The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” Judges 6.11-12.
Threshing wheat in a winepress is about as futile as any activity can be … because the next stage to threshing is winnowing — tossing the separated grain and straw in the air with a fork so that the wind can blow the straw away. It is for that reason you thresh wheat as high up as you can, in the open … not several feet below the surface of the ground! So why was Gideon doing what he was doing?
It was a difficult time for Israel. They were still settling the “promised land” in the face of many enemies, one of which was Midian. We are told earlier in the chapter that, whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites “came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it” (Judges 6.5). So, because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites were in hiding in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds (Judges 6.2) … and Gideon was trying to salvage some of their meagre crops by threshing them in a winepress.
But Israel had “cried to the Lord because of Midian” (Judges 6.6) and, now, sitting next to the winepress is the Lord’s answer (or maybe it’s the Lord himself — see Judges 6.23) and he addresses Gideon in an astonishing way. He calls him “mighty warrior”! In a sketch you’ll find under Marmalade entitled “Once a Camel-spotter” I have Gideon looking behind him to see if the angel is talking to someone else; and well he might have done for, at this stage of Gideon’s life, there is little of the mighty warrior about him — that is all still to come.
But the point is that the Lord knows it is still to come. Once, at a Conference at Sunderland Christian Centre, I heard a young woman sing a beautiful song that (so far as I know) has never been published but that has as its refrain “Not what I am but what I can be, that’s how Jesus sees me”; and that’s the truth that is being demonstrated here. Gideon will go on to be a great leader of Israel and God sees that in him and empowers him to be that great leader by giving him the name Mighty Warrior” up front. Just as he empowered headstrong, flawed Simon over a thousand years later to become solid, dependable and strong by giving him the name Peter … meaning, Rock! (John 1.42).
What is the Lord’s name for me? What can I be that I am not yet? If I listen, will he tell me?
Lord Jesus, please show me what, by your grace, I can become … and let fear not stand in the way of it. Amen.