Meditations on “God of Transformation: 6: Are you too small?
Jud 6:15 Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
I suspect that if an alien arrived on this earth in disguise and observed human beings, one of the questions he (or she) would ask is, “Why do they think so little of themselves?” Low self-esteem is so common as to almost be the norm. I guess the answer is because in this Fallen World we have learned that there are many people who are bigger and better than us and because people are not naturally nice, they delight in showing off how they are bigger and better than us – but that may be their way of covering up their own low self-esteem. It comes from the years of childhood and I suppose we should not be surprised because in Junior school classes there tend to be only one of two queen bees holding court while the rest of us look on and wish we were as pretty, as handsome, as clever or as popular – but we weren’t. And then in the knocks of life, a family member or a teacher or someone else we looked up to told us we were not clever, we were in fact no good, and we believed it and the die was cast.
The story of Gideon has always been a favourite of mine. I love the hidden humour that is there. When we come across Gideon we find he “was threshing wheat in a winepress.” (Jud 6:11a) Normally you threshed wheat in a high open space where the wind would blow the chaff away. Gideon was doing it in a wine press which was a depression in the ground out of sight. The reason is given: “to keep it from the Midianites.” (v.11b) These were people bigger and better than him. The earlier part of the chapter tells us that they were a powerful marauding people who came in and dominated the land and definitely made Israel feel sub-standard!
But the thing about Judges is that there is an order repeated again and again: Israel drift away from the Lord, so the Lord lifts off His hand of protection from them, so they cry out to the Lord, so He sends a deliverer. The only thing is that Gideon doesn’t know he’s to be the next deliverer! So when an angel turns up with a message from God, he is not prepared for what is about to happen.
I love the angel’s greeting to this little man (in his eyes at least) who is hiding away from the enemy, scared out of his life because of them: “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” (v.12) If you really catch the realities of this, you won’t stop laughing for five minutes. Mighty warrior!!!!???? You’ve got to be joking. Yes, that’s what Gideon thinks as well. But you see the thing is that when God brings a prophetic word of encouragement He sees you as you will become, not merely how you have been or what you are now. He speaks of you as you will be when you are exercising your full potential. He looks forward to what you will be – a great victor – while you look back at what you were – a failure. Our problem is that we tend to define ourselves by what others have said about us, or what the world has done to us, or by our own mistakes or failures, and we thus fail to see what we can become in Christ.
We even demean ourselves in what we are doing and fail to see the reality of it. “I am only a housewife.” What’s with the ‘only’? You are one of the relatively few (more are coming) wonderful people pouring their lives into the upbringing of their children. You are God’s source of life for them. Or, “I’m only a computer keyboard typist?” Only? You are God’s secret weapon in that office to bring His blessing to the people around you; you just haven’t seen it yet!
We won’t go through this story word by word. In summary the angel sends him to deliver Israel. (v.14) He splutters with our verse above pointing out that he is a nobody (v.15) and the Lord’s answer is, “I will be with you.” (v.16) You know that’s all you need to know when you say “I am only a…..”, that the Lord is with you and He’s with you to give you wisdom, understanding, insight, strength and power. That’s what He does with His children.
Yes, there is a lot more to the story of Gideon and you can read it yourself in Judges 6. He has to go and sort out a family matter first (v.25-32) and that after the angel had brought him further encouragement (see v.21,22) to help him believe – the Lord does that as well for us again and again when we ask and sometimes when we don’t ask! Then we have the famous time when Gideon’s uncertainty shines through even more brightly and we have the famous fleece exercise (v.36-40). But then it starts getting funnier because Gideon calls out Israel and has a lot of men with him and the Lord intervenes and says, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands.” (7:2) Hang on, we said there were loads of Midianites so don’t we need loads of soldiers to go after them? Not when you have God on your side; He does things differently. He reduces Gideon’s army down to just 300 (7:1-8) and yes, they defeat the Midianites (v.8-25) who go squealing as they went. In the midst of it there is another nice little example of God’s encouragement (see v.13-15).
It’s an amazing story of transformation and, I believe, speaks to many of us today. Gideon is transformed and Israel is transformed. He, feeling a failure, had to come to realise that the Lord was with Him and therefore he could do whatever God put before him. What a lesson. And don’t forget there are three examples of God’s encouragements in all this. First a little power demonstration (6:21,22) then, second, his father coming out on his side when he has stood again idolatry (6:31) and then, third, encouragement out of the mouths of the enemy (7:13-15).
If God gives you big stuff to do, first of all remember that a) it is Him sending you and b) He will be with you to enable you, but then realise He knows you need little encouragements along the way. Look for them and expect them, He delights to helping us along. So dump that low self esteem and say with the apostle Paul, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength,” (Phil 4:13) remembering that, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8) Be blessed!