God himself appears in the form of an angel -- the Angel of the Lord -- to a shy man named Gideon in a famous story from the Torah and the Bible. During this memorable encounter, the Angel of the Lord calls Gideon to lead a battle against the Midianites, a group of people that had been mistreating the Israelites.
Gideon honestly expresses his doubts in the conversation, but the Angel of the Lord encourages him to see himself the way God sees him. Here's what happens:
Encouragement From the Start
The story, in the Bible's and Torah's Book of Judges, begins with the Angel of the Lord encouraging Gideon right away, assuring Gideon that God is with him and calling Gideon a "mighty man of valor": "The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, 'The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.'
'Pardon me, my lord,' Gideon replied, 'but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.'
'The LORD turned to him and said, 'Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?'
'Pardon me, my lord,' Gideon replied, 'but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.'
The LORD answered, 'I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive." (Judges 6:11-16).
In his book Angels on Command: Invoking the Standing Orders, Larry Keefauver writes that "God sent an angel to tell a nobody that he was indeed somebody in God’s sight. God does that. God uses those who are small in their own eyes to do great things."
Keefauver also writes that the story can encourage anyone to derive their confidence from choosing to see themselves as God sees them: "Gideon saw himself as weak and helpless. But the angel declared God’s perspective on Gideon, 'O mighty man of valor' (Judges 6). I challenge you to see yourself as God sees you. Simply let go of those insecurities which are you keeping you from enjoying the fullness of His plan for your life. Turn your back on any lack of confidence as you move in His confidence. God has commanded His angels to lift you up and propel you above any poor self-image or victim mentality that circumstances might have tried to imprint on your thinking. I challenge you to make a personal commitment right now ... to rise above your failures and let the angels set your feet on the solid ground of Jesus Christ, your rock and your refuge."
Asking for a Sign
Gideon then asks the Angel of the Lord to confirm his identity, and the angel gives Gideon a spectacular sign that God is truly with him: "Gideon replied, 'If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.'
And the LORD said, 'I will wait until you return.'
Gideon went inside, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak.
The angel of God said to him, 'Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.' And Gideon did so. Then the angel of the LORD touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the LORD disappeared." (Judges 6:17-21).
In his book Angels of God, Stephen J. Binz writes: "The call of Gideon concludes with his request for a conclusive sign of the divine authority with which he is to take up his mission. The sign becomes a sacrifice to God as the angel touches Gideon’s offerings with the tip of his staff, causing fire to spring up from the rock to consume the offerings (verses 17-21). Now Gideon knew for sure that he had encountered an Angel of the Lord. The angel represented God Himself, yet at the same time, the angel was God’s servant, always giving God praise. Gideon and the angel together offered the sacrifice to God, and then the angel vanished from Gideon’s sight, indicating by his return to God that the sacrifice has been accepted by the Lord."
The sacrifice that the Angel of the Lord (whom Christians believe was Jesus Christ appearing prior to his incarnation later in history) and Gideon made together foreshadowed the later sacrament of Communion (the Eucharist), writes Binz: "The sacrificial worship of Israel was a foretaste of the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christians. In Eucharist we enter into the realm of angelic mediation and ministry. Angels come into the visible world in order to take our offerings into the invisible; they transform earthly offerings into heavenly gifts."
Seeing God Face to Face
The story concludes with Gideon realizing that he has actually been communicating with God in angelic form and fearing that he might die as a result. But, once again, the angel encourages Gideon: "When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, 'Alas, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!'
But the LORD said to him, 'Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.'
So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites." (Judges 6:22-24).
In his book YHWH: Preincarnate Jesus, Bradley J. Cummins writes: " ...the Angel of the Lord and the Lord (YHWH) are one and the same person. YHWH extended Himself in another form because Gideon would have died if he had seen the Lord in his natural state. If you study all the Old Testament references to the Angel of the Lord, you will see that this transformation occurred again and again so YHWH could communicate with man."
Herbert Lockyer writes in his book All the Angels in the Bible: A Complete Exploration of the Nature and Ministry of Angels: "While the angels ever have God in their thoughts, there is little doubt that the heavenly commissioner appearing to Gideon was the Angel of the Covenant, the Lord of Angels." Lockyer continues that the Angel of the Covenant 'is none other than the eternal Son Himself, who anticipates His incarnation and appears for the purpose of sustaining the faith and hope of His people, and of keeping before their minds the great redemption which was to take place in the fullness of time."