Every time the Israelites would plant crops, the Midianites invaded Israel together with the Amalekites and other eastern nations. They rode in on their camels, set up their tents, and then let their livestock eat the crops as far as the town of Gaza. The Midianites stole food, sheep, cattle, and donkeys. Like a swarm of locusts, they could not be counted, and they ruined the land wherever they went.
The Midianites took almost everything that belonged to the Israelites, and the Israelites begged the LORD for help. Then the LORD sent a prophet to them with this message:
I am the LORD God of Israel, so listen to what I say. You were slaves in Egypt, but I set you free and led you out of Egypt into this land. And when nations here made life miserable for you, I rescued you and helped you get rid of them and take their land. I am your God, and I told you not to worship Amorite gods, even though you are living in the land of the Amorites. But you refused to listen. (Judges 6:3-10)
God didn’t just punish his people for breaking the terms of the agreement he had with them. He also lectured them, by means of the prophets. When they cried out to him because of the Midianite raiders, he didn’t immediately stop the raiders from taking their stuff; instead, he talked to them about what they were doing. He reminded them of where they had come from, how he had taken care of them, and what he expected from them. Nothing very complicated. It was good that they had finally decided to talk to him again, after abandoning him for the other gods; but they needed to be reminded of just why they found themselves in the circumstances they were in, and what they needed to do to get out of them and to keep it from happening again. The Midianites were the same people who had taken Joseph into slavery in Egypt.
After his lecture, God raised up Gideon to deliver his people. Unfortunately, of course, the people would soon enough revert back to their old ways. But for a time—all the years that Gideon would live—the people would be faithful to God.
God is not one to judge people quickly. He knows how weak we are and he gives us a long time to repent before he begins overt attempts to get our attention. But he is swift to forgive, always, because he loves us so much. All he asks is that we love him and love one another.