When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” (Judges 6:12) Gideon, the man hiding in a winepress threshing wheat. The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” (14) Really? Gideon, who in his own words, admits that his clan is the weakest, and he is the weakest in that clan. (15) He lets the Lord know that he and his family are a pathetic bunch, just in case the angel had the wrong guy, which Gideon was very sure of. God did not argue the point with Gideon or try to build him up with a pep talk, He stated the truth of the situation, the reason this was true and what would happen because He is a God who sees and knows. The Lord answered, “I will be with you…” (16) This is all true about you because “I will be with you.” You, Gideon do not have to muster up courage and be a mighty warrior in your own strength, you do not have to beat the enemies with a brilliant plan that you will come up with. I the Lord will do this in you and for you. I the Lord will make you a mighty warrior, full of courage, not because of what is in you, but because of who is with you. And it did come to pass just as the Angel of the Lord had said.
God loves to trade up. It reminds me of the Let’s Make a Deal game show when you could trade the cash in your hands for what was behind one of the doors. You would possibly get a trip to Aruba, or there might be a mule behind the door. With God there is no losing trade. We always make out better by handing over what we know and have, for what He says and promises. This is one of the many Bible Lessons I am thankful for. As I look at my life though, I forget that lesson often and I watch others do the same. In our hands is a squooshy peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The kind you have been carrying around in a brown bag at the bottom of the backpack. It is warm and squooshy, and God asks for a trade. He says how He will add it to the banquet table and we can eat of all of it. How many times have I stared at that squooshy sandwich afraid to let it go. What if God takes it and then does not give me something better? What if everyone sees that what I brought to the feast was the squooshy sandwich on the table? What if I end up with nothing?
Gideon could relate to that fear, he decides to test God but in the midst of this God is building his courage and faith. Gideon asks the Angel of the Lord to wait while he goes to get an offering. He brings it back, and the interaction wows and humbles Gideon. (17-22) We know Gideon was struggling with belief, because he realizes this is actually God interacting with him and lets out a gasp of “surely, I have seen the face of the Lord.” God comforts Him and offers Himself to Gideon again. “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” Peace and courage. Gideon calls this place, “The Lord is Peace.” Those moments where we take our doubts, our squooshy sandwich, and worry that this is all there is, and God offers Himself. He offers to trade up, our doubts for His peace and life.
The story continues and God gives Him some assignments that scare Gideon, but God is growing his faith and his courage. He is helping him to become the mighty warrior because of who is with him. God asks Gideon to tear down the idols of his family, his father’s idols, the things that make their family weak and least, the things that interfere with God’s presence being known in their family and throughout the lands. I can only imagine how scared this man, who hid to thresh wheat must have been. How many times have I asked God, “ask me to do anything, but not that? Not the close family issues, Lord. Do you know the trouble that will cause, Lord?” Gideon shows some courage, but also his fear. “So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.” (27) We do not have to wait to obey God, and act until we have all the courage we need, sometimes we need to obey scared, and allow the God of peace to show Himself, to take my squooshy sandwich of fear, and give me bold faith and courage. Gideon’s act revealed the hearts of the people around him, to where their allegiance was, and it was with the idol, but the act caused his father to remember God. It was also rumors that allowed the people to know who did this act. Gideon does not stand up and boldly declare what he had done and why. How many times do we take a step of obedience and boldness, and we hope nobody notices?
The next thing that happens is interesting, and increases my faith and helps me see God’s heart even better. We see a boldness grow in Gideon. Not a boldness toward the people, he does not run out and declare to the people that they must get rid of their idols and follow the one true God. He does not start the campaign against the Midians. Instead his boldness is with the Lord. He tests the Lord. He asks for a sign. He’s still holding on to his squooshy sandwich, but he is starting to look up to the trade. “If you will…”(36) He ask God to help him with his faith. He is not there yet. But God cares about Gideon and His relationship with him. God is patient and sees Gideon where he is at and meets the test with His faithfulness. Then we see almost a brashness in Gideon, and I expect God to zap him and move on to another “mighty warrior”, Gideon asks for another sign. How many times have we asked God to show us and He makes something very clear and then we are like yes, but… I think I need more? Or we are searching and everywhere we go, we hear the same message, a song, a sermon, a conversation, words in a book, the Bible reading… all point you in the same direction that we may, or may not want to see. And yet, God is patient and perseveres with us. He meets Gideon again in his doubts, and trades up for more faith in who God is. He is a God who is able to meet us in our doubts and fears and give us peace and courage in Him.
Gideon does go on to see the Midianites defeated. Even in that, God makes sure that Gideon is aware who won the battle. Many men were rallied to fight and Gideon had become a leader that men were going to follow, despite being the least. But God sent many home (7:4), and gave a battle plan that seemed odd, but even as God asks Gideon to trust the plan, He gives him more signs and encouragement to grow his faith and courage. He meets Gideon in his fears of the moment, even as He is orchestrating a much bigger event in the history of the Israelites. After the event Gideon’s people want to make him and his sons their leaders, the same people who wanted to kill him days before, but Gideon was well aware of who he was and who deserved to lead, But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” (8:24) He knew God and even better God knew him. God had seen him in the winepress threshing wheat and instead of seeming a coward from the lowliest tribe, He saw who Gideon would be with Him, a might man of valor, a mighty warrior. God was willing to walk Him through as he slowly became who God saw him as.
I am so thankful that God includes the whole story in the Bible, the in between. Many times we hear people’s before and after, and we love it. When we get stuck in our middle, it is easy to get off track but if we take whatever our squooshy sandwich is, and hold it with open hands God takes it and adds to it to make it more than enough, because He is more than enough. When thinking about a Bible lesson I was thankful for, my mind with filled with stories of David and how he failed along the way many times, and yet because of God, he is known as a “man after God’s own heart.” Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Samson and so many more. God spoke His courage and His dreams in them and they failed and fell, but they turned to God to trade up and He more than compensated for their lack. He does the same thing for me and I am so thankful. I am thankful for how He sees me but also walks with me in the in between.