“Again 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 the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.When the Israelites cried 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 snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from 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.”
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 theLORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”“But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now theLORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”
During the time I have not been writing, I’ve been studying and thinking a lot about Gideon. Of course, it should go without saying that you should also be praying when you study Scripture. If God is really the Author of this ancient document (as I believe He is), it seems prayer would be a logical avenue to His mind. Gideon has surely earned a place in the Hebrew Heroes Hall of Fame, and in my opinion he qualifies for our “God’s Comeback Kid” designation. In this present venture, I feel as if I talk with my self a lot, and would prefer instead to be sitting with you face to face in a small group somewhere with our Bibles open. Just thinking, and praying, and “pooling” our ideas.
It seems to me that failure to do that kind of thing has cast Biblical personalities as some type of angelic automatons, instead of real men, made of blood and flesh and muscles and bone. Pre-programmed to always do just the right thing, in the right way, for the right reason, and with perfect success every time. When you pause and try to imagine what they really felt, how they struggled and fell, you can then see how your own life plays out in some similar fashion.
When Gideon first appears on the stage of Biblical history, he doesn’t seem to be a likely candidate for the recognition we’re about to afford him. His circumstances are dire. From just about every point of view he’s unimpressive. He’s a beaten man. His country is under brutal, repressive foreign occupation, and he’s in hiding. He’s apparently a victim of unfortunate circumstances and playing the role quite well. We aren’t introduced to him as a tough, young, strong, bright and cunning super patriot plotting to lead an insurgency to drive out the hated foreigners. He is scared. Circumstances have him overpowered and cowed down. He’s trying to squeeze a bare existence for his family from land his family apparently owns, or owned at some point. But he’s very tentative, very edgy, probably startled at every unexpected noise.
Against this backdrop an angel of the Lord appears. (God sometimes does things quite suddenly and unexpecedly. Uninvited as well. Sometimes He isn’t immediately recognized.) The angel simply sat down under an oak tree and casually began a conversation. It went something like this: “Hello. You mighty man of valor. . .”
As I pondered the story, several things struck me as being very interesting. One of them is that in the midst of carrying out daily duties under great stress, Gideon is confronted by powerful spiritual reality. He isn’t at church when this conversation occurs. He’s not high on some drug. He isn’t praying, or even remotely thinking about God. That, in fact, may have been the thing farthest from his mind. He’s just trying to survive. Probably simulaneously silently cursing his fate and his preseent predicament and the hated Midianites who’ve overun his country, raping and pillaging at random will.
Then an “Angel of the Lord” appears. “Hello, you mighty man of valor,” the angel drawls.
Come again? Say what? I just got through describing the circumstances: A lone Jew, hiding, sneaking to avoid the enemies who seemed to be swarming like ants or termites. Disgusted or ashamed would have better described him. But, “Hello, Hero.” You gotta be kidding! Surely, you jest!
Even Gideon caught it and picked up on what the angel had just said: “If that’s true, …Just look at me. Look at the situation. Are you out of your mind? You obviously don’t understand my situation, or how bad things are, or how weak and insignificant I am.”
To further reinforce my point of view, I considered the fact that Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress. That is not an insignificant fact.
Usually, wheat was threshed on a threshing floor. Probably outside, and usually done most effectively on windy days which which quickly carried the chaff (and the noise) off in any direction the wind chose. You’ve seen pictures of this type of thing. It gets messy, and noisy. It creates a lot of waste that has to be disposed of. It isn’t something that’s usually done quietly and unobtrusively. It tends to call attention to itself. It’s hard to describe or conceal the noise and mess made by the pounding, grinding, tossing and the wind blowing chaff ever which way.
A winepress, on the other hand, seems to tend toward secrecy of sorts. Wine does best when shielded from direct sunlight. I grew up in the South and know what a liquor still is. I’ve stumbled upon them accidentally, and almost always in deliberately hidden, difficult to find places.
In the annals of Hebrew history, the incident the book of Judges reports above shows very clearly this is not at the moment the land of the free, and certainly NOT the home of the brave.
Now consider this: Gideon is threshing wheat in the relative secrecy of a winepress. He was not planning a guerilla movement. He was not printing revolutionary literature for distribution or making plans to overthrow anyone. He was hiding! He was scared! He was apparently paralyzed by the mess in which his country found itself and how helpless and hopeless and hapless he felt as a result.
So, does “Hello, Hero” sound a bit absurd.
But that realization caused me to consider this conclusion: God does not select anyone on the basis of his/her accomplishments,or contribution. Nor does He select someone for an assignment based on their opinions of themselves. Or of others’ view of their ability.
God chose Gideon based solely upon God’s ability to make him the man and the leader he be later became. God does not base His gift of grace or His call to service on our track records. More than anyone, I have reason to thank Him for that merciful consideration! What we think of ourselves and what others may think of us is irrelevant, in fact. Eternally irrelevant! God’s call to Gideon to come out of hiding and perform unselfish, courageous, successful service was not based on Gideon’s accomplishments or his view of his own potential. The mighty Creator of the Universe, who compressed unlimited, powerful potential in the tiny atom, is quite capable of doing the same thing and even more with His human creatioons. That is how Gideon was able to “come back.” God saw something in Gideon that everyone missed. Including Gideon!
Now, let’s just think a bit on a personal level. I haven’t any idea of how you may have suffered or how you may be suffering now. Or how crushed you may feel by real or imagined circumstances. I don’t know how you wrestle with self doubt, or fear, or angry disappointment, or failure or great grief . . Or what the devastating effects of that might be for you. But, let’s just think on this a bit. Imagine what it might be like if God, or one of His messengers (“angel” comes from a Greek word which means “messenger.”)…We’re just supposing now. Just thinking. But can you imagine your response if one were to appear with this greeting:
I bid you adieu, Hero, until our next visit.
God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student donkimrey