Written by: Nico Bougas
Article source: JOY! Magazine
The Children of Israel were in a desperate state. Their land was overrun by the Midianites, they were without a leader, without faith, and without God. In this state of desperation, they began to pray and cry to God to visit them again, and God began to work. But not in the way that most people would have expected Him to work. The angel of the Lord appeared to a most insignificant person – Gideon. The fact that God chose Gideon should be a great encouragement to us. He didn’t have the patience of Job, the courage of Daniel, the wisdom of Solomon, the obedience of Abraham, or the strength of Samson – yet God chose him. A most unlikely candidate to be a leader of God’s chosen people.
The most unusual encounter
When we first meet him, he is not out leading an army against the Midianites or planning some major insurrection – he is threshing wheat by the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. This was against all common practice. Wheat was usually threshed in a wide open space where the breeze could blow freely and separate the wheat from the chaff, but on this occasion Gideon needed the protective shelter of the winepress building so that the enemy could not see him and steal his produce.
It was then that Gideon looked up and saw the stranger, he was sitting under a nearby oak tree. Gideon hadn’t seen him come, but suddenly he was there. There was something both eerie and wonderful about it. Was he a prophet perhaps? Then he spoke, “The Lord is with you, you mighty hero“.
Mighty hero? All Gideon was doing was whacking at the wheat with a rod. Gideon looked around him and shook his head. “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors have told us about – such as when He brought them out of the land of Egypt?”
Looking for someone to blame
“If the Lord is with us then why?” – We are constantly having this argument thrown at us. If God is God then: Why suffering? Why wars? Why sin? Why pain? Why evil? Why do the wicked succeed?
“And the Lord looked upon him…” We blame our circumstances, our times, our church, our God. Stop looking around you for excuses, stop looking for others to blame – the Lord is looking at you. We don’t know all the answers, there are a great many mysteries. The philosophers, the intellectuals, and the apologists of this world will spend the rest of their lives arguing about them.
We have to get on with the job
We have to live by faith not by sight. We have to get on with the light that is given to us and radiate the love and the message of the risen Lord – that God cares. He cares about a fallen world, He has intervened in the person of Jesus Christ and wants to reconcile us to Himself and give us freedom from sin and a peace that passes understanding.
Ever since the Garden of Eden, we have been making excuses. After Adam had disobeyed God, he was quick to minimise his guilt. “The woman that you gave me, she gave me to eat.” When Moses came down from the mountain and found the Children of Israel worshipping the golden calf, his deputy Aaron was quick to blame the people. “You know this people, that their hearts are set upon wickedness. I told them to bring me their gold and jewelry and I threw it into the fire and out came this golden calf.” We are so quick to defend ourselves, so quick to make excuses.
And the Lord looked upon Gideon, as he looks upon you and me, and says simply stop making excuses. I am with you, I am the one who does not change. Look to Me and be enlightened. God has not gone on early retirement, He has not lost interest in mankind. His power has not run out. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
“But, says, Gideon, my family is poor in Mannaseh, and I am the least in all my father’s house. He felt he had nothing to offer. He didn’t have any special talent. He wasn’t anybody special. He was no miracle worker. But God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.” – 1 Cor 1:26. Maybe God wants to use you in a special way. What He requires is not ability, but usability.
And then the Lord looked upon Gideon, weak, helpless, and frail, and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”
Today we face overwhelming odds, the devil is turning up the pressure because he knows he is running out of time. He is causing havoc everywhere. We are hearing of wars and rumours of wars. We are seeing wickedness in high places. We are seeing families broken up, we see violence, lust, and sinfulness everywhere. Evil seems to be triumphing. More than ever, we need God’s grace to stand in these evil days. We may be fearful, we may feel inadequate for the task, but God has given us His assurance that He is with us, as He was with Gideon.
Destroying the idols
Gideon’s first task was to pull down the idols of Baal. It seems impossible to believe that the children of Israel could fall to such a level. They had seen all the mighty works of God, they had experienced His deliverance and His mighty victories, they were the ones who served the true God. They were the people who wouldn’t mix with the neighbouring peoples, lest they be defiled by their wickedness and idolatry. And now they were doing the same foolish things. They were worshipping the same inanimate objects; objects that were unable to hear their cries and unable to supply their needs.
Idols can come in any form: even families & spouses
It seems so ridiculous that these people, who had known of the living God, would turn to dead idols. Perhaps you have experienced the power of God in your life and you have seen it at work in the lives of others. You acknowledge Him to be the almighty and all-powerful God, and yet maybe you still have that little idol that you worship. Maybe you don’t even realise that it is an idol. Maybe it isn’t an object, but an idol that you strive to please and satisfy. Anything that comes between you and God is an idol.
Are you your own idol?
We call ourselves Christians and followers of Him who is meek and lowly in heart, who made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant – yet our lives are riddled with selfishness. Self is not just an idol that wants to be worshipped, it is a baby that wants to be pampered. It manifests itself in so many different ways. If we want to win the victories of life, we have to begin by removing the idols and giving God first place in our lives. We have to die to the idol of self.
Moment of triumph
This was meant to be his moment of triumph, but soon came his moment of trouble. “Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together and went over and pitched in the valley of Jezreel.” This was a full scale invasion by countless enemy troops. What a terrifying sight they must have been, thousands of them, and every one a sworn enemy of Israel, out to destroy the land.
Eventually Gideon rounded up his army – 32 000 men – to battle against the mighty Midianites. But God said, “No, you have too many men here for Me to deliver Midian into their hands – if they win, they will exalt themselves, they will say it is the work of their own hands, it is their strength, that has given them the victory.” So the army was cut down to 10 000, but that was still too big for God to use.
We have to be careful of pride
You may be very talented, you may have lots of personality and be a natural leader. You may have a very good singing voice, or preach a good sermon. Perhaps the Lord has used you in winning others to Himself. But if you depend on these, if your confidence is in your achievements and potential, then God will not be able to use you.
But the Lord had not promised Gideon a great army, only the presence of the Lord Himself – the Lord began to put the pressure on this fearful, faithful servant. Now that he had the army together, he didn’t sit back and wait to be attacked. He launched out and won a mighty victory for the Israelites. He recognised that God was on his side and that nothing could stop him.
A winning strategy
We can become terribly negative in the Christian life. We can creep into our shells and always be on the defensive. Instead of launching out and gaining new territory for the Kingdom of God, we can sit back an become very introspective. We can be known as Christians because of the things we don’t do, we don’t do this and we don’t do that.
In the early church, the Lord’s people were known as His followers because of what they did. It was said of the Lord Jesus that He went about doing good.
Take one step at a time
The church is a recruiting station from which men should go out to fight the battles of the Lord, not a retirement home in which to live idly upon an old age pension. God never intended the church to be a refrigerator in which to preserve perishable piety. He intended it to be an incubator in which to hatch out converts. If your church is not going, sowing, and growing – then it is dying.
Once again the Lord had demonstrated His mighty power in delivering His people. But once again he had done it through a man. He was not a superman, but one who was fearful, yet faithful. This is the way He works today, through people who can take only one step at a time in faith. As it was with Gideon, so too it can be with us.
God doesn’t need an army, just obedience
“Mighty hero, the Lord is with you! Go with the strength you have . . . I am sending you!”
Go, and the Lord will be with you. Stop looking for excuses. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, stop feeling inadequate. God is with you. He doesn’t need a great army. He just needs you. If God be for us who can be against us?
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