Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I was reading about Gideon today, and I found a bunch of details I'd missed before that I thought were really interesting. Let me recap the story for you.
Once upon a time there was a man named Gideon, whose country was under siege by the Midianites. He was so afraid of the occupying force that he stayed hidden in a wine press crushing grain to make flour, hoping the Midianites wouldn't see him.
An angel of the Lord came to him and called him a "mighty man." He looked around and said, "You talkin' to me?!"
The angel told him to go in his strength and rescue Israel from their oppressors. Gideon responded, "Uh, you don't know who you're talking to, because I am the weakest and the least of my family, much less anyone else's family." The angel then told him that God would be with him.
Gideon asked the angel to wait, then went home and made a meal and brought it back. The angel put it on a rock, and fire came and consumed the whole thing. Wow.
Gideon was then told to tear down the altar to Ba'al that stood in the middle of town. He obeyed, but he was fearful about the whole thing so he snuck out at night and did it. The next morning the people figured out it was Gideon, and they came after him. Gideon's dad, who was actually the keeper of the altar, defended him and said if this has offended Ba'al then let Ba'al come after him. The people agreed and decided to start calling him Jerubbal which means "Let Ba'al defend himself."
Gideon then issued a call to arms, and 32,000 warriors responded. Every man who was summoned, came! Surrounded by these willing men, Gideon then went to God and said, "Are you sure about this? If you are, make this fleece I'm leaving out here on the floor overnight full of dew and the ground dry." And then he went to bed and I'm sure tossed and turned the entire night. Sure enough, the next morning the wool was so wet he wrung out a bowl full of water. But... Gideon still wasn't convinced; even though he had seen the angel, the fire, the conversion of his own father, the mass of men who came to fight, and the fleece filled with water, he wasn't convinced. So he asked God to do it again, only backwards—a dry fleece and wet ground—and an amazingly patient God did.
Now Gideon was ready to proceed, but God thought there were too many guys, so He told Gideon to ask all those who'd rather not participate to go home. And 22,000 men did. 9 out of 10 warriors walked away!! There was a paltry (comparatively) 3,000 left, and God still thought that was too many, so there was another winnowing of the troops and Gideon had only 300 remaining, less than 1% of the original force.
Then God came and said, "Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp for I have given you victory over them! But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack." Judges 7: 9-11 NLT
So Gideon and his servant snuck down just in time (remarkable their timing, don't you think?) to hear a man telling his friend about a dream: "'I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!' His friend said, 'Your dream can mean only one thing. God has given Gideon, son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over all the armies united with Midian!'" Judges 7:13,14 NLT
So Gideon was encouraged, thanked God, and proceeded with his 300 warriors to surround the enemy in the valley. They broke clay pots with lights in them, shouted, and blew their trumpets, and the enemy was so confused (after all, it was midnight) they started fighting among themselves. Before long the Midianite armies retreated as Gideon and the Israelites watched without raising a sword or aiming an arrow.
So my question is this: How much encouragement does one man need to do what God has called him to do? Gideon saw an angel and witnessed several miracles and several stunning successes, but still he hesitated. Right up to the battle he was afraid, he was not so sure about all this...
The hero in the story of course is God, and the significance of the story is that "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." (Psalms 103:13,14 NIV)
God met Gideon, where he was in his faith and in his fear, every step of the way. While one miracle may have been enough affirmation for someone else, Gideon apparently had short term memory problems.
I have those same problems. So quickly I forget the things God has done on my behalf in the past when I'm facing something difficult in the present, and I find, as did Gideon, that time and again, God steps in with encouragement just when I need it, not discounting my fear but acknowledging it and encouraging me. Just like He did today in a blog I read by Roy Lessin:
Is God calling you to take a new step in the year ahead, even though you are weak and fearful? When God calls you, He sends you; when He sends you He goes with you; when He goes with you, He equips you; when He equips you, you have everything you need.
I have everything I need, and so do you.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up! Psalms 68:19 ESV