“Bible prayers: Gideon prays for a sign”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
It all started twenty-five years ago, in Hartford, Connecticut, back in 1998. That’s when two women--Janet Saunders and Marilyn Stairs--got word that a friend’s son had been injured in an accident. And wanting to do whatever they could to help, they thought--why not knit the young man a prayer shawl to help remind him of God’s love and protection as he begins to recover? So that’s exactly what they did.
But it didn’t stop there! As a matter of fact, just as soon as word got out to their church’s fellow knitters and crocheters, that got the ball rolling. And within just a few short months, a group of church women raided their stashes of yarn to create their first thirty-five prayer shawls.
As you can imagine, the response was overwhelming! Fellow members immediately asked for shawls to give to their family and friends who needed to feel God’s warmth in their lives.
And ever since then, their prayer shawls have touched countless lives in and around their community, shawls that have gone out to people who are ill, who have suffered a loss, who are facing life-altering changes, or who are simply in need of comfort and healing. They’ve been given to newlyweds, as well as couples that are welcoming a new child. The ladies have even made small pocket squares for funerals, and prayer scarves that people can wear anywhere.
In the words of the church’s “Prayer Shawl Ministry,” “Shawls can be used for undergoing medical procedures, as a comfort after a loss or in times of stress, during bereavement, prayer or meditation, marriage, birthing, bridal shower, during an illness and recovery, graduation, birthday, anniversary, and ordination.”
And they said: “Prayer shawl. Peace shawl. Comfort shawl. Mantle. Whatever name you give them, they serve the same purpose. These are a wearable hug crafted with love and intent from maker to recipient. Whether it be personal words, a Bible verse, a song, or a prayer, it’s these thoughts that are imbued in each and every stitch that make them what they are.”
It’s easy to say that, as we grow older, our prayers change. When our children are young, their lives dictate our lives, as we’re involved in a never-ending cycle of caring, educating, and entertaining. Where would they go to school, turned into where they would go to high school, to where they would go to college, to where they would work, to who they would marry. Then as they leave the “nest” prayers change.
For every time and season in their lives as well as our lives, there’s always a reason to pray!
In the words of pastor and author Mike Bagwell, “Prayer empowers one with boldness to serve the Lord! Prayer made Daniel bold. Prayer made the disciples bold. Prayer made Paul bold. And prayer will make us bold as well.”
And it made a man named Gideon bold too. I’ll read the words of Judges chapter 6: “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’” (Judges 6:11-12).
Judges chapter 6 begins as a huge army, a band of pillagers and marauders, set out to attack Israel. And poor Israel was in deep, deep trouble, with their backs up against a wall.
It hadn’t always been that way. For the past forty years, God had protected them and blessed them with peace. But while God was blessing them, they were ignoring Him, and falling into complacency and unbelief. And instead of worshiping the one, true God, they began to worship false gods, like Baal and Asherah. So God sent the Midianites and the Amalekites to attack them and to punish them.
And punish them they did! As it says in chapter 6, verse 2: “And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number--both they and their camels could not be counted--so that they laid waste the land as they came in. And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord” (Judges 6:2-6).
For years, the Midianites and the Amalekites pillaged them and plundered them, killing their livestock and stealing their crops. And there was nothing, not a thing, that Israel could do to stop them, except hide in caves and holes in the ground.
Which takes us to a man named Gideon. As it says in chapter 6, verse 11: “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.”
Let’s stop there for just a moment. Beating out wheat in the winepress? That’s kinda weird! I mean, if you’re going to beat wheat, you do it in a large, open place, like a big flat rock, or on some threshing floor, where you can throw it up high in the air and let the wind blow the chaff away. No one beats wheat in a winepress, unless they’re afraid. Unless they’re scared.
Which is exactly what Gideon was! In fact, as one author put it, Gideon was the Don Knotts of the Old Testament, the least likely person God would ever choose to deliver His people. Or as another wrote, “Choosing Gideon to lead the Isarelites into battle would be like replacing General George Patton with Private First Class Gomer Pyle, to lead the Allied Forces at the Battle of the Bulge.”
