The society in which Gideon lived has similarities to our own. Whilst we do not live in a battlefield or war zone, nevertheless we are challenged by pressures from people who do not follow God’s ways. Gideon’s lifestyle ran counter culture to his fellow Israelites who compromised their faith and the rampant paganism of the surrounding nations.
Gideon had to make a choice: submit to the enemy and starve to death or be proactive on behalf of his whanau. The opposition came from the Midianites, who frequently invaded the land and confiscated all the crops. The Israelites did all the hard work – preparing the ground, sowing the seed, tending the crops – but the Midianites were opportunists who came in and plundered the harvests.
According to the author of the Book of Judges, the Israelites were in this mess because they had forsaken God and gone their own way, choosing to follow the gods of the other nations. God had then allowed them to be harassed by their enemies in an attempt to get them to return to following Him.
However, most of the Israelites ignored the ways of God and just blamed Him for all that was going wrong. I am constantly amazed by people who though have no relationship with God nevertheless choose to blame Him when their life doesn’t work out the way they want it to. It’s a bit like blaming the writers of the instruction manual for the mess I make of building the furniture when I haven’t bothered to read a single line of the instructions – let alone followed them to completion.
Gideon had chosen to live by his own values and faith in God despite being in the minority and subjected to the same humiliation as the rest of the Israelites. He would carry on living as he chose even if it meant danger or death. It seems God saw in Gideon someone who would stand out from the crowd and who could be used to bring about societal change.
When the angel approached Gideon with a view to commissioning him for the work ahead, Gideon challenged his greeting. It showed that he was a realist and was not going to be sucked in to flattery. He challenged the angel to produce the evidence that God was still working on behalf of His people Israel, as he had not witnessed any evidence himself.
When the angel reiterated the fact that God was with him, like Moses before him, Gideon tried to excuse himself from the proposed role of leading the people free from their oppressors. He claimed both personal and tribal inferiority.
He proceeded to test God and to verify the call. When God miraculously proved His point, Gideon became overwhelmed that God would respond to his faithless request and yet still allow him to live.
Having had this dynamic encounter with God, Gideon was emboldened to not only destroy the altar to Baal but also use the pagan trimmings as fuel for its destruction. By doing so Gideon not only antagonised the local townsfolk but his father as well.
As the record shows, by his actions, Gideon revealed what was in his heart all along – that he would serve the Lord regardless of those around him. Having publicly made his stand, God was able to use Gideon to lead the nation. As Gideon proved faithful in the little things, God was able to use him in the spectacular .
We need to keep doing the good and hard things during the tough times, because when we are consistent in our Christian walk, not only does it encourage other Christians to be consistent in theirs but it also helps prepare us for what God may want us to do in the future.