For seven years Israel had been the victim of vexation from the Midianites, Amalekites, and others, whose chosen attack was especially insidious, because it struck at the very heart of human existence: the need for food. Each year they would observe the Israelites plant their seed, tend their crops, and wait patiently for harvest. Then when the grain was ready to be reaped, thousands of them would sweep down from the hills like grasshoppers and raid their crops, leaving nothing. The story of Gideon opens with him hiding behind a winepress, trying to thresh a little wheat without detection, when he experienced an angelic visitation. Out of this came a commission for him to become Israel's hero of the hour to defeat the Midianites.

From the get-go, Gideon was fearful and filled with doubts. It took quite a bit of reassurance and supernatural signs to convince him that he was "God's man of might and valor." The time to lead a charge against the enemy was near, but there was one important task that had to be done first, and that was to rid the idols and altars to Baal out of his home town. There was no way they could experience victory against the enemy with idolatry set up in their own backyards! Yet the idea of confronting his own family and the men of the city with their false worship frightened Gideon more than facing the enemy! So he decided to take 10 of his men and wait till night to sneak in and cut down the groves and tear down the altars of Baal.

The next morning revealed why Gideon had been so afraid to face his own people. They were infuriated when they saw the altars and idols of Baal destroyed, and inquired to find out who was responsible. When they learned it was Gideon, the son of Joash, they demanded that Joash bring out his son “that he may die!” Can you believe it? They were ready to kill him because he had rid the city of the idolatry that had brought God’s judgment upon them!

Something had stirred in his heart, partly parental love, but also righteous indignation against those who had not only turned to idolatry, but were brazen in their threats to kill his son who had dared to obey God and take a stand against their false god. Joash boldly responded: "Will you plead for Baal? Will you save him? He that will plead for him, let him be put to death while it is yet morning: If he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one has cast down his altar!” (Judges 6:31).

That same day Joash gave his son a new name: Jerubbaal, which means”Baal-contender,” saying: "Let Baal plead against him, because he has thrown down his altar.” The New Testament writer Jude began his epistle: "… It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints"(v.3). Today those who serve other gods employee intimidation and threats against those who would dare to speak against their god. Because some have made good on these threats, it has gendered man-fearing spirits that have muzzled the voices of truth, reason, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. Even the liberal media tiptoe around the issue, weakly referring to the radicalized few who are giving the rest a bad rap. Intimidation is a powerful enemy.

The apostle Peter, who loved his Lord dearly, denied Him three times as He stood before Pilate to be condemned to death. When he heard "the cock crow" as Jesus had predicted, Peter wept bitterly from a broken heart. Why had he denied the Lord? Because he was intimidated by a man-fearing spirit. After Jesus death, all 11 of His disciples were hiding behind locked doors "for fear of the Jews" (John 20:19). On the day of Pentecost, when they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter received deliverance from the spirit of the fear of man. As they spilled out into the streets of Jerusalem speaking in tongues, Peter stood up boldly to preach to those who wondered at this phenomenon. Without the slightest sense of intimidation, Peter addressed the responsible parties: “Whom (Jesus) you have taken and by wicked hands crucified and slain…” (Acts 2:23).

Soon thereafter Peter and John performed the miracle of healing a paralytic who had sat for 38 years begging at the Gate Beautiful. When people came running to witness, again Peter boldly preached: "Whom you delivered up, denied Him, and killed the Prince of Life" (Acts 3:13-15). When this resulted in their being called before the high priest and the Jewish Council, Peter did not run home and lock the doors, and when they asked him, "By what power or by what name have you done this?", Peter boldly declared: "By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified!" (Acts 4:10). They were then commanded not to speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus. This is intimidation by authority, but it did not faze Peter. He said: "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." At this the Council threatened them, but let them go.

Next Peter was thrown in jail, but his response was: "We ought to obey God rather than men!" Again and again, there was no fear of man, no intimidation by man, that affected him. Even when he was given the command to minister to Gentiles at the house of Cornelius, Peter obeyed and withstood those who opposed. When the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them and they began to speak in tongues, Peter said to the Jews, "Can we forbid them? Will you resist the Holy Ghost?" (Acts 10)

The Man-Fearing Spirit Returns

Years later Peter went to Antioch where Paul and Barnabas were headquartered in their ministry to the Gentiles. He happily joined in fellowship with everyone just as he had done when God sent to the house of Cornelius. He ate with them — everything was cool. Then certain men came from the mother church in Jerusalem, and Peter withdrew from the Gentile brothers and no longer ate with them. When he did, other Jewish believers joined in, including Barnabas! What happened? "He withdrew and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision." (Galatians 2:12-13).The same man-fearing spirit he had before came back, and he fell into the same snare. And it jumped on Barnabas too!

When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach the kingdom of God with power against unclean spirits, sickness, and disease, He told them straight up that they would face persecution and hatred. He said: “Beware of men… They will deliver you to councils, scourge you, persecute you, bring you before governors and kings, call you devils…. Fear them not!... Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Rather, fear him (God) which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:1-28).

The only thing we should fear is that we should not obey God in speaking out against the wicked, but do not allow a man-fearing spirit to prevent you from speaking the truth boldly. This is what Paul told Timothy when he felt intimidated by others: "For God has not given you a spirit of fear (intimidation), but of power, of love, and of a sound mind" (2Tim.1:7). When the prophet Jeremiah was afraid to speak the words of judgment which God had given him for the nation, God replied: "Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 1:6-8).