July 12, 2009

Mighty Warrior Gideon (1): The Calling of Gideon (Judges 6)

By Rev. Jeremiah Cheung

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Under Moses’ leadership, the Israelites left Egypt; under Joshua’s leadership, they entered the promise land, Canaan; but they did not obey God’s commandments, they did not drive out all the pagans, neither did they annihilate all the idol-worshipping nations. When Joshua was no longer around, the Israelites began to worship idols. God handed them over to the pagan nations, and they suffered terrible oppression. Whenever they suffered, they cried out to the Lord to deliver them, and the Lord would take pity on them, raise up a judge to rescue them. But once their problems were solved, they would again forget the Lord, once more they would worship idols and then, the Lord would again hand them over to the pagans. During suffering, they would once more cry out to the Lord, the Lord would raise up another judge to save them. In the book of Judges, there is a cycle of 1. Sin 2. Servitude 3. Supplication 4. Salvation. This cycle occurred 7 times. Our God is a merciful God. Whenever Israel cried out to Him, He would send a judge to help them. Gideon was one of the judges God had raised up.

Today, we would like to reflect on the calling of Gideon. How was he called by God? From Gideon, we experience the truth of 1Cor 1:27 “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,” so that no man can boast before God.

I. Gideon was called by God when he did not believe that God was with him – because his experience told him it can’t be possible

The angel of the Lord told him, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” If you were Gideon, how would you respond? Gideon replied, “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”

Gideon did not believe the Lord was with him because there was unrest in his heart. In his heart, Gideon thought `If God was with us, how come we are suffering oppression? Doesn’t this prove that God does not care about us anymore?’ If you were the Lord, how would you respond to Gideon’s reply? You would probably scold him and say, “How can you say that? Don’t you believe what I just told you?!”

However, the Lord did not say anything. The Bible says… “The Lord turned to Gideon.” Turned, here, means to look carefully or intently. And then the Lord spoke, and even then, it was not words of rebuke. What did this mean? You would probably have different interpretations. But I can tell you for certain that, with that look, the Lord showed appreciation and love for Gideon. The Lord loved Gideon for his authenticity. There was not a hint of falsity in him. In our relationships with people, we should not go around wearing a mask, trying to please people all the time. We must be our true selves. When others are displeased with us, do not consider that a big problem, for, remember, that there are certain people we do not like, too. What is most important is: You must like yourself. You must courageously face yourself. Ken Blanchard author of “One Minute Manager” said, “People who like themselves produce good results.” You must learn to be true to yourself.

II. Gideon was called by God when he did not believe God would call him – because he felt unworthy

Judges 6:14- 15, “The Lord turned to Gideon and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?'” Gideon said, “But Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

The Lord told Gideon he was sending him to save Israel. Gideon immediately replied by saying how can that be, how can I have the strength, my clan is the least in Manasseh. I felt that line sounded very familiar! When God called Moses, Moses told the Lord, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” When God called Saul, he said, “Am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin?” When God called David and promised that He will establish his house and his kingdom before the Lord forever, David said, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family?” When God called Jeremiah, Jeremiah said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” When God called Mary, she said, “How will this be?” but in the end she said, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” When God called Paul, he said, “I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be an apostle.”

Everyone who had been called by the Lord had but one reaction, they all felt unworthy to be used by God. But because they felt unworthy, the Lord chose them. God does not call those who feel that if God does not use them, it is his kingdom’s lost; such people are in fact unusable to Him. Why? Because the Lord cannot use proud and arrogant people. To the weak, the Lord gives strength; to those who lack wisdom, the Lord gives wisdom. To those who lack eloquence, the Lord gives eloquence. If you have everything, what else can the Lord give you? Neither will we give the glory to God, we will only give the glory to ourselves!

III. Gideon was called by God when he did not believe that God spoke to him – because he wanted to see proofs

The angel of the Lord told Gideon, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.” This was a great blessing. Judges 6:17- 18, Gideon replied, “If now I have found favour in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.” And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.”

Gideon was a practical individual, he wanted proof for everything. Gideon was also thinking. He thought, “Thousands of Midianites, and the Lord said I will attack them as if there were just one man. One man against tens of thousands, how can that be?” Gideon said, “Give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.”

Gideon did not ask for proof only once. When the Midianites attacked the Israelites, the Lord told him to lead an army against them, and this time, he asked the Lord for proof, twice. Judges 6:36 -40, Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you promised… look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” The Lord agreed. In the morning, the fleece was wet and all around the ground was dry. But Gideon still felt unease, so he tried another time. This time, he asked for the opposite thing to happen, that the fleece be dry and the ground around be wet. The Lord agreed once more and in the morning, the fleece was indeed dry while the ground was wet. Gideon then knew for certain that the Lord wanted to use him.

1. We must not look down on those who ask for proofs. Actually, these people help us answer a lot of questions. Many times, we have questions, yet we dare not ask them. True faith moves from doubt into trust. Faith that has not gone through doubting cannot become true enough.

2. We cannot ask for proofs all our lives. This would mean our faith had not grown at all! When our faith is lacking, we can ask for proofs, but we must not allow this to become a habit, if not, our faith will have no room to grow.

When Gideon’s experience told him God was not with him, God was in fact with him. This reminds us we must not allow our experiences to keep us from knowing God. When Gideon thought he was not worthy to be used by God, God in fact used him. This reminds us that it is not what we can do, but what God can do for us. When Gideon’s faith was lacking and he needed proofs, the Lord gave him proofs. This reminds us that we may ask proofs from God but our faith needs to grow; we cannot ask for proofs forever. The Lord is looking for more Gideons to come forward and serve Him, are you a Gideon?