That which is about to transpire in the life of Gideon is the ultimate purpose for which man was created. God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into man the breath of life so that man might have intimate fellowship with his God that culminates in the praise and exaltation of the Creator by His creation! The psalmist said, “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord” (Psalm 150:6). When given the opportunity, faith always celebrates fellowship with God!
In order to see the beauty of this moment in Gideon’s life as well as contrast it with our own personal experience, it is necessary to be aware of what is taking place! There are several aspects of Gideon’s celebration of faith that call for our attention. The first thing that we notice is the warfare in the celebration, “Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face.” There is an immediate warfare between faith and the flesh! While the flesh wanted to retreat, faith wanted to respond to the presence of God! When Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God”, it is the flesh reactingto a common belief in Israel at that time; to see God meant death. This belief was most likely built upon Moses’ request to see God in Exodus 33:20. Basil Atkinson said, “The belief was based upon truth, but it arose out of a sense of guilt and sin.” It is not only necessary, but imperative to have a proper evaluation of self! If we are to be acceptable servants of the Lord, we must come to an end of self. Paul said in Romans 7:18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.” Peter Pell, Jr. said, “Gideon was a humble man, with a low estimation of himself (vs.15), but this divine visitation has given him a still deeper insight into his own wretchedness.” Job said, “Now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). Having found himself in the presence of God, Isaiah said, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). In a similar situation, John found himself speechless and“fell at his feet as dead” (Revelation 1:17). We will never go wrong minimizing self and magnifying the Sovereign! But we like Gideon must not only see our ability through the sufficiency of the Sovereign (see vs.16); we must see our acceptance through the sacrifice of the Saviour! We do not approach God in the merit of self, but rather in the merit of the sacrifice! This is the truth that is being projected in the offerings of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. When Cain brought his offering, it consisted of the fruit of the ground. It represented human merit and all that can be accomplished through the efforts of the flesh. God never even gave Cain’s offering a second glance! Abel’s offering was sacrificial and substitutionary; it was totally free of human merit! Genesis 4:4states, “And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering.” The word“respect” means to gaze at with implication to consider as looking around in amazement, to be dismayed. God had respect for the subject of the offering, Abel, because He had respect of the substance of the offering! While the flesh withdraws from His presence, faith pursues Him in the fullness of His glory that it might lavish Him with adoration. Would Gideon retreat from or respond to the presence of God; the answer would be determined by whether he views this event from the perspective of the abilities of self or the acceptance of the sacrifice.
Secondly, there is the welcome in the celebration, “And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.” Rather than being confronted with death, Gideon is greeted with a declaration; “fear not.” The word “fear” means to put to fear or frighten, to make afraid or to cause to dread. Speaking unto His child, Jehovah is saying, “There is no need for you to be frightened or to dread being in my presence.” Gideon had considered the possibilities of punishment, but had never dreamed of the pleasures of peace;“Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.” Peter Pell, Jr. said, “On the bases of the accepted sacrifice, Gideon passed out of the troubled waters of condemnation into the perfect calm of God’s own peace. When speaking to His disciples in John 14:27, Jesus calms their hearts with these words, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Jesus wanted His children to understand that He had something to offer them that the world didn’t! Jesus had come that He might lavish upon His children His peace. The word “peace” comes from a primary verb meaning to join: it means peace, prosperity, quietness, rest, to set at one again. Everything that was broken, upset, ruined, and lost in the first Adam has now been made right and is now offered to all that will come to Christ by faith! Paul said, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace” (Ephesians 2:13-14). The work of Christ has secured peace for us and the Word of God assures us of it. Gideon could not only enjoy the pleasures of peace, he was delighted in the product of peace; “thou shalt not die.” God had not only accepted the sacrifice, He had identified with it making it possible for God to give life in the place of death. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep . . . My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:10-11&29). Gideon had approached God in the merit of the sacrifice and not self! Because of that Gideon had been met with peace rather than punishment.
Thirdly, there is worship in the celebration, “Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-shalom.” Gideon had placed himself as well has his substance upon the altar and God has welcomed him with open arms. While the flesh has retreated, faith has responded to His nearness. Having been made aware of His presence and His peace faith would do what it always does; it will yield in submissive adoration in an attempt to magnify the object of its affection. Gideon would build an altar! One writer said, “It is at the altar that a man meets his Maker, communes with his Creator, and find peace with God and himself.” Before Gideon took his place beneath the load of service, he would bow the knee in worship. Peter Pell, Jr. said, “Worship is always the fruit of having God before the soul.” Faith will not pass up any opportunity to worship the Lord!
Lastly, there is the witness in the celebration, “unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abi-ezrites.” While faith will at times be silent, it is forever seen. James said, “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works . . . But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:18&20). While it was a reminder to the servant, the altar was a revelation to those that surrounded him. Phillip Keller said, “It was a public proclamation to his family, friends, and neighbors that he was a man set apart. His new and undivided allegiance was to the Lord God of Israel, not to Baal, Ashtaroth, or any other false god.” God had personally identified with Gideon and Gideon would publicly identify with his God!
Faith may have had a humble beginning, but it would not remain there. Having refused to retreat with the flesh, faith would respond to the advancements of God and be rewarded with God’s presence and God’s peace. Having been welcomed with the prospects of life, Gideon would worship the Creator and witness to the creature by means of building an altar; “Jehovah-shalom.” While this may have been his first, it was not to be his last! Gideon’s altar was the celebration of faith.