And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor.” Judges 6:12
We all have times when we feel like a small cog in a huge machine – locked into grinding circumstances beyond our control. No matter what the source of our chafing, God is the great Liberator still. Chapter 6 of the Book of Judges is a Magna Carta for the marginalized person resigned to settle for permanent insignificance.
To fully appreciate Gideon’s amazing encounter with empowering grace, his background must be dramatized. After the conquest of Canaan, Israel turned traitor and worshiped the native fertility gods. Spokesmen sent by her Covenant God were ignored and His warnings discounted. Punishment came through the marauding Midianites who reduced Israel to a miserable hiding existence in the mountains. Caught in the crossfire of corruption and correction, Gideon found himself startled by God while furtively threshing wheat in a wine press. (Part 1 of 2)
Comment: “May the Force be with you!” When Han Solo spoke the most famous line from Star Wars to Luke Skywalker, he lacked personal faith in it. “Valor” implies strength, courage, and passion. I used to hold small retreats at our mountain cabin to encourage women to embrace the grit, guts, and grace of God’s crucial call. He had tapped Gideon for decisive action after 7 years of oppression by the Midianites. When prior to that period, Deborah was Judge and Prophetess in Israel, the Canaanites under cruel Sisera’s leadership had terrorized them for 20 years. She finally had enough and expected Barak to rise up as man of valor. He lacked that kind of fire in the belly, so the militant Deborah kindled it by saying, “I will surely go with you, nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”
Judges 4 describes the campaign in prose. Chapter 5 records in song the celebration of victory. There we meet the 12th century B.C. woman of valor who fulfilled God’s purpose in returning peace and prosperity to Israel. Because the Author of Scripture, the Holy Spirit, didn’t see fit to tone down Deborah’s tribute, I won’t apologize for printing it here: “Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, of tent-dwelling women most blessed. She struck Sisera a blow, she crushed his head, she shattered and pierced his temple…Where he sank, there he fell dead” (Judges 5:24-27). Sisera, finally on the run for his life, had blundered into Jael’s tent for a drink and a nap, feeling safe because she was “just a woman.”