About three-thousand years ago, Israel was once again in a bad place.
They had this pathological spiritual pattern: after having some big spiritual breakthrough and getting their act back together with God, time would pass and they would forget about Him and go back to doing their own thing. Can you relate to that at some level? Sheesh…I can. And so the fierce armies of the Midianites and Amelekites swarmed over Israel like locusts—tens of thousands of soldiers—taking their food and grain from Israel and then burning the rest just for kicks. The people of Israel built shelters in the mountains and caves to hide in when this would happen, like school kids cowering from the lunchroom bullies. This pattern continued for seven long years. Midian had overpowered them, subdued them and psychologically robbed them of any sense of hope. One day this scared guy named Gideon is threshing his wheat down in a big hole in the ground, a winepress. You don’t thresh wheat in a winepress; for one, it’s not big enough, and two, uh, it’s for grapes. Gideon is one scared dude…hiding while trying to do his farm work. Suddenly a man appears and says to Gideon, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” JUDGES 6:11-12 It turns out to be an angel, but it doesn’t matter; Gideon is not in a good mood. Gideon says, “It looks to me like God has abandoned us…why hasn’t He sent us a leader like He did way back in Egypt?” to which the angel responds, “He is. That’s why I’m here. You’re the man…you big, bad soldier you.” People who are called to lead God-endeavors rarely think they can lead God-endeavors. Eventually, Gideon begins to believe that God really does want to use him as a leader. He finally breaks down and says, “Kum Bah Ya! You are the Sovereign Lord. You could have picked whomever you wanted!” And that’s when he gets his first marching order from God—“Go burn down the wooden idol that’s in your dad’s backyard.” Now that will endear you at the annual family reunion. He actually ends up doing it secretly at night because he’s still scared of people…even his own family. But in the end, Gideon grows an Israeli army of 32,000 guys…and then God tells him to send 31,700 of them home. God wanted Gideon to know that this is about what He can do, not what human abilities can do. And Gideon, the Scared and Reluctant Leader with 300 soldiers, routes an enemy of tens of thousands. Gideon was a farmer, not a military leader. He was a scaredy-cat, not a Rambo. He was a real person just like you and me, not a comic book hero. He was a leader in a fetal-tuck position…but God used him. Could it be that many leaders aren’t necessarily courageous by nature or personality? It’s hard to imagine because we tend to think of leaders as being high-powered, fearless, adrenalin-charged champions. We think of movies with heroes who are larger-than-life. But I have a theory that I believe is true for believers in Jesus: everyone follows someone and everyone leads someone. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ first words to two brothers with a little fishing business were basically: “Follow Me, and I’ll give you the ability to lead others to My Father.” That same invitation is on all of us to both follow…and then lead. And God knows exactly the scope of what your influence is; you just have to be available. Nehemiah was brokenhearted for what he saw around him. Gideon was flat-out scared. Moses was super-reluctant because of his past. Maybe it’s more about what God decides than us. And maybe, just maybe, that in the same way God chooses the foolish things to confound the wise, perhaps he chooses the weak and powerless to show his strength. Dave Workman | The Elemental Group
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