What kind of a person does God use to accomplish his eternal purposes in this world? Jacob, the father of the Israelite nation, was a liar. Joseph, who saved Israel from starvation, was a slave. Moses, who led Israel out of slavery, was a fugitive, a shepherd, and a murderer. God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary tasks (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). This morning we look at Gideon, another ordinary individual God used to accomplish extraordinary things. God chose Gideon to deliver Israel from the oppression of the Midianites (Judges 6:2-6). When we first meet Gideon he is threshing wheat at the bottom of a hill in a wine press because he was afraid that if he threshed on top of the hill (where threshing ought to be done), the Midianites would spot him, and would steal his grain. The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and called him a “valiant warrior” (v. 12)! Gideon probably thought: “Who in the world is he talking to?” Gideon is certainly not valiant; he is fearful. But God looks at us for what we can be, not for what we are. Based on first impressions, would you have chosen Gideon for such an important task?
Gideon’s first response is questions: Why has all this happened to us? Where are the miracles you used to perform? (v. 13). But mark it well: the blame lay with Israel, not God (v. 7-10). Sometimes we want to blame God for messes we have gotten ourselves into. God didn’t even bother to answer Gideon’s questions. Instead he told him to go deliver Israel (v. 14)! Gideon began to make excuses as to why he wasn’t a good candidate for the job (v. 15). He said: “You’ve got the wrong man”–because Gideon’s family was the weakest link in the inconspicuous tribe of Manasseh; plus–”I’m the youngest in the family.” Have you ever felt inadequate and insecure about a challenge? The task seems bigger than you are. But God replied, “Have I not sent you? Surely I will be with you…and you shall defeat Midian as one man” (v. 14-16). God answers our inadequacy with his adequacy. Throughout Biblical history God has inspired fearful, hesitant servants with these ideas: “Have I not sent you? Surely, I will be with you.” (Genesis 28:15; 46:4; Exodus 3:12; Deuteronomy 20:1; Joshua 1:5; Psalm 23:4; Isaiah 41:8-10; 43: 2-5; Matthew 28:20 and Acts 18:9-10).
Gideon finally accepts the challenge to serve as the human instrument for Israel’s deliverance. But before Gideon can serve God publicly, God wants to deal with Gideon spiritually (Judges 6:25-26). Gideon grew up in a home where both the God of the Bible and gods of the Canaanites were worshiped. But God will never allow such dual worship. God forced Gideon to make a choice. God’s demands haven’t changed; he still requires our full devotion; he allows no rivals. Does God hold first place in your life? If not, what does? Whatever that thing is, that is your idol. We need to broaden our concept of idolatry; whatever sits at the top of your pyramid of values, whatever you look to for your ultimate significance, meaning, and purpose, that is an idol. Whatever you serve is your god.
Gideon obeyed, but he was hesitant to show his faith in public (6:27). Truth is, many times we also fear men more than we fear God. We don’t want to be labeled as a “fanatical Christian”. Maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on Gideon; obedience was the essential thing, heroism was optional. Gideon may not have been a hero, but he was obedient. And that’s the important thing. Because Gideon obeyed God by tearing down these idols, God used him to take on the Midianites. Thirty-two thousand Israelites assembled for battle, but God said, “Hey, Gideon, your army is way too big; you’ll think you all accomplished the victory.” (7:2-7). When God whittled it down to 300 men, Gideon finally got his eyes off of his army, and onto God. Even more so when God said to use pitchers, torches and trumpets rather than swords (7:16-17)! Can you picture it? The night comes and the Midianites are awakened suddenly by the sound of trumpets blowing, and pitchers breaking. It appears that they are surrounded. They grab their swords, and begin slicing through the air, and in the process they slaughter one another. That day Israel won a great victory—300 against innumerable (7:12, 19-22)! Gideon became a national hero, but Gideon knew that God was the hero of this story (Judges 8:23).
Application / Challenge
- God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary tasks.
- Facing seemingly invincible odds demonstrates God’s great power.
- Our trust must be in God’s greatness, not in human might or ingenuity.
- God sometimes employs unconventional methods to accomplish His purposes. Just obey Him, and focus on the greatness of your God, not on the greatness of your problem.