It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longermeaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there ispower. (Alan Cohen)
We were kind of like Gideon…shy, retiring, scared. The whole world seemed a scary place…so he hid in a cave, threshing his wheat in a wine press. Normally farmers threshed on a hill where the wind blew away the chaff, but Gideon has the indignity of threshing in a dark cave where the chaff clings to your hair and sticks to the sweat on your arms. Hoping to eke out an existence there in the damp and the dark, Gideon was just trying to survive. After all those decades of defeat, the foodstuff of Gideon’s life was flavored with despair. Then God called him. Doesn’t his story sound familiar…it could be you or me trying to dig ourselves out of the dark quagmire of human despair or some crisis situation in our life, and suddenly we are exposed to the awesome, but a little unsettling… light of God’s truth.
Some background information
Judges 6-8 The story of Gideon comes from a primitive time, dating back to the twelfth century BCE, and the time of the Judges. Under Moses, the people of Israel had escaped from Egypt and had entered the land of Palestine. They did not have a king as yet, but lived in what we might call a sort of confederation of states. They had no standing army. As such, they were constantly open to attack from other tribes and people of the area. They had neighbors who had their own gods, and this too brought a constant threat to Israel’s faith as these other gods looked pretty good. So there was constant tension. But the stories of the Judges had a theme that followed a regular cyclical pattern: The people of God would turn away from God. Life would turn bad; they would repent, God would rise up a leader, what was called a judge and this judge would lead them against their enemy. Then they would have a time of peace until they turned from God again. (Tom Tate)
Right when Gideon was least expecting it an angel came and sat under an oak tree and spoke to him. He says, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valour”(Judges 6:12). Wow! I bet Gideon looked around him and wondered who the angel was talking to. I don’t think Gideon felt like a mighty man—of valour—which means bold, courageous, and fearless. That hardly describes Gideon or how he felt at that time in history. But God sees a man differently than we humans do. He saw those elements as part of Gideon’s character… elements that has not been tested, elements that had not had a chance to develop. Of course Gideon’s reaction is one of skepticism…“are you really talking to me God?” he seems to say. “I am from a poor family and I am the least in my father’s house…funny, David was the least of all his brethren and God made him a mighty King. Moses, too, was reluctant to be called saying he stuttered, but he was used mightily by God. I think it is a familiar story of each of us present day Christians…when we’re called we did not feel adequate, not quite up to the task and not least of all, a bit skeptical. And yet temporarily dazzled by the light of the truth, we counted the cost and moved forward gingerly, recognizing that we had the pearl of great price within reach of our fingertips.
When Gideon finally realizes it is truly a call (which took a miracle Judges 6:21) from God he has to prove himself by tearing down his father’s idols. We too had to prove to God we took our calling seriously by leaving our father and mother’s false religion and traditions behind us.
Gideon protests — as we do — that he is weak and inadequate. In fact, he is reluctant to change…as we all are… we want to stay in familiar territory no matter how bad it is. Even though Gideon was nervous about tearing down the idols he did it anyway. Just like us when first called, we don’t shout from the rooftops but take our first baby steps toward change.
Paul said of the body of Christ, that the least important members, the weaker members are the ones that are indispensable. When you don’t have too much confidence you know your need for God so you rely more on Him. As we read about Gideon, we see that he has many fears and that he is not very confident. He’s afraid of the Midianites; he’s afraid of the men in his own village and so he destroys the altar to Baal at night, afraid to do it in the light. He is evidently afraid of the enemy’s army when it gathers in a nearby valley.
Gideon also had to prove God, hence the story of Gideon’s fleece. He challenges God to keep the fleece dry that he lays on the ground and the next morning the ground is wet with dew and the fleece dry; still unsatisfied he challenges God the next day to have the fleece wet and the ground dry. Of course God proves true. Remember they didn’t have the whole Bible like we do today. And God reminds us in His Word when we are first called to prove Him true. (Hebrews 3:9 Malachi 3:10)
We need to learn how to handle our fears. It says perfect love casts out fear… but evidently Gideon had not had the opportunity to grow much in faith. We can admit that we are afraid and still step forward to do God’s will. Even in fear, courage is possible and victory is assured as long as we have truly tuned in to God’s command. Being scared shouldn’t stop us from anything God directs or inspires. Gideon did the job scared. But he was a newly called out one at that time and he did it… that’s the main thing. Paul knew weakness…he had to live with it. He said,” For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10). God doesn’t call many mighty, many noble people, He calls the weak of the world and works through them mightily and that’s what he did with Gideon and many other prophets of the Old Testament and continues that tradition in the Church today.
The battle Gideon fights with the Midianites could easily represent our battle with the world and Satan. God shows us how, tells us where, and when in His Word. We are a small insignificant group, blowing the trumpet, saying “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon” (doing the work of God using the Word of God); breaking the pitcher, (representing death of the old man); holding the light up for all to see (being an example to the world). Then we should be giving 100 percent to winning the race. If we follow God’s Word, He will win the battle for us…as in Gideon’s battle he just followed God’s instruction and God did the rest.
Even though Gideon was afraid, he became an example to all those around him. Even though he was a babe in God’s truth, he stepped out in faith. The three hundred were going into battle because one man’s faith encouraged them all. So even though we too, may have been reluctant in the beginning, we can eventually be mightily used by God. But what is so wonderful about this story of Gideon is that God sees our potential of greatness as his sons and daughters, and like Gideon, we just need to do our part.