How God Turns Nobodies into Somebodies (Judges 6-7)

We’re concluding a series this morning called What God Can Do Through Ordinary You. This morning we’re going to look at how God can turn nobodies into somebodies.

You’ve heard of Gideon. Some of you know him as the man who wrote the Bible in motel rooms. In reality, he’s more than that. He’s the classic example of a person God uses. He’s a farm boy who became a national hero. Against incredible odds, he saved his nation.

At the time, Israel was at its lowest point as a nation. It has spiraled into a dark period. When we discover Gideon in Judges 6, Israel had fallen to a foreign nation called the Midianites for seven years. In Judges 6, we read:

The Holy Bible, New Living Translation
Judges 6:2 through Judges 6:6

2The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites fled to the mountains, where they made hiding places for themselves in caves and dens. 3Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel, 4camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza. They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, oxen, and donkeys. 5These enemy hordes, coming with their cattle and tents as thick as locusts, arrived on droves of camels too numerous to count. And they stayed until the land was stripped bare. 6So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites. Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help.

You get the picture. You have 135,000 alien invaders, and then you have Israel hiding in the caves. There appears to be little hope.

When you come across Gideon for the first time, you find him threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress. To thresh wheat effectively, you need to be above ground so that the wind can separate the chaff. He was so terrified of the Midianites that he was hiding out, trying to get even a little bit of food for his family!

Not only did God find Gideon hiding at the bottom of a winepress, do you know where God found him? A place called Oprah – a name which means dustiness. It doesn’t exactly sound like a place where you’d go looking for great leaders.

As we’ll discover, when God wants to use somebody, he often turns to the nobodies. That’s what the story of Gideon is about. God takes ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. It happened in Gideon’s life, and it can happen in your life.

Paul wrote in the New Testament:

The Holy Bible, New Living Translation
1 Corinthians 1:26 through 1 Corinthians 1:29

26Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful, or wealthy when God called you. 27Instead, God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, 29so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

This morning, I invite you to look on with me as we watch how God turns nobodies into somebodies. There are three responses we need to take as God turns us into people that can be used by him.


It’s comforting to me that when God looks for someone to use, he doesn’t often look for someone doing heroic things. He found Moses in the dessert – a fugitive from justice. He found Gideon at the bottom of a winepress. When God wants to turn a nobody into a somebody, he takes the nobody just as they are.

When God first approached Gideon, do you know how he responded?

The Holy Bible, New Living Translation
Judges 6:12 through Judges 6:13

12The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!”

13“Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘the LORD brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”

There’s no point in trying to pretend with God. Gideon began with brutal honesty. He responded with words like if, why, where, and but. God had not lived up to Gideon’s expectations. But that didn’t deter God. God could handle Gideon just the way he was. Look at what the angel said to him next:

The Holy Bible, New Living Translation
Judges 6:14 through Judges 6:15
14Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

15“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “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!”

Gideon says, “You’ve got the wrong family, God. We’re the poorest family in the whole tribe. We don’t have any financial backing. We’re weak. How can we launch a campaign against 135,000 enemy soldiers?”

And then Gideon says, “Even if you pick my family, you’ve picked the wrong guy. Why pick me? I’m the youngest in my family. I’m the runt.”

Even after all these excuses, Gideon made three requests of God to prove that God meant what he said. Gideon was hardly a man exemplifying leadership potential. He was just honest with God about where he was.

God often uses and chooses the most unlikely person, the youngest guy of the poorest family in the most unknown town at the bottom of a well.

Do you doubt that God could use you? Good. That’s just honest. But it doesn’t change God’s plans for your life. God’s response to Gideon is God’s response to you: “I am sending you…I will be with you.”

When Hudson Taylor first arrived in Shanghai, China in the mid-1800s, other missionaries viewed him as a poor, unconnected nobody. But he became famous for being the courageous missionary pioneer to the inland provinces of China. He founded the China Inland Mission in 1865. Later, when he was back in Britain, a leader of the Church of Scotland said to Taylor; “You must sometimes be tempted to be proud because of the wonderful way God had used you. I doubt if any man living has had greater honor.”

