In this new episode of our ongoing series, Emunah, we explore the story of yet another Bible character and piece out several lessons of faith that we can practicalize in our lives. Welcome back again, and if this is your first encounter with this series, bless yourself and read the previous installments. Let us dive in.
He lived in a time of oppression. His people were so oppressed that they had resorted to caves and dens in the mountains for safety and shelter. Their crops were destroyed and livestock driven away several times over the course of 7 years. They lived in constant fear, were starving and had to carry out harvesting activities in secret. They had lost faith and hope. When they cried out to the Lord in distress, He sent them a prophet to remind them that they had chosen this path for themselves. That after His covenant faithfulness, they turned their backs on Him and worshipped the gods of the people who now persecuted them. However the Lord did not leave them destitute; He sent an angel to visit a man from the clan of Abiezer, who was threshing wheat at the bottom of a wine press. This man’s name is Gideon a.k.a Jerubbaal.
Gideon’s story is chronicled in Judges chapter 6-8. As the story goes, he is given a message from God, to go and rescue Israel from the Midianites. God accomplishes this with him , with an army of 300 men(the original 300 😂) even though Gideon initially amassed an army of thirty-two thousand men. He kills the Kings of Midian and returns prosperous and dies at an old age. What lesson on faith can we learn from Gideon’s story?
The first is faith in the identity God gives us – faith in how God defines us. Gideons’ encounter with the angel is almost comical in that they seem to be having two different conversations. Whilst the angel’s address to Gideon focuses on what a mighty man he is and all that God will accomplish with him, Gideon’s focus is on the bleak circumstances he and his people live in and his not so impressive lineage or background. He does not have faith or believe that he is who God addresses him as. Many of the personal challenges we face in an almost patterned cycle is because of this doubt in who God has called us to be. We often would rather spend hours complaining about our circumstances and blaming God for them, than we would investing faith into how God defines us and becoming the instrument of deliverance in those bleak circumstances. Faith in the identity God has given us is what turns the table. Not our doubt, not our fear, not our complaining, not our petulance, not in reticence in being a tool of deliverance, not our expectations for others to bring us the deliverance we need. When we trust and rely on what God has called us to be and follow His instructions, we are victorious over every dire circumstance. For God has called us into a place of power and victory.
Another lesson on faith that Gideon’s story teaches us is to have faith that God will help you to accomplish the task He has set before you, and will not leave you to bear the brunt of it. When we read the story of Gideon, we see a repetitive pattern of doubt and fear in being able to fulfill the task to which he was called and in believing that God was truly with him through it all.
Gideon saw fire come out of a rock and consume the food he had set before the angel. He knew that he had indeed spoken to God, and yet when God asked to tear down the idol of Baal in his fathers house (which earned him the name Jerubbaal), fear of people’s reaction made him do so under the cover of night. (Judges 6: 21-22). When it was time to set out to battle, even knowing that he had quite a large number of men in his army, Gideon was not confident that God will go with them and give them the victory. He asks for two signs, for cotton on the ground to be wet whilst the ground remains dry and for the ground to be wet while the cotton remains dry. These signs are fulfilled and so he sets out with his large army. When God sends 31,700 of his men back, to ensure that the glory actually goes to Him and not to the men’s might, Gideon struggles with trusting that God can win them the victory again. God reassures him by directing him to listen to a dream and its interpretation which confirm for him that he’ll be victorious (Judges 7:9-15). All this back and forth and constantly requiring God to prove Himself, which is referred to as ‘putting out a fleece’ in modern times, is actually needless and does not show any trust in God or in who He has already proven Himself to be. It merely expresses continued doubt and makes our walk to the victory promised us fraught with anxiety and indecision rather than peace and confidence.
Had Gideon simply had Emunah, had he relied and trusted that when God promised victory, He would deliver victory. Then he would have escaped all the stress and anxiety that came from doubting and worrying. Then he would have been more confident in achieving his task. Let’s learn from this. Because God has not changed. His faithfulness is still constant. His Word still stands true. And with every task that He assigns us He gives more than enough grace (Philippians 2:13). It will do us a world of good to operate in this confidence rather than the debilitating doubt that often hinders our progress.
We are not meant to live in fear or to operate from a place of unrest and anxiety. God grants us peace and gives grace to accomplish the tasks that He has set for us. However we cannot experience this peace or engage this grace if we continue to live in fear. We need to have faith in how we are defined by God and also have faith that the Master of the Universe is backing our every endeavor within His will. When we practice faith in these assurances, we would have no need for other signs nor will we will to test God. Instead we would walk in peace and grace to the victory that He has called us to.