Summary: Gideon's Gig. A loser becomes a leader
Clark Kent. Loser or leader? If you ask Lois Lane, she would tell you that Clark Kent is a loser. To her Kent is that bumbling and timid co-worker at the Daily Planet newspaper - a worrier too wimpy for her taste. Superman on the other hand, well now that man of steel was Lois Lane’s idea of a warrior. Of course as everyone knows, Clark Kent is Superman. The loser is in fact a leader. The worrier a warrior.
Had the Superman comics been around in the days of Gideon, some 3,150 years ago, that Hebrew could have identified with both Clark Kent and Superman. Gideon never flew around Israel in tights but he did win some spectacular victories over the enemy of God’s people. God even called him “Mighty Warrior.” But there was a definite Clark Kent side to Gideon as he could also be a mighty worrier. As we begin a four-part sermon series on Gideon today we’re going to learn about Gideon’s gig, or how a loser became a leader.
The time period in which Gideon lived was not a peaceful one. A nomadic people called the Midianites made a regular habit of raiding Israel. There were so many of them that when they invaded on their camels they looked like grasshoppers covering the land. There was nothing the Israelites could do but take to the hills where they hung out in caves and little forts until the marauders left. This went on for seven years before the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help.
Why did it take seven years for the Israelites to call for help? Why does it take seven wrong turns before a guy will ask for directions? Pride. That’s why when God heard the Israelite’s cry for help he didn’t at first send a savior but a sermon (John Lawrenz). A prophet came to the people and proclaimed: “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 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. 10 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 6:8b-10).
Although later Gideon would blame God for the hardships, the Israelites were the ones at fault. They had turned their backs on the God who had not only saved them from slavery in Egypt but who had also given them the wonderful land they were living in. Instead of thanking and worshipping him, however, the Hebrews adored the lousy idols the former tenants had left behind. And they continued to do this even after the Midianites started their invasions!
It’s hard to understand what the Israelites were thinking. But then again angels must find it equally hard to understand what we are thinking when we blame God for things like the rough patches in our marriage. Plainly it’s our sins of selfishness that contribute to the difficulties and yet we have the gall to suggest that it’s God’s fault for letting us marry the “wrong” person and now we are suffering for it. Or we blame God for how bored we are with life and use that to excuse how we spend our free time in sinful pursuits. Even when life gets difficult as a result of our sins we don’t turn to God for help – help which he offers in his Word. Instead we try to fix things on our own. How well did that work for the Israelites of Gideon’s day? They ended up spending considerable time in dark, dank caves thinking this was the only way they could find safety from the Midianites. How could they have forgotten that God was their stronghold? How can we forget this?
But forget it the Israelites did so God sent a sermon instead of a savior. “Typical,” you think. God’s no different than a nagging, I-told-you-so parent. But God “told them so” because the Israelites needed to be confronted with their sins and led to repentance. Only then would they appreciate what he was about to do for them. And what did God do? He sent the Angel of the Lord, a title often used for the Son of God in the Old Testament. The Angel of the Lord went to north-central Israel not far from Nazareth where he plunked himself under an oak tree to watch a man named Gideon separate wheat kernels from their husks. What was interesting about this scene is that Gideon was not threshing the wheat out in the open with the help of oxen as was the common and most efficient practice. Instead he was threshing the grain in a big box of a winepress. You see Gideon didn’t want a passing Midianite scout to spot his wheat and take it from him. That sounds like the work of a worrier rather than a warrior doesn’t it? And yet the Angel of the Lord said to Gideon: “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12b). Ah, that was too much for Gideon. “But sir, if the LORD is with us,” Gideon blurted, “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 the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian” (Judges 6:13).