Is it any surprise that God would call someone like Gideon? It shouldn’t be! God is in the business of calling the least, the smallest, and the weakest among us.
When God called Moses, he was eighty years old and said he couldn’t talk. David was just a young, teenaged shepherd boy. Daniel was over ninety years old when men threw him into a lion’s den. Jonah was prejudiced and stubborn. Jeremiah preached sermons while smashing pots and wearing an ox’s yoke around his neck. Ezekiel preached lying on his side for three hundred and ninety days. Paul wanted Christians murdered. Matthew was a despised tax collector. And Peter was a bold, impetuous fisherman.
As Paul once wrote to the Corinthians: “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong…so that no one may boast before Him” (I Corinthians 1:27-29).
So there he was, hiding from the Midianites, beating wheat in a winepress, when all of a sudden he looked and he saw an angel sitting under a tree. And then the angel said: “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor!” (Judges 6:12).
“O mighty man of valor?!” You have got to be kidding! Here he is beating wheat in a winepress, hiding from the Midianites. Sure doesn’t seem to be much of a “mighty man of valor” to me!
Even Gideon had his doubts. As he said in verse 15: “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”
Even more, think of what he could have said. He could have said, “Do You know what I’m up against here, Lord? Do You have any idea? We’re talking Midinaites and Amalekites here! Their army is 135,000 strong!
“But alright, Lord. If that’s what You want me to do, I’ll do it. On one condition. I want You, I need You, to prove You are who You say You are.”
And so he prayed one of the strangest and boldest prayers in all of the Bible. He said: “If You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said” (Judges 6:36-37).
And the very next day, what happened? Verse 38: “And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water.”
So far, so good. But there was just one problem. Gideon wasn’t done. So he prayed once more: “Let not Your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew” (Judges 6:39).
And sure enough, the very next day, just as Gideon prayed, the fleece was dry and all the ground was wet with dew.
Just like Gideon, we want to know God’s will and we want to do God’s will. That is, after all, what we pray in the words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
So how can we know God’s will? Don’t count on fleece like Gideon did. Instead, seek Him, each day, through His Word and through prayer. Be faithful at home and at work. And He will make His ways known.
As it says in Proverbs chapter 3: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
He did it for Gideon. He’ll do it for you too.
Have you ever noticed how God can take the trash of life and transform it into treasure?
Take Kopi Luwak coffee, for example. What’s that, you say? I’m glad you asked!
The Luwak is a particular kind of cat that lives in Indonesia. About the size of a fox, it’s the Juan Valdez of the animal kingdom. It roams through the forest searching for the choicest coffee berries. Then it swallows them and later leaves them lying on the ground, which local harvesters find and collect.
Apparently, believe it or not, as the beans pass through the cat’s stomach and intestines, digestive enzymes change them to create a unique coffee flavor. And after locals collect, wash, and dry the beans, they become the most expensive coffee in the world, as much as $600 a pound!
And as Christ lived and worked among us, He too was in the business of turning trash into treasure. He was born in a stable and laid in a rough, feeding trough. Later, after growing up in a little town called Nazareth, His critics couldn’t help but say, “Can anything good come from there?” And when He died, nailed to a cross, it seemed to be the epitome of hopelessness and shame.
Yet as Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Corinthians 1:23-24).
You know, Gideon’s story ends in a rather amazing way. For not only did he defeat those Midianites, he did it with only 300 men! And while he once wondered if God would help him, from that moment on, he never wondered again.
Which is why, I suppose, we find his name recorded in the words of Hebrews chapter 11: “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice…who became mighty in war and put foreign armies to flight…the world was not worthy of them” (Hebrews 11:32-34, 38).
And if, by the grace of God, He could do such great things through a man named Gideon, just imagine what He can do through you and me!
We thank You, dear Father, for Gideon and for all You accomplished through him. By Your grace, we ask You to also hear and answer our prayer, for Jesus’ sake. Amen