Gideon’s do-nothings

“They also serve… ”

The soldiers were gathered, 32,000 of them! Why did they come?

Gideon was a nobody. Why follow him? Why come when he called?

Read Judges 6-8. Fascinating story. Israel was surrounded and hounded, ridiculed and harassed by her enemies. Things had gotten bad, really bad. Midian, a pagan country to the far southeast of Israel, had overrun everything and everyone. Stealing herds and crops, they were reducing the population to a life of abject poverty and constant fear.

Why? Well, Israel had been warned about idol worship but they had ignored the warnings. They were reaping what they had sowed.

And then God sent an angel to a nobody, the youngest of his family and least of his tribe. Hiding in a winepress, Gideon was trying to thresh enough grain to keep his family from starving, when the angel showed up.

A series of strange events followed, first to convince Gideon that he was indeed God’s choice to rescue his people, and then to convince those people that Gideon wasn’t crazy, that he had indeed heard from God.

Well, he did a good enough job to round up 32,000 fighters! And then God sent 22,700 of those fighters back home. How weird is that?

But the point of my thoughts today is this: those who went home were following God’s will, too. Those 10,000 who were afraid. Those 700 who didn’t do things exactly right. They were willing to fight, but they didn’t have to. Others fought and some of those died, but the battle was won. It was a huge victory! God got the glory.

And those back at home… what did they do?

They probably prayed, we’re not told. They didn’t get any thanks, any awards for valor, any recognition for a job well done. But they obeyed Gideon and God, and their return home was just as necessary as Gideon’s 300-man army.

They were obeying God’s will, too.

Remember that, when it seems like God hasn’t called you to do anything spectacular. “They also serve who only stand and wait.” *

* John Milton, 1655.

Here are a few more posts about Gideon:


Gideon, Man of Valor

The people of Israel had come out of Egypt, God had provided a homeland just as He promised, and then when everything seemed hunky-dory, peachy-keen, they went back to their own way of doing things. Before long, trouble arrived in the form of their cousins the Midianites who lived on the eastern side of the Jordan River. For some reason, the Midianites wanted the crops the Israelites grew, and every time the harvest was good, they came along and took it.

Instead of trying to learn why this kept happening, the Israelites griped about their situation. Why did God let this happen, they complained.

One man, Gideon, was trying his best to provide for his family. He found a hidden place to thresh his wheat so the Midianites wouldn’t get it, and one day while he was hard at work, an angel showed up.

The angel said, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor.” (Yeah, hiding out from the bad guys.) Oh, what a wonderful thing to say about me, Gideon should have thought. Oh, how great that God has sent me of all people, a nobody in my family, an angel!

Is that what he thought? No…

Did he fall down in fear and awe? No…

Did he worship and praise God that an angel had come to see him? No…

Gideon did what all the rest of his family had been doing. He wallowed in self-pity, he griped and complained. He said to the angel, bold as brass — If God is with us, why is all this happening? Our ancestors told us tall tales about miracles, but I sure haven’t seen any — (That sounds familiar.)

Gideon was remembering what his father had said about the miracles, but he was forgetting what God’s prophet had said: I delivered you from the Egyptians, and I gave you this land. I only gave you one warning: don’t get yourself tangled up with the gods of the Amorites whose land this used to be. But did you listen? No, you didn’t. You didn’t obey me, and see what it got you. Trouble again.

When things don’t seem to be going our way, we tend to be like Gideon and his folks. Gripers and complainers.

Fortunately, God’s patience is better than ours. The angel gave Gideon another compliment: “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have not I sent thee?”

Oooh, Gideon should have said, We’re going to be delivered again! But instead he said, Wait, what do you mean, Me go? Me? And Gideon argued with the angel. He demanded proof that the angel was really from God, and not a secret agent from the enemy or something.

Fortunately again, God had patience with him. He provided the proof, and finally Gideon had to acknowledge, This is really an angel! A for-real, real angel! Now came the fear, and the awe, and the worship, and finally he was ready to do what God told him.

You know the rest of the story, don’t you? God used Gideon to deliver his people from the greedy Midianites. He did become a mighty man of valor.

Do you suppose that would have happened if Gideon had ignored the angel? Refused to listen to instructions? If you read Judges chapters 6-8, some of those instructions were a mite peculiar.

Circumstances don’t look too pleasant sometimes. Hardships. Loss of job. Family breakups. Sickness. Bad weather. Earthquakes. Volcanoes. Tsunami. Blizzards. Floods. Mud slides. Lots of things that make us think God has deserted us, abandoned us, just like Gideon.

Have we listened to God’s messengers? Are we listening for God’s instructions? Sometimes they come in disguised packages, angels who don’t look like angels. Sometimes we’re tempted to ridicule and think, “Who, me?” when we’re instructed to do something.

Food for thought.

