So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord,
and called it Jehovah-Shalom.
To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
This simple verse is an excellent example of the richness of the Bible. There is so much information to be gained from digging deep into the significance of this brief verse, yet how many of us have read over it without giving it any further thought? It is incumbent upon each of us to build an understanding of the Bible -- line upon line, and precept upon precept. That is why it is important to know the history of Gideon up to this point, why it was important to him to build an altar to the Lord, and why he named it as he did.
I love the history of the Bible! The story of Gideon is one of God using the least prominent among us to accomplish great things for His kingdom. At this point in the story, we need to understand that Israel is under judgment by God for "doing evil in His sight" (Judges 6:1), and were "delivered into the hand of Midian seven years". (Israel had a history of worshipping the false idols of surrounding pagan cultures.) For seven years they suffered under the Midianite oppression; their crops destroyed, they were "greatly impoverished" (Judges 6:6)
The story of Gideon begins in verse 11, and if we read forward to our selected verse , we get the "big picture" of why Gideon is led to build the altar we see here. (Judges 6:11-14).
Gideon was "the least in his father's house" and a "thresher of wheat" when he was called by God to lead Israel in the battle against the formidable Midianites. It is not hard to understand why Gideon challenged the "angel of the Lord" to give him a sign -- after all, he was not a warrior or trained in battle. (It is paramount that we recognize this angel as not a created angel, but the Son of God himself, the eternal Word, the Lord of the angels.)
But then Gideon asks the angel to tarry while he brings him some refreshment under the oak tree ... the meat of a kid, unleavened bread, and broth. But instead of eating it, the angel tells Gideon to place the meat and unleavened bread upon a rock, and to pour the broth over it. He then touches the end of his staff to the items on the rock, bringing fire out of the rock and consuming them as a sacrifice. As the well-respected theologian Matthew Henry expounds, "[the angel] turned the meat into an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto himself, showing hereby that he was not a man who needed meat, but the Son of God who was to be served and honoured by sacrifice, and who in the fulness of time was to make himself a sacrifice."
Then, as verse 21, tells us, the angel of the Lord immediately vanishes. Gideon is then consumed with fright, crying out "O Lord GOD!" because he realizes he has seen God face-to-face, and "no man can see him face-to-face and live" (Exodus 33:20). But the Lord calms him and sends Gideon His peace, as He assures him that he will not die. And in remembrance of this vision that would set him on his path to becoming a Hero of Faith, Gideon builds an altar to the Lord, naming it after Him, Jehovah-Shalom ... The Lord is peace. He builds it in Ophrah of the Abiezrites (a city of Manasseh; Abiezer being a descendant of Manasseh). It might also interest you to know that Oprah is the place of Gideon's birth, his home after his ascension to power, and the place of his burial in the family sepulchre).
But there is another reason that I believe Gideon builds the altar in Ophrah. In Judges 6:25, the very next verse after the one featured today, we see that Gideon is instructed to destroy the altar of Baal that resides in his father's house. Joash, Gideon's father -- an Israelite -- is worshipping Baal!!! He symbolizes the very reason that Israel has been under God's judgment. Gideon is faithful and destroys the altar, showing Israel that their God is superior over all other gods. He has purified his fathers house and is ready to go on and lead the Israelites in battle against their opponent, Midian.
Gideon's subsequent experience at being called out of obscurity to lead the Israelite army against the Midianites is a clear example to us -- it shows that when the situation is desperate, we will most likely encounter fear, and long for the peace of God. Gideon experienced that peace from God's Son, Himself, and to honor Him, builds an altar and names it after Him. In this single act, Gideon is worshipping God in total submission, dependance and reliance. You can imagine that he has no idea how he is to defeat the Midianite army, but he has just encountered the "Peace of God" who has assured him of victory.
Because Gideon relied on the Lord to lead him into battle, and remained faithful all his days, becoming a righteous judge over Israel (Judges 6:23), he has the distinguished honor of being listed in Hebrews, Chapter 11, among the Hall of Fame of Faith.
Oh, how I pray that when the desperate times come in our future, that I will have the faith to rely on Jehovah-Shalom ... that I will submit to Him in total dependence and reliance, knowing that my victory abides in Him. In the midst of fear, chaos, and attacks by the Enemy, I will know that the Lord, who is Peace, will be with me.