Maybe it is because I have another birthday under my belt … or maybe it’s because I just wrapped up an amazing year in my speaking ministry … I’m not sure why, but I have been sifting through memories. One memory in particular jumped up and grabbed my attention.
I had always known that I was born to be an elementary school teacher – period. So, when a total stranger tapped me on the shoulder and said, “While you were singing, God told me that you are supposed to be my Music and Youth Assistant this summer,” I felt sorry for him. He obviously needed to have his hearing checked.
I had just graduated from college with an elementary education teaching degree. A good friend was leading worship for a local church and asked me to sing a solo in the evening service. That’s all – or so I thought.
When the service ended, my good friend introduced me to his good friend, the hard-of-hearing stranger, and said, “You should at least pray about his offer.” I did. And here I am – forty years later – an unlikely servant who lives in constant amazement at God’s plan for her life.
The Bible is filled with men and women who were unlikely servants. Weak, fearful and unwilling, they fought against the call of God, offering excuses and pleading for exemption – just like we do. Gideon was such a man.
Judges 6:11-16 (The Message) “One day the angel of God came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, whose son Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, out of sight of the Midianites. The angel of God appeared to him and said, ‘God is with you, O mighty warrior!’ Gideon replied, ‘With me, my master? If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about? The fact is, God has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian.’ But God faced him directly: ‘Go in this strength that is yours. Save Israel from Midian. Haven't I just sent you?’ Gideon said to him, ‘Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan's the weakest in Manasseh and I'm the runt of the litter.’ God said to him, ‘I'll be with you. Believe me, you'll defeat Midian as one man.’”
Gideon was a farmer, a family man just trying to earn a living and put food on the table. Like us, he felt inadequate and unworthy to carry out God’s plan for his life.
But God saw what Gideon could be, not just what he was.
The fact that the angel called Gideon a “mighty warrior” is just plain funny. Gideon didn’t look like a mighty warrior and he certainly didn’t act like one. Normally, wheat was threshed in an open area on a threshing floor by oxen pulling threshing sledges over the stalks. Not Gideon. He did his work in a winepress, hidden from the view of the Midianites. I don’t blame him. The Midianites were basically terrorists - a large and powerful army of nomadic invaders. God wanted Gideon to defeat them and set the Israelites free.
I can imagine the look on Gideon’s face and the sheer panic in his heart when God told him the plan. Gideon’s response was so human and so like our own when God calls us to do something that seems absolutely impossible and makes no human sense at all.
Are you talking to me?
You must have me confused with somebody else.
You want me to do what? Save who? Now that’s funny!
Take a good look at me.
I am weak.
I come from the wrong side of the Manasseh tracks.
People like me don’t save nations and defeat armies.
I don’t think Gideon was being humble. I think he was scared spitless and firmly convinced that he was totally unqualified for the job God was asking him to do. I know that feeling. I tend to use my weaknesses as excuses for disobedience instead of accepting them for what they really are, opportunities for God to show up and show off in my life. God’s power shines best through obvious weakness. And just like God was with the flawed Gideon, He is with us.
God’s commitment to Gideon reaffirmed His presence with Gideon and the ease with which Gideon would have victory over the Midianites. The literal translation is “as if they were but one man.” I love it! Here was Gideon, probably the last man anyone would choose to face the Midianites, and God is telling him the victory will be so easy it will seem like he is facing one man instead of an army of fierce invaders.
Nevertheless, Gideon’s attitude was lousy. I can almost hear him whining as he blamed God for getting the Israelites into their current mess and voicing major doubts about God’s willingness or even His desire to save them. Gideon sputtered every excuse imaginable, reminding God how weak he was, venting his anger and confusion while questioning the validity of God’s choice. Still, God insisted Gideon was the man for the job.
Making excuses is always a waste of time because God is completely aware of who we are and what we can and cannot do. When God calls us, He not only equips us, but He also empowers us to obey that calling.
The Lord told Gideon to “go in the strength you have.”
Sometimes I don’t think I have enough strength to get out of bed in the morning. But the Father always gives me the strength to take that first step … and then another. And before I know it, I have made my way through a day ordained by God. It really is not the amount of faith that we have, it’s where we place that faith.
God was asking Gideon to step out in faith, knowing that his meager strength would not be enough for the task ahead. The reality is that our strength is never enough for any task. That’s what faith is all about. Faith is a willingness to step out in mid-air, no safety net in sight – trusting God to be there – at the point of our greatest need.