Gideon was a funny sort of kid. He's fallen, unlikable at times, an average young guy in a small tribe, certainly overlooked by most people. We meet him for the first time in Judges 6, hiding in a winepress. Gideon lived around 1100 B.C. and found himself and his people oppressed by the Midianites, a people group that had been around the Israelites since the time of Moses. After doing “evil in the eyes of the Lord” (Judges 6:1) the Israelites were punished for seven years under Midianite hands. The Israelites lived in a constant state of fear due to the random attacks that spared little of their food, animals, and resources. Gideon and the rest of his people were forced to settle in mountains, caves, and the like in order to avoid ransacks.
The book of Judges follows a constant cycle of rebellion, punishment, crying out for help, repentance and rescue. After years of living in fear we see the cry for deliverance in Judges 6:7. God’s solution and rescue would come through Gideon.
As Gideon was threshing wheat an angel of the Lord came to him and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” (Judges 6:12) Let us remember Gideon is not known to be the warrior type. He knows it too and writes off the angel answering, “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13) Regardless of past rebellion he wonders why the mighty and loving God who delivered his ancestors from Egypt would be so callous to their situation in that day. Gideon doubts God's presence.
The interaction continues when Gideon is told he is to deliver his people. “How I can save Israel? My clan is weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family,” responds Gideon. (Judges 6:15) Gideon doubts he can be used.
“The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.’” (Judges 6:16) A promise indeed, but discouraged by the preposterous plan Gideon wants proof. He runs to grab some food to offer the angel, lays the feast on a rock, the angel's staff touches the food and both food and angel disappear before Gideon’s very eyes. Gideon doubts God's word.
What lack of faith. An angel, an answer, an affirmation and still you choose doubt. What a fool and I am no better than he.
Gideon knew the history of his people. He remembered the escape from Egypt, the Promised Land occupied under Joshua, the previous deliverance in his era of Judges. Yet, he doubts. I know these stories of faithfulness too. Scripture is full of them, church recalls them weekly, and I have lived them. I know God is close. I know He delivers consequence and compassion. I know His word is sure. How dare I doubt. How dare I forget.
One morning I found myself praying with little trust in God’s promise to hear and answer. Struck by my lack of faith I took out a journal and started writing all the moments God has met me in my circumstances and delivered me accordingly. My hand ached as I scribbled all the instances where God was God. I wish Gideon kept a similar journal. Maybe then his story in Judges wouldn’t be as long or filled with as many tests of God’s faithfulness. Regardless, I see myself in this man. I, too, have selective memory for my sin and forget rebellion requires consequence. I laugh at God’s ability to use me for His Kingdom and I doubt when He tells me great promises that bring hope to my soul.
May we remember together so we don't have to repeat Gideon's story.
If you kept a journal of how you've seen God's faithfulness, what stories would you include?