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Always.Sometimes.Never.

#Xealot Stories: Gideon Part III

· gideon,xealots,Devotionals

Oi! This is the 3rd post in a series on Gideon. Check out the rest below:)

Part 1: The Power of Words of Life

Part 2: Cautiously Courageous

Gideon, the journey so far.

When we first met Gideon in Genesis 6 we saw how the lives of God's people were far off from what they should have been. They were meant to prosper, but they had no crops. They were meant to possess the land, but they were in hiding; fearful of invaders. They were meant to live as a righteous nation - a light to those around them, but they turned to worshipping false idols.

In typical fashion the Israelites cried unto a listening God who responded by commissioning the least likely of leaders: Gideon. A man from the weakest clan of the weakest tribe who was hiding in a hole in the ground - fearful and angry. After being marginally convinced that he was a "mighty warrior" whom God was with (Judges 6:12) Gideon began his ministry by clearing out the Baals of his community. For his efforts Gideon was rewarded with death threats from a mob (talk about a rough start!) before gaining their trust. After the whole fleece ordeal (see Part #2 and Judges 6) Gideon was finally ready to lead God's people into battle.

Gideon, the military leader.... sort of.

In order to prevent the Israelites from falling into the enchanting snare of self-reliance, God cautions Gideon that his 32,000 man army is too large and must be reduced. All who were afraid were given permission to leave and in one fell swoop Gideon lost 22,000 men (more than 2/3s of the army's original strength). As if this wasn't enough God decided to whittle the army even further by releasing another 9,700 men. This wasn't based on their military prowess but solely on how they drank water (Judges 7:5)! Left with only 300 men God now considers Gideon's forces at substantial size. To help visualize the magnitude of this loss take a look at the video below. It'll run through Gideon's army at full strength, at 10,000 men, and 300 men.

I'm trying to imagine what Gideon must have felt seeing over 99% of his army depart but I'm at a loss. Surely this was one of THE WORST military strategies ever conceived! Aware of his apprehension God instructs Gideon to sneak into the Midianite camp to overhear their conversations. To his surprise the Midianites are palpably afraid that the God of Israel will intervene on Gideon's behalf to conquer the them (Judges 7:13-14). With renewed boldness Gideon devises a plan that appears even more ludicrous than dwindling down an army. Consider how it must have looked when Gideon relayed it to his 300 Men.

Gideon: Alright men, I've just spied the Midianite camp and got a plan! We're going to sneak in and...

Solder #1: [interrupting] And attack them while they sleep, right!!??

Gideon: ... ...erm not exactly. We're sneaking in and...

Soldier #2: [interrupting] And assassinating the generals! I like the way you think Gideon. Very clever!

Gideon: [sighs] No. We are sneaking in and surrounding them. We'll bring torches hidden in jars and battle-horns with us and...

Soldier #3: [interrupting] Oooohhhh… we’re gonna burn them up and attack them!!! Gideon you are the MAN!!!

Gideon: Guys! Listen! We're sneaking in with our jars and horns. We're gonna surround them, break our jars, and then shout, "For the Lord and for Gideon!"

Everyone: And then what?

Gideon: Well, that's it.

Everyone: ... ... ...

- I wonder what the 1100BC equivalent of the face-palm was -

Well the crew executed the plan as Gideon intended. The horns, the fire, the shouting brought such a panic to the Midianites that they started fighting each other as the mass confusion hit and an incredible victory was wrought in a most unlikely way.

Always. Sometimes. Never.

Reflecting upon this story illumines some things about God. More specifically what God always expects, what God sometimes asks, and what God never does. Understanding these will help us far our own challenges with greater assurance of his guidance and empowerment.

God always expects action from our faith.

