Gideon

What does God see in this guy, anyway? Gideon 6

Gideon has been given the call to “Go, deliver Israel from Midian” but he’s not too keen on the idea.  He responds with another question: “How can I deliver Israel?” and follows that with a two statements that portray “mighty” Gideon as pretty humble: “My clan is the weakest and I’m the least in my family.”  (Perhaps, he’s just trying to avoid the call of God?)

Israel is weak (they are getting their butts kicked by Midian), Gideon’s tribe (Manasseh) is weak, his clan is the weakest among’s Manasseh’s clans, and if all that wasn’t bad enough, Gideon is even more pathetic than all his brothers.

If I were YHWH, I would have said, “Yeah, I don’t think this is going to work.”  What does God see in this guy anyway?

God sees a guy that he can use to accomplish his purposes.  He sees a guy who knows he’s going to need help.

Do you ever feel like Gideon, the least, the weakest?

I don’t.  At least not very often.  (OK, nine days when playing golf.)  That’s the problem.  I  don’t usually think I need help.  I feel pretty self-sufficient.  I needed help when I was trying to finish my doctorate before Oxford kicked me out.  I needed help when I was look for an academic teaching job.  But now, things are pretty good, I’ve got this book that people still seem to want to buy.  Maybe I’m weird, or perhaps this is just a guy-thing?  But most people seem to be pretty self-sufficient.  Our culture makes us that way.

What things can one do to put oneself in a place of need, a bit like Gideon, to become more aware of one’s dependency upon God?

Image: An 18th century Russian icon of Gideon (I think).

Answers in unexpected ways: Gideon 5

In the last post in this series, Gideon asked the divine messenger why are the Midianites oppressing them and where are YHWH’s wonderful acts of deliverance (Judg. 6:13).  (Gideon apparently has no problems confronting a superior being–I tend to be a bit more conflict avoidant in those contexts.)

At this point the story becomes even more bizarre.  The angel that Gideon has been interacting with seems to disappear, or at least moves into the background.  According to the text, it’s not the messenger who responds to Gideon’s question, but YHWH himself. (Perhaps it’s still the angel of YHWH, but the text is just saying “YHWH” as shorthand?  See Gen. 32:22-32; Hos. 12:4 for a similar God-man-angel ambiguity scenario.)

While we can’t be sure what is happening, it is dramatic.  YHWH speaks directly to Gideon, and instead of providing the why and the where that Gideon asked for, he provides Gideon a who–“you”–telling Gideon to “Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you” (Judg. 6:14).  Notice, they are calling Gideon “mighty” again (sounds prophetic to me).

How is this “Go” an answer to Gideon’s questions?  Does God not hear well?  (Although, he wasn’t very old at this point in the Bible.)  While God’s response doesn’t address the why, the prophetic messenger sent by YHWH earlier hits that one head one (Judg. 6:10-“You have not given heed to my voice”).  And Gideon’s question about where are the wonderful deeds seems to receive an indirect answer in that God tells Gideon that he’s the one to perform those deeds.

I guess the lesson is, be careful what you ask God for.  Gideon wondered where Israel’s deliverance was and God said, “You’re the man.”  God apparently knew that Gideon was bothered by Israel’s oppression and that Gideon was bold enough to ask about it.  Those two characteristics were the prerequistites that God required for the person he’d choose as judge.  (Gideon’s not convinced yet that he’s the one, but we’ll discuss that next time.)

Why doesn’t YHWH address Gideon’s question more directly? 

Image: “Gideon and the angel” by Jacob de Wet.

“If God is with us, then why…?” Gideon 4

In the last Gideon blog, I asked was the angel of YHWH ironic, descriptive or prophetic in calling Gideon “mighty”.  Here we’ll look at how Gideon responds with honest, almost brutal questions.

In addition to calling Gideon “mighty”, the angel said to him “YHWH is with you” (literally, “YHWH with you” the “is” is implied).  The “you” there is singular, so the angel is saying YHWH is with just Gideon, not all Israel.

Gideon doesn’t buy it.  He asks, “If YHWH is with us, when then has all this happened?”  Notice that Gideon changes the pronoun from the singular used by the angel (just Gideon), to a plural (all Israel).   We tragically miss this in English Bibles.  Perhaps Gideon’s concern for the nation and not just himself was one of the reasons YHWH chose him?

If we thought Gideon was a chicken to cower in fear from the Midianites while he was threshing the grain, we may need to rethink that because of how he boldly confronts the angelic messenger.

Gideon can’t comprehend that God could be with them while they are getting their butts kicked around by the Midianites.  If YHWH were with them, surely he would protect his people from suffering, right?  Actually, no.  The fact that they were getting their butts kicked was evidence that God was still with them.

God sometimes protects us from suffering (he’ll deliver Israel through Gideon), but somethings he sends suffering to get our attention (he handed Israel over to the Midianites), and other times he allows suffering almost randomly (e.g., Job).  The problem is discerning how God is working in the midst of suffering, and why.

What I love most about this text is that Gideon feels free to question God.  First, “If YHWH is with us, then why has all this happened?”  But that’s not enough, he keeps going, “Where are all his wonderous deeds?”  It’s hard not to pick up a tinge of sarcasm.

But Gideon’s honest questions don’t disqualify him for being a divinely selected deliverer for God’s people.  God didn’t say, “Hey you can’t talk like that to me!  I’m not going to let you be a judge, so there!”  Although, I think this is how we expect God to react.

What would you have said if you were Gideon?  Do you talk like this to God? 

“Mighty” Gideon (3): Ironic, descriptive or prophetic?

In the last Gideon post YHWH responded to Israel’s cries for help from their Midianite oppressors not particularly compassionately, but by reviewing and rebuking (Judg. 6:7-10).

Although, God’s review should give them hope. God has saved them in the past, he can save them in the future. Likewise, God’s rebuke should prevent them from turning away from YHWH in the future and therefore protect them from a repeat of foreign oppression.

Immediately, after the first messenger, YHWH sends a second one who delivers a more explicitly hopeful message, however the audience isn’t the entire nation this time, but just one man, Gideon:.  In response to the people’s cry, God calls Gideon to save them.

“YHWH is with you, mighty warrior!” (Judg. 6:12) is the greeting from Gideon’s angelic visitor (“angel” and “messenger” are the same word in Hebrew, malak) as Gideon is threshing the wheat in the wine press as he hides from the Midianites.  There are three possible ways to understand the angel’s “mighty warrior.”  First, Gideon is a chicken, hence he’s cowering in fear, so the “mighty” is ironic.  Second, Gideon is engaged in surreptitious rebellion, an act of opposition against the Midianite rulers, hence he’s brave, so the “mighty” is descriptive.  Third, the “mighty” is prophetic.  Gideon isn’t particularly fearful or brave at this point in time, but the angel is speaking prophetically about his future behavior in delivering Israel.

What do you think about the angel’s message–ironic, descriptive or prophetic?

The best news for Gideon, however, is that YHWH is with him.  Although, as we’ll discuss in the next Gideon blog, Israel’s circumstances make Gideon doubt this word of reassurance about God’s presence.

“Gideon and the Angel” (Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld) from http://www.textweek.com/art/gideon.htm