“God turned up” Meditations: 7 : To Gideon
Judg 6:11,12 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 the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
There are, I think, three sorts of people: the people who live in the past, the people who struggle in the present, and the people who live for the future. The people who live in the past tend to be those for whom the past has been painful and the pain or even, perhaps, the guilt of the past blights the present. They just cannot seem to let go the past. A good dose of amnesia might help! Some people live in the past because it was better than the present and they have difficulty letting go the past and living in the present. The people who struggle in the present tend to almost be overwhelmed by the problems of life in this fallen world. Every day is hard graft. The people who live for the future have caught a vision and are going for it. It is probably true that some of us have elements of past, present and future motivating us. Gideon was a past and present person and God was just about to make him a future person.
When we first encounter Gideon he is definitely a present person. He’s threshing wheat in a winepress. Now normally you tread grapes in a wine press; it is a hollowed out area where you collect juice. A threshing floor was an open place where the husks could be blown away. The reason Gideon wasn’t threshing his wheat in the open was because the country kept getting invaded by Midianites. It was one of those down times for the nation that are recorded in Judges, when the people had turned from God and so He had stepped back and let them be disciplined by enemy invaders. When they cried out, the Lord raised up a new leader-deliverer.
In response to the angel, Gideon shows he is also a past-person: “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 the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.” (Judg 6:13). The trouble about looking back to the past is that so often we forget bits of it and only have a distorted view of it. Gideon knows that in the past the Lord did great things for Israel, which makes the present seem even worse. It is good to remember what God has done in the past if we use it to generate faith for today but the feeling Gideon was left with was, the Lord has abandoned us. Hold on Gideon, that’s only half the picture. If you knew all your history you would know that God had spoken of blessings and curses for Israel (Deut 28), the former following obedience and the latter following disobedience, and it’s easy to move from one to the other.
But we haven’t yet picked up on a most crucial thing, the angel’s description of Gideon: “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” Hold on, there must be a mistake; I’m not a warrior, let along a mighty one! No, but you are going to be. Ah, there’s that future dimension which only the Lord tends to see. We just see ourselves in the light of our past failures and present struggles but the Lord sees what He can do with us, and in Gideon’s case He can take this cowering, fearful individual and turn him into a mighty warrior.
Gideon is going to take some convincing of this. “The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” (v.14) What is the Lord saying? Go with the strength you have? “But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (v.15) But I haven’t got any strength? No, but you will have as soon as you start doing what I tell you because I will equip you. That is what is implied behind the words, “Am I not sending you?” i.e. if I send you I’ll give you everything you need to do the job. It’s not a case of what you have now, but what the Lord will give you as you get on what He’s given you to do. Yes, it’s all in the future and so, yes, that’s what faith is about – getting on and doing what He said in the confidence that those the Lord calls, He equips.
Surely this is what is behind every first encounter with the Lord. He comes to a nobody but He sees that He can make this person a somebody. The Lord knows the future and He knows what He can achieve given the human He has before Him. Moses might have argued and argued why he wasn’t up to it, but he did end up actually doing it. Abram might have tripped over his feet half a dozen times, but he got there in the end. Jacob might have been a twister for a long way along the path, but he got to the place of faith in the end. Joseph might have completely misunderstood the message, but God’s plan got him there in the end. So if you’re in hiding from the enemy, it may be time to come out and have an encounter with God – if you want Him to use you that is! You may not think it, but He can get you ‘there’ in the end!