Taylor answered, “On the contrary, I often think that God must have been looking for someone small enough and weak enough for him to use, and that he found me.”

That was not false humility. He meant it. He was real!

Has God been calling you to do something? Was God looking for someone who had what it takes, and he found you? Perhaps you’ve even been telling God that he has the wrong person. In Gideon’s case, God called a person who was struggling with unanswered questions and who felt woefully inadequate. It seems as if God was just looking for someone who could be real.

God takes ordinary people and says, “I am sending you…I will be with you.” He promises us in Romans 8:31, “”If God be for us, who can be against us?” If God calls you to do something, you can do it. You don’t have to be an extraordinary person. You just have to be real.


Gideon wasn’t a sterling example of responding to God quickly. He hesitated before answering God’s call. He feared that his own limitations would prevent God from working. But he was obedient. Let me give you some examples.

The first assignment that God gave Gideon was the hardest: he had to begin at home. It’s much easier to be called somewhere where people don’t know us and have us labeled. It’s another thing to be called to serve God right where we are. Listen to the first assignment God gave to Gideon:

The Holy Bible, New Living Translation
Judges 6:25 through Judges 6:27

25That night the LORD said to Gideon, “Take the second best bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old. Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it. 26Then build an altar to the LORD your God here on this hill, laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.” 27So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD had commanded. But he did it at night because he was afraid of the other members of his father’s household and the people of the town. He knew what would happen if they found out who had done it.

God tested his emotions. Did you notice whose altar this was? It was his own father’s. By tearing it down, Gideon was saying, “My whole family has been worshiping the wrong god for years.” He was risking the disapproval of his own family.

The reality is that we need to prove ourselves faithful at home before God will use us elsewhere. If Gideon had begun by conquering the Midianites, he could have returned home with a lot more credibility. He would have come home a hero. It would have been easy to clear out Baal worship on the strength of his newfound fame. But Gideon had to begin by being obedient – and that started in his own house.

Let me ask you a question. Do you ever find yourself limiting your Christian life because of what other people think? Because family members might become upset? It was his dad’s idol and he goes and smashes it. Who’s going to pay for it?

There was an emotional test here. Sometimes following God means standing alone if necessary.

God tested his physical safety. In those days, an attack on a god was seen as an attack on the local government supporting that god. Baal was the Canaanite god. Asherah was the Canaanite fertility goddess. Gideon belonged to the weakest family in the tribe. Tearing down the altar wasn’t going to win him any popularity contests. In fact, it could cost him his life!

Sure enough, the next morning, a mob formed to kill whoever was responsible. When they discovered it was Gideon, they yelled, “Bring out your son! He must die for destroying the altar of Baal and for cutting down the Asherah pole.” Gideon’s life was at risk.

The point for us today is this: obeying God isn’t going to be the safest route. You can expect fireworks now and then. You might not win many popularity contests. You might upset some traditions. You may even expect a riot or two. But be obedient anyway.

Gideon’s dad came to the rescue:

The Holy Bible, New Living Translation
Judges 6:31 through Judges 6:32

31But Joash shouted to the mob, “Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who knocked down his altar!” 32From then on Gideon was called Jerubbaal, which means “Let Baal defend himself,” because he knocked down Baal’s altar.

God honored his obedience, but Gideon had to put it on the line first.

By the way, some people criticize Gideon for destroying the altar at night because he was afraid. But God didn’t tell him he had to do it by day. God didn’t tell him not to be afraid. Obedience was essential. Heroism was optional.

General Omar Bradley said, “Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.” Gideon was obedient, even if he was scared half to death!

God also tested his faith. Gideon’s enemy numbered 135,000. Gideon blew a horn to rally people around – a call to arms. 32,000 people showed up. If it were up to me, I’d say that Gideon needed a few more people to have a fair fight. But God had different ideas.

The Holy Bible, New Living Translation
Judges 7:2 through Judges 7:4

2The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. 3Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave and go home.'” Twenty-two thousand of them went home, leaving only ten thousand who were willing to fight.

