Gideon brought the rod down hard on the mound of wheat, breaking free the precious kernels from the straw. Again and again he beat the sheaves. He worked quickly, nervously shifting his gaze toward the horizon. His breathing grew labored, and he paused, leaning on the rod he had been using to strike the wheat. The sun was merciless and cruel. Wiping the sweat from his brow with his arm, he squinted his eyes toward the horizon. Glancing back and forth, he searched for any sign of the invading hoard. Far in the distance a large bush shimmered in the afternoon heat, and for a moment he thought he saw it move. A wave of panic rippled across his skin. But it was only a bush, not the invaders from Midian. He looked back at the pile of wheat, and the gravity of what he was doing fell heavy on him. The life of his family depended on it. If the enemy seized his food again, he didn’t know how they would survive until the next harvest. He simply must complete the work unnoticed.
A tamarind tree stood like a sentinel nearby. Its spreading branches scattered a welcoming covering of cool shade in the blistering heat, but Gideon knew there was no time to rest. His shoulders ached as he again lifted the rod to strike the sheaves of grain. As he did, he glanced at the tamarind tree, and what he saw caused him to drop the rod and stumble backwards in shock. A man sat under the tree watching him.
Gideon froze, not sure if he should reach for his sword or run. He did neither, but stood motionless, silently sizing up the threat, until finally the man spoke.
“The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.”
For a moment, Gideon said nothing, trying to grasp what he had just heard. His mind was reeling. “Please, sir,” he stammered, “if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’” He paused, shifting his gaze to the pitiful pile of wheat and then back to the man beneath the tree. “But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of the Midianites.”
The frustration in his voice hung in the air like a heavy wet blanket. But the man just looked the other way, as if he hadn’t noticed. Finally he turned to Gideon and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?”
At this, Gideon threw up his hands and shook his head from side to side. He now understood that this was no ordinary man with whom he was talking. It was an angel of the Lord, but surely there had been a mistake.
“Please, Lord,” Gideon pleaded, “how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”
It was true. He knew where he was from, and it wasn’t pretty. He was born into one of the half-tribes of Israel, not one of the tribes known for valor. Further, his tribe, the tribe of Manasseh, was the lesser of the two half-tribes! His clan was the least within the half-tribe, and he was the least in his father’s house. It all added up to a pile of nothing, like the scraps of worthless straw left over after threshing the wheat.
The angel of the Lord stared into his eyes and saw the fear, the hurt, and the frustration. But it was a look of love and compassion, not of condemnation. It was a gaze that deeply understood the weaknesses of a man. Finally the angel of the Lord spoke, and what he said sent shock waves through the air.
“But I will be with you…” And at this he slowly smiled.
(Adapted from Judges 6:11-16, ESV).
The nation of Israel was in chaos. They had abandoned the one true God and had turned their hearts to gods that would never satisfy. God had seen this and had allowed the enemy to ravage the land because of their disobedience. But God is always a God of grace. After disciplining his children, he always opens his arms to embrace them. The time to embrace had come. He had set in motion a plan to deliver his children, and he had chosen a man of great insignificance to lead the nation back into a right relationship with God.
I can relate to the situation where the nation of Israel was. I look around me, and I see a nation in chaos. We have abandoned the one true God and have turned our hearts to gods that will never satisfy. God has seen this and has allowed our land to be ravaged because of our disobedience. But God is always a God of grace. He stands waiting for us with open arms, but it is our responsibility to turn to him.
I can also relate to Gideon. I think it was fair of Gideon to ask the angel of the Lord those questions. If I were in that place, I would ask the same things. In these kinds of moments, we look at our circumstances and say, “But God, if you are with me, why are all these bad things happening? I don’t get it! I read in Scripture all those amazing things you did in the past, but right now it feels like you have forsaken me and have given up on me.” But when God came to Gideon, he knew exactly what he was doing.
Here lies one of the great mysteries in Scripture. Often God uses weak things to reveal his power. Again and again he chooses the unimportant man or woman to do important things. Over and over, he selects the flawed, helpless, sinful, and insignificant to show his glory.
I am grateful for a God like that.
My friend, we need more men and women like Gideon. You may be in a situation today where God is speaking to you about serving him, and you are hesitating because, like Gideon, you know where you are from, and it is not pretty. God specializes in using folks just like that! He loves to show his glory by using the cast offs, the failures, and the insignificant. This is the God of grace that we serve. He shows his glory, not by making me stronger, but by showing his strength through my weakness. It is always about reflecting the glory of God, not my own.
God may plan to use your life in ways you cannot even imagine. He comes to you in your weakness and says, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.” Like Gideon, you may be tempted to say, “Really, God? I mean, you do know to whom you are talking, right?”
If that is you, take a moment to consider what the angel of the Lord says at the end of the conversation with Gideon. He doesn’t tell him how all of it is going to work out. He doesn’t give him a five-point plan to implement. He simply says, “I will go with you.”
When he says that to me, in my mind I see him smile. Not in a mocking kind of way, but in a way that says, “…and you cannot imagine what I plan to do through you!” That, my friend, changes everything!
Today, God is still calling men and women like Gideon. When he speaks to you, what will you say?
This article was originally published in the April 2015 Newsletter.