There came a time in Israel’s history when they were overran by one of their enemies, the Midianites. For seven years this brutal nation oppressed God’s people and drove them into hiding (Judges 6:1). Every year, after Israel had planted their crops and tended the fields for the entire season—right before the harvest—, the Midianites would swarm the fields and steal the crops and destroy what they didn’t eat (6:3-5). We need to realize that the enemy’s tactics have not changed. The thief only comes “for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10). As the church labors for God, the enemy will constantly make this attempt: either to steal away souls from the church or to destroy the faith of saints while they sit on the pews. The church today, like Israel with Midian, is under attack because of the harvest.
Right in the middle of this terrible oppression of the harvest was a young man named Gideon. Because the Midianites were busy stealing everyone’s crops, “Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites” (Judges 6:11). More than once I have heard people criticize Gideon for being a coward, refusing to thresh his wheat out in the open; and for a long time I agreed with this assessment. But I believe I see it differently now. Yes, Gideon was hiding from the enemy; but he was hiding because he was concerned about the harvest. He did not want the enemy to steal what was his, what he had labored for. Gideon had a heart for the harvest. Where is this concern in the church, and where is this concern in me? Am I concerned about the lost souls that the enemy is trying to steal? Am I willing to hide the harvest if that is what it takes to keep the enemy away from it? Knowing that the enemy is out to steal the harvest, we should take care to guard the souls God commits to our care.
I find it interesting that Gideon was hiding his wheat by the winepress. Wine in the Scriptures is often symbolic of the Spirit of God. If we are going to hide ourselves and our labors for the Lord, it should be in his presence where his Spirit is.
But less allegorically, Gideon’s winepress is the place where the LORD God actually does meet with him. Scripture says that “there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah….And the angel of the LORD appeared unto [Gideon]” (Judges 6:11-12). At this point, I hope you are thinking, “It doesn’t say that the Lord came to Gideon…it says that the Lord’s angel came to Gideon.” We need to understand that sometimes in the Bible “the angel of the LORD” means “a manifestation of the LORD”. In Genesis 48:16 Jacob calls God “the Angel which redeemed me”; and if we read the entire conversation between Gideon and “the angel”, we will notice that the angel is called “the LORD” in verses 14 and 16. Make no mistake, Gideon was talking with Jehovah himself in the form of an angel at that winepress.
That fact encourages me, because it lets me know that God is willing to meet me when I am most frightened and vulnerable. My hiding place can become my meeting place with God. The place where I look like a coward can be the place where I receive my commission to be the “mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12) that God wants me to be.
While Gideon is talking with the angel, Gideon performed a sacrifice. He cooked a goat with some broth and offered it to the LORD on a rock that was by the winepress (6:19-20). When he had done this, the angelic manifestation of the LORD reached out his staff and touched the sacrifice; fire came out of the rock, consuming the sacrifice, and the LORD departed from his sight (6:21). After witnessing this Gideon built an altar of worship to the Lord (6:24). If the winepress is the place where Gideon met the LORD and received his commission, the rock is the place where Gideon saw God do the miraculous and started a worshiping relationship with him.
The experience that Gideon had at the winepress and at the rock changed his life. As Christians, we need to find that place where we can meet with God and understand his plans for us; we need to find that place where we can see God move in our lives in a supernatural way, in a way that adds depth and worship to our walk. If we are going to become who God wants us to become, we need our own winepress and our own rock. Then we, like Gideon, will have the wherewithal to do battle with our enemy.
But we need to realize that our victory will come at just the same place where it started. Gideon had his life-changing encounter with Jesus at the winepress and the rock. Those two things, the winepress and the rock, became the touchstones for his spiritual warfare. God made Gideon a fighter at the winepress and the rock; and God made Gideon an overcomer at the winepress and the rock. The Bible says that Gideon completely overcame the Midianites; and the men of Ephraim helped Gideon. “And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb” (Judges 7:25).
A deliverer of Israel was born at the winepress and the rock, and the enemies of Israel died at the winepress and the rock. Saints, we were born at the altar where God saved our souls. And it is at that altar where we will continue to have victory and will eventually overcome our problems. The place that started our relationship with God is the place that will finish our relationship with God. After all, he is “the author and the finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
I want to encourage all of us, I include myself, to find our own personal “winepress and rock” experience with God. It will start us and it will see us through. No enemy can stand against a saint who has had this kind of experience with God. And the place where the “mighty man of valor is born” is just the same place where the enemy will die!!