Lessons from Gideon, part 1
One of my favorite heroes in the Bible is a man named Gideon. You can find his biography in Judges 6-8. We know more about him than any of the judges, with the exception of Samson.
When we first meet Gideon in the pages of scripture, his life is a mess (maybe that’s why I relate to him so much). Gideon had his share of trauma. But before we get into that, some background information may be helpful.
A Brief Background
The book of Judges takes place after the death of Joshua. Joshua was the successor of Moses, who had led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt. If they had traveled in a straight line, the Israelites would have reached the Promised Land in 11 days. But it was easier to take them out of Egypt than to take Egypt out of them. As a result, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years while God trained them in obedience. After the death of Moses, Joshua successfully led them across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, where they subdued their enemies.
The people of Israel had no king at this time, for God intended them to live in a theocracy and follow His laws. And so they did…for awhile. Then Joshua died, and the story takes a dark turn: “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who neither knew the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths” (Judges 2:10-13).
Joshua’s generation had failed to pass along their faith. A generation arose that was not walking with God or following His ways. They had forgotten all the wonderful things He had done. They began to listen to the Canaanites who lived amongst them, and were enticed to follow their lifestyle. Instead of worshiping God, they began to worship the Canaanite idols.
The Cycle Begins
And for hundreds of years, a cycle of sin began in Israel. The people would descend into idol worship, then God would allow their enemies from the surrounding countries to oppress them. Eventually the people would come to their senses and cry out to God for help, and he would send a deliverer (a judge) to rescue them. All would be well for awhile– and then the cycle would repeat itself, again and again and again.
That’s exactly what is happening when we first meet Gideon in Judges chapter 3: “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves, and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it” (Judges 6:1-5).
Year after year, their enemies would come and plunder the land, while the Israelites cowered in fear and hid from the invaders. That was their penalty for abandoning God.
The Next Step
Eventually, after seven long years of suffering, they repented: “Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help” (Judges 6:6). It would be easy for us to think, “How dumb can you get? They should have done that years ago!” But we all know people who didn’t cry out for help until they reached rock bottom and acknowledged they had a problem (perhaps you were even one of them…maybe we should just look at this as a seven-year intervention.)
Does God abandon them to their misery? No, of course not! Our God is a good God who only desires what’s best for us! So what does He do? “When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me” (Judges 6:7-10).
Read that again: “But you have not listened to me.” That was their real problem. They were not listening to God. They were not hearing the truth.
So the question is: who were they listening to?
Their enemies. They were listening to lies. They were enticed into sin by the lies of their enemies. They believed the lies.
So have you. And so have I.
Listening to Lies
We have an enemy also. An enemy who barrages us with lies: “You’re so stupid. You’ll never amount to anything. What’s wrong with you? You’re not good enough. You don’t belong. You’re ugly. Nobody loves you.”
Sound familiar? We’ve all heard those lies. Sometimes it’s a voice in our head, sometimes it’s hateful words shouted by hurtful people. But the source is the same, whether we realize it or not. And all too often, we– like the Israelites– believe the lies.
But the story doesn’t end there. We’re about to meet Gideon, in a most unlikely place: 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” (Judges 6:11).
Have you ever seen the “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy is crushing grapes in this big wooden barrel, and then an Italian lady gets in, and they get in a fight? If you’ve ever seen it I’m sure you remember, because it was an hysterically funny scene. My point is, that big wooden barrel Lucy was in is a winepress, where they crush grapes to make into wine.
So here is Gideon, and he’s got some wheat that he doesn’t want the Midianites to get– so he’s hiding in a winepress. Got the picture?
Now watch what happens next: When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12).
Wait, what did he just say? “Mighty warrior?” Who’s he talking about?
He’s talking about Gideon– you know, the guy hiding. In a winepress. Yeah, that guy.
Does that strike you as odd? Is this a nearsighted angel? A delusional angel, perhaps? Do you see a mighty warrior there?
Probably not. But that’s what God saw when He looked at Gideon.
What God Sees
You see, we live in the present (and sometimes, the past). But God is not bound to the constructs of time. He sees the past, the present, and the future. God exists in all three. So when God looked at Gideon, he didn’t just see the present. God saw the future; God saw the potential Gideon had. God saw what Gideon could become.
And that’s what He sees when He looks at you. He doesn’t just see where you’re at now; He sees where you’ll be. He sees the person you can become.
Are you getting goosebumps?
Now a fascinating conversation occurs between Gideon and the angel. “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, “Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian” (Judges 6:13).
Gideon says several things here which reveal that he has been deceived. He professes not to know why all these bad things have happened to Israel. Later in the chapter, though, we learn that Gideon’s own father Joash had an altar to Baal, so obviously Gideon was well aware of the idol worship going on but is not willing yet to face the fact that Israel’s own sin has brought this disaster upon them. Instead, he doesn’t believe that God is with them, and plainly states that the Lord has abandoned them.
Obviously this isn’t the truth, because God has already sent a prophet and now an angel of the Lord. Yet so often people lash out at God and blame Him for the misfortunes they have brought upon themselves. Satan deceives them into believing that God doesn’t care, and that’s the lie Gideon is believing here.
Notice the amazing response he receives: The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” (Judges 6:14). God reveals that it is His plan for Gideon to be the deliverer Israel has been praying for! Can you imagine Gideon’s shock at hearing this?
But there is another interesting nugget in this response. Did you catch it? “Go in the strength you have.” Not the strength you will have, but the strength you have. It’s as if God is speaking of Gideon’s future in the present tense. That’s why He refers to him now as “mighty warrior.” That’s already what God sees when He looks at Gideon.
But that’s not what Gideon sees. “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manassah, and I am the least in my family” (Judges 6:15).
Gideon believes that his family is the weakest– and he’s the least of them all. Talk about a poor self-image! Satan has been lying to him big-time, and Gideon is buying it hook, line and sinker. He genuinely believes he’s nothing.
When I look at Gideon, I see myself. For most of my early life I was verbally and emotionally abused. I was called many things, I was told many lies, and I heard them so often that I believed them. I thought I was nothing. Even after I accepted Jesus as my Savior, it was many years before I began to see what my true identity was in Christ. It took me a very long time to see myself as God sees me.
Freedom and change will not come to our lives until we begin to tear down the lies we’ve believed and replace them with God’s truth. We need to find our true identity, and that begins by asking ourselves, “Who am I listening to? Is this the voice of God, or the voice of the enemy? Am I believing the truth, or lies?”
As I said, Gideon was a mess. But God didn’t leave him there. Instead, He speaks the truth to him: The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive” (Judges 6:16).
The truth is that God had not abandoned Israel; in their time of distress, He was there all along. “I will be with you…” Five powerful words that God speaks over and over throughout the Bible. It is what He tells everyone whenever He asks them to do something difficult: “I will be with you.” He tells Gideon, and He tells us, the truth: we are never alone. We never have been, and we never will be.
God is there. Who are you listening to?
- Little Man, Big Transformation Part 1 http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/little-man-big-transformation-part-1
- 10 Facts You Need To Know About Satan http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/10-facts-you-need-to-know-about-satan
Has this been helpful to you? Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe!