Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gideon thinks he needs a posse (and so do I)

After Gideon takes his crew to take an axe to Israel’s paganism, Israel’s enemies all join forces to gather against them (Judges 6:33). Things look bleak. BUT, the text says, “the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon” (6:34). And the result of God’s presence is that when he calls the people to fight, an army rallies around him from several tribes (6:35).

This is the part of the movie where your heart wells up inside you because you think, “finally, the good guys are going to get a force together large enough to be rid of their enemies and they will ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.” That works in Hollywood and all, but not in Scripture. Gideon is sort of an anti-hero. Yes, the story is named after him. Yes, the Lord uses him to deliver Israel. But just when you think things are getting better, he goes and screws up again.

(Gideon & fleece: don't pictures of Bible stories always make people look so holy?)

This time, just after the Lord has been with him in a powerful way, Gideon wants assurances from God. Ok, so God raised up a big army and his Spirit came upon him and Israel is actually rallying around this idol-smasher. “But God,” Gideon says, “are you sure you aren’t just messing with me? Are you sure you’re going to deliver Israel by my hand” (6:36-37, 39)? God says yes in a miraculous way. Twice (6:38, 40).

You see, Gideon just isn’t sure his posse is big enough. God has already been doing amazing things in the midst of his people. He’s even clothed Gideon with his Spirit. But Gideon isn’t looking to the Lord’s presence for strength. He finds strength in human numbers, not in the promise of the Lord.

Me too. Sometimes I read Scripture and find all sorts of reasons to think how silly people are. Why don’t they just trust God, I think. Why is Gideon so thickheaded?

But – though I haven’t led any armies against the Midianites lately – I’m not all that different. My trust often goes to the amount of money I have in the bank, the sort of job I have, the kind of grades I make, the level of comfort my family enjoys. While Gideon found strength in the number of people who had his back, I find strength in any number of things that aren’t the Lord.

And, apart from the grace of God in Christ, that’s how it will always be. God is gracious to Gideon, and he’s gracious to me. Only by the grace that leads me to faith can I sing with Moses, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (Exodus 15:2).

It’s only because God is gracious that he isn’t done with Gideon. Or with me.

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