From all the books in the Bible, I think it is fitting to acknowledge the unique nature of Judges. It portrayed the darkest period of Israelite history, full of violence, rebellion, spiritual struggle, sinful actions, and above all, flawed heroes. Its content could be likened to the novels of George R. R. Martin where vulgarity and bloodshed stood side by side with morality and faith. Such controversial contents give birth to highly selective readings of judges. We continually repeat successful stories such as Deborah, Ehud, and Othniel while comfortably neglecting the disastrous and morally bankrupt civil war against the Benjamites.
One story that has often been misunderstood is the tale of Gideon. Too much emphasis has been given regarding the 300 warriors and what they achieved and less has been said regarding Gideon’s personality and character. Compared to previous judges such as Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, and Deborah, Gideon is the unlikeliest hero! Imagine, the first time God met him, he was “threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites” (Judg. 6:11). Why would he do that? Midianites are a raiding and nomadic people. During harvest time, they attacked Israelites and took their harvest along with their livestock away (Judg. 6:3-5). Such an oppression has been repeated over and over again for seven years. It even arrives at the point where the Israelites need to hide in “mountain clefts, caves, and strongholds.” (Judg. 6:2). And when the angel of God revealed himself to Gideon, he was one of them who hides in their stronghold.
And what did Gideon do when the angel of the Lord appeared to him? He answers with cynicism and skepticism. He talks back to God, and he complaints about His silence. Gideon rants to God, he said, “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.” (Jdg. 6:13 NIV). It is important to note that it was only later that Gideon realized that the angel of the Lord spoke with him. Even as this “visitor” calls him to be the deliverer, Gideon resisted such calling, citing that he is a nobody and the most insignificant person in Israel. He knows his worth. He knows that he is a coward and has no experience whatsoever in fighting a war.
In other words, Gideon is just like you and me. Gideon is insecure about who he is. An insecure person such as Gideon should not be a leader. An insecure person such as Gideon and you and me, should have hide and do nothing.
That’s what we expect, right? That’s what we wanted most. To stay safe and do nothing.
None of us live under oppression right now, but as the pandemic continues to rage around us, we are tempted to stay passive in spiritual life. We are tempted to be skeptical and cynical. However, the story of Gideon pushes us forward. As he hides in his safe zone, Angel of the Lord came and called him “mighty warrior.” As he limbers on with self-doubt and fear, God provided him with the 300 “ordinary people” to accomplish extraordinary task. As he continues to question himself and God’s purpose, God continuously provided signs to make him believe in himself.
We need to stop being passive! We need to stop being spiritual spectators!
You may see yourselves as a spiritual coward who is incapable of answering God’s call, but His gaze penetrates even the weakest part of you; and beneath of all those negative emotions, God knows that there is a warrior is waiting to be unleashed.
Remember, when nobody believes in you, God sees who you are.