Why did God choose a cowering weakling to lead His Army!? #208
Hello friends and happy Thursday to you! Today we have some great passages to read including Judges 6, Acts 10, Jeremiah 19 and Mark 5. Our focus passage is in Judges 6, which features the story of Gideon – one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I’d like to talk about Mark 5 for a moment, however, and tell you a strange story. You might have noticed that I sometimes do character voices for the podcast. I’m not especially good at voices, I know, but I do them anyway for reasons beyond my grasp. You might have noticed I do a particular kind of voice whenever we encounter a passage like Mark 5 and somebody that is demonized speaks. It is a voice that goes up and down the scale, cracks and breaks, and generally sounds just awful. Believe it or not, there is a reason for me doing that voice – a reason based on a true story.
My dad is a lawyer, and when I was a kid way back in the dark ages, he handled some controversial cases. He was not a criminal lawyer, but did sometimes engage in cases that might have made him some enemies. He represented several African-Americans in civil rights lawsuits, and represented a group of truckers in the 70s that flooded the streets around the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery demanding…something that I don’t remember, but was probably better working conditions or safety laws, or something like that. Anyway, he was a sometime legal crusader and made some enemies. One night when I was 8ish, he got a phone call from a man who stated he was coming to kill my dad. I vaguely remember that night – or remember being told about it – but i think I have a memory of my dad getting his gun (it was Alabama, of course) and waiting up for the guy, but he never showed up. Years later my dad told me a little more about that call, including the fact that the man who called claimed to be demon-possessed. I asked my dad what he sounded like, and he said the man’s tone and pitch changed up and down while he was talking, and sounded very strange and unnerving. Try as I might, I couldn’t get anything else out of my dad on that call when I was a teenager, but I have never forgotten it. And now you know the rest of the story, and knowing is half the battle. Good day, good night, and good luck.
So – let’s talk about Gideon. Wait – actually, let’s read about Gideon first and then talk about him.
And there you go – what a strange and mysterious chapter. Gideon is the youngest in his father’s household, and his father’s household is the weakest in Israel – not good soil for hero-growing. Further, what is Gideon doing when the angel of the Lord calls him? He is HIDING in a HOLE threshing wheat. Have you ever threshed wheat? I haven’t either, but I gather that the point of it is to toss the wheat in the air so the useless chaffy part (I forget what its called) flies away, and the kernally and edible wheaty part (again, I forget its name because I am not a farmer) remains. The whole thing about this processes is that it takes wind to do, and if you ever been in a deep hole hiding from somebody, like Gideon was doing, one of the first things you might notice is that it is not very windy in a hole. So you have to work that much harder to thresh that wheaty goodness! Picture this: God wants to raise up a deliverer – a military leader to lead His people against the Mighty Midianites. (I hope they had t-shirts that said that, because it just rolls off the tongue.) What do you want in a military leader? Well, you want a real Captain America, er, Captain Israel type, right? Strong, brave, intelligent, good leader – a mighty warrior that is confident, and also a little self-effacing and funny so the women in the audience can identify with him, and the men don’t hate him for being 100 percent Captain Awesome.
This is NOT who Gideon was. He was HIDING IN A HOLE. He was not a warrior. He was a cowardly farmer from a weak family. What a strange choice! And yet, when the call comes to Gideon, he immediately steps up to the plate and becomes a hero, right? NO, actually, that’s not at all what happened. Even though Gideon came FACE TO FACE with the angel of the Lord….that was not enough for him. He asks for a sign…and the angel of the Lord obliges and gives Gideon a clear and unmistakable sign. So mighty Gideon slinks out under cover of darkness and heroically pushes over a pole, and smashes an altar. Ok – I guess that’s something, but I gotta tell you, when I was a kid, I used to push over trees all the time. It was one of my favorite things to do – find a big and dead tree in the woods and push it over. It made me feel like He-Man, until one day I pushed a tree over that was really pretty tall and the top part of it broke off and kind of crushed my head. But, that’s okay, I recovered. But that’s okay, I recovered.
Now – what were we talking about. Oh yeah – so Captain America finds Bucky surrounded by Skeletor’s evil army…oh wait, that’s not right – Gideon, right? Gideon! So Gideon pushes down a pole after meeting the Angel of the Lord and being called to lead God’s people into battle, but even after seeing the Angel of the Lord face to face AND seeing the sign that the Angel of the Lord did – it STILL was not enough for Gideon, and so he asks for not merely ONE more sign…but TWO! What is the deal with this guy? Well, to be fair to him, he did pretty much tell you what you were getting – he didn’t pump himself up too much.
So – God chooses a weak guy from a weak family to lead His people. WHY, WHY WHY? It makes no sense! Well, I don’t know why God does what He does – His ways are higher than my ways, but I do have two theories to pitch at you. A major one and a minor one. Let’s start with the minor one:
#2 Reason I believe God chose Gideon: Consider this interesting passage:
11 The angel of the Lord came, and he sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash, the Abiezrite. His son Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress in order to hide it from the Midianites. 12 Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “The Lord is with you, valiant warrior.”13 Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened? And where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about? They said, ‘Hasn’t the Lord brought us out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to Midian.” 14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and deliver Israel from the grasp of Midian. I am sending you!”
The Lord is with you, VALIANT warrior? To a guy cowering in a hole? What a strange greeting! How in the world was Gideon valiant or brave at all? I submit that we get a big clue in vs. 13 – Gideon’s answer. “If God is with us, where are all His miracles?” That’s a great question, and while it seem like it is expressing Gideon’s doubt, it is actually expressing his faith! This strikes me the same way as when Elisha slapped the ground and said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” Gideon wholeheartedly believes in the power and might and deliverance of God, and He is hungry – starving to see it again. I believe God calls and equips and uses those that are hungry for a mighty move of God like we read about in the Bible.
#1 Reason I believe God chose Gideon: Because God delights in showing His goodness, power and wisdom by using weak vessels and weak people to accomplish His will! Consider what Paul says:
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
It’s almost like Paul was thinking of ole Gideon! What an amazing God we serve – one who chooses weak humans like you and me to shine His glorious light through and use for the His glory and our good! Let’s close pondering one of the greatest and most difficult to understand truths of the Bible:
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9