A Meditation on Judges 6: 12-14

Kevin J Youngblood

Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?”  (Judges 6:12-14)

God sees in us what we cannot see in ourselves, and he sees in our situations possibilities and purposes to which we are completely blind. I was reminded of this encouraging truth as I read the beginning of Gideon’s story in the book of Judges. It is striking to me how casually heaven intersects with earth at crucial moments in redemptive history. The text states that the angel of YHWH came and sat under a tree next to Gideon’s winepress as if this were an everyday occurrence. Maybe it is! Maybe heaven is intersecting with earth all around us everyday and we just don’t have eyes to see it, at least not until we are desperate enough to have eyes to see it.

The text then says “The angel appeared to him.” I wonder how long the angel of YHWH sat there and watched Gideon thresh grain in a wine vat before “appearing to him”? Was he invisible until he decided to reveal himself to Gideon, or was Gideon just too preoccupied with survival to notice? Perhaps it was the angel’s greeting that roused Gideon out of his spiritual blindness and opened his eyes to the invasion of heaven into his mundane, daily experience.

Speaking of the greeting, what an odd thing to say to someone engaged in such a humiliating, ridiculous looking task: “YHWH is with you, valiant warrior!” Gideon is trying to hide while threshing grain! Nothing about him appears valiant, aggressive, or warlike. If Gideon did not notice this heavenly messenger until he addressed him, then neither did he recognize his own potential, the possibility of his own courage, the possibility of doing something greater than hiding from the Midianites while threshing his own grain! YHWH is awakening something in Gideon that YHWH placed there that Gideon didn’t even know he had.

Gideon’s passion, however, breaks the surface when he challenges the angel’s greeting. What do you mean YHWH is with us? Look at us! We are subject to Midianite domination and abuse. Don’t give me any of that glib “God be with you” when he clearly is NOT! The angel clearly touched a nerve. Gideon cannot see YHWH’s presence in Israel’s suffering.

Then the text hits us with the really big surprise – this is no angel. This is YHWH himself. YHWH literally is with Gideon while he threshes grain in a wine vat, with him in a hole in the ground while he hides from the Midianites! Little does Gideon know that he is engaged in a theological argument with God himself! This is prayer in its rawest, purest form, just Gideon and God duking it out over whether or not God is holding up his end of the bargain. It is only in such moments of raw emotion and honesty that it even dawns on us that maybe we haven’t been holding our end of the bargain.

YHWH, however, does not take the bait. He is not here to argue theodicy with Gideon. He is here to open Gideon’s eyes to the possibility of experiencing divine power in human weakness, to the realization that the true depth of divine love and extent of divine power are only visible against the dark backdrop of profound pain and suffering. The very anger Gideon demonstrates when objecting to his and Israel’s circumstances is “this strength of yours” that YHWH will use to affect their deliverance. Sometimes things have to get bad enough that we can no longer deny our need, no longer hide from our discontent. This is often what God uses to galvanize us into his service and into healthier more purposeful living.

Wow! God sure shows up at some strange times in some strange places to some strange people in order to launch some strange projects!


Thank you for joining me in the mundane, sometimes ridiculous, tasks of life. Thank you for seeing in me potential and possibilities that I cannot see in myself and for calling them out in those moments when my instincts are to shrink back. Lord Jesus thank you for sharing our frustrations over the state of our lives and our world. Thank you for modeling appropriate ways of expressing that frustration and giving us the power to follow your example. Holy Spirit, awaken the valiant warrior in me. I confess that I am weary of the daily spiritual struggles, worn down by the relentless attacks of enemies, and sickened by the corruption that infects the institutions on which we often have to rely for justice and order. Make me fresh for the next fight. Reenergize me for engagement with the enemy that I may not ever let him get the upper hand.