Fear gripped Gideon with an icy hand. Against all reason, he gathered his servant and slowly stalked toward the enemy camp. Finally they stopped beside a tent on the outskirt of the sprawling army. Night had fallen heavily upon the plain. In the darkness, the light of a thousand fires silhouetted the tents that filled the valley like a swarm of locust. They were without number, as the sand upon the seashore in abundance, a mighty hoard against the three hundred men in Gideon’s charge.
Earlier that evening, God had clearly spoken to Gideon. The words he spoke sent shivers of fear through Gideon’s soul.
“Arise,” God said, “and go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand.” The words overwhelmed Gideon, for the task was impossible. “But if you are afraid,” the Lord continued, “go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.”
In the darkness Gideon and Purah crouched beside the tent. The men inside were speaking, and Gideon strained to hear what they said. Finally they heard a voice. “Behold, I dreamed a dream,” the man said, “and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.”
A long pause stifled the air. Gideon leaned in to hear more. Finally the man’s comrade spoke. “This is no other than the sword of Gideon,” he said, “the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.”
Gideon heard the interpretation of the dream. He fell to his knees in the dust and worshiped, overwhelmed by what God has done. Quietly they rose and hurried back to their camp. A new found courage surged through his veins. Urgently he called to his men, “Arise! For the Lord has given the host of Midian into your hands!”
In the darkness, three hundred men rose to follow their leader into battle, and by the light of morning their enemy lay decimated before them. The God of Israel had shown his glory again.
(Adapted from Judges 7:9-25, ESV).
I love the story of Gideon. He is one of my favorite characters in Scripture. But what is most interesting about his life is the way God interacted with him along the way. God’s patience and kindness is on display throughout his life. In this passage, I appreciate that it tells how Gideon was a man like I am, prone to fear and questions. I also appreciate that God understood Gideon’s fear. God cared about his frailty in spite of the immense task that he gave to him.
The first recorded instance in Scripture when someone was afraid is in the story of the first man God created – Adam. After Adam sins, in fear he hides from God. Before the fall, there is no mention of fear. It was a perfect relationship with God. But from the fall to today, fear has been part of the human experience. Fear is not necessarily sin. It is, however, a consequence of our sin nature. We are human, not divine. As a result, we do not always respond to circumstances the way we should. Sometimes that means we are afraid when we do not need to be.
This is where we find Gideon. Naturally, the task God gives him feels overwhelming. God already knew that he was afraid. So God kindly says to him, “If you are afraid, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” God accommodated his humanity. When Gideon hears the interpretation of the dream, his fear flees and his courage is renewed. God understood Gideon’s humanity, and made a way to address his fear.
Gideon could have puffed himself up and said, “I’m not afraid, I’m too spiritual for that.” Instead, he straps on his boots and heads down to the enemy camp. He was humble enough to admit that he was afraid. Are you? What would you do?
Sometimes when I feel a sense of fear, I ask God for wisdom to understand why I am afraid. I think if I could just figure out what is causing the fear, then I could fix it. The correct prayer is to ask God to calm my fear, and then to yield to him to change me at the deepest part of my life. I want God to inform me, but God wants to transform me. The challenge is to come to the place where my desire for transformation is greater than my desire for information. When I find that place, then I am ready to lay myself down at the feet of my heavenly father so that he can utterly transform me. In this way, the difficulties that come into my life have value when I understand that God uses them to mold me into the image of Jesus Christ.
In Gideon’s life, God initiated a helpless situation so that only God could receive the glory for the outcome. God may do the same for you and me. The result is that it led Gideon to a place of worship. Judges 7:15 says that when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshiped. His fear was transformed into worship. The word used for worship means to bow down in worship before God. It is the place of submission and recognition of God and who he is. It is a humbling of myself before God.
My friend, is there a sense of fear in your life? Are you in a circumstance that seems overwhelming to you? God understands your humanity. In these instances, he does not condemn you for your fear. Instead, he meets you in the midst of your fear to remind you that he is in control. Stop trying to understand the situation, and start yielding your life to him, so that he can utterly transform you. In the end, like Gideon, God will transform your life from fear to worship.
This article was originally published in the July 2016 Newsletter.