Often, I am guilty of looking at people in Scripture as some kind of out-of-this-world picture of perfection. I look at the folks in the Bible as heroes. Super-human. Yet, when I take the time to really read their stories, I see something different…I see genuine people like you and me. They struggled. They failed. They were human…flesh and blood folks with emotions and skin and feelings. In those moments of truth, I am encouraged. It doesn’t matter how much my life seems like a disaster, or that my struggles in this world are giant-sized…He is able to use me in my weakness. And He can use you in yours too.
Take Gideon for instance. This guy had real fear issues! In all practical senses of the word, Gideon was a wimp! Chicken-hearted. The kids on the playground probably called him a sissy. He was a coward. He buckled to the pressure of the day.
Somehow I viewed him differently…like a war hero or something. Or was he?
When I read Scripture, I like to paraphase and imagine what it would be like to be there…in the middle of the story. I love to pretend that I am watching it all unfold. You can read the story of Gideon in Judges 6-7. But for a minute, imagine with me.
The stage for Gideon’s story is sad and depressing. The Children of Israel were being oppressed by the Midianites because of their disobedience to God. (They were doing wicked things that were against His laws…so He used a foreign country to discipline them and bring them back to Himself.) The Midianites were ruthless. They would go behind the Israelites when they planted their crops and destroy everything. They killed their animals. The Israelites were so afraid of the Midianites that they hid in caves. They were completely impoverished and frightened out of their wits.
This is where we find Gideon…threshing his wheat in hiding. He is afraid to do it in the open lest the Midianites take it or destroy it. I just imagine him…jumping at the slightest noise and totally freaked out at the smallest twig snap. He’s trying to make a living and put food in his family’s mouths…and he is completely scared to death in the process. I imagine him there, looking this way and that…trying to be quiet and calm his shaking hands.
Then the Angel of the Lord comes to him. Now this is just speculation…but if a guy is hiding to work, an angel is probably going to scare you worse than a man! What do you think his response is? Does he think about running away? What goes through Gideon’s wimpy heart?
Check this out…the Angel’s greeting cracks me up! He says, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Ok. I’m not a rocket scientist, but I’m pretty sure this message was given to the wrong guy! Gideon is hiding, for goodness sake. It’s not like he’s picketing for better rights or bucking against the system. What does Gideon say to this? Does he laugh? Does he look behind him and wonder if the Angel is talking to someone else?
Listen to Gideon’s response…again, not a tough-guy type of answer. I imagine a quiver in his voice as he says… “Oh, 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 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.” Even Gideon’s response is full-to-the-brim with fear. Somehow, the Angel completely ignores Gideon’s knocking-knees and says, “Go in this might of yours” (exuse me, what might?) “and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have not I sent you?”
Whenever I read this story, I find myself laughing at this point. What on earth does God see in Gideon? He stands there…white as a ghost, trembling, and making exuses and God says…”Yep, he’s the one.” Why Gideon? Why a wimp?
Gideon is still not convinced. He starts making excuses about his family tree and his weaknesses. He tells all his mess-ups and bad traits. Gideon tries to convince God that He chose the wrong guy! To be honest, I’m with Gideon…he’s not a mighty man of valor. He’s a fear-filled wimp. Weak. Afraid.
Aren’t we glad we don’t write the story of life? God sees past the fear, the knocking-knees, the quivering chin…and He notices strength that no one else can see. He sees a man with potiential. A man, who with the right tools and the right God can be a warrior. I think God saw Gideon as an opportunity to show the world His power…because Gideon was nothing special. He was an ordinary man with wimpy fears. He was the littlest, the last, the least.
So, God promises to be with Gideon and to defeat the Midianites through him. Gideon sacrifices to the Lord there. He’s willing at this point…but he’s not all in. Watch this…God tells him to destroy the false gods of Midian, tear down their altars, and to build an altar to the Lord and sacrifice to Him there. We can imagine Gideon wrestling at this point. He wants to obey God, but his faith and fear are colliding. So Gideon does what he knows how to do well…he hides. He does what God says…but under the cover of darkness. The men of the city wake up and come storming to Gideon’s family’s house to kill him.
You got to love this next part. Gideon’s dad comes out to meet the men and pleads for his son. I don’t know where Gideon was…maybe hiding?
Then it happens. A change of direction. A strengthening of his heart. Judges 6:34 says “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon.” Big difference! Welcome to the new Gideon! This warrior-Gideon is the one we all seem to remember. We are but empty vessels without the power and might of God’s Spirit. Here is Gideon…trying to obey in his own flesh and God fills him up. Holy Spirit-living equals powerful living. Gideon begins to change. Instantly. On the spot.
He still has his fearful moments. Times he wants to test God…like with the fleeces in the next chapter. Twice. But God isn’t intimidated by Gideon’s fears or concerns or worry-level. He’s concerned with his heart. Gideon’s heart is pure. Gideon had a warrior heart…he just needed backing. He needed a General worthy of his devotion. He needed a Captain who could handle the outcome. This is where Gideon is ready to give it his all. This is where he turns from wimp to warrior.
I sit sometimes and think about Gideon. What would it be like to sit and talk with him about the battles he fought? Defeating the entire Midian army with 300 men? Wonder what that was like. With clay pots, swords, and torches, no less! I find it interesting to note that when they did defeat them, the battle cry was this… “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” Wow.
I wonder…could I be a warrior? Are my wimpy fears holding me back from winning victories that will be spoke of for centuries? I love the story of Gideon, because it speaks to me…that normal, fearful, human, weak people can be used of God to be warriors. The change? His Spirit. And where His Spirit is there is victory and peace. Where His Spirit is there are wimps turned warriors.
Which one are you?
(This post originally written for the Polished Cornerstones blog February 19th, 2015)