The Lord sends a prophet to state the obvious, or what would have been the obvious if they had listened to the laws given through Moses: "This is what the LORD God of Israel says: 'I brought you out of Egypt and out of the place of slavery. I delivered you from the power of Egypt and the power of all who oppressed you. I drove them out before you and gave you their land. I said to you: I am the LORD your God. Do not fear the gods of the Amorites whose land you live in. But you did not obey Me' " (Judges 6:8-10, HCSB).
(So. . . would that be a no?)
We meet Gideon, our hero, hiding from the Midianites. He is threshing his family's wheat in a wine press near an oak on his father's land. Has he outsmarted the bad guys? How long has this strategy been in place? Has it worked before? In my imagination, he would have taken some circuitous route, doubling back, watching over his shoulder, making sure to lose anyone who might be tailing him. Maybe he transported the wheat under cover of darkness, even in small batches he could conceal in his robes undetected.
There he is, working away in secrecy, when he hears a Voice: "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." The text doesn't say, but I have to wonder if he started in surprise or even cried out, if it took his pulse a few minutes to return to steady and normal.
At this point, Gideon seems anything but a mighty warrior. The brains of a military operation maybe, but certainly not the brawn. The Angel of the Lord appears to this very one hiding in a wine press and calls him a mighty warrior. Moreover, He commissions him to deliver Israel from the Midianites oppressing them.
This story puts heart into me for my own battles. The God who spoke into existence the Aurora Borealis, the Pleiades, Orion, the Big Dipper, a Texas summer sunset, speaks into Gideon valor and strength he does not yet possess. Just as with Abraham, Sarah, Israel, Peter, and Paul, God calls into being that which does not exist, "naming" someone what they will be, not what they are.
As Gideon's history unfolds, he becomes what God has called him. The Lord graciously answers questions, provides signs of assurance and confirmation (both asked and unasked), reduces his resources to humanly impossible odds, and shows Himself faithful again and again. God calls, God leads, Gideon obeys (though sometimes with halting, hesitant steps), and Gideon becomes the call.
Sadly, his story does not have a Hollywood ending, and he eventually sets his people on their way toward the next cycle of sin and oppression. In the end, Gideon proves a cautionary tale, illustrating the dangers of believing the accolades and forgetting who brought the victories, losing sight of the memorial stones.
Still, I love the way he begins. I love that God sees him as he will be in grace and not as he is in himself. I love God's gentleness leading him out of that self into bold trust. I love that Gideon's God is the same today, still seeking, knowing, and transforming. There's hope for me yet!
~Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, evening of April 6