The story so far …
Gideon takes center stage in Series 22. How did Gideon transition from a cowering wimp to a towering giant who led Israel for another forty years? What shaped his inner content such that his outward actions took on different dimensions? We delve deeper into the role that a proper perspective of IDENTITY plays in being successful in life.
SCENE ONE: RAID
Noise of hoofs, men running, stones crashing, utter chaos. A blood curdling scream tears through the air as a turbaned Bedouin drives his scythe into the shrieking crowd. Death and pain scramble for first place in what had been a quiet afternoon.
Farmhand: (Running and screaming at no one in particular) Run! Hide! We are dead! We are…aaiiiiggh! ( shrieking as a Bedouin on horseback cuts him down).
Amalekite: (on foot and wielding an iron implement) To your sheol with you! How long do you want to live where you are not wanted? This is not your place. Go back to slavery in Egypt!!
Midianite: Shut up! Just kill them. There is a whole city ahead waiting to be destroyed. We can’t waste time in this farmstead. To the kill!
They ride off. After a few minutes, four of the ‘dead’ bodies scramble up
Joash: (Stumbling towards his son. The two servants also stumble towards the old man to help him) Gideon! Are you alive?
Gideon: (Rubbing dust and tears from his eyes and nose) I am alive, father. I think I broke my arm in the fall. (Crouches at kneeling position)
Joash: (yelling at a servant) Help him up! Can’t you see he is in pain?
Gideon: I am praying father. I still believe in Yahweh
Joash: (Scrambles and stands. He looks away) I cannot believe in one God when there is no rest. The gods of this land must help me. Don’t speak to me of what has stopped working since Deborah died. (Turning to the servant) Help him up!
(Two servants move towards Gideon)
Gideon: Leave me alone! I will keep praying. Until something happens
Narrator: The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves and strongholds. And so it was; when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them.
And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till you come to Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it. And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord’
Judges 6: 1-6
SCENE TWO: MAN FROM NOWHERE
(Gideon darts in and out of a cave, carrying a large water jug)
Angel: Greetings! Mighty man of valor. You do all things well.
Gideon: (stares at the angel. Then looks around him) Who are you speaking to? (Walking towards the angel) Who are you? I don’t know you? (Walking around the man) Your clothes are of the children of Jacob. But your voice is strange. Your hands are stranger. What are you doing here in this winepress? Are you not the man who has been sitting under the oak tree in Ophrah?
Angel: I am. And I told all of you that the Lord your God has sent me to Israel because He has heard your cry
Gideon: If the Lord is with us, why have all these things befallen us? We are oppressed and decimated. (Yells) Nothing makes sense anymore!
(The angel just keeps looking at Gideon)
Gideon: (sarcastically) So what does the Lord our God want with us now
Angel: (Points at Gideon) You Gideon. Go and save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Go in this your might. Your strength is enough. You don’t need more than you are now!
Gideon: (laughing mirthlessly). Definitely. How? What can I save Israel with? My family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house
Angel: (Sits and looks straight at Gideon) What has being poor got to do with anything? And your family is not poor. You have enough to eat, wear, and servants to help you. Your youth has nothing to do with anything. What counts is that the Lord is with you
Gideon: And what am I to do with what is in my hand?
Angel: Do what is needed. Your people are in danger. Someone needs to rescue them. Your life is oppressed. You need to take steps to break out of that oppression. You live the life of the cursed. You must shift it into the life of the blessed. That is what you are to do
Gideon: (laughs and looks angry) I can do nothing with your riddles.
Angel: I didn’t just give you riddles. I said God is with you. That is the knowledge you need to change your little to much. What much more did Deborah need? Was she not a woman, counted as one to be hidden behind veils? Did the Lord not deliver Israel with her, first as a Judge, and then as a warrior? Was she not stronger than Barak, who had the promise of ten thousand helpers? Was Ehud not left handed? Did his limp left hand not prove stronger than all the thrusts of strong handed men? What do you think gave them courage? Their acceptance that something has to change. The knowledge that God is with them in their quest for that change. The Lord does not need your strength. He needs your agreement to work with you.
Gideon: My agreement? What do I need to agree to? And how does the Lord get my agreement? I have been praying for years for the Lord to help Israel. Now I am told the Lord needs my agreement to help Israel?
Angel: Precisely why I have been sent to you then. When you pray for any change, you become a candidate for collaboration in that change. Whatever your heart hates, is an indication that you have been called to change it. But God cannot bring change without your help. He needs your agreement to work with you, you! To help Israel. The honor is yours to partner God in helping people, if your heart cries for any change.
And the Lord needs you to be willing to meet the challenge in accordance with His word. To agree to listen quietly to His counsel on how to lead people out of the trouble you see, and work according to the wisdom of His ways, so that human weakness does not destroy perfect strategies. Sooner than later, you will see your triumph. It will be larger than you ever imagined. Your boast can only be – the Lord was with me, and I did valiantly. Will you go? Does he have your agreement to save you and your people by your hand?
