The somewhat seedy Book of Judges reveals a repeated pattern in the history of Israel. Life in Israel gets really bad. In fact, the only time the Israelites turned to God is when they had nowhere else to turn. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen anymore. Are you kidding? It’s human nature!
We turn to God when we have nowhere else to turn. But here is the heartbeat of God: the Lord does not turn His back on us. So even when we turn our back on Him, if we return to Him, He is there for us.
That’s the message in the Book of Judges. Maybe here’s a way of saying it –anything that makes us rely upon God more completely is a good thing. But it’s always the bad things that make us rely upon God, so maybe the bad things are the good things. Calamities and disasters and the oppression that the Israelites experienced are like the trials in our lives. Those bad things become good things if we respond to them the right way and return to the Lord in greater dependence, faith and obedience.
The issue is never our circumstances, it is always our response to those circumstances. If the by-product of those circumstances is a deeper-held faith and a more willful obedience to God, do we dare say “thank you, God” for some of the bad things that become good things in our lives? I hope we do.
“The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” Judges 6:11-12
Gideon is not a mighty warrior. Gideon is a farmer! So why doesn’t the angel of the Lord show up and say something like, “The Lord is with you, industrious farmer.” But that’s not what it says. He speaks these words of affirmation, “The Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior.”
God called Gideon and the testing begins immediately. I think sometimes we want to wait until we are ready for God to use us, but we’ll never be ready. As God begins to call you to serve Him, don’t be surprised if the Lord tests you, because that testing process is then what prepares you for that great moment of ministry that God has for us.
I can identify with Gideon. He was fearful. What are people going to think? What are people going to do? For Gideon, this is scary stuff. God asked him to tear down the altars of Baal, but Gideon had the courage to do it. He wasn’t quite ready to take a stand in the daytime, so he did God’s bidding in the cover of night. Some of you aren’t in the place right now where you have the courage to step out in faith in the daytime. That’s all right. I have been there so many times. This is not uncommon. When does Nehemiah circle the wall of Jerusalem? At night. When does Nicodemus come to Jesus? Under the cover of night. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were fearful of affiliation with Christ, the renegade teacher.
Be encouraged. If you are afraid, you are normal. Gideon was afraid and he only had enough courage to do God’s will by night at the beginning of his faith-journey with God, but I believe the Lord honored that simple act of obedience and gave his “Mighty Warrior” greater grace to lead Israel to victory.
God isn’t necessarily looking for courageous people, He is looking for obedient people. So when the Lord speaks, you are willing to step out in faith. And God grew Gideon into his “Mighty Warrior” name!
That’s how I want to live my life. The longer I live, the more I live for those God-moments when there is no human explanation for what took place…where it is just the power of God at work. Can you imagine how Gideon’s story ends? It’s great. The unconventional battle plan gets even better. “Let’s attack with trumpets and jars and a handful of men.” “We’ve been trained with swords, but never mind.” This is God’s way of saying, “I’m going to totally take you out of the equation. This battle is not about you, it is about Me and My glory. Just stand aside and watch Me work.”