The LORD turned to him [Gideon] and said, “Go in the strength you have. – Judges 6:14a (NIV)
I’m currently listening to a terrific teaching series by Chuck Swindoll on his radio broadcast, Insight For Living, entitled “Character Counts. During one of the sessions entitled, “They, Being Dead, Still Speak,” Chuck read on the air Hebrews 11:32-33, “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.”
I’ve read Hebrews chapter 11, commonly known as the “faith hall of fame” countless times before and have heard it read previously on at least a handful of occasions. However in hearing these verses read this time I was arrested unlike before. There was a name on the list that seemed to me as not belonging. It was almost like the game played on Sesame Street that I used to see when I was a kid, “one of these things is not like the other, one of these things doesn’t belong.”
To me, Gideon did not even belong on the same list with the likes of David and Samuel, two Old Testament rock stars. In my way of thinking Gideon was not a particularly strong man of character or courage. The book of Judges picks up Gideon’s story in the 6th chapter. Here we see the cycle so oft repeated in the book of Judges where the Israelites fall into wanton disobedience and the Lord rebukes them by sending an invading force to oppress them. As a result of the oppression, the Israelites repent of their sins and Lord sends a liberator to free them from the oppressor’s yoke. The unlikely liberator in this case is Gideon.
When the Angel of the Lord first appeared to Gideon to instruct him to emancipate Israel from the hands of the Midianites, Gideon responds by saying, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (Judges 6:15b). The Lord responds to Gideon by assuring him of his presence, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together” (verse 16). This is the first of several occasions that Gideon is fearful and must be reassured by the Lord. On one occasion Gideon asks God to cause a fleece to be filled with dew while the surrounding ground remained dry and then he asks God to perform the converse – to cause the surrounding ground to be wet while the fleece remained dry. God did not rebuke Gideon for his requests but rather fulfilled them (verses 36-40). Gideon ultimately did what God what requested. He led the Israelites into battle to defeat the Midianites.
From a purely pragmatic perspective, selecting Gideon to lead the Israelites into battle would be like replacing General George Patton with Private First Class Gomer Pyle to lead the Allied Forces at the Battle of the Bulge. As if the odds of victory were not already bad enough, God further instructed Gideon to thin his troops from 32,000 to 300. Despite these seemingly unfavorable odds, the Midianites were defeated. God confused them and struck fear in their hearts so that turned on one another. God “stacked the deck” against Gideon and the Israelites so that it would clear to all that God, not Gideon secured the victory.
In critiquing Gideon I became convicted and the Lord brought to my mind Romans 14:4, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” I then realized as I did a sobering assessment of own life that I am Gideon. I have at various times acted cowardly and hesitated to act on the Lord’s instructions. At times I have also needed repeated reassurances. Yet like Gideon, the Lord has not disqualified me from his service.
Sports halls of fame are reserved for superstars. Players with subpar or even average stats do not make it in. Not so with God’s hall of fame. Role players like Gideon or you and me have an opportunity to make it in, because in God’s hall of fame, superstardom is exclusively reserved from him. We gain admittance as a result of exercising faith in him. As my former pastor used to say, “heaven only has one hero and his name is Jesus.”