So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Judges 6:6.
Alas, that in the history of God’s chosen people the sorrowful story of apostasy and its punishment must be so oft repeated! …
Because of their sins, the protecting hand of God was withdrawn from Israel, and they were left to the mercies of their enemies. The wild, fierce inhabitants of the desert [the Midianites and Amalekites], “as grasshoppers for multitude,” came swarming into the land with their flocks and herds and pitched their tents in plain and valley. They came as soon as the harvests began to ripen and remained until the last fruits of the earth had been gathered. They stripped the fields of their increase and robbed and maltreated the inhabitants, and then returned to the deserts….
For seven years this oppression continued, and then in their distress the people remembered Him who had so often delivered them; and they cried unto the Lord for help….
Their prayers were heard, and again the Lord sent forth the man of His choice to act as deliverer for Israel. The one thus selected was Gideon, of the tribe of Manasseh…. It was only with the greatest difficulty that the Hebrews could secrete sufficient food to save them from actual starvation. Gideon had, however, retained possession of a small quantity of wheat, and fearing to beat it out in the threshing floor, he had taken it to the vineyard, near the winepress. The time of ripe grapes being far off, the attention of the Midianites would not be directed to that place…. Gideon almost despaired of inspiring the people with faith or courage, but he knew that the Lord would work mightily for Israel as He had done in the past….
While Gideon’s mind was absorbed in meditations like these, suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to him and addressed him with the words, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.”
The melancholy nature of Gideon’s thoughts is revealed by his answer, “Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?” … With a sense of his own unfitness for so important a work, Gideon exclaimed, “Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” … Then the angel gave him the gracious assurance, “Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.”—Signs of the Times, June 23, 1881.