Whenever I write posts in the Re:nowned series, they make me think of the children’s musicals of yesteryear. I never performed in one about Gideon, but if I ever wrote one, I think the title would be “Giddy, Giddy Gideon”– because that is the opposite of how I imagine Gideon. In my mind, he’s more of a brooding, somber, Tobey MaGuire as Peter Parker type of guy.
Gideon wasn’t perfect, by any means. He was a severe polygamist. And one of the last things the Bible tells us about him was that while he refused the Israelites’ offer to make him king and told them God alone was their king, he then made a golden ephod– which was perhaps not meant to be an idol, but became one that the Israelites, including Gideon’s family, worshipped.
That always left a sour taste in mouth about ol’ Giddy. But that’s not the last time we read about him in Scripture. He shows up, hundreds of years and pages later, in Hebrews 11, where the writer commends him for his faith. So if God’s not holding that against him (and he knows Gideon way better than I do), I think I should let it go, too– still keeping in mind how one turn away from God can taint a legacy of faithfulness.
But, as I said, Gideon doesn’t strike me as a happy-go-lucky guy. His faithfulness was not a result of his character or qualifications; it was the result of God choosing an ornery character and qualifying a cowardly skeptic. God didn’t use Gideon because he was a hero. God made Gideon a hero. How did he do it? Let’s take a look…
How to Make an Unlikely Hero
The Text: Judges 6-8.
1. Expect more of him than he expects of himself. When God called him to be a deliverer, Gideon– like Moses before him– made excuses. I imagine his tone as whiny and his shoulders drooping as he tells God, “I’m the weakest of the weak. You don’t want me.” Thankfully, God doesn’t fall for our excuses. He made Gideon to take a stand on the battlefield, not to hide in a wine vat, stomping on grain. So He came to Gideon where he was and told him how He was going to use him: not to protect just his family’s harvest, but to protect and avenge the entire nation of Israel.
I’m so glad God hasn’t accepted my excuses– that He’s called me, on several occasions, to be so much more than I thought I could be. He does it for all of us. Whether our excuses make Him laugh or smile or bring tears to His eyes, He loves us enough to use us in spite of what we perceive our limitations to be. We’re the only ones who believe our excuses.
2. Inject confidence. I love how the Angel of the Lord greets Gideon as “Mighty Warrior,” when the best name I would’ve probably come up with for him would be “Shrewd Farmer.” From the beginning, God sees Gideon as the person he’s going to become with God’s help, not the person he is on his own– and He wants Gideon to see that man, too. Despite Gideon’s excuses, questions, and requests for signs, God keeps feeding his confidence. He tells Gideon He is with him, that Gideon is strong, that he will beat the oppressive Midianites, and not to be afraid. God even humors Gideon’s whole fleece-test-thing to reassure him.
But before He sends Gideon off to stand against the Midianites, He gives Gideon a test of his own: take down his family’s idols. Whaddayaknow, Gideon does it! He displayed a bit of wussiness by doing it at night when no one would see, but he did it successfully. He tore down the altar of Baal and the Asherah pole, then built an altar and offered a sacrifice to the true God. When the Baal worshippers found out, they wanted to kill him, but Gideon’s daddy, who the altar belonged to, was like, “Pshaw! If Baal’s a real God, let him stick up for himself.” And obviously, that didn’t happen. Gideon got the job done, and survived!
Even after Gideon’s army was assembled and they were preparing for battle, God was still all about giving His chosen leader the confidence he needed. He sent Gideon to the edge of the enemy camp to listen to the conversations of the Midianite soldiers. Guess what? The very conversation Gideon overheard was one where two enemy soldiers believed God was going to give him– Gideon– victory over the whole camp.
Have you ever looked back to think about how God has reassured you and given you confidence for the things you were about to accomplish or the trials you were about to face? He knows our fears, weaknesses, and insecurities. He doesn’t accept our excuses, but he is sensitive to what we need.
3. Teach him dependence and faith. Despite his doubts and fears, Gideon had to trust God every step of the way. He knew from the beginning this was something he couldn’t do on his own. As the story moves forward, we except Gideon to throw up his hands and give up at any moment. But he doesn’t. Even when God sends away most of his army… twice. Even when he and 300 men go up against tens of thousands of Midianites with trumpets, torches, and clay pots, but no weapons. All of this was to prove that Gideon didn’t rout the enemy on his own. He didn’t deliver Israel– God did. He used Gideon– unlikely, skeptical, fearful Gideon– to show His great power and mercy in allowing us to be part of His great triumphs.
Towards the end of the battle and the end of his life, we do see evidence of arrogance creeping into Gideon’s demeanor. That is a danger we all face. We forget who called us to be warriors, showered us with confidence, and handed us the victory. It is easy to take credit when you forget the truth of the past and the fragile state of the present and future. So it is good to remind ourselves where we have come from and who has done great things in our lives.
God can make unlikely heroes out of any of us. Gideon, even with his faults, obeyed and followed God. Like him, we can choose to do the same. A legacy of faith is not what we accomplished ourselves, but what God did through us, despite ourselves.
COMMENT: How do you relate with the story of Gideon? What Bible characters would you like to see featured in this series in the future?
This is part of the Re:nowned series, which shows how we can see God working in the lives of different people throughout Scripture. You can read more Re:nowned posts here. Previous posts from this series have featured Barnabas; The Woman at the Well; Moses; Joseph; Ruth; John; Mary; Nicodemus; and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.