We have three weeks studying Gideon on Sunday evenings and yesterday we were looking at Gideon’s call (not sure the picture is entirely accurate). I think the theme that really came forward both during Andy’s leading of the meeting as well as when I have prayed about the passage is that God is with us.
Gideon is a great example to us in that he was an unlikely leader that God took and used to achieve his purposes. He was also very hesitant but the Lord constantly reassured and encouraged him. Gideon began with some wrong thinking; he had a mistaken view of sin, a mistaken view of himself and a mistaken view of God.
Israel has fallen into the familiar pattern of the book of Judges, sin, suffering, supplication, and salvation. The key verse in the book, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 17:5 & 21:25) is applicable here. The enemies at this point are the Midianites and other eastern peoples, they are not seeking to conquer and occupy, rather they attack and carry off anything of value. They are fast moving, using camels and very numerous. Their actions have left Israel poor and powerless.
A mistaken view of sin. Israel’s problem was not Midian, it was sin. The devastation caused by the Midianites is a symptom of a deeper sickness at the heart of the nation. Israel worked hard but their harvest was being stolen making all of their work for nothing. Sin will often make our efforts useless, it separates. Sin is so serious that no amount of good deeds can redress the balance, God can never overlook sin we have to come once more to the cross in repentance and faith.
Sin can devalue our witness; Church history is littered with cases of prominent Christians who have fallen into sin. In our own day, across the streams of evangelicalism there are too many cases. Hansie Cronje springs to mind, his clear witness was left devalued by his bad choices. We should pray for Christians in the public eye where they face tremendous pressure.
Sin brings judgement, Israel should have learnt from Achan in Judges 7 where one man’s sin affected the whole nation and if we think this only relevant to the Old Testament, the church should learn from Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. God will never turn a blind eye to sin.
Sin will cause us to live in fear, it is often associated with fear even in the garden (Genesis 3:10). Israel’s life of fear is a direct result of its idolatry and sin. The tragedy for us is that the whole thing is unnecessary; God has provided a remedy for sin in the death of Jesus. For those carrying guilt and sin, Christ has died so that we can be forgiven and set free.
A mistaken view of himself. Gideon saw himself as ‘nothing’ (Judges 6:15), “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” God saw him as a mighty warrior (Judges 6:12). Do we see ourselves as God sees us?
Our identity as human beings is being attacked in our culture and that attack takes many forms As in the view put forward that human beings are the descendants ‘the ape that got lucky’. Or the body fascism recently seen in the criticism levelled at Gordon Brown when he had the gall to be seen jogging wearing clothes that were apparently unsuitable or the digitally enhanced images of celebrities on the pages of magazines. Add in the lack of value placed on the unborn and even the old. All of these and more seek to devalue human beings who are made in the image of God (James 3:9) and have God given dignity and value.
All people are made in God’s image but not all live the life God intends. Like sitting in a car without starting the engine or using a computer without an internet connection, a person only lives to the full when they are in relationship with God. Jesus said that he came to give life to the full, an abundant life (John 10:10), a life full of colour and the excitement that comes from knowing God through Christ and living in the power of the Holy Spirit. When compared, a life that chasses after possessions, power and experiences is a shadow life. The Lord’s word to Gideon was that he would be with him (Judges 6:16).
A mistaken view of God. Gideon’s question to the Lord betrays his mistaken view, “If the Lord is with us, why?” (Judges 6:13), why is all this going wrong in our land? Has he abandoned his people? Is he unable to help? Is he unwilling to help?
We have a God of revelation, here the Lord sends an unnamed prophet. God speaks to his people (Judges 6:7-10), if God in power delivered Israel from Egypt, the super power of that day, then God could deliver Israel from the Midianites. God is with us (Judges 6:16, Matthew 28:20) and that changes everything. God desires a relationship with us; he will not abandon his people and just as he heard these prayers, he hears our prayers.
So far in this encounter with the Lord, Gideon is not fully aware of the identity of the visitor. When he makes an offering, it is consumed with fire and realising that he has been having a conversation with the Lord, he is terrified. God speaks to Gideon again with the wonderful words, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die” (Judges 6:23). When the offering is accepted, there is peace for Gideon. This surely speaks of the cross where the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus brings peace for those who trust him.
As we think about this part of Gideon’s story, let us pray that as with Gideon, the Lord will change our own wrong thinking and that our view of sin, ourselves and the Lord himself will be a biblical view. God is with us.
Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
Ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!