When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”
11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
In the context of a seemingly unconquerable enemy the people of God seek His face for answers. His response is that as they seek Him, He has been seeking them. It is the presence of their idolatry rather than the absence of His power which was invited darkness to reign in the land – the land which ought to have possessed light. If I will not listen to God’s voice I cannot expect to experience His provision. What I will not obey I cannot have. If my desire for God departs from God than darkness with reign on the throne of my life where only the Creator should hold His all-powerful and redeeming court.
God is challenged – how is it the Midianites are enslaving us? And the prophetic response establishes two things. First, the charge is historically inaccurate – their very presence in the land verifies that God loves and rescues His people. It is like holding the keys and saying dad you never let me drive the car. Second, responsibility and repentance precede liberation and release. When I accuse God regarding His actions it results in the revelation of His goodness which concludes with the confession of my sins – Job had the same thing happen to him. And that confession, which establishes the depths of my humanity and the expanse of His divinity, is the moment in which I can finally receive the protective love of Almighty God which I have exchanged for the relentless oppression of a defeated Satan.
Into this moment enters Gideon. He is met in a place of defeat and called a mighty warrior – God’s astounding ability to relate to us as we can be in Him rather than as we find ourselves. What’s interesting is that Gideon has the same question as everyone else in the face of suffering – why? And ironically Gideon brings up the very past which God uses to establish His character upon as a question mark as to the sense of abandonment being felt and felt deeply. Why then, and not now? Gideon just says it – God has left the building. He isn’t here. He isn’t a Rescuer. He isn’t a saving God. He doesn’t do things like He used to do.
God is just a good story of things that used to happen to other people.
That’s the response of a mighty warrior.
The Lord’s answer?
Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?
First go – do the thing.
Second, in the strength you have. Quite a statement when Gideon hardly has any faith in himself and possibly less in that of God.
Third, I am sending you, so that is sufficient. The God whom Gideon says has abandoned him is now the exclusive source of strength for the seemingly impossible task of redeeming Israel. Not “get some more strength and go,” but “use what you’ve got.” But it’s ok because I know how much you’ve got, but that doesn’t matter because you’ve got ME.
Gideon then proceeds to focus deeper on what he is bringing – or not bringing – to this redemptive deliverance of Israel from idol-loving, demon-worshipping foreigners.
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
When God says “go in the strength you have” Gideon makes an honest and immediate assessment of that statement. And Gideon’s analysis reveals that there wasn’t any strength to be had. Not only was his clan inferior among clans, but his own place in his family of origin had infected his spiritual life. Gideon’s childhood and sense of self had become so informed by his family of origin that he almost turned down God’s call on his life – a call which will liberate a nation – because he struggled to overcome his family-informed view of self. If you think your family story and how it shaped you doesn’t impact your walk with God… read your Bible. How your family shaped you can keep you from a kingdom destiny.
The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
Companionship from the Lord will satisfy the insufficiencies of the heart and fulfill the outcomes of heaven. It is impossible to do the work of the kingdom unless accompanied by the King. God again establishes that Gideon should primarily – exclusively, in fact – motivate for action based upon God’s proximity to his lived experiences. Like a child who can walk in the dark holding the hand of their dad – the darkness hasn’t changed, but the presence is enough to overcome fearing it. The child is still a child and in fact knows full well they are a child and that they are afraid. But both things – their accurate sense of being small and their unnecessary concern with being harmed – are mitigated by being close to someone whose love is certain and whose power is more substantial than anything which can be imagined as encountered in the dark. So God tells Gideon, focus not upon how you view yourself but with whom you find yourself. Fear is a virus killed by the presence of God. Our souls must be sanitized of it only by means of His call to liberate the enslaved world around us as people never alone without Him. Jesus gives the Great Commission the same way – I have all authority on heaven and earth….and I will be with you always. God consistently tells people throughout time, contexts, callings and character that His exclusive power and deep intimacy will result in eternal living and earthly impact.
And then Gideon proceeds, quite famously, to test whether or not He does, in fact have God with him. And God, knowing Gideon, his family of origin story, his social status history, the severity of the problem – or just as an act of mercy to a doubting man – gives Gideon the proof he needs to accept the call he has.
God is calling you to liberate an enslaved world. When you really make an accurate assessment of the challenge you’ll come to the conclusion that it is an impossible and perplexing call, one seemingly out of touch with the earthly reality which informs your identity as a person, the magnitude of evil and the burdens of loss, abandonment and suffering. It may lead you to ponder how God will do what He says given the means at His disposal – or I should say, God’s choice of means, not His limits. But He has chosen you and I to have the kingdom. In fact He says He’s “delighted” to give us the kingdom. So mustn’t we minister to the heart of God and accept it? It will require us to abandon how we have come to view ourselves – and in the process, how we have come to view God – but this removal of two false things will result in one clear path. We will see ourselves as God sees us and God will be seen by others in us. We will look like the family in which we truly belong and everywhere we go offer the liberation of belonging to a God ready and able to save.
Just say yes to God. You’ll discover who you are, who He is, and destroy the fear of rejection and the desire to be significant in one single act of simple faith.