Out of Egypt and headed for the promised land that God had intended for them. From the start, they complained and doubted God’s provision. But is anyone out there ever blown away by Israel’s inability to trust God even after the plagues and the Red Sea experience? I mean—HELLO! HE just parted WATER for you!
Did it really seem that He would forget them now? Maybe because He left them in slavery for so long? Did they miss Egypt—were they more comfortable there than we might imagine? For whatever reason, the Hebrews had no understanding of a God who would be their king, fight for them, and take care of them.
Narrow in on the story of Gideon for a minute in Judges 6:6-24. This is the story of Gideon being called into battle. I love this story for many reasons but mostly because Gideon, like Moses, and many others (me too!) have nothing but complaints and objections for why he was not the man God needed for the task God called him to (Can you relate?). In fact, he even doubted that God was really with the Israelites at all. Take a minute to read the story. It’s a little long, but it’s worth it.
Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help. When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, 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. 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. 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.”
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. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
“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.”
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?”
“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.”
The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor 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 went inside, prepared a young goat, and from an ephaha of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak. The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”
But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
Gideon makes me laugh because I get him…It could be an angel right in front of me telling me what God has for me to do and I am so nearsighted all I can see is my own mess. Like Gideon, how many times do I argue my way out of obedience to something God has called me because I am afraid I won’t be capable, equipped, or strong enough to actually succeed. What an embarrassment to God that would be if I fail!
But honestly, like Gideon, most of the time I don’t even recognize His guidance as coming from Him! I think it’s just something someone said or something I thought of, when it clearly (in retrospect) is His Spirit speaking truth to my heart! I don’t think Gideon recognized who He was talking to at first.
Did you see what the angel said to Gideon when Gideon finally realized he was talking to an angel? Peace! Gideon’s response? He built an altar and named it Jehovah Shalom. God, our peace. Probably because he was so thankful for the angel not killing him from being so hard-headed.
It’s the only time Jehovah Shalom is used in the Old Testament and it is in response to God sending Gideon to war. A war that would bring peace to Israel. God, our peace, because He is capable when we are not, because we don’t recognize His working in us right away. What is He calling us to do today…how have we tried to argue our way out of it citing our weakness, our crazy family situations and schedules, our inabilities?
To Gideon, he says “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand…am I not calling you?”
Go in the strength you have. For Gideon, and for me right now, that’s not much.
What if we could stop focusing on our weakness so much and just start believing Him again. He has called you. He has equipped you. He is going with you. What if we just stopped arguing with God and obey His calling for our lives wholeheartedly, not second-guessing, not fearful…just trusting Him recognizing Him as the one who calls us. He wants you.
Just like He wanted Gideon (crazy clan and all), He wants you just as you are, in the context you are in, partially because weak people recognize their need for Him.
Go in the strength you have…because you know it is HIM who calls you.
God our peace, because He calms our fear. God our peace, because we have glimpsed Him and did not recognize that He was enough—more than capable of managing our hopes, our weakness, our brokenness, and insufficiencies. God, our peace, because He accepts our offerings of worship as unworthy as they are.
God, our peace, because we receive Him finally as such. We stop arguing with Him, decide to obey, and just build an altar to honor Him for His graciousness to us.
We obey and build an altar of worship here because we, like Gideon, can finally see Him as He is, Jehovah Shalom…God, Our Peace.