4But the LORD told Gideon, “There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will sort out who will go with you and who will not.” 5When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the LORD told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” 6Only three hundred of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream. 7The LORD told Gideon, “With these three hundred men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.”

Slowly and deliberately, God made almost 32,000 people go home. He got the numbers down to 300. Three hundred men against 135,000; that’s odds of about 450 to one. Those aren’t very good odds.

God doesn’t rely on size or numbers. God always uses us in spite of ourselves – not because of what we have or who we are. God is pleased when we realize just how powerless you are, and when you are ready to rely on his power. That’s when you can do something for God’s glory.

God may test you. He may test your emotions; he may test your physical safety; he may test your faith. But God can use you when you’re ready to trust him in spite of your shortcomings. He’s looking for obedience.


When God takes a nobody and turns them into somebody, that nobody has to learn how to get out of God’s way. They have to be real and they have to be obedient, but there comes a time where that individual needs to almost step aside and let God work through them.

There’s an insightful comment made in Judges 6:34. “Then the Spirit of the LORD took possession of Gideon.” In Hebrew it means, “The Spirit clothed himself with Gideon.” I like that. It’s like saying, “Gideon, I’m going to take over your body.” All of a sudden it wasn’t Gideon working; it was God working through him.

And when God begins working in an individual, watch out! God took these three hundred men, gave them non-standard military equipment – horns and clay pots. In the middle of the night, Gideon takes his little band of 300 men and circle around the valley and spread out into a complete circle. Each man with his torch lit but the clay pot over it so that the light would not shine out. God says to Gideon, “When I say `Go!’ you tell the men to blow the trumpets, to shout `For the Lord and for Gideon!’ and to break the clay pots. (That will make a noise which the enemy won’t know what it is; it will scare them.) The light will shine out and just a few men will look like thousands. In their panic the enemy will begin to fight each other.”

That is exactly what happened. Gideon gave the shout, they cried out, they blew the trumpets, they made the statements, they broke the pots, the light shone out and the Midianites woke up, began running around in their tents with their pajamas on, pulling out their swords and began to fight each other. In those days it was often that rivals would break out within a nation and so they figured one tribe had broken out against another so everybody got out their sword and started fighting each other.

The Bible says that over a hundred thousand soldiers were killed that day while the Israelites stood there and watched! They were just sound and light technicians for the dramatic spectacle of God’s power at work in the Midianite camp.

That same power that is at work in Gideon is available today. God delights in using weak people. As the apostle Paul wrot e:

The Holy Bible, New Living Translation
2 Corinthians 12:9 through 2 Corinthians 12:10

9Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. 10Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Do you think your service to God depends on your performance? No. Your realness. Your obedience. Your willingness to let God use you while you step out of the way.

If you go in your own strength, you’ll get in God’s way. God won’t use you unless you go in weakness and dependence on the Holy Spirit.

If you haven’t begun following Jesus Christ yet, you don’t know how exciting it is to live the adventure of being used by God! You can’t imagine how meaningful life becomes as you let God use you. He can give you a higher purpose for living. He can use your life in ways that you haven’t even imagined. Not only will you receive forgiveness for your sins, you will receive eternal life and a purpose for living. You can come to Christ this morning, give your life to him, and pledge to follow him for the rest of your life.

But if you’ve already begun to follow him, you know that he has a purpose for your life. Never think that it depends on your strength. He wants to use you in spite of yourself. Come to him this morning. Be real. Be obedient. And then watch God work as you step aside and let him take control.

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the life of Gideon, for the example that he is and how you can take somebody who never in a million years could have imagined that he could become a hero and yet you used him in a great way. Lord, change our lives. Make us useable. Prepare us for service in ways that we’ve never seen before. Lord, I know that if You could just get a handful of people at Richview who are totally, 100% sold out to You, that You would find a band of people that You could use in such a significant way that it would cause a spiritual explosion in our city. The nation even would be benefited by it. Lord this week, let us be available to be used by You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada