Lent 2013 - Vol. 66

"Go in the Strength You Have! 
. Am I not Sending You!" 
.(Judges 6:14)


Some Lessons from 
the Call of Gideon for 
Today's Reluctant Evangelists

 by Joe Fahd 



“Good for you, but not really for me.”

“I don’t want to have regrets.”

“I don’t want to become bigoted, inauthentic (insert your own adjective variant).”

“It’s too early to worry about this.”

These are the kinds of responses I sometimes hear when I get into conversations about God and religion with university students in London and other European cities. Presenting the good news of Jesus Christ to young people today can be a real challenge in a society that seems to be tuned out. Truth is relativized in the secular environment, values and morals are watered down, relationships and communities are broken, and common sense and decency is evaporating.

It is very easy for student mission workers to wonder: “If God is with us, then why is it so hard to bring the good news of Christ to people today?” “Why are we seeing so little fruit in our efforts?” I do not know the full answer, but I do believe that the Lord is with us today as we strive to bring the gospel to people. I believe that the Lord wants to give us fresh confidence and hope as he teachs us how to respond to him with faith and trust. I have experienced the Lord renewing my faith and courage as I have reflected on the call of Gideon in the Old Testament book of Judges, chapter 6 and 7. I think that Gideon is a good example for us today, because Gideon had to face similar challenges of facing his own fears and the obstacles that stood in his path as he tried to follow the Lord. 

God’s call and challenge for Gideon
At the time of Gideon, the Israelites were facing a spiritual, political and economic crisis as their livelihood (food, crops, wealth, manpower) was being devoured by the Midianites, a pagan nation that was over-runing their land. Scriptures mentions two reasons why the people of God in Israel were facing this crisis: First, they were being unfaithful to their God by worshipping false gods of their enemies  (Judges 6:10). Second, their enemy had stronger military power - they had the advantage of speed in overtaking their foes through the use of trained camels (Judges 6:5). This was a new element in warfare for the desert nations at that time. 

How did the Lord call Gideon and convince him to save his people from their enemies? When the Lord sent his messenger to Gideon, he found him threshing wheat in a wine press (hiding to avoid getting caught by a Midianite raid). The angel addressed Gideon:  “The Lord is with you oh mighty man of valour.” But Gideon replies with an objection. He says, ‘If God is with us, then why has all this happened to us’? The Lord does not answer his question per se but gives him a clear command: “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?" (Judges 6:14).

Those of us who do evangelistic outreach work in a post-Christian environment also want answers, like Gideon, to why it is so challenging. God’s response to Gideon, I believe, gives us an important clue to how he wants to work with us today. The Lord ignores our question, just like he ignored Gideon’s, but he gives us the same command. ‘Go in this strength of yours, am I not sending you!’

God calls us by what he sees we will become
The Lord knew Gideon very well – he knew all of Gideon’s weaknesses and limitations. More importantly, He knows who He (God) is and what He is capable of doing in and through Gideon. He also knows who each one of us is as well – with all our weaknesses and limitations. I believe that He calls us by what He sees we will become, not where we’re at this present moment. I don’t think He is trying to ‘butter us up’ and make us feel good in spite of our weaknesses. He knows not only what we’re capable of in and by ourselves, but more importantly what He is capable of doing in and through us if we cooperate fully with him. 

Courage causes people to see truth
God next tests Gideon’s obedience in small things. He asks him to go and tear down an altar that his father built for Baal, a pagan god and offer as a sacrifice to God one of his father’s bulls. (Judges 6:25 and following) Gideon obeys this command, choosing to apply it during the night, rather than the day as he was quite scared. When the men of the town find out that this altar was destroyed, they come looking for Gideon to take revenge. It is quite interesting to observe his father’s change of attitude: previously, he was a worshiper of Baal and had built an altar for him. Now, following Gideon’s actions, his father faces the men of the town with ‘if Baal is god, let him defend himself’ (my paraphrase of Jud 6:31)
I believe it is the passion and zeal of his son Gideon that causes him to see truth. Courage causes people to see truth.

"The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.'  (Judges 7:2) The Lord next asks Gideon to reduce the size of his army so that it is very clear to everyone that God is the one who will bring victory. So, thirty one thousand and seven hundred Israelite soldiers leave Gideon’s army, and he only has three hundred left. By rough calculations, Gideon’s pack of three hundred is 0.2% the size of the army of the Midianites. Gideon was not coming up with a new physical weapon of mass destruction, but he was obeying the Lord who wanted to win the battle in Gideon’s stead. That sure requires courage and trust. 

If you are afraid, go into the enemy’s camp
Further down in the passage (Judges 7:10 and following), the Lord gives Gideon a similar command which requires obedient courage: if you are afraid (to face an army which is 99.8 % the size of yours), go down to the camp of the Midianites with your servant. Just as God had earlier commanded Gideon to go in the strength of His might when Gideon was looking for a very different kind of answer, here God calls him to do something similar: 'If you’re afraid, just go into the enemy’s camp!" While Gideon does steal into the enemy’s camp along with his servant, Gideon happens to overhear two soldiers discussing a dream one of them had and the prophetic interpretation of the dream declaring that "God will give all the Midianites  over to Gideon" (Judges 7:14). 

It is the power of God that gives the Midianites into Gideon’s hand. It is not Gideon’s tact or his wisdom nor even the resources he employs. God asks us today to trust in the same power he gave to Gideon, the power of his Holy Spirit. God does not ask us to put our confidence in our own wisdom, strength, or human resources. He knows we lack what we need and that our limited resources are insufficient. The Lord has spoken prophetically to the Sword of the Spirit that he would equip us with his gifts and strength as we engage in the mission he entrusts to us. We are only called to take a micro step of faith, and then watch God work in and through us. He wants to pour out this same Holy Spirit on us today as He did with our parents and many others who chose to be disciples on mission in the Sword of the Spirit. We see this same pattern, time and again in the history of the church, as God poured out his Spirit on those who responded to his call with faith, obedience, and generosity. 

God asks us to obey him and to respond with faith and courage to his call. Let us pray for the grace and strength to obey Him wholeheartedly, and let us remind ourselves that the power and the glory belongs to Him.

[Joe Fahd directs Koinonia Mission School in London, a program that trains gappers and volunteer missionaries to do outreach in the heart of  London's student world. He is a member of the Servants of the Word and originally comes from the People of God community in Lebanon.]

From the Book of Judges
Chapter 6
The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.

7 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?”

15 “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.”

16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

25 That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old.[b] Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole[c] beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of[d] altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second[e] bull as a burnt offering.”

27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.

28 In the morning when the people of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!

29 They asked each other, “Who did this?”

When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.”

30 The people of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”

31 But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.” 32 So because Gideon broke down Baal’s altar, they gave him the name Jerub-Baal[f] that day, saying, “Let Baal contend with him.”

33 Now all the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. 35 He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them.

Chapter 7
Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ 3 Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”

5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” 6 Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.

Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. 9 During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. 10 If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah 11 and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. 12 The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.

13 Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”

14 His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”

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