True convictional belief catalyzes action and the idea that faith can be something idle is sorely mistaken. As the Apostle James warns us,

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:14-17)

In Gideon's situation we see that his faith in God's ability to deliver was mirrored by his willingness to follow God's instructions even when situations seemed most dire. You see we tend to correlate the term faith with belief, and while they are synonyms faith is the richer of the two. In the Greek language (in which most of the New Testament was written) the term faith could be used as both a noun and a verb. The verb for faith, pistis (πιστις), in the New Testament means something like: Radical trust in God that is demonstrated by obedient behavior consistent with that trust. This is an all-inclusive actualizing energy. My mind believes the truth, my will is committed to aligning my life to this truth, and my behavior reflects this alignment.

Hebrews 11 demonstrates this about as clearly as any other biblical text:

"Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see… It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did…It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood.. It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance...It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old... It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born...It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground...It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down."

God sometimes asks us to do what seems foolish​.

Let's reflect upon some of the things God asked of Gideon: 1) Come out of hiding although his life was in danger, 2) Demolish the idols that his countrymen had turned to worshipping, 3) Lead an army of unorganized fearful men (for had they been courageous they would have already united to fight), 4) Relinquish 99% of his forces, 5) Attack the enemy - not with weapons - but by causing a ruckus. I struggle to see how any of the above make rational sense. Thankfully, our God isn't bound to only that which makes sense to us. He's the God of the impossible and often times the impossible awaits behind the guise of foolishness. The Apostle Paul reminds us,

The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

(1 Corinthians 1: 25 - 27)

Maybe you can relate to the feeling that what God is asking of you just doesn't add up - I know I can. I remember the day when I was invited to move to South Korea to help start an international church. Leading up to that day I had attended two Bible colleges and was just about to graduate the second one located in the UK. After sensing a call into Church ministry as a teenager the only "professional ministry experience" I had to that point was as a church janitor. I did that job for 4 years in two countries! It felt like I would die in that role; which isn't necessarily a bad thing but it certainly wasn't what I felt called to. And then I was called into a meeting with a missions director whom I had only interacted with a total of 10 hours and who had moved to South Korea earlier that year to lay the ground work for an upcoming international church. He didn't know me and I didn't know him. But there he was inviting me to join him in South Korea ("Oh... and where is that???", I thought), move in with his family, and begin a work that would reach the International community of South Korea and serve as a springboard for missions in remote areas. Yeah... none of it made sense! It seemed foolish, but after a time of prayer and receiving counsel we both knew it was the right move. That was twelve years ago and I can trace a multitude of incredible experiences over the past decade to that one event! Thank God for the seemingly foolish steps of faith. 

God never sets his children up for failure.

I'm a firm believer that a Christian ought to have a positive outlook on life regardless of what challenges, difficulties, trials, or drudgery he or she may face. We who have been seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6), transformed into new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), and have direct access to the one who has overcome the world (John 16:33) of all people should experience the dignified emboldening of what it means to be God's children. But we would be mistaken if we stumble into the traps of arrogance and unrealistic expectation that everything will go just as we'd like.

I guess what I mean to say here is that in the big picture God will never set us up for failure; at the end of the age - whenever that is - His plans will ultimately win out; and that's great news! Yet along the way we will stumble, fall, question, and dust ourselves off to do it all over again. Why? Because God has already guaranteed the outcome and our journey along the way is the creative unfolding of it. Revisiting Gideon's situation we can see that the destination of victory was traversed along a pathway of uncertainty. I have a personal affinity for the words of Micah 7:8, "Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light."

One cannot rise unless they were brought low. If you're finding yourself at a low-point may you rise and continue to press on with the confidence that God is at work in, through, and even in spite of your situation

Postscript

Well this wraps up our 3-Part series on the life of Gideon. A true #xealot who arrived at God's destination for his life through a continual process of trust and obedience. Sure, he experienced apprehension along the way but no heroes' journey is without challenge.

As you seek to honor Christ each day may you know that God expects action from your faith, may ask you to do what seems foolish, but will never lead you to failure.

 

Comments, questions, thoughts? The comment section below is for you. As always please pass this along if you found it helpful and meaningful.

As you seek to honor Christ each day may you know that God expects action from your faith, may ask you to do what seems foolish, but will never lead you to failure.

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