Life must have seemed hard to Gideon, as he labored in fear of the Midianites who swooped in to take everything the Israelites had worked for, their food, animals, etc. Evidently the enemy had taken their grape vines as well. Times were so bad, Israel left their homes, and went to live in dens and caves in the mountains to escape the Midianites (Judges 6:2). Gideon had a plan. One of their main food sources was wheat. To evade the enemy from taking his wheat, Gideon would thresh his wheat by a winepress. The enemy would be less likely to search there, since the winepresses were not being used. Perhaps as Gideon was working, he was thinking – why are we having such hard times? Are we not God’s people? Does He not love us? But then he remembers the preacher’s (prophet’s) message.
When Israel cried to God for help, He first sent a message to them. First, the prophet reminds them of God’s faithfulness to them. Second, he points out Israel’s failure to be faithful to Him by their disobedience (See Judges 6:7-10). That’s it, Gideon thought, Israel had turned from God to Idols, and he remembers the main points of the preacher’s message, always obey God and He will take care of you. While Gideon continues to work, suddenly the angel of the Lord (the Lord Himself, V. 14) addresses him: The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour (V. 12). Gideon certainly did not think of himself as a mighty soldier. But God sees what man often does not see, i.e. what we can become if we are willing to follow His directions for us in life. The Lord had a mission for Gideon, and He has a plan for us also in life.
For Gideon to carry out God’s plan, he needed assurance that it really was the Lord, and he was the man to lead an army for God. Therefore, Gideon seeks proof that the Lord will be with him in this endeavor. His proof would be a test regarding a “fleece” (Judges 6:36-40). Further, the Lord would give him more proof by having him to listen to a conversation by some soldiers in the camp of the Midianites (See Judges 7:9-15). Gideon, who at the beginning seemed to have little faith in what the Lord said, now has strong faith. It seems Gideon’s faith grew as he was obedient to the Lord’s command to destroy the altar of Baal, and build an altar to the Lord (Judges 6:25-27).
Was it wrong for Gideon to ask the Lord for signs? Jesus once said, an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign (Matt. 12:39). Yet, John’s father (Zacharias) asked regarding the announcement of Gabriel, that he and Elizabeth would have a son, Whereby shall I know this? (Luke 1:18). Further, when Jesus’ mother was told she would have a son, asked, how shall this be? (Luke 1:34). The answer is found in Luke 1:20, that shows Zacharias did not believe the Word. There is a difference in unbelief (e.g. Scribes, Pharisees and Zacharias), and one whose faith may be weak, but desires more evidence that will increase one’s faith. When someone tells us something about God’s Word, should we not desire as much information as possible to know the Lord’s will for us, according to Matt. 5:6; Eph. 5:17? It is not wrong to seek information that strengthens our faith. But, it is wrong to question or disregard His will. This Gideon did not do. May our faith grow and be strengthened in this manner (2 Thess. 1:3).