March 8, 2017

Biblical Wisdom for Wednesday: Faith Like Gideon

Here I am back for another lesson to share from our family bible lessons this week. As I explained with my initial blog post in this series, this is nothing more than a journaling of some thoughts that I've had while studying God's Word with my boys. Last time, I shared a lesson I learned from the story of Job, but we have moved forward in our story. We are now reading the book of Judges right now--and let me tell you. If you want to pack the lessons of obedience and disobedience succinctly? Read your children the book of Judges. There are some super awesome stories in there of men and women who did incredible things. My boys were nearly bug-eyed during a few stories (Um. Like General Sisera's death via tent peg. LOL). But one of the stories that I loved sharing with them the most, was that of Gideon. I think in many ways most Christians can identify with Gideon. Because most of us have faith like Gideon. 

So Gideon's story can be found in Judges 6 and it isn't pretty when it starts. We find the tribes of Israel under attack on nearly all sides by their age old enemy the Midianites. It's gotten so bad that the Midianites have driven Israel to move into the mountains, to hide in caves and dens (Judges 6:2). But you know, it was Israel's own fault. They were yet again suffering the consequences for their disobedience to God with their abhorrent idolatry. But there they were. And as before oh so many times, they begin to cry out to God to have mercy on them. To save them. Again. 
And God answers through a prophet--and reminds them of how many times they have been saved. What He has helped them do, and then what they quickly chose to put their faith and trust into--idols of the neighboring regions. He isn't happy, nor does He even tell them He's going to save them this time! (Judges 6:8-10)

And then we get to meet Gideon. Hiding in a winepress from the Midianites. Trying to thresh some wheat. And the Angel of God shows up there and speaks. 

First off--
Can I just say that I bet Gideon FREAKED OUT? I mean he's trying to be stealthy and we know he had to have been prepared to fight off anyone who suddenly showed up. And then someone starts talking to him?


The Angel of God greats Gideon with interesting words: "The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!"

The word valor here is the Hebrew word chayil (H2428) which means strength, might, efficiency, wealth, army. And the word for Mighty Man means--well the exact same thing. So he's being called a Mighty Man of Might. A great man of strength. A mighty man of valor. 

That's quite a greeting! Gideon however doesn't focus on the title or praise he's given. No, he jumps right in and asks--LORD, if you are with us, why is all of this happening? Where are all the miracles of God that I was raised up knowing about--like the great Exodus from Egypt? Our God has left us to the Midianites hand.

Is that not what our first question to God always is in times of trial--why? Interestingly enough I mentioned that in my last Wisdom for Wednesday post talking about Job. It's just human nature. We want to know WHY something is happening before anything else. 

I find it interesting that the Angel of the Lord doesn't answer with the why...and really, shouldn't Gideon already KNOW the answer as to why God hasn't been with them? Because they haven't been OBEYING Him. So instead of stating the obvious, the Angel of the LORD informs Gideon that God IS going to act. And Gideon is the chosen one by God--sent to do the job. 

Then the LORD turned to him and said, “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)

Remember that intro? Mighty Man of Valor?

Well the word used here for "might of yours" is a different Hebrew word that means the exact same thing! He's been called a mighty man THREE times. And God tells him, "I've picked you to do what you are asking Me to do."

Gideon is now totally questioning being called "mighty". He reminds God (as if He needs reminding) that he's the weakest clan (family) of the tribe of Manasseh. And not only that--he's the YOUNGEST son. So basically--he's the weakling from the weakest family in the whole tribe. 

You know. As if God never uses the least among us to do great things.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. (I Corinthians 1:26-29)
And God reminds Gideon--So what? You have Me. That's all you need. For I will defeat the Midianites as if you were just one man. (Judges 6:16)

Wow. Gideon was just told that he--the baby of the family--the weakest of the weak---the weakest link of the weakest tribe of Manasseh is going to be the tool God will use to enact His punishment against the seemingly invincible conquering force from Midian. 

How's your faith, Gideon?

Well--I think he's pulling a doubting Thomas--for he asks to be shown a sign that the Angel of God was who he said he was. He decides to honor him with an offering and sacrifice--so Gideon probably knows in the back of his mind that this is the real deal. And, does the Angel of the Lord get offended that Gideon has asked for a sign that he is who he says he is? No, not this time. He simply tells Gideon he will wait. 

Long story short--as I'm sure you know, Gideon returns with his offering of a goat, unleavened bread, and broth. The Angel of the Lord instructs him to set it out on a rock, then pour the broth over it. (pssst--sounds like the prophet Elijah and pouring water on the altar!) Gideon obeys, the Angel of the Lord touches the rock, and WHOOSH! Fire comes out of the rock and devours everything. 

