Summary: Gideon wasn’t a natural hero, but God used him to save his people. God often uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things
Gideon isn’t exactly your Hollywood image of a hero is he? In fact he’s the exact opposite. He’s much more the indecisive, timid type. He’s one of those people who want every i dotted and every t crossed before they make a decision and even then they won’t be able to make up their mind. You can see the sort of person he is from the situation in which we find him at the beginning of this story. "11Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites." Just to make the situation clear, you need to understand that in those days wine presses were generally dug into the ground, so that if you got inside a wine press you’d be out of sight. Gideon is hiding in this wine press so he won’t be seen by the Midianites while he’s threshing the wheat.
Yet the encouraging thing for those of us who relate to Gideon as this timid, nervous type, is that despite the unpromising material from which he was made, God takes him and makes him into a hero of Biblical proportions. So let’s spend some time thinking about the process through which Gideon was changed by God into a leader and saviour of his people.
1 A Personal Encounter with God.
’12The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, "The LORD is with you, you mighty warrior."’ Here he is, beating out the wheat in a wine press because he’s scared he might be seen by some marauding Midianites, and the Angel of the Lord addresses him as a mighty warrior! You can imagine what he thought: "Hey, you’ve got the wrong guy, fella. What you’re looking for is a hardened soldier. I’m no fighter. I’m the youngest in my family and even they’re the weakest family in our tribe."
Do you ever feel like that? Like you’re too weak to do what God’s asking you to do? I remember when I first started in a parish on my own, I felt a bit like that. But for some reason I was prompted to look at the first chapter of Joshua, where Joshua is told over and over again to be strong and of good courage. This was a message to me to trust God to work through me in my ministry. And it’s the same here with Gideon.
In response to God telling him he’s with him, Gideon says: "If The LORD is with us how come we’re being oppressed by the Midianites?" But God is with them and he does have a plan for their salvation, a plan that involves Gideon. ’14Then the LORD turned to him and said, "Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you."’ Then, despite Joshua’s protests he adds "I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them."
Here is the first step to Gideon’s revival: a personal encounter with God where God calls him to a task. A personal encounter with God where God promises to empower him for the task. I think we need to be careful that we don’t underestimate the importance of this sense of personal call. The New Testament speaks often of the Christian having been called to a life of service to God and to others. But as we think about our own personal call to discipleship let’s remember the example of Gideon. You see the thing about Gideon’s call is that the sort of person he was when God called him, the personal attributes he possessed, weren’t the issue. Well, actually, the self-effacing nature of Gideon may in fact have been his greatest asset. But he didn’t have the natural prowess of a warrior, or the leadership qualifications to lead his people against the Midianites. Yet those very disadvantages were what enabled God to use him to show forth his glory. Do you remember what Paul wrote in 1 Cor 1:27 "But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;" (NRSV) This is so often God’s modus operandi isn’t it?. "He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty." (Lk 1:52-53 NRSV)
If you’re unsure of yourself, if you’re aware of your failings, then you’re just the sort of person that God can use. Let him speak to you and tell you what he wants you to do. Ask him to empower you for the task. Then look for him to speak to you with the sorts of words he speaks to Gideon. Have a look at the way he speaks to him in the first person, surrounding Gideon’s fragile ego with his divine ego: "I hereby commission you." "I will be with you." "I am with you, you mighty warrior."