For the last several weeks I’ve been studying the story of Gideon in Judges 6–8. It’s about a small, unknown man that God chose to lead Israel out of oppression. There had been an army of about one hundred and twenty thousand men that had been ravaging the country, destroying the crops and the herds. The Israelites were so afraid that they had gone into hiding and cried out to God for help.
Gideon first spoke with God asking where had He been. All his life he had heard about the miracles that his fathers had witnessed –no doubt the crossings of the Red Sea and the Jordan, the destruction of enemies, the removal of evil men from their midst by snakes and earthquakes, and the provision in the desert. But what had God done lately? –He hadn’t shown Himself since all of the troubles with these pillagers started.
God began Gideon on a journey of faith building. First, there was an angel to let him know what was going to happen. Then Gideon asked for sign after sign to make sure that he was really following God’s will. God never gave up on Gideon. After all, this was a man who was diligently seeking God. Gideon asked for a sheepskin to be made wet while on a dry threshing room floor; and after that, Gideon wanted to try it again (just to be sure that he wasn’t mistaken) the sheepskin was to be dry while on a wet floor.
As Gideon got closer to the day of battle, he still needed confidence. So God had him take a friend along to overhear one of the enemy describing a dream. The opposing soldier learned of a man named Gideon who was going to destroy the entire camp.
The army that Gideon had called together consisted of thirty-two thousand men. If a war was won by that many warriors, then Israel would have given credit to herself. But God downsized the army to a force of a mere three hundred men. And their primary weapons were to be a trumpet, a clay pot, and a torch. The plan was to go into the camp, sound the horns and break the pots that were covering the torches to expose the light. When that was done, God put chaos into the hearts of the oppressors such that they began killing each other. When it was all over, none of Gideon’s men were hurt but the whole Midianite army was destroyed.
Let’s go back to the beginning though. You see, Israel had been living prosperously for forty years and then became complacent, self-serving. She made idols that she could control and she relied on her own knowledge, strength and abilities. The Bible says in the first part of Judges chapter six that God put Israel into the Midianites’ hands because she had forgotten Him. God so loved Israel that He jealously wanted her for Himself –for her praises to be about Him. He gave her evil oppressors to show her the condition that her heart had taken on. This was to get the focus of her attention back on Him –not for punishment. If you want to read more about Gideon, please take a look at Gideon’s story.
So I ask you, what are your oppressors –who are your Midianites? Could it be a stressful family relationship? A job that is demanding more than you can give? Are you haunted by addictions to things of this world? I have them too! Mostly, I get self-absorbed to the point of trying to live without God for a period of time. Bible reading time falls off, prayers become mundane, emotional distance and dependence seem to separate me from Him. Then He blesses me with a Midianite. Yes, I did say “blesses.” Life becomes more than I can bear. The troubles –and for me it’s mostly people– stress me out with their expectations of what I need to do for them.
Once again, I fall to my knees and begin remembering Truth. In Christ, I am a new creation, separated from my earthly nature through Jesus’ death, one who was born anew through the resurrected life of my Savior, declared innocent of all wrong doing, given an eternal inheritance that is kept for me in heaven so I can’t spoil it, and I have a purpose during my time on this earth to love others in ways I have yet to see. That is the Truth that sets me free from those nasty oppressors.
What happens next is most amazing. The circumstances don’t immediately change (and some probably never will), but my attitudes toward those people involved in my struggles does change. I notice that I am (or have been) exactly like them in various situations. It causes me to connect to what they are going through –the fears that they are dealing with. My prayers are for them –particularly for them to understand the depths of who Jesus is. My distracting emotions subside and my mind becomes productive again. Not only are my oppressors gone, but my relationships with these difficult people grow into bonds that only God can form. God shows me over and over through these cycles that He is the only One that my dependence needs to be on. That is, of course, what the battle in my mind is about. I try to be dependent on myself and things I think that I can control –my idols. Hmmm. Sounds just like Israel. Yes indeed, it’s my story too.
When Israel was going through a period of troubles (yes, brought on be her own selfish desires), God delivered her by the smallest one in the land to show His dedication to her. Gideon is like our faith –the size of a mustard seed. God grows it into the largest plant in the garden. (You might want to re-read that story in chapter 17 of Matthew.) The crowning moment for Israel came when her faith proclaimed God’s greatness through the sounding of trumpets. It was followed by her humility –broken clay vessels. What shined out of those vessels was a picture of Jesus. When we are broken and no longer obstruct the torches, Jesus –the light of men– shines into the world’s darkness offering it life.
So once again I ask you, who or what is the Midianite in your life today? You consider it painful now, but God will use it to grow you into the image of His Son. Acknowledge Him in all you do with a humble heart and He will destroy that which is dominating your mind and taking you into disappointment, frustration, depression and despair. He gave you that Midianite so that you will turn to Him for your minute-by-minute needs. God is faithful and will complete the wonderful work that He began in you! You and I have a new identity because we are in Christ –His glorious gift to the world.