In the Book of Judges, we find the story of Gideon. At the time the “Isrealites did evil in the sight of the Lord.”( Judges 6:1) Thus, God left them to themselves and they were in trouble for seven years.
The children of Israel were surrounded by their enemies the Midianites. But after seven years God’s people began to “cry unto the Lord” (vrs. 6), Gideon and his dad, Joash the Abi-ezrite, are collecting wheat. An angel appeared unto them. He greets Gideon with this phrase “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.”
Consider Gideon’s perspective, enemy Midianite armies all around him and most of their food destroyed and he considers himself “poor in Manasseh, and ..least in his fathers house. ” (vrs 15) Gideon could not believe he was mighty or was going to deliver Israel out of this bondage. Yet here is an angel telling him God wants him to lead his people.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by callings, or tasks, or talk assigned to you?
I love how Elder Maxwell puts it, “God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only our availability and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability.”
When the Lord asks Gideon to go against his “personal Goliath” he gives him the needed experience to trust that it is possible. Gideon asks a sign and the angel tells him to go and prepare a sacrifice of goat and leavened cakes. When Gideon comes back the angel touched offering and it was consumed into flames. Gideon begins to fear because of his encounter with the angel but the Lord comforts him.
“Peace be unto thee; fear not; thou shalt not die.”
Now Gideon is ready to prove his dependability. His first instruction is to “throw down the alter of Baal and cut down the grove beside it. This part of the story is interesting because it is his fathers and his fathers friends altar and grove. I have never had to destroy anything of my fathers but I can’t imagine this was an easy task. But wanting to be dependable, not lose his life Gideon decides to do it late at night. Gideon and ten servants destroys the grove and alter. He builds a new one to the Lord where he offers a sacrifice.
This next part of the story is touching. In the morning when everyone sees what occurred while they slept. They quickly discover the culprit. As the men rally to go and destroy Gideon, his dad has a change of heart. It would have shown great humility to accept this act from his son. When others wanted to destroy Gideon, his father defends him and says, “if he,(referring to Baal) be a god, let him plead for himself. because one hath cast down his alter.” In our language. If Baal was really a God then he can punish someone who desecrated his alter. It’s not always easy to be taught by our children. But I know often the Lord uses my daughters to call me to repent.
Then with this new found courage and strength he calls parts of Israel to come and fight with him. He ends up getting about 33,000 volunteers.
This next part Gideon is praying to God and I imagine it to sound something like this. God I know you have delivered our fathers from the Egyptians and that Moses crossed over the red sea on dry ground. I know I have seen an angel, and he burnt my offering miraculously. I know you preserved my life as I destroyed the alter and the grove. But I just want to be sure that I am doing this for the right reasons. Can you show my a sign that I am not off my rocker? If I put this fleece down on the ground could the fleece be wet and the ground around it dry? And he leaves it out all night. He is able to wring out a bowl full of water in the morning.
Then I can imagine as people keep pouring in and Gideon realizes he is responsible for thousands of lives, he kneels down again and says, “I know you answered me with the fleece last night and please don’t be mad but can you make the fleece dry and the ground wet? And the Lord did. When the Lord asks us participate in difficult tasks He wants us to have total confidence.
I know we aren’t supposed to ask for signs. But I think if you were responsible for 33,000 men you might want to be without any doubts of what the Lord wanted you to accomplish.
As Gideon is ready the Lord gives him a new name, Jerubbaal, which means warrior of the Lord. And he takes his army of 33,000 and begins to prepare.
Lord says to him, “Gideon we have a problem. You have too many people in your army. If I let them all fight they might think their strength won this battle. Or “lest Israel vaunt themselves against me , saying mine own hand hath saved me.”
The first thing to do is ask if anyone is scared. If they are let them return home. Now I have always looked at this lot with disgust. Why would you fear? Don’t they know who’s side they are fighting on? But I have since repented. The army was too big. It had to have people go home. If their role was to make an army smaller than they were filling their destiny. Is their role any less grand? It is simply honestly admitting I am scared and don’t want to do this. Ten thousand honest people didn’t want to fight. I can’t say I would be fearless if called to battle.
We still have 22.000 and so Gideon tells them to drink from the stream. The solders that kneel down and cup the water in their hands remain. They hold onto their weapons and stay prepared. The ones that lap the water and put their heads down are told to return.
Sometimes I identify with this group. I was brave. I was ready to fight but the Lord didn’t need me. I was totally qualified but in the end God only wanted 300. It wasn’t my turn.
Which ever part of this story was the role I had to play doesn’t matter. The 300 who stayed were no more doing there part than the soldiers who returned home if they were scared. Often I feel only the 300 could be celebrated.. but then I forget the bigger picture… This is won for the glory of God. With everyone playing their part. God doesn’t care what part I play as long as I contribute. Whether my offerings is “mites” or millions, if it is my all … it is enough. To finish the Neil A Maxwell quote, “it is service, not status, that counts.”
The true hero of this story is God. Everyone else did their part however it needed to be done. I am trying to be more content with what the Lord has allotted unto me. Whatever your part may be, may your have the courage to do it. Remember Gideon doubts his own ability to accomplish God’s work. Enos and Moses both uttered phrases like “I am slow of speech and people hate me. Gideon’s says, “Are you sure it’s me saving Israel? My family is poor … and I am the least in my father’s house.” Often it’s the meekest who the Lord chooses. Perhaps because they can testify with certainty that it is accomplished only through the Lords power. No matter your calling, you can trust in the assurance of the Lord. “Surely I will be awith thee.” I hope in any role you serve you play your part as you were designed to do.