The other day I said I was seeing some parallels in Gideon’s story and my own. I see likeness not in his apostasy but rather in his initial timidity and in the way God responded to it in using him against the Midianites.
We first meet Gideon threshing wheat in a winepress “to hide it from the Midianites” (Judges 6:11). This in itself would be enough to convince me of the man’s scaredy-cat nature. Wheat, if you’re not familiar with the process, is typically threshed in an open area so that the wind may blow away the chaff while the heavier seeds fall to the ground. A winepress would be in a lower lying area where wind would not blow freely. This man is so afraid of the Midianites that he is beating out wheat where the wind cannot separate it. He’s a sissy; he’s spineless. And in the very next verse, the angel of the LORD calls him a “mighty man of valor”. Amusing, considering the circumstances, but I don’t think this is sarcastic. Our God is great and gracious to mold us and has foreknowledge of our future sanctified selves (and, on the other side of eternity, our glorified selves). Gideon, bewildered, questions of God, “please, LORD, how can I save Israel?” and the LORD replies, “I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man” (vv. 15, 16). Quite an awesome promise, but very, very intimidating if for one moment you forget the first five words. This exchange reminded me of Moses in Exodus 4:10-12, verses which have meant a lot to me these past two years. And, jumping to verse 36, Gideon’s hesitance and doubtfulness shows itself again: “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said”… I originally expected the LORD to be angry with Gideon here as he was with Moses in Ex. 4:14. It seemed impudent to acknowledge that God had made a promise and yet to test God not once but twice, but He gave Gideon the signs which he asked to see! Our discussion in life group a couple weeks ago ran in circles around this for a little while until I heard the voice of the father in Mark 9:24, whose words I have prayed countless times: “I believe; help my unbelief!” This was the first parallel I saw. How sweet our God is to grant us faith in the midst of fear and doubt; what else could help? With all we know of his goodness and faithfulness, encouragement sometimes just repeats what we’ve already gone over in our hearts. I know that when I am cast down in fear and doubt, I don’t respond to most friends’ encouraging words or verses. I know the truth of God’s goodness, that He will never leave me or forsake me, but my impudent doubt prevents me from believing in that moment the sweetness of those promises. What I need most in those times is more faith. And God gives it! Thanks be to Him that He does, because I sure wouldn’t find it anywhere else if I looked under every rock on earth. So Gideon asked God to grant him faith by showing him signs. I get it now.
In the next chapter, Gideon and his men actually gather together to go up against the Midianites. The LORD has made promises to Gideon, has grown Gideon’s faith, and has gathered a force of over 30,000 men in this encampment. But he pares these numbers down, twice. Why? The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’” (7:2). He weakens the force that Israel has amassed so that there is no way they could have claimed their own strength saved them. Later that night, God tells Gideon to take his servant and go down into the enemy’s camp. Verse 12 lays out an overwhelming scene for us: “And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance.” Now, if this were me, and if I hadn’t overheard the dream, I’d have been terrified to go up against this force. Once again, Gideon sees that there is no way he can defeat this army by his own hand. But then he hears a man recount a dream, and he hears another man interpret it, declaring that Gideon will triumph over them, and he is brought to his knees in worship.
A little more than two years ago, God called me into ministry. He named me ‘bold’ when I was quiet, insecure, and timid. I was bewildered. I asked for a sign. Eventually, I obeyed, though once there, I very often forgot those first five words of the promise: “I will be with you” (the same was promised to Moses: “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak”). I listened to lies at times and was often overwhelmed by the feeling of inadequacy. Some of these occasions weakened me so that I could not think that I had any hand in it. Other times God was showing me the reality of my inadequacy so that I could rely on and trust in His perfect power and adequacy. I have seen an increase in boldness as well as in fruit in recent months, but I have no claim to that. I would say I don’t know where it came from, except that I do.
A friend of mine always quotes this, and I’ve been seeing it play out more and more in my life and specifically in my ministry this year:
“My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Faced with my weaknesses juxtaposed with the promised victory, I have no response left except to worship as Gideon did.