© 2017 Lynn Abbott
One school day–more years ago than I’d like to admit–my fifth grade BFF misplaced her lunch. Now if that lunch had contained a liverwurst sandwich, I’m sure that we both would have rejoiced.
However, my friend knew for a fact that a treasured Hershey’s chocolate bar nestled at the bottom of that otherwise nondescript, brown, paper bag.
For this reason, that missing sack suddenly became an enormous crisis.
When I suggested that we ask God to help us find her lunch, my friend seemed skeptical. Nevertheless, I insisted.
I saw miracles in everyday moments.
Soon, she was nibbling her PB & J, and relishing that delectable chocolate bar. And I thanked God again and again.
Yup. God showered grace on two 10-year-olds. My fledgling faith launched well.
I encountered rough waters. And somewhere along the way, I lost my childlike faith.
I became consumed with the wind and waves: the necessity of earning a living, the death of a child and loved ones, the pain of cancer, the anxiety of financial difficulties, the heartbreak of interpersonal conflict…
On a grander scale, I noted tragedy in the lives of people both near and far.
And yes, as heretical as it may sound, I decided that life required so much more than chocolate.
Darkness devoured dreams: storms raged; wars flared; terrorists rampaged; poverty grew; epidemics killed; hearts broke. It seemed to me that miracles were reserved for children.
I suspect that is exactly how Gideon felt. His faith journey contrasts greatly with that of the prophet, Samuel, who later led the nation of Israel.
Unlike Gideon, Samuel heard God’s call and responded with childlike faith. Gideon, on the other hand, hesitated and questioned.
I get that. I can relate to Gideon, a guy who had been beaten down by the world and his life circumstances.
More importantly, though, in Judges 6, I read how God’s grace burst through the clouds and restored His disheartened child.
Quite frankly, Gideon initially shows very little promise. After all, there’s no Hollywood heroism in employment as a wheat thresher.
Yet, there was a aura of mystery about Gideon. According to some Bible commentaries, Gideon didn’t follow threshing protocol. Instead of threshing on a hillside where wind separated chaff from wheat, Gideon worked at the base of the hill near the wine press.
Actually, the reason for this was quite simple. Israel had been conquered by a nomadic and ruthless people known as the Midianites. The Midianites regularly pillaged the land. For Gideon, his choice was one of simple survival.
Needless to say, he did his best to thresh wheat at the bottom of the hill. Unfortunately, hills often block wind, and this likely made threshing difficult.
Yet, despite these disadvantages, Gideon listened to fear and worked undercover. Gideon chose the safe path, and kept his head down. After all, that’s what you do if you want to avoid trouble.
The appearance of the Angel of the Lord must have startled Gideon. And especially so, since the angel immediately announced, “The Lord is with you, O’ valiant warrior.”
Valiant warrior? You’ve got to be kidding me!
I guarantee that at that moment Gideon did not feel like a mighty warrior. He had obviously hit a low point.
Gideon initially shows very little promise.
Of course, by now, you know I am thoroughly convinced that we follow a gracious God. But if I still carried a smidgeon of doubt about God’s patience, mercy, loving kindness and grace, it would completely dissolve in light of Gideon’s response.
Gideon’s knee jerk reaction to the Lord’s declaration? He questioned.
“If God is with me, why are things so bad?” he wondered.
He even went so far as to suggest that God had abandoned His people. Yet, God didn’t scold his discouraged child.
In essence, God gently told Gideon that he had not been forgotten. God created and called Gideon for a mighty purpose.
Gideon was not easily convinced. Thus, when God asked Gideon to lead the charge against the Midianites, Gideon’s fears reached a crescendo. And Gideon dared to test God.
It was an absolutely audacious move on Gideon’s part. I know this to be so because Christ resisted Satan’s temptation in the desert by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13: “You shall not put to the test the Lord your God.”
Gideon had stepped over the line. But God’s grace prevailed. Not once, but twice. And the concept of “putting out a fleece” was born.
What is striking to me, though, is not Gideon’s lack of faith, but rather God’s patience. Abba quietly restored Gideon’s trust and hope.
This once fearful man left the valley of doubt and despair behind, and led a small military raid of 300 men against a vast number of Midianites.
Gideon stepped over the line. But God’s grace prevailed.
The odds seemed stacked against Gideon. The dream appeared too big.
God, however, had an incredible miracle in mind. He instructed Gideon to lead a night attack. The 300 were to carry trumpets and to place torches under clay pitchers.
In obedience, the Israelis surrounded the Midianites, and on Gideon’s command, the Israeli warriors smashed their pitchers, blew trumpets, and shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!”
Yes, I’m truly thankful that our gracious God chose to use Gideon–the discouraged and fearful follower.
Indeed, because of Gideon, I am confident that Abba also extends a patient and merciful hand to lift you and me from the fog of fear and the dusk of discouragement.
Grace speaks loud and clear: “Go in this your strength…Have I not sent you?”
In response, I cry out to God. Suddenly, the Light of the World breaks through darkness.
And with renewed hope and trust, I look up… just in time to spot God’s miracle.
“Why are you sunk down, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence,”