jesus tells Peter to put the weapon away.
Fourth, Gideon is rejected by those he has delivered. In Judges 8:4-9, Gideon and his men are passing through in pursuit of the enemy kings and what remains of their armies. He stops in two towns and is rejected twice. Each time, he promises retribution of some kind for the town’s rejection of him and his men. Likewise, Jesus died to save all and the judgment to come is not so much a judgment for our sins, but a judgment for rejecting Jesus Christ and His deliverance of us from bondage to our sins.
Judges 8:33-35 says that the Israelites went right back to their idolatry almost as soon as Gideon was gone. There is a human tendency to go back to what we knew. Once the fire of the moment fades, we fall back into our old habits. And that is precisely what the Israelites did. In addition, the Israelites showed no kindness toward Gideon’s children (of whom he had many). This is the final parallel. We believers have the same tendency as the Israelites: Jesus delivers us from our sins and we slide right back into out old patterns of behavior. Then, to add insult to injury, we are not kind to one another.
There are several parallels, but what application should I take away from this story of Gideon? I think that Gideon’s instruction is good: I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you (Judges 8:23). I should not be ruled over by anything except God, even if the thing is positive in nature. No habit, not even a good one, should rule over my life. Only the LORD should have that distinction and place.
Father, thank You for providing such a wealth of parallels with my Savior in Gideon. It is encouraging to see how a man of little courage can both do great things at Your command and also show forth the character and person of Your Son. Please teach me how to be ruled over by none but You. I know I have been ruled by many things in my life and that is wrong. You, and You alone deserve mastery of me.