When you think of heroic men of valor, what comes to mind? For me, it’s images of Mel Gibson defending Scotland, Russel Crowe fighting for Rome, and Tom Hanks storming the beach at Normandy. It’s the image of a gun, a sword, an axe, or a horse.
When I hear the word hero, I definitely don’t imagine a loaf of bread.
Yet this is what Gideon was envisioned as by his enemies in Judges 6-7. And in my humble opinion, it’s super fitting. Gideon was a man who was not courageous, not confident, and not strong, in his own power at least. I grew up being told his story, hearing of his character being worthy of emulation and imitation. Now, he was surely used by God in a great way, but God poured out grace and strength in his life.
Gideon’s story starts in a bleak and dark season of Israelite history. The book of Judges is set in a period of time when God’s people did what was right in their own eyes, there was little to no submission to God’s leadership of the people. Idolatry was rampant, and the people of God were not worshipping the Lord. In steps the Midianites, who oppress and overpower God’s people. They steal crops, women, and the general livelihood of the Israelites, who then flee to the mountains and caves.
The people of Israel cry out to God for deliverance (Judges 6:7) and God responds by sending a prophet, ultimately raising up Gideon to save them.
When we first see Gideon, he was hiding (Judges 6:11). Now this was likely a smart move since the Midianites were stealing crops. However, it is still a sign that he wasn’t the most bold dude around. Look at how crazy his calling is though.
And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” – Judges 6:12
The Lord looks at a man who is hiding from the enemy forces and refers to him as a mighty man of valor. What a great reminder that God sees us for who we can be in His strength and grace. I LOATHE the cliche nature of what I’m about to say, but I think it is fairly true: “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.” God obviously knew what Gideon would be able to do in His divine strength, and so he calls him what he knows he can be.
Now right off the bat, we see Gideon in doubt and fear. If you follow along with your Bible open, you will see that Gideon questions God’s presence with Israel and questions God’s call of him specifically. God tells Gideon that He will be with him in verse sixteen. You would think this would suffice, but Gideon still doubts. The rest of the chapter is three different tests that Gideon wants God to come through in before Gideon will believe in Him.
Here’s why I don’t see Gideon as a superhero of the faith. When God tells Gideon to destroy the altar of an idol in this chapter, Gideon did so in the middle of the night.
So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night. – Judges 6:27
What in the world. You’ve been approached by God. He has told you that He will be with you as you do what He commands. And yet you’re still afraid.
Look at chapter seven. Gideon is not done being afraid.
God takes Gideon’s army of 32,000 and whittles it down to 300, in order to be able to show that it is His power working through Gideon’s troops. Even after all of God’s promises and proclamations, God knows that Gideon is still afraid.
But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp – Judges 7:10-11a
Here’s the best part of the story:
When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp. – Judges 7:13-14
This makes me laugh so much. Gideon is envisioned in this enemy soldier’s dream as….. a loaf of bread.
Gideon hears this and worships, and ends up leading the people of God to victory over the Midianites.
Gideon isn’t a superhero of the faith however. Yes, he’s listed in Hebrews 11 in the ‘faith hall of fame’. But the story of Gideon is not the story of his amazing faith in God.
No, the story of Gideon is the story of the God who is patient in our doubt and present in our fear.
It may appear like I was taking shots at Gideon, but in all honesty I know that I am much the same as him, if not worse. God can speak to me through His word, reminding me of his promises, and I respond with doubt and fear. God can prove His presence in my life time and time again, and I’ll still feel like I’ll need proof that He’ll come through again.
God is patient in our doubt and present in our fear. He will walk you through any battle, any trial that you may be facing. Doubt and fear are normal emotions. We aren’t called to dwell in them but we can be encouraged that He will walk us through them.
He is patient in our doubt and present in our fear.
In His Name,
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