In addition to calling Gideon “mighty”, the angel said to him “YHWH is with you” (literally, “YHWH with you” the “is” is implied). The “you” there is singular, so the angel is saying YHWH is with just Gideon, not all Israel.
Gideon doesn’t buy it. He asks, “If YHWH is with us, when then has all this happened?” Notice that Gideon changes the pronoun from the singular used by the angel (just Gideon), to a plural (all Israel). We tragically miss this in English Bibles. Perhaps Gideon’s concern for the nation and not just himself was one of the reasons YHWH chose him?
If we thought Gideon was a chicken to cower in fear from the Midianites while he was threshing the grain, we may need to rethink that because of how he boldly confronts the angelic messenger.
Gideon can’t comprehend that God could be with them while they are getting their butts kicked around by the Midianites. If YHWH were with them, surely he would protect his people from suffering, right? Actually, no. The fact that they were getting their butts kicked was evidence that God was still with them.
God sometimes protects us from suffering (he’ll deliver Israel through Gideon), but somethings he sends suffering to get our attention (he handed Israel over to the Midianites), and other times he allows suffering almost randomly (e.g., Job). The problem is discerning how God is working in the midst of suffering, and why.
What I love most about this text is that Gideon feels free to question God. First, “If YHWH is with us, then why has all this happened?” But that’s not enough, he keeps going, “Where are all his wonderous deeds?” It’s hard not to pick up a tinge of sarcasm.
But Gideon’s honest questions don’t disqualify him for being a divinely selected deliverer for God’s people. God didn’t say, “Hey you can’t talk like that to me! I’m not going to let you be a judge, so there!” Although, I think this is how we expect God to react.
What would you have said if you were Gideon? Do you talk like this to God?