Unlikely Heroes of the Bible

I want to run a short series on unlikely heroes of the Bible.

 I do not know anyone whom we could earmark as destined for high honours or special mention, and yet God uses all of us. In some ways we are all unlikely heroes for our faith.

We all have gifts and abilities that God can use to achieve his purposes in the Kingdom of God but we are all unlikely candidates for such a role

For me, one of the most unlikely biblical heroes who stands out was Gideon.

Gideon is introduced in chapter 6 of the book of Judges where God spoke to Gideon about going out to fight the Midianites in order to rescue Gideon’s people from the Midianites.

Judges 6:11 11 Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash …, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, you mighty warrior.” 13 Gideon answered him, “But sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has cast us off and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you.” 15 He responded, “But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” 16 The LORD said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them.”

The background to this event is the fact that the enemy Midianites had overrun Israel and were plundering the land. 


Judges 6 Lord gave [the Israelites] into the hand of Midian seven years. The hand of Midian prevailed over Israel; and because of Midian the Israelites provided for themselves hiding places in the mountains, caves and strongholds. For whenever the Israelites put in seed, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the east would come up against them. They would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the land, as far as the neighborhood of Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel, and no sheep or ox or donkey. For they and their livestock would come up, and they would even bring their tents, as thick as locusts; neither they nor their camels could be counted; so they wasted the land as they came in. Thus Israel was greatly impoverished because of Midian; and the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help.


The story shows Gideon’s state of mind when it says he was threshing his wheat in a wine press.  Grapes get pressed in a wine press, wheat gets threshed on the threshing floor. Gideon was hiding from the Midianites and threshing his wheat in secret in the wine press.

We can almost picture him nervously peeking out of the pit of the winepress to see if Midianites were close.


There is no sense of Gideon’s bravery in this passage, yet the angel of Lord addresses him, “The LORD is with you, you mighty warrior.”


And he says further: “Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you.”


If I was Gideon I would be looking around to see who the angel was speaking to, because it would not be me. Perhaps he mistook me for someone else.


Gideon is not a mighty warrior. Gideon is a farmer! So why doesn’t the angel of the Lord show up and say something like, “The Lord is with you, industrious farmer.” But that’s not what he says. He speaks these words of affirmation, “The Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior."

In calling him [Gideon] a mighty warrior, the Angel of the Lord was not referring to what Gideon was, but what he would become by the strength that God provided.


Here’s a question for you: How do you see yourself? By what name do you call yourself? To what name do you respond? The choice is simply to believe what God says about you OR stay with your own evaluation. It is a choice that either binds you or releases you into all your God-given potential. God sees what He is going to make Gideon become - and He calls him by that name.

Do you see yourself as a mighty person of God or do you see yourself as the weakest of the weak?

And secondly, what does God say you are? What is his description of you?



And Gideon’s response to that greeting is no less surprising.  He responds to the greeting by accusing God of negligence: But sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian.”


That is not the way to treat an angel of the Lord, I would think. 


Then he continues, much as Moses did when God spoke to him through the burning bush. Who me? Perhaps that would be our response to such a call as well.


Gideon’s perhaps not so startling reply was, “But Lord . . . how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

Here was God calling Gideon to do something great; to rescue the people of Israel from the Midianites and Gideon was afraid to follow God’s commissioning and guidance.

We take from this passage that he was scared because he believed God was not there.  (Judges 6:12-13) and because he didn’t think he had the ability.  (Judges 6:14-18)

Later on we learn of more of his fears: He feared man and he feared his enemy.

Not a person of valour, not a mighty man of God. Yet that is what God saw in him.

I think we all can identify with Gideon. He was fearful. What are people going to think? What are people going to do? For Gideon, this is scary stuff.

God told him to tear down the altars of Baal, but Gideon did not have the courage to do it in broad daylight, so he did God’s bidding in the cover of night.


27 So Gideon took ten of his servants, and did as the Lord had told him; but because he was too afraid of his family and the townspeople to do it by day, he did it by night.

Some of you may be aren’t in the place right now where you have the courage to step out in faith in the daytime. That’s all right. This is not uncommon. When did Nehemiah circle the wall of Jerusalem? At night. When does Nicodemus come to Jesus? Under the cover of night.

As you read on in our story, you will find that Gideon is not instantly transformed into a mighty man of God.  He remains timid and uncertain but God leads him on gently to become what God already knew he was.

Even though the townspeople wanted to kill him when they found out he had destroyed the altar, he was kept safe by God. Yet even that was not enough to overcome his timidity; he asked God for a sign – in fact more than one sign – such was his fearfulness.

36 Then Gideon said to God, “In order to see whether you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 I am going to lay 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 deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not let your anger burn against me, let me speak one more time; let me, please, make trial with the fleece just once more; let it be dry only on the fleece, and on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.

Gideon was much less a mighty warrior than we may have thought. Gideon was much more an ordinary, timid, skeptical human just like us. He lacked confidence. He fell short of complete trust in God.

The word for us is to be encouraged. If you are afraid, you are normal. Gideon was afraid and he only had enough courage to do God’s will by night at the beginning of his faith-journey with God, but I believe the Lord honoured that simple act of obedience and gave his “Mighty Warrior” greater grace to lead Israel to victory.

Gideon was truly an unlikely hero.  He is an example of how God can use anyone to bring about His will.  When God looks at us He does not see us for what we are, but for what we can become through Him.

God isn’t necessarily looking for courageous people, He is looking for obedient people. So when the Lord speaks, you are willing to step out in faith. And God grew Gideon into his “Mighty Warrior” name!

Gideon’s transformation, from faithless to fearless, is such that he is included in the New Testament among the elite examples of the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:32). His example of faith-filled dependence on the Lord serves as a perpetual reminder of the strength that God supplies to those who trust in Him[1]

The story of Gideon is the story of our God. Our God is as patient as he was with Gideon with ordinary men and women like us. And our God is continually at work to redeem and restore his disobedient children. He is slow to anger and he is abounding in love for us. He never lets go of his own.

Gideon. An ordinary, weak human just like us. He was an unlikely hero. But God uses unlikely heroes for his purpose. He calls unlikely heroes like us too. Called to follow; ready to serve.



[1] MacArthur 75