In verse 11 we read the Lord had appeared to Gideon, the son of Joash, as he threshed corn hidden away in a wine-press. His offer of food was accepted as a sacrifice and consumed by fire, so he knew when his Visitor vanished that this was not a dream, but the real thing. He feared for his life for he had looked on God, but God assured him he would not die but become Israel's saviour.
In verse 25 Gideon was told to take his father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old. The grove, or wooden image representing the goddess Asherah, was not merely to be burnt, but used as fuel for the offering made to Jehovah, so signifying that whatever is set up in opposition to Him should be destroyed. God was indeed testing this man's faithfulness. He was also committing to him the office of the priesthood, but how sad to realize that no member of the tribe of Levi, who had been set aside to undertake the worship for the people of Israel, was fitted for the task at this time.
Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the Lord had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father's household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night (verse 27).
So Gideon, under cover of darkness, while his father and his neighbours were asleep, took ten men of his servants. This shows Gideon's independent position apart from his father's household. He was married and had a young son at this time, as we shall see from the narrative. Also, the fact that he could choose ten men from his servants who would help him destroy the heathen images, indicates the fact that he had kept these members of his own working staff free from the guilt of idolatry amid the all but universal defection of the remainder of the nation.
Although we read that because 'he feared his father's household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night' -- unless God had directly intervened on his behalf, he could never have carried out the command given him, had he attempted to destroy the idols in daylight. This therefore was a prudent time to carry out the task, which would have taken some hours to complete. The great thing is that he completed the command given him by the Lord without delay, knowing full well the inevitable reprisals that would surely follow. Gideon's faith was given a real testing here, and overcoming his fears and doubts, he carried out to the letter the word of the Lord.
And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built (verse 28).
Evidently it was the custom to get up early, and the reason for this habit could well have been the adoration of the rising sun which formed part of their ritual in the worship of Baal. In complete contrast to that ritual, a believer today knows that even a few minutes spent in the Father's presence before setting off to work in the morning, lifts up the heart exceedingly.
The three things the people of this town saw when they got up that morning were:
a) the demolished altar of Baal;
b) the stump of the destroyed Asherah;
c) a new altar, constructed in accordance with Jehovah's command to Moses, with the remains of a sin offering still smoking upon it.
So deeply involved were the people in this idol worship that merely a blazing anger filled their hearts, no sign of remorse. When they asked 'Who hath done this thing?', they were told it was Gideon, the son of Joash. Gideon's faithfulness to Jehovah was evidently well known, and no wonder God came to him, and with the commendation 'thou mighty man of valour'. What tremendous courage it must have needed to stand out against the worship of Baal and refuse to bow the knee to this idol! Do you ever feel lonely and falter in your faith because of the contempt of those around you? You are in good company, so take heart and remember Gideon. The people came after him all right. Who else but Gideon would have dared to do such a thing as this? He evidently had not failed to let his light shine among men. These degenerate Israelites respected the high position of his father in the tribe, so they demanded Joash to condemn his son to death for provoking the anger of their dumb idols:
Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it (verse 30).
This hatred and madness is difficult to conceive -- that the men that howled for Gideon's blood were Israelites. Yet as we know now, their descendants were to be blind to the claims of their Messiah when He came to them, their hatred and madness culminating in His death on the cross. The Lord Jesus Christ suffered the death of a criminal, a slave. The incredible fact that He came for that express purpose is revealed in all the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. He came to shed His blood as the Lamb of God that sinners such as you and I might be redeemed, nay, made holy and without blame before Him. Was there ever, before or since, such selfless love revealed? God our Saviour, blessed words indeed!
Bring out thy son, that he may die'. God does not always deliver His servants from persecution or death. If He has a task for them to do, however, then He invariably overrules until that assignment has been completed. So here with Gideon -- he is saved by his father:
And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar (verse 31).
We do not know the pressures that were put on this prince in Israel to turn from Jehovah and worship the heathen gods. Who are we to judge him anyway? Joash here certainly showed himself a man of tremendous courage rescuing his son from the hands of his persecutors. Out of natural affection, and also no doubt secretly a particular esteem and admiration for his son in standing out against worshipping these heathen idols, he took up the cudgels on his behalf and shrewdly and strongly defied these men who would put his son to death. His words were both bold and cunning. He saved Gideon's life, not by excusing his act, but by feigning such a zeal for Baal, as to denounce it as a blasphemous impiety to suppose that the great god would not avenge his own insult. To imagine this was an insult so monstrous, that the man who was guilty of it should be the one to die. His argument brilliantly put forward the sinister suggestion that if the gods did not take action, then they must be phoney.
If he were to save his son from death, Joash realized he must gain time. For when tempers had cooled, the fact that Baal did not interfere to protect himself from such fearful outrage would weigh powerfully with all his worshippers. Among idolaters the sight of an open contempt for their idol often shakes their superstitious veneration. This was the case later in the history of Israel, when Elijah was raised up by God to challenge the people who once again had rejected their covenant God and turned to the worship of Baal and Asherah. He challenged the four hundred and fifty priests of the one, and the four hundred of the other, and made the worship of wood and stone ridiculous to the whole nation. The so-called sun god was not able to answer by fire. So here, the impotence of the idols was manifested to one and all.
Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar (verse 32).
Gideon was given the name of Jerubbaal meaning -- 'Let Baal strive', or 'let it be striven with Baal'; or simply, 'Baal's antagonist'.