From: All God’s Angels
Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Gideon said to Him, “O my Lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” (Judges 6:11-14)
Following the days of Joshua, after the people of Israel entered the Promised Land and before the time of the Hebrew kings beginning with Saul – a period of about 350 years – Israel was ruled by a series of leaders known as “judges.” These were divinely inspired heroes of the Jewish people, serving at one and the same time as prophetic voice, civilian magistrate, and military captain. The fledgling nation was only beginning to take shape, and these judges upheld the ancient covenant with God and defended the people against their enemies. Each in his or her own way (yes, there was a woman judge, a prophetess Deborah) was used by God to purge Israel of its idolatrous ways, deliver it from foreign oppression, and bring peace to the land. Gideon, a simple farmer from the smallest clan of the half tribe of Manasseh, was one such judge. And we would know nothing of him were it not for the visitation of the angel of the Lord.
Are we beginning, in the call of Gideon, to see a familiar pattern? Once again, God’s servant is going about his daily business when he is interrupted by a messenger from Heaven, and does not know at first that the person standing before him is an angel. “Pray, sir,” responds Gideon, to the angel’s words. “Sir”? This is not the likely address for an angel of God. The angel could have overwhelmed Gideon by appearing in radiant splendor, looming over him with outstretched arms (wings?), wielding a flaming sword, and speaking with a voice of thunder. Sometimes this is just the sort of entrance that is called for. But as we read these stories, we find that each individual is treated in just that way – individually. Sometimes angels are immediately recognizable. Just as often, however, they are not. It seems an angel appearance relates directly to the particular person to whom they are appearing. There is no “one-size-fits-all” angelic annunciation… because people are not like that either.
While Gideon addressed the angel as “sir,” the angel addressed Gideon as “you mighty man of valor.” On that or any other day, certainly this would not have been Gideon’s self-description. He was preparing his grain by hiding it in a winepress rather than risk being seen on an exposed hilltop. Against the marauding Midianites, he appears to assume he would stand helpless. The angel saw it differently, however. He saw something in Gideon that Gideon did not yet see. He brought God’s point of view to a meek farmer. Gideon was about to play a strategic role in answering the very question he’s asked the angel: “Where is the Lord?”