“And Yahweh said to him, ‘It is because I am with you. So smite the Midianites just as if we were one man.”
One of the most powerful themes in scripture is called the “Immanuel Principle.” Literally, in Hebrew, Immanuel means, “God with us,” and indeed, it is God’s presence that we most need. That presence was lost in the Fall, foreshadowed in the Tabernacle, the Pillar of Fire and the Angel of Yahweh throughout the Wilderness wanderings and again by the Temple in the established nation. Yet, clouds and temples still masked the fullness of God’s glory.
We see the Immanuel Principle develop further in the Incarnation. Still, the glory of God was masked in flesh (apart from the Transfiguration) until the Resurrection, and when our Lord went to sit at the right hand of his Father in Heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent to dwell within believers — God in us — God with us — Immanuel. Yet, this yet is not the fullness of Immanuel. The fullness will not be seen until the Second-Coming of Christ, when the Heavens and the Earth is remade and once again, God will dwell bodily with men forever.
And though Gideon is not anticipating the fullness of what the Immanuel principle anticipates, there is great comfort in knowing that God is present with him…for it will not be in Gideon’s weakness that he attacks the Midianites, but in God’s strength. And Gideon will strike the Midianites with God as if they were “one man.” This is a phrase that is used throughout the scriptures to point to people acting with unity. In Numbers 14:15, the people are called out to slay the Canaanites, in Judges 20:1 as the people gathered to deal with the tribe of Benjamin. Also, we find the people gathering for instruction from the Lord “as one man” in Ezra 3:1 and Nehemiah 8:1.
Here, it is not the people gathering as “one man” but God gathering with Gideon “as one man.” How this ought to embolden Gideon, yet, Gideon is probably more like us than most of us would like to admit. For Gideon’s next words and actions will betray his weakness and fears. Yet, how often we too fall into the trap of Gideon. He lives within us, but we still do not act in faith.