Before there were kings of Israel, there were judges. Their stories can be found in the book of Judges in the Old Testament. One of them was Gideon who received three chapters worth of Bible coverage (Judges 6-8). My impression of Gideon from the scriptures was a man who wasn’t a born leader. He wasn’t bold and energetic like King David or outspoken like Apostle Peter. This is one of those stories where God picked the weakest instead of the strongest to do His work. It’s a comfort to know that the Lord can use all of his children who have different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses.
Gideon lived at a dark time in Israel’s history. The first verse of Judges states the bad state of affairs. The children of Israel had strayed from God as they sometimes did. As a result, He delivered them into the hand of Midian. The Israelites had a change of heart and cried out to the Lord for mercy. Once again, the Lord heard their cry and chose someone to lead them out of the Midianites’ hand. This is the part in the story where Gideon comes in.
An angel of the Lord came and sat under an oak tree near where Gideon was threshing wheat by the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. The angel spoke and told him the Lord was with him. Gideon responded by basically asking, “Where has the Lord been?” Gideon felt forsaken. He had been living through seven years of slavery under the Midianites and longed to be out from under their brutal hand.
The Lord’s answer was He had heard Israel’s cry and chosen a leader to deliver them out of bondage. There was a “but” for Gideon: he was the chosen one. That had to come as a shock “Who ME?”
Gideon told the Lord that his family was poor as if the Lord didn’t know that. He added that he was the least in his father’s house. I don’t know what Gideon meant by least, but he obviously saw himself as such. His confidence was slim, but his ego wasn’t fat. I can relate to that since I don’t welcome new challenges with open arms.
Gideon asked for a sign of assurance he was indeed speaking with the Lord. Maybe he thought he was daydreaming or was hearing things. He probably never would have seen himself as a military leader in a million years. Now one might say Gideon should have just taken the Lord’s word for it and not asked for a visible sign. Well, maybe so, but I being opposed to immediate and drastic changes in my daily life, I give Gideon credit for not running for the hills.
A sign must have been okay with the Lord because He gave one. Gideon was instructed to prepare a young goat and unleavened cakes of flour; to put the flesh of the goat in a basket and put the broth in a pot and place it under the oak tree. The angel told Gideon to take the flesh and cakes and lay them all on a rock and to pour out the broth. Then the angel put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, touched the flesh and cakes; fire rose up from the rock consuming the goat and cakes. Then the angel disappeared out of Gideon’s sight.
The roasting convinced Gideon he was talking to the Lord all right. What was wrong then? He was frightened. He believed that if one saw an angel face to face, it meant that one’s time on Earth was about up. The Lord patiently assured him he wasn’t going to die; not then anyway.
This was the beginning of Gideon’s journey. It wouldn’t be the only time Gideon would ask for a sign along the way. The Lord was patient with him and granted Gideon a sign each time he asked for one.
For his part, Gideon followed the Lord’s instructions such as reducing the number of his soldiers. Maybe Gideon’s weakness was in an odd way his strength. Gideon followed God’s instructions because he sure didn’t know what to do on his own. He relied on the Lord because he knew he couldn’t rely on his weak self. He was well aware he could not go up against any army relying on his smarts alone. With the Lord at his side, Gideon did conquer the enemy with only three hundred men with no weapons; just a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.
In thinking about this story, I have to admit I seek signs too. I need, receive, and am thankful for signs that God does work in my life. An answered prayer isn’t only about the answer, but a sign that my prayers go beyond the ceiling to the One whom I’m praying to. That’s beyond awesome!
The 11th chapter of Hebrew is devoted to the word “faith”. I’ve heard more than one person describe this chapter as the “Hall of Faith” because the chapter has a list of names like any hall of fame. Each person listed in this chapter has a story of faith. Gideon, the sign-seeker, made it on this list (Hebrews 11:32). By faith, he believed the signs came from God. He fulfilled his part in being part of something far bigger than himself — the conquering of the enemy and deliverance of God’s chosen people.
God calls His extroverted and introverted children. The pessimists and the optimists. The popular ones and the nerds. The strongest and the weakest. And the sign seekers.