I love how the Lord reminds me of truths that I often lose hold of. I recently read the account of Gideon to prepare for a Sunday school lesson. If you’re unfamiliar with this amazing story, you can read it in Judges 6-8. While my Sunday school lesson was brief for the sake of the little ones, I learned so much for myself in the preparation. Forgive me for the lengthiness, but it seemed all was necessary to completely tell the story.
The Israelites had once again turned their backs on God. The Midianites were terrorizing them so that they went into hiding. Finally, in desperation, they cried out to God.
God shows them grace upon grace.
The Angel of the Lord (Jesus, perhaps?!) came to Gideon while he threshed his wheat in secret. I marvelled at Gideon’s honesty before God.
And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him, and said to him, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (Judges 6:12)
‘Ummm…excuse me,’ replies Gideon, ‘but…’
“O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” (Judges 6:13)
God, full of grace, simply turns to him and carries on:
“Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” (Judges 6:14)
Gideon, skeptical, replies that his clan was among the weakest. He was the least in his father’s house. How could this possibly be?
God, full of grace, ignored Gideon’s protests. God told Gideon that He was, indeed, with him; Gideon would bring down the Midianites pretty much single-handedly. Gideon needed some confirmation that this directive was actually from God.
Gideon asked for a sign.
Gideon prepared an offering and presented it to the Man under the terebinth tree. He was instructed to place the meat and unleavened bread on a rock, and to pour the broth over it. The Angel of the Lord touched the offering with his staff and fire came from the rock, consuming the offering, then He disappeared.
God, full of grace, gave Gideon a pretty clear sign.
‘Okay,’ thinks Gideon, ‘this must be legit.’
The same night, God asked Gideon to remove his father’s altar to Baal and the idol beside it, then build a proper altar to God and offer a burnt sacrifice. Gideon, in fear, under the cover of darkness, did so with the help of a few servants.
Really Gideon? God just told you He’s with you and you’re that afraid? Well…I’ll give you this…you were scared to death, but you obeyed God.
There was a bit of an uproar, but Joash calmed them all down.
In the meantime, the Midianites had gathered a following from the nations of the East, camped out in the Valley of Jezreel and were preparing to attack Israel.
The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, he blew the trumpet and Israel made ready to fend off their attackers.
I guess Gideon may have been having some second thoughts.
So Gideon said to God, “If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said—look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.” (Judges 6:36-37)
“If” says a lot, does it not? Didn’t God already reveal himself to Gideon, promise He would be with Him? Yet, here he is asking for another sign of confirmation. Fear. Doubt. Lack of faith. Gideon wasn’t looking for guidance, per se (he already knew the assignment), but for affirmation that this seemingly impossible mission would be a success. Of course, God, in His infinite grace, confirmed this directly: the floor was dry, but a bowlful of water was squeezed from the fleece. An amazingly positive response from God, and yet…
Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.” (Judges 6:39)
‘Okay, okay…one more time, Lord,’ says Gideon. ‘I just gotta know for sure and for certain.’ Again, the Lord corroborates: the fleece was dry while the floor was wet with dew. Such grace.
So off they go to face the enemy. But…
God tells Gideon, ‘There are too many men; I want everyone to know that I have saved Israel; allow anyone who is afraid to turn back.’ I’m sure Gideon must have been thinking, ‘Whaaattt??? You’re killin’ me here. We’re talkin’ a lot of guys on the other side of that wall!’ About two-thirds headed home. ‘That’s alright. We still have ten thousand; we can do this,’ Gideon, perhaps, was thinking. But…
God says, ‘No, still too many. I’ll sort out the rest. All those who drink from the water a particular way will go.’ That left a mere three hundred.
That same night, God told Gideon to go against the camp, He would deliver them into his hands. Perhaps Gideon was wavering a little as he pondered his tiny army. God, full of grace, gave him this opportunity to be reassured:
But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant, and you shall hear what they say; and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” (Judges 7:10-11)
Off he went. Gideon overheard a man tell another of his dream. The companion responded:
“This is nothing else but the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel! Into his hand God has delivered Midian and the whole camp.” (Judges 7:14)
When Gideon heard this, he worshiped God. He returned to the camp of Israel, and said, “Arise, for the LORD has delivered the camp of Midian into your hand.” He divided the three hundred men into three companies, gave each a trumpet, and an empty jar with a torch inside. When Gideon gave the signal, they blew the trumpets, broke the jars, held up the torches and cried, ‘The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!’
The Midianites and their co-horts began attacking one another, and the whole army fled. God gave Israel victory.
Gideon falters time and again. God shows him grace upon grace. Yet, Gideon obeys. God wins the victory. Oh Gideon, God was always going to do the hard work. You just needed to obey.
I can really relate to Gideon. I often waffle as I consider what the Lord has asked me to do. Fear keeps me firmly planted. Doubt in my ability or success causes me to draw away. Lack of faith brings forth a list of excuses. My Christian walk is full of ‘ummm…excuse me, but…’s, ‘if this is really You, Lord’s, and ‘I know You’ve promised, but…’s in answer to the Lord. Sad, isn’t it? Silly girl. God was always going to do the hard work. I just needed to obey.
I cannot let fear prevent me from being obedient. Fear, not wrong in and of itself, can become an obstacle to faith and becomes sin. However, I can, like Gideon, come before God and admit my weakness honestly. Friend, God is in the habit of using weak vessels. He is gracious when I admit my inadequacies. In fact, He wants me to know that He is doing the work, just as He did for Gideon.
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Do you know that Gideon was named amongst the ‘faith hall of famers’ in Hebrews 11? He had his short-comings, but so did most in this list of God’s faithful servants. I have many deficiencies, but God can use me. He wants to use me. I must be obedient, even in the face of my failures.
There is no need to be afraid. God is with me, just as He was with Gideon. “If He calls me to it, He will see me through it.”
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)