The story and character of Gideon intrigue me (Judges 6:8-40). What did God see in this frightened farmer to call and craft him into a mighty man of valor? Gideon had limited vision and lot of doubts, which many of us can identity with. Yet God saw some worthy traits in him that made him an instrument to deliver Israel. What are these qualities that when placed in God’s hand, turn fears into faith, bringing God glory and His people victory?
1. Commitment to the present task: After Moses and Joshua’s leadership, Israel was in crisis. They had lost their national identity, embraced immoral, cultic practices, and were in a state of anarchy–“Everyone did as he saw fit.” Gideon, though a child of his time, was different. He was committed to his daily duty of getting food for his family. He was resourceful and creative in hiding the threshed grain from the marauding Bedouin plunderers by putting it in a winepress. While totally engaged in his job, God’s angel comes to recruit this most unlikely candidate to be the military leader to flight the foreign invaders. God, in Christ, still calls active people to be laborers in His vineyard and soldiers in His army. Doing whatever our hand finds to do is best preparation for God’s future plans.
2. Concern for the people’s cause: Gideon is certainly blinded by his limitations and offers God’s angel a barrel of excuses. For starters, God could save His people by himself if he wanted. Gideon reminded God that he had an extended family to take care of who were, in his estimate, the poorest of the poor. Further, he pointed out his own inadequacies, highlighting his phobias. From the beginning he appears a skeptic, however what underlies his many questions is a deep concern for his and God’s people. His anxiety is personal; “Why is all this happening to us?” He realized if God was with them, there was a spiritual problem of faith: “What happened to all the miracles our forefathers bragged about?” In his own way, he wanted God to show up and do something about their present oppression.
3. Careful to prove the Lord’s call: As a pessimist, Gideon is his own worst enemy, saying to God, “Prove it to me, my way,” wanting another sign (6:37). He sputtered, having a childish desire for hard evidence, and experimented with God by using delaying tactics. Was he testing God or sincerely seeking assurance? Either way, his motive was right (to obey the Lord), albeit his was method wrong (requiring first a wet fleece, then a dry one). Nowhere does God chide him for his request. Unlike us today, Gideon did not have God’s revealed will in His written Word or godly counselors, but lived in chaotic times when one wondered, what God’s role was in all this? Delayed obedience is disobedience and demanding extra signs to confirm his call is a sign of unbelief. Our potential to fulfill God’s plans is limited only by our excuses. Let us not waste time on alibis or think God hasn’t assessed character or competence, He knows us and wants us to go, relying not our ability but his missional call and strength (6:14). Don’t play with weaknesses; remember God’s power shows up best in weak people.
4. Courage to procure whatever the cost: Though reluctant at first, once Gideon’s faith was sparked, he was unstoppable. In obedience to God, he got rid of the idols in his house, risking his own life! His band of 32,000 God reduced to just 300, leaving no doubt as to who really was doing the fighting. As in Joshua’s case, they also gained victory against all odds by following the most unorthodox military tactics. With a 99% reduction in army size and pitchers, torches, and trumpets as weapons, and a single military strategy–“‘Stand still”–Gideon’s men won the battle! What Gideon did have was bold faith in God’s promises, which helped him overcome an inferiority complex.
Questions still lurk: Is Gideon really a model of courage and faith (Heb. 11:32)? Is he a positive or negative example? Or both? Examining the raw material that God had to work with, one realizes God knew Gideon’s potential and graciously brought him to the point of courage! This is my testimony since I trusted in Christ; I’ve often been out of God’s will but I’ve never been out of His care. Though I don’t know why I do some things, He knows my heart and mercifully uses me! Why does God so often rely on cast-off, reluctant, faithless losers? There may be rare exceptions yet God’s reason is clear (1 Cor. 1:26-31). There aren’t too many that God calls who by human standards are wise, strong, noble, or influential. Why? So that when the glorious miracle and deliverance happen there can be only one explanation–God did it!