Gideon: If the Lord is really with me, can you prove it, please? Forgive my impetuousness.
Angel: God can deal with impetuousness. He can deal with any form of weakness. What He cannot deal with is weakness that is masked by pride. That combination does not allow help. So humble yourself and ask. All He needs is your heart and mind. The growth of your faith is His work. The increase of your love for Him and others is His interest. Setting people free from every form of oppression and bringing them into faith, hope and love is at the center of His word.
Gideon: I will lay a fleece tonight and the night after. If he answers with a wet ground tonight and a dry ground the next, I will know that God really is, and has spoken to me. After that, I will let God guide me.
Angel: When you have assured yourself that God is real, that He speaks, and has sent me to you, please cut down the idols of your father’s house. You cannot worship the God of Israel along with other idols. Your heart must be focused on only one leader. You cannot worship in two different directions and succeed at anything. Let the love of God and your people lead you in this journey, and nothing else. Then you will not fear what should not cause fear – the multitudes of human inventions. Nothing will be impossible. Only victory
Narrator: So it was, that with three hundred men, God saved Israel by the hand of Gideon. Not the thirty thousand that first presented themselves. But three hundred who threw themselves into a drinking trough with no sense of danger. They lapped like dogs. They did not lean on their own understanding. They agreed to go to battle with a lamp, jug and trumpet. What would have been considered foolish directions by accomplished generals was accepted by the inexperienced that were willing to fight the good fight of faith. As they obeyed the directives of God to use simple implements that cost nothing, and applied strategies that threw the enemy off balance with sudden light on all their weapons, shattered their focus with noise that left them disoriented, and made them unable to use their well oiled machinery, God stripped the hosts of Midian and Amalek of their power. And brought Israel freedom.
Will you fight as God leads? With simple implements and wise moves that are powerful in their originality, or are you too humanly accomplished and intelligent to accept the foolishness of the message of love and sacrifice the Bible teaches? By the light of the word, and sound of preaching it, we will accomplish much and scatter the hosts of oppression that thrive in darkness
SCENE THREE: JERU-BAAL
Joash: Jerubaal? Jerubaal? (He speaks to the crouching man)
(Gideon is quiet. Head bowed.)
Gideon: I have lost my way, father
Joash: You have all you need, don’t you?
Gideon: In things. In people. But not in my soul. (Looks out of a window) I captured kings. Killed Zeba and Zelmunna and I don’t even know how. I have indeed done as valiantly as the strange man told me. But did that make me a man of faith? Father, I did not stop to learn faith. I took the help of God in battles as the end of my needs. Once I had broken the back of the enemy of oppression, I did not stop learn about the Lord and truly know God’s hearts about all things. I prepared a colorful ephod with jewelry from the spoils of prosperity. It was to be a status symbol of our victories. It was to remind us that we are blessed. But people followed me to it and saw this image as the essence of our lives. (screams and cries) It was like the golden calf of Aaron who was God’s high priest but did not know God!!!! Now the ephod, the image of the voice of God has become the central snare of Israel. All bow to it. It has become like the idol in your house that I burnt up. And I know judgment will come to me and Israel because this is idol worship! I don’t know what to do what I don’t know what to do!
Joash: (Shakes his head vigorously). I have never understood you, Gideon. Nothing ever seems to be enough. I have watched you birth seventy sons and eighty five daughters. How much more does God need to do to show you that he has blessed you?
Gideon (shakes his head slowly). Our God has blessed me, father. He has kept His end of the bargain He made when He called me to lead Israel out of oppression with His help. But have I been a blessing to God? All Israel comes to Ophrah to prostrate before this brightly colored ephod. Is that God? Must we always see and touch shiny things before we believe God is real? I know I am wrong, and in this thing, I have failed to lead people to God. Indeed, I have led them away from getting to know and fear God. And I fear for what will happen after I am gone. For I led Israel in the power of God to freedom. Then I led them into another bondage with this idol. Truth is, father. I never learnt to worship God. I worship only my feelings, circumstances and fears. And I don’t know how to undo what I have done (wringing his hands).
Narrator: The men of Israel had said to Gideon ‘Rule over us’. And Gideon said to them ‘It is the Lord who will rule over you’. And he took the earrings and jewels from the booty of war. And the weight of the gold from the Midianites and Amalekites was a thousand and seven hundred shekels. And Gideon made an ephod with it, and put it in his city. And all Israel went to Ophrah to whore after it. As Gideon’s power grew over his people, they turned even further from God. They would no longer worship the gods of Canaan. But they worshiped the golden ephod given them by Gideon. With the semblance of worship, they could ignore the word of God. And because they prospered, they ignored the word of God. Gideon died after a forty year rule of peace and prosperity. And much chaos followed with the son of his concubine murdering all seventy of his sons on a stone, save for the youngest called Jotham. Confusion, intrigue, treachery became the order of the day. It went on till internal battles were more normal than battles against an external enemy. Faith, right, and honor had so weakened in Israel, till the nation had no sense of right or wrong. (Summarized from Joshua 8: 22 – 35; 9)