Friday, April 13, 2012

Gideon, the reluctant leader

It's time for the Friday Favorite...a Bible story you may already know, but someone may have never heard before.

Today's story is about Gideon, the reluctant leader. I like the way one writer put it, "It gives us hope that if God can use Gideon, He can use anyone." You see, Gideon was not what anyone would have thought of when they thought of "leadership material." 

Times were bad for the Israelites. They had rejected God's law - again. The results were they found themselves under the domination of the Midianites for seven years. Because of Midian, the people of Israel made hideouts in the mountains. Finally, they started to cry out to God. (Ever notice the pattern in this?) God responded with a loving word of correction and then He sent an angel. 

This angel comes down and sits down near where Gideon is threshing wheat in a wine press. The angel of God appeared to him and said, "God is with you, O mighty warrior!" These seem like pretty strange words considering Gideon was hiding at the time. 
It seems that God often chooses reluctant leaders - those who don't see themselves as qualified...those who have no real aspirations of greatness. Gideon was one of those reluctant leaders. 

Gideon said to him, "Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan's the weakest in Manasseh and I'm the runt of the litter."

The story is actually a lot longer, but basically Gideon tore down the altars to Baal and the Asherah poles. Of course, he did all this at night so no one would know it was him....he still didn't see in himself what God saw. 

Then came the time for real battle. The "bad guys" were all camping out in the Valley of Jezreel. God's spirit came over Gideon and he called out to all the other tribes, calling them to battle. Next comes the part of the story we all know...Gideon starts to doubt that God has really called him to be a leader. He asks God for a sign. Gideon will put out a fleece, a sheep skin; and in the morning if the fleece is wet with dew and the ground is dry, he'll know God has really called him.  Of course, that's what happened. When he got up early the next morning, he wrung out the fleece—enough dew to fill a bowl with water!

Then Gideon said to God, "Don't be impatient with me, but let me say one more thing. I want to try another time with the fleece. But this time let the fleece stay dry, while the dew drenches the ground."

God made it happen that very night. Only the fleece was dry while the ground was wet with dew. This is, of course, where we get the phrase "put out a fleece."

Finally Gideon is ready to lead troops into battle. That's when God tells him he has too many men. All he has to do is tell anyone who is afraid that they can go home. Twenty-two companies head home! That leaves only ten companies to fight the battle.

God tells Gideon he still has too many men. Take them down to the river and He'll tell him which ones to send home. By the time the final cut is made, there are only 300 men.

This next part of the story is straight out of Judges 7. 
That night, God told Gideon: "Get up and go down to the camp. I've given it to you. If you have any doubts about going down, go down with Purah your armor bearer; when you hear what they're saying, you'll be bold and confident." He and his armor bearer Purah went down near the place where sentries were posted. Midian and Amalek, all the easterners, were spread out on the plain like a swarm of locusts. And their camels! Past counting, like grains of sand on the seashore!
 13 Gideon arrived just in time to hear a man tell his friend a dream. He said, "I had this dream: A loaf of barley bread tumbled into the Midianite camp. It came to the tent and hit it so hard it collapsed. The tent fell!"
 14 His friend said, "This has to be the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite! God has turned Midian—the whole camp!—over to him."
 15 When Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he went to his knees before God in prayer. Then he went back to the Israelite camp and said, "Get up and get going! God has just given us the Midianite army!"
 16-18 He divided the three hundred men into three companies. He gave each man a trumpet and an empty jar, with a torch in the jar. He said, "Watch me and do what I do. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly what I do. When I and those with me blow the trumpets, you also, all around the camp, blow your trumpets and shout, 'For God and for Gideon!'"
 19-22 Gideon and his hundred men got to the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after the sentries had been posted. They blew the trumpets, at the same time smashing the jars they carried. All three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands, ready to blow, and shouted, "A sword for God and for Gideon!" They were stationed all around the camp, each man at his post. The whole Midianite camp jumped to its feet. They yelled and fled. When the three hundred blew the trumpets, God aimed each Midianite's sword against his companion, all over the camp. They ran for their lives—to Beth Shittah, toward Zererah, to the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath.

Did you catch that last part? The enemy turned on themselves and was destroyed! Now THAT is a battle story! All from a very reluctant leader who wasn't really sure God meant him!

And that is the story of Gideon...a man who didn't see himself as a leader, but in whom God saw something more.

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