Gideon and the Angel

Reposted from 2006

In Judges chapters 6 through 8, we find an interesting story about a man named Gideon who had an encounter with an angel. Gideon’s response to the angel showing up was unusual, to say the least… (This is part two of a Bible study about Gideon. Read Gideon Man of Valor for more of the story.)

1. Who did Gideon think the angel was?

Obviously he didn’t think he was an angel. We know some of who he didn’t think he was. He wasn’t a Midianite. Gideon would have been running, or attacking, or defending, something.

He didn’t think he was a neighbor. He knew all his neighbors, surely.

He didn’t think he was a long-lost relative. He didn’t think he was a visiting dignitary, or a friend-of-a-friend, or just a traveler passing through. How do we know? Because he would have made an effort to welcome him, honor him, take him home and feed him. He didn’t do any of the normal, every-day things he would do for a visitor.

So what’s left?

I believe Gideon thought he was just another run-of-the-mill itinerant prophet/preachers, somebody he didn’t hold in high esteem. He certainly didn’t think he was an angel who might strike him with a bolt of lightening for his disrespectful attitude.

2. What did the angel look like?

Well, he must have looked like a native. Not like you’d think an angel would look like, from other verses in the Bible. Not shiny, super tall, or cloaked in clouds. No shimmering garments or multiple arms or four faces or eight wings. No thundering voice, either.

If he’d looked like a foreigner, then he might have been an enemy — maybe a Midianite. But Gideon didn’t treat him like that, he treated him like he would somebody familiar, but unliked.

3. Why did the angel sit down under the tree for a bit, before he made himself visible to Gideon?

Maybe he wanted to watch Gideon for a few minutes, see how he acted, what his demeanor was like. Maybe Gideon’s attitude came out in the way he threshed the wheat. Angry, frustrated, feeling helpless — “Bam, take that, you foul Midianite!”

Or wallowing in self-pity — “Bam, how long do we have to hide out like criminals in our own land,” sniffle, sniffle.

I used to operate a huge paper-cutter made like a guillotine. Every time I sliced a ream of paper, I’d imagine somebody’s head rolling — somebody that had done me wrong, of course. Other times, I’d think it might as well be my head doing the rolling, things felt so bad.

Was the angel observing Gideon’s actions in order to get an idea of his attitude?

In Hebrews 13:2 we’re told not to be afraid to entertain strangers, for many have entertained angels unaware. If Gideon had known that fellow was an angel to start with, I bet he’d have behaved a little better, don’t you?

A few good men

marinesposter14A few good men, that’s what he needed.

Gideon was the least of the least of his family. At least that’s the way he thought of himself. A descendant of the patriarch Joseph through the eldest son Manasseh, you’d think Gideon’s family would be doing well. But instead, when it came time for the family blessings to be handed out, Joseph’s younger son Ephraim had gotten it instead. By the time Gideon’s generation came along, his family was fairly well impoverished.

But then, at this particular time in Israel’s history, the whole nation was impoverished. (Read Judges chapters 6 and 7 for the story.)

Raiders, Midianite marauders from the other side of the Jordan River would wait until Israel’s crops were mature, then come in and steal everything. They would move in with their camels and their tents, take whatever they wanted and when it was used up they would move out again. There were so many of them, just their camels were “as the sand by the seaside for multitude.” (Jdg. 7:12)

The Lord picked Gideon, the least likely choice, to put a stop to the Midianite raids. And one of the fascinating facts in this story is the way he went about it.

Gideon started out with 32,000 men, a good sized army. But God said it was too many – they would take the credit themselves. He told Gideon to send those who were fearful back home, leaving 10,000.

That was still a fair number. But God said, it’s still too many. He gave Gideon a method by which to choose who should stay and fight, and who should go back home.

Men who drank water by kneeling and bending over to drink directly from the water had to go home. Men who drank by cupping their hands and bringing water to their lips, could stay. In the end, only 300 could stay.

marinesposter13Why make this distinction? It’s a question of wisdom. Common sense. Strategy.

If you’re drinking from a cupped hand, you can see what’s around you. You can see if someone is coming. You can hold a sword in the other hand, and you can stand, walk, run and fight.

If you’re kneeling and face down in the water, you can’t see anything around you. Your back is exposed. Both hands are on the ground supporting your body weight while you bend over to the water. You can’t hold a sword. You can’t stand, walk, run or fight, at least not until you get back up. By then an enemy could have killed you.

Wisdom, common sense, strategy. Gideon took those few, those 300 men and totally defeated the marauding enemy. Of course, they were so few, they had to use God’s tactics as well as his strategy. That’s a fascinating story all by itself.

Side note:

I’m sure you know the difference between strategy and tactics. Derived from the Greek strategos, military strategy deals with the planning and conduct of campaigns, the movement and disposition of forces, and the deception of the enemy.

Tactics, on the other hand, are specific techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle.

Choosing the few, the wisest 300 was strategy. Having them break pitchers and blow trumpets at the enemy instead of fighting with swords? That was tactics. God is excellent at both.

In the times we live in today, I think God is looking again for a few good men. And women…