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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Operation Gideon

By Lydia Pate
Oct. 20, 2013

He thought he could hide, but now he faced the very enemy he had evaded. On the eve of battle, he possessed a wisp of an army, equipped with unconventional — some would say foolish — weapons.

Since Gideon’s meeting with a stranger under the terebinth tree, his life had been anything but normal. God had cornered and commissioned Gideon, recruiting him for a key moment in Israel’s history. Why did the Lord target Gideon for such a prime role? How did He prepare him?

In Judges 6 and 7, God puts Gideon through a grooming process I’ve identified as a four-step sequence.

The pursuit

“The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” the Angel of the Lord says to Gideon in Judges 6:12 (NKJV). Who me? Gideon must have thought. To each statement from the Lord, Gideon has an excuse. But God continues to reassure.

“Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man” (v. 16). God reminds every faithful servant that he or she is equal to any task when God is with them.

God often searches out-of-the-way places for humble heroes, and He sees potential in people we might quickly overlook. He aims more for a willing heart, however tentative, than a flashy resume.

When Gideon asks to bring an offering, the Angel of the Lord promises to wait (v. 18). What an awesome picture of divine patience: Our infinite God waiting for a finite man needing frequent reaffirmation. When Gideon returns with the offering and fire consumes it, he realizes he’s speaking face to face with God.

“Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die,” God assures Gideon (v. 23). Gideon builds an altar and calls it “The-Lord-Is-Peace” (v. 24). Here we find a major theme in all of Scripture: God desires to relate to us in love and to bring peace into our troubled lives.

The preparation

Just when Gideon thinks he’s safe, God asks him to tear down idols in his own backyard — notably his father’s altar of Baal. The incident triggers outrage from the men of the city. Gideon finds himself in deep trouble, but the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him and he blows a trumpet to rally the troops.

Uncertainty, though, continues to plague Gideon. So he sets out one — no, two — fleeces of wool for further confirmation. God answers Gideon’s prayers for reassurance. He will do the same for you and me.

The pruning

God showed Gideon he had too many troops. Has God ever called upon you to do more with less as an expression of your faith in Him?

The Lord first whittles Israel’s army down from 32,000 to 10,000 men. Then, unbelievably, God identifies only 300 men — selected not for their IQ or prowess in battle, but for meeting two criteria.

First, the “fear” factor weeds out the timid souls as 22,000 men leave. Sounds reasonable, right? After all, the front lines are not for the faint-hearted — and God wants to ensure Israel doesn’t claim the glory themselves (Judges 7:2).

In the second test, the men are brought to the Spring of Harod to drink. Those who lap water from their hands are allowed to stay. The thousands who kneel and drink from the spring are asked to leave.

In God’s eyes, this final strike force of 300 men is enough, as are the unlikely weapons distributed ... a trumpet, a torch, and an empty clay jar!

The partnership

God gives Gideon one last chance to quell his fears. Gideon sneaks up on the Midianite camp, eavesdrops on the enemy’s conversation, and learns they are afraid.

With his “faith” meter ramped to an all-time high, Gideon rallies his forces to the edge of the enemy camp and unleashes a cacophony of ear-splitting trumpets and smashing jars. Holding high their torches, the Israelites shout, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” (Judges 7:20).

The ensuing pandemonium causes the Midianites to turn on each other with their own swords. Gideon conquers his foes with a vastly outnumbered Israelite army and unconventional warfare.

How does the story of Gideon relate to you and to me? It’s our story too. Despite our weaknesses, God chooses to use us. Despite our fears, God grooms us for His unique assignment.

Today, God may have you isolated on His heavenly radar screen. You feel like a reluctant warrior. Your “fear” meter is skyrocketing. You may feel hedged in. Be assured, you are right where He wants you.

When you step out in faith, you can leave the methods to Him. His ways — even when they appear foolish — are far superior to our earthly logic and schemes. And ultimately, God receives the glory.

LYDIA PATE attends The Bridge (Assemblies of God) in Mustang, Okla.


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