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Gideon: Ordinary man, Big God
Devotion 1 – God can use you
March 31, 2020
Over the next few Tuesdays, I want to take us through a study of a character in the Bible that I have always been drawn to. Maybe it is because he was such an ordinary guy with normal struggles, yet through God, he did some extraordinary things. I want to look together at the life of Gideon from Judges 6-8. I encourage everyone to read that passage these next few weeks.
Have you ever felt unqualified, unskilled, or inadequate? You have been asked to do something or be something, yet you wonder deep down if you have what it takes? Maybe, you doubt your own abilities? I am sure all of us have been there at some point. I struggle with it. Truth be told, there are days where being a pastor and being in front of you to lead or teach brings back those feelings like a flood.
Yet, as we look at Judges 6:1-16 today, we will see that even though we may feel insignificant, unskilled, and unqualified, we have a big God who can and will use us to do what we consider to be extraordinary things for Him.
Starting in Judges 6, we are introduced again to the people of Israel. Life has changed for them significantly. A couple hundred years prior, they were the ones crossing over the Jordan River into this land that God had promised them. Yet even though they had (see Joshua 4) set up a collection of stones as a constant reminder to the generations that followed about who their God was, and even though they had God’s Law that was to be publicly read regularly as a reminder, they forgot their God. And as Judges 6:1 says, they were doing evil in God’s sight.
God, to get their attention and bring about change, hands them over to the Midianites for what was seven years to be oppressed. What we know about Midian was that they formed an alliance with other Eastern nations come against Israel. They had camels which gave them a huge military advantage as they could move a lot faster and further than could an army on foot. We also know that there were many of them, much like a swarm of locusts (as they are compared to in vs 5) who multiply fast and are like a thick cloud when they descend upon a land. And just like locusts who come in like an army and destroy everything in their way, this Midianite Alliance would do the same. The Midianites and their buddies would come in whenever their was a fresh crop grown and take it for themselves (picture the frustration of leaving the grocery store to have someone waiting at your car each time to take your groceries and run). Anything else that was in the land, they laid waste to. Israel was in poverty and need. They had nothing, and they were in fear. Enough so that Israel went into hiding in caves, the mountains, and anywhere else they figured they could be save to live from the Midianite Alliance.
It is in that context that the people begin to cry out to God to save them and spare them (vs 7). God hears their cries, is moved by them, and raises up a guy named Gideon to bring them deliverance. Let’s read of the first time Gideon was called on.
Read Judges 6:11-16
1) Gideon is living in fear: When we see Gideon the first time, he is threshing wheat in a winepress. This was an indicator of the fear in the land of the Midianite Alliance, and the fear that Gideon would have struggled with. Normally when wheat is threshed, it is on a threshing floor which is out in the open, on a high flat plain, with a team of oxen working on the floor, as well as many people due to the community celebration that threshing had become. A winepress however was hidden. It was carved into a rock face. It was not easily seen. And rather than being in the open, a winepress usually was in some garden or orchard setting surrounded by trees and large vegetation which kept it hidden from those passing by. It was a single person operation rather than the big deal that a threshing floor was. Wheat would have been threshed in the winepress to keep it hidden. And in that setting, a complete stranger decides to sit under a tree right next to where Gideon is hiding out, threshing his grain.
2) Gideon is an ordinary person: Notice the first words used by the angel of the Lord to address Gideon: “The Lord is with you, valiant warrior.” These were not words that would naturally be used of Gideon. Hiding in his winepress, he was anything but a valiant warrior, and as we are going to see, he was nothing but normal.
Gideon expresses his disappointment in God. This God that the angel spoke of was the One that their tradition said brought Gideon’s people out of slavery in Egypt quite miraculously maybe 300 years prior. Yet now, where was this God? Was He weak in comparison to the other gods out there? Did He abandon His people to ruin?
What happens next (in Vs 14) is quite interesting. God actually speaks, as if to answer the challenge by Gideon. Prior, it was the angel of the Lord speaking, but now the voice of God takes over. Whether the angel of the Lord was actually a physical embodiment of God, or God directly spoke through the angel, we do not know for sure. We do know that God spoke.
God says to Gideon: Go and be the deliverer of your people. Set them free from the tyranny of Midian once and for all. I am personally sending you to lead your people.
Gideon’s response (Vs 15) is one of self doubt, insecurity, inadequacy, and feeling unqualified. Gideon looked at his social and family status. Yes, within his village, his father seemed to carry some reputation and rapport, but at the end of the day, Gideon was the least of the least. His family had no real influence that anyone should listen to him. It doesn’t sound as if they had a lot of resources that they should be high on the pecking order. And beyond that, Gideon was the youngest in his family. Why would even his own family listen to him? What qualities did he have to lead the people?
3) God sending should be enough: What does God say in verse 16? “But I will be with you.” Then, He restates His command to Gideon to lead the people against the Midianite Alliance. What God was saying here was “I am sending you. I know how weak and unqualified you are. I know that you feel you don’t have the skills or the significance to do this. You feel inadequate. But none of this matters because it is me, not you. My strength, not yours. That should be enough.”
I will save what happens for later weeks, but what I will say is that as Gideon trusted God and led God’s people, extraordinary and supernatural things happened that only God could do. God was enough. Gideon didn’t have to be anything but ordinary.
So how does God want to use you today? What ways is he tapping on your shoulder today and saying “hey, I want to use you to do something amazing for me?” Maybe it is something as simple as showing the love of Jesus to a hurting, scared, and maybe even sick neighbour, but as you think about it, you feel fear. You don’t know what to say, you don’t know what to do. What could you possibly offer that could show the love of Jesus? What if your efforts are rejected? What if putting yourself out there and reaching out to your neighbour is incredibly intimidating because you are very much an introvert yourself? What if what God is asking you to do is uncomfortable?
How about us as a church? How is God calling us as a community and family to be the love of Jesus to our greater community? To be Generations Following Jesus who Gather, Grow, Give, and Go? In what ways is He calling us to meet? In what ways is He asking us to reach out? Do we feel inadequate to do what He asks?
Is God sending you enough?