The Call of the Cowardly: Gideon

  • January 7, 2017 | JUDGES 6:1–40
Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were both born in the 1920s to Baptist preachers, and both longed to see an end to systemic injustice. But Malcolm X, an advocate of Black nationalism, supported militant solutions, while Martin Luther King Jr. adhered to principles of nonviolence.

When people are oppressed, they understandably want deliverance. It’s quite possible that the Israelites did not cheer the coming of the peaceable prophet of God (vv. 7–10). They wanted someone to bear the sword, not simply preach the word of God. But the prophet’s message was an important one for Israel to heed. He reminded God’s people that their rescue from Egypt was God’s claim on their loyalty. God had rescued them for obedience, not idolatry.

We’re not told whether the prophet’s brimstone sermon had a measurable effect, but God, in His mercy, did not stop with one prophet. He brought Gideon on the scene to bear the sword against the oppressive Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern peoples, whose swarming presence mimicked the locusts of the Egyptian plague (see Exodus 10). Clearly, Gideon was not chosen by God for his admirable qualities. We first see him threshing wheat in a winepress, cowering from foreign oppressors. He embraced his call with great reluctance, needing tangible reassurances from God that He would be with him. Nor does Gideon seem particularly pious, for while he had a vague understanding of the God of Israel who delivered His people from Egypt, his family had built and maintained a shrine to Baal.

Israel would not be saved by Gideon because of his own merits. They would only be delivered because God chose to send him.

Apply the Word

When the angel of God calls Gideon a “mighty warrior,” the irony is that Gideon is not mighty but cowardly (v. 12)! But doesn’t this tell us something? God calls us not on the basis of who we are but because of who He intends us to become. What has God called you to do for Him? Just as He did with Gideon, the Lord will enable you to serve Him.

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor for Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church. You can follow Jen on Twitter @jenpmichel or you can find her at

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