Last week, I was watching a sermon from one of the Pastors that I follow on YouTube. In his message he used the phrase “we’re going about it in a worldly way”, as in we’re living out our faith in God in a “worldly way”. It brings to mind Proverbs 14:12 which says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death”. Anyway, this phrase was kind of a new spin that struck a nerve. I immediately started writing and thinking about it. It is just loaded with stuff that is so appropriate for all of time but especially for what we are currently experiencing in our culture today. As usual I’m going to meander a bit and hopefully get to the point in my own weird way so hang in there.
First of all, where did that phrase come? How did he come up with that? Well, the Biblical text that he uses comes from the book of Judges which is an account of Israel’s struggle to subdue or take control of the “promised land”, the land that God had promised to Abraham a thousand years before the time of the judges. That’s a long time to wait. However, Judges begins on a sour note with the death of Joshua who was appointed by Moses to lead the children of Israel into the promised land. The children of Israel are now without a strong leader and as usual headed in the wrong direction spiritually speaking. So the Lord raises up a series of “judges” or leaders, twelve in all, who will help the nation get through this difficult and tumultuous period of transition, to put it mildly.
Not much is said about most of the judges but there are a few that evoke special attention. One of those standouts, and the primary context of the afore mentioned sermon, is Gideon whose account is recorded in Judges 6-8. As with all of the judges, Gideon is faced with a difficult challenge. The Lord is getting ready to send him into battle. Israel has once again done what is “evil in the eyes of the Lord”. (Judges 6:1) Instead of protecting them, the Lord has given them over into the hands of their enemies as punishment for their disobedience. This is a pattern of behavior or “way” of living that is a recurring theme for the Israelites throughout the Old Testament. The Lord makes a covenant with His people, and then they violate or break it. Then, after they realize the error of their ways that is usually brought on by prolonged suffering, they cry out to God for deliverance. God hears them and usually sends a leader, deliverer, or in this case a “judge” to lead them out of suffering. Gideon is next on the list. To get on that list, you have to be a righteous person who loves God and whose heart is in the right place. Apparently, Gideon fits the bill.
In Ephesians 5:15-17 it says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Gideon is not perfect as we will see, but he is one of those people who is being very careful “how he lives”. The “way” that he lives is not “foolish” or what is “evil in the eyes of the Lord”. As a result of Gideon’s faithfulness, he is called to action by the Lord to lead the children of Israel out of suffering and a “way” of living that is destructive. So, an “angel of the Lord” appears or comes to call on Gideon but is this just an ordinary angel like Gabriel or Michael? If it were an ordinary angel, the Hebrew word would be מַלְאָך (malak), which is used in Judges 6:11, but after that it changes to יְהֹוָה (Yhvh) or “Yahweh” and is used throughout the rest of Judges 6. “Yahweh” is the Hebrew name for God. Therefore, we can surmise that this is God himself, a “theophany” or some kind of physical manifestation of His presence, which changes the whole dynamic of this conversation considerably.
Judges 6:12 says, “When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” If the Lord or Yahweh is “with” you or beside you, that’s a really good thing, right? You would think that this would give Gideon all the confidence in the world to do what God is asking. God is actually and miraculously physically present with him, and yet Gideon is not as confident or optimistic about his own abilities as you would expect under the circumstances. In verse 15 Gideon says, “Pardon me, my lord, but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” Gideon is not exactly overflowing with confidence is he?
Okay, I’m sorry, but I’m finding a little bit of humor in this whole scenario, but I’ll share that in a minute. I guess it’s something that I can really relate to as an “achiever” personality. Achievers want to do great things and achieve, but they’re not always confident in their own abilities. This part of my personality is annoying and while it may be a character flaw, maybe it’s better than having “swag” which is basically modern slang for being cocky, arrogant, and narcissistic. Well, no one can accuse Gideon of being overconfident, cocky, or having swag because he’s basically saying, “Uh, Lord are you sure you’ve got the right guy? I’m from Manasseh. We’re all wimps, and I’m the wimpiest of them all.” I can hear Wayne Campbell from the “Wayne’s World” movies saying. “I’m not worthy. I’m not worthy.”
In response to Gideon’s self-proclaimed unworthiness, the Lord tries to reassure him by saying, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive” (Judges 6:16 NIV) or “Dude, I’m the best wing man ever. I’ve got your back!” But it’s not enough. Gideon is still not convinced because he replies to the Lord in verses 17-18 saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.” And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.”
This is the part that that I find somewhat amusing and that really kick starts my imagination. I know it shouldn’t but again I’m weird that way. If you’ll notice verse 17 begins with a big “IF” signifying uncertainty. Gideon asks God for a sign to prove that it is indeed the Lord (Yahweh) who is really calling him into service. The funny part is that he needs some supplies for his “signs” and leaves the Lord standing there. “Uh, Lord can you hang on I second. I need some stuff so if you could just wait here, I’ll be right back. Are you comfortable? Would you like something to drink or a cookie while I’m gone? Okay, I’ll only be a minute.”
We have no idea how long it takes Gideon to gather his “sign” supplies. In my mind I’m picturing the Lord with an exasperated look on His face and maybe a deep breath followed by a somewhat sarcastic “Okay Gideon, I’ll just wait here then.” Of course, God isn’t like that. That’s the “way” we would react, right? Instead, God is patient. God not only waits for him to come back, but also allows Gideon to put Him through a series of tests to verify that this whole thing is on the up and up and that whoever this is that has appeared to him is actually the real deal. At one point during this whole process Gideon says to the Lord, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test…,” and again the Lord graciously allows him to continue. Which is kind of cool when you think about it. This is just another great example of the “way” the Lord does things. I encourage you to read the whole account in Judges 6-8.
So why would God choose Gideon of all people in the first place? You would think God would want a stud. Someone who is confident and has it all together mentally, physically, and emotionally, but God doesn’t do things that “way”, the “way” we do them, or the “way” we expect. Keep that in mind as we go through this series. That’s why I keep putting the word “way” in quotations just in case you were wondering.
Do you remember picking teams for games on the playground when we were kids? Usually, the first kids chosen were the most popular, confident, strongest, fastest, best athletes, etc. Those who didn’t fall into those categories were generally picked last or rejected altogether. They weren’t wanted.
According to the “angel of the Lord”, Gideon was a “mighty warrior”, so he had the physical ability, but he was unsure of himself. His lack of confidence could easily be perceived as weakness, which is not something that our world looks for in a leader. Even fellow believers might dismiss Gideon because of his apparent “lack of faith”. We want leaders that are powerful, dominant, confident, and look the part. Only the strongest, brightest, and best make it to the top, but in this case, God didn’t go for the top tier talent. He found Gideon in a wheat field, not a palace. So, as we will discover in this series, God doesn’t do things in a way that always makes sense. It didn’t make sense to Gideon, and most of what God does doesn’t always make sense to the rest of the world either. So, there is a big difference between “God’s way” and the “worldly way”, which is the point of this series.
Next week we will continue to explore this ongoing conversation between the Lord and Gideon because it gets weirder.
Have a great weekend! Love y’all!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC