I wrote a little while ago about identity, and how I often struggle to believe that I am who God says I am. I am amazed that He can look past what is (the desolate wasteland) and see what it’s supposed to be…what it will be.
Today our wonderful pastor pointed out yet another instance of this in Scripture. I’ve heard Gideon’s story countless times. I love it. Israel is oppressed by the Midianites, not because the Midianites are so evil (though they are) but because Israel has once again turned away from the Lord and He is allowing the oppression in order to woo her back. Gideon is told that he will lead Israel to victory. Gideon whines about how weak he is. He asks for a sign. He gets his sign. He asks for another one. He gets that one, too.
Just have to insert a comment here. My dear friend Kim Thomas gave a very funny commentary on this story once. “I never got Gideon’s fleece, I mean, I understood the concept, I just never understood why he needed a second go at the whole test. Maybe he was just wasting time. Also, if I was testing God I think I would ask for something better than a wet fleece, I think that if God told me to rescue my people I would test Him by asking for a rich, hot man to come down from the sky and propose to me, just saying…”
So Gideon finally decides to go along with the whole thing. He starts with 32,000 men. God sends the scared ones away, followed by the ones with bad table manners. He’s left with 300. God wins. The Israelites live happily ever after…or just until they forget a few years later and make the same mistakes all over again.
I was trying to make a point here. Oh, yes. Identity. I guess in my mental movie of this story I’ve always just assumed Gideon was scared or lazy. Judges 6:11-12 offers a different image.
11Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to JoashA)”>(A) the Abiezrite, while his sonB)”>(B) Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. 12AndC)”>(C) the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him,D)”>(D) “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.”
When the Lord finds Gideon, he’s hiding in a pit, trying to get food for his family that the Midianites can’t take away. Not exactly a picture of courage. And yet the angel of the Lord refers to him as a “mighty man of valor” (ESV), a “man of fearless courage” (amplified), a “mighty warrior” (NIV). I think it’s ok to laugh at the irony as long as we realize that the same can be said of us. The man hiding in a shallow pit is indeed remembered as a mighty warrior of fearless courage. The small boy who played music for his sheep defeated a giant and became the greatest king of Israel.
They may not have believed it, but they were, because He said they were.
And so am I, because He says so.