And Gideon believes. That night God speaks to Gideon with His first job for him--to go out and tear down the altar to the pagan god Baal his father has (gulp!!), and build a proper altar. Gideon does it---but because he feared his father's household and the men of the city, he sneaks out and does it with his men at night.

Um. Gideon. The one called "Mighty Man of Valor" who was just told God had chosen him to do great things to save the Israelites--was so scared of his father and men, that he chose to do God's instructions at night.

How's your faith, Gideon?

After this act, Gideon begins gathering men to him--finally stepping into the shoes of that Mighty Man of Valor that he was called by God.

Except...he asks for another sign. 
And here we have an interesting interaction between God and Gideon with the fleece. If there was ever a time for God to chastise Gideon for a lack of faith, here is the perfect moment. (Judges 6:36-40)

Right before he goes any further, Gideon asks God--please Lord, if You TRULY are going to use me and save Israel by my hand--can you make this fleece I am lying on the ground wet with dew, while the ground is dry beside it? Then I will know. 

God goes beyond what Gideon asks. He doesn't just make the fleece wet. He makes it SOOOOO saturated with dew, it can be wrung out--an entire bowl full of water. Gideon asked, God answered.

How's your faith, Gideon?

Okay--what comes next to me really shows the mercy of God--for Gideon asks AGAIN. Gideon even begs for God not to be angry by him asking just one more time for a sign. This time--keep the fleece dry, and the ground around it wet. And God, the merciful loving Father, did as Gideon asks.

How's your faith, Gideon?

What follows next is Gideon going forward with the army of about 32,000 men--going up against a force of about 100,000. That isn't the best odds humanly speaking. But, you know. Gideon now knows God's on his side and they are going to do this. 

Until--God decides it's time to show that He doesn't need might and many men, in fact, He wants to make it clear this isn't a man won victory, but a God won one. And through two events, God instructs Gideon to wheedle down the size. First from 32,000 to just 10,000. Then from 10,000 to just a mere 300. Yes. God has picked just 300 to be the army to do His work. 

How's your faith, Gideon?

You know, Gideon still wasn't there yet. But maybe he figured that armed with their equipment, an elite fighting force of 300 may somehow work out. How do you think he reacted when, to prove that He alone is the one who grants victories, God chooses to "arm" the army with just trumpets and pitcher covered torches. 

How's your faith, Gideon?

Gideon follows through with God's plan and arms his men accordingly...but you know what? Gideon was CLEARLY still afraid of what he was called to do! Still not completely trusting God. How do we know? If you read Judges 7:8-15, you read of God instructing Gideon to sneak down to the Midianite tent, in order to see that God indeed was giving the Midianites into his hands--but advised Gideon--"If you are afraid to go, take your servant Purah with you." 

Gideon takes Purah. 

How's your faith, Gideon?

It's funny that it is overhearing a Midianite describing a crazy dream about a tumbling giant barley loaf smashing into Midianite tents--and the Midianite hearers declaring it a sign of Gideon conquering them through God's hand-- that FINALLY convinces Gideon that God is with him.

And Gideon WORSHIPS--and FINALLY declares to the men of Israel 
"Arise, for the LORD has delivered the camp of Midian into your hand!" (Judges 7:15)

As we know, the LORD is with the army of the Israelites in its 300 strong, and does exactly what He proclaimed He would do. It's a fabulous story to read and I encourage you to pull it out again.

But let's get back to the faith of Gideon--and our faith.

You know. I bet you, like me, have the faith of Gideon sometimes. God appears to be asking us to do something we've never done before. Never ever DREAMED. Well, because we are the nobody's. What can we do? So we question God. We give excuses on why He can't possibly be really wanting to use us. Then we maybe pray for a sign. And doors/windows open, clearly God's hand. And we see it. And want to believe it. But we ask again. And AGAIN God shows us that yes, this is what He wants. But, you know, like Gideon, we don't always go boldly forward to do it. No. Not usually. We still have this wretched self-doubt about our value to God. No way can He really be asking us to do something. To be needing us to go somewhere. To do something. And so we ask again. And He answers again. 

And you know what? He usually answers in such a big way we--like Gideon--can no longer say He's not talking to us. He's not leading us. No. And in that moment, we MUST--MUST bow our heads and submit in worship to the Great Father who can do ALL things. Even through the weakest person of the weakest family, because God knew that at his heart--in the time when it matters most and relying completely on God--that Gideon was a mighty man of valor who would do great things for the glory of God. 

I've seen it. Haven't you? Amazing things done by people the world would, and does cast aside? 

We must never forget what Gideon learned:
If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
Let's accept the calling of God to do whatever it is He has set before us. May we follow in the footsteps of Gideon, the Mighty Man of Valor, and learn from Gideon's journey in faith. 

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