Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Fellow Doubter

So this morning I was meditating on the story of Gideon in Judges chapter 6. Like me, he was faced with a situation where he had to rely on God alone. And, as it turns out, he wasn't a pro at it. But God met him where he was anyway.

Basically the story takes place when the Israelites have been held captive under the oppressive power of the Midianites. Judges 6:6 states
"Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help. When the Israelites cried to the Lord because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said 'This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I snatched you from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land. I said to you, 'I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.' " The first thing God did was to remind Gideon of His faithfulness. In this way He was helping Gideon to get back in touch with who He was. As we see later, Gideon needed this reminder.
"The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior." It is amazing that the God of the universe chose to come sit down with Gideon while he did such a menial task. He met him where He was, promised His presence, and then reminded him of who He was in God's eyes: a mighty warrior. Somehow I think this must have been the farthest thing from Gideon's mind. For seven years his people had been held captive. Surely he must have been in a hopeless place. In fact, we see his doubt: "'But sir,' Gideon replied, 'if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt? But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.'" Where were you, Lord? I can say that I have asked that many times in my life. And even now, in a life-changing decision I am wondering why His voice has been so hard to discern. Gideon addresses the universal questions that plague us all: Why, God? Have you abandoned me?
And what happens next? Read on: "The Lord turned to him and said, 'Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?" Instead of turning away from Gideon in his doubt, he turns toward him. And then tells him that though he is weak, he can proceed with the strength he has. He doesn't have to wait until he is stronger. Because he has God's promised presence, he is able to do the task before him. But watch Gideon's response this time: "'But Lord,' Gideon asked, 'how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." Doubt again. Gideon cannot see past his own weakness. He just does not feel good enough. And what does God say then? "The Lord answered, 'I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.'" God does not chastise Gideon for his doubt. He gently reminds him of his promise to be with him, the same promise he gave in the beginning. He doesn't mind that Gideon needs a little repetition. The discourse continues:
"'If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.' And the Lord said, 'I will wait until you return.'" Gideon needs a little more proof. And God is willing to give it. He patiently waits until Gideon trusts Him. For an offering, Gideon brings out some meat and bread and a pot of broth. God tells him, "Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth." Gideon is now walking in obedience. He still has doubts, but he is obeying. He is following. He is learning to trust. The end of the story is that the angel of the Lord (manifestation of his presence, not actually God because noone can see God and live) touches the meat and bread and sets it on fire. When Gideon realizes that it is God who has been talking to him, he fears for his life and God says, "Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die." Again, another promise. Gideon is reminded not to fear but to receive the peace of God. So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord is Peace." Gideon's response to this encounter with God was worship. God took him from a place of discouragement, doubt and hopelessness to a place of worship. He has encountered God, and although he cannot see all the signs that there will be victory in battle, he can trust the God that met him where he was.

I realize that this is very loose, unscholarly exegesis. But what I am taking away from this as I have meditated on it is that no matter what I do for my career, or where I go next, His promises are true. I need to remember His faithfulness in the past and trust that even in my confusion and uncertainty God is still present. Ultimately, His goal is to bring us to himself in a relationship of trust and reliance on Him. Even if we don't have it all together, He meets us where we are and says, "Come, follow me." Just as we are, doubts and all.


Kel said...

AWESOME words of encouragement!

Thanks! Kel

Biz said...

ummm... i'm going to need a new entry. yeah.

love you!