“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – II Corinthians 12:9
Gideon was a mess. There’s just no way around it. A coward to the core, the only thing he really had the courage to do was to question God – several times in Judges 6, as a matter of fact. Yet this unlikeliest of generals led Israel to one of its most memorable victories, and because Gideon was such an undeniable mess, God got all the glory.
In his defense, Gideon was a product of his generation. The Children of Israel had once again lost God’s favor through their idol worship. And God’s hand of protection had been replaced with the iron fist of the Midianites, who repeatedly plundered and pillaged Israel for 7 years (Verses 1-6). The oppression was so awful that most of the population had taken to hiding out in caves.
And Gideon was no better off than the rest of them. Terrified of the enemy, he threshed wheat in secret to keep it from being stolen by the Midianites (Verse 11); he lived in his father’s household, where an altar to Baal was part of the family homestead (Verse 25); and instead of looking inward to see the problems in his own heart that deprived him of God’s blessing, he looked outward at his circumstances and blamed God for not fixing them (Verse 13).
But the amazing thing is, in spite of it all, God wasn’t done with this guy. In fact, he was just getting started with him. At first, it seems like a cruel joke when the Angel of the Lord refers to Gideon as “mighty man of valour”, but it is actually a prophecy of what God is about to do in Gideon’s life (Verse 12). And as the chapter progresses, through all of Gideon’s doubts and questions – and the near insult to God of not one, but two tests with the fleece (Verses 36-40) – Gideon slowly, by God’s grace, makes the transition from “mess” to “mighty man of valour”.
But although God promised to make Gideon victorious in spite of himself, I must point out the one thing that God required of him. In Verses 25-32, Gideon is forced to take a stand for the Lord, as God tells him to tear down his father’s altar to Baal. Still struggling with his own weakness, Gideon obeys the Lord, but does so under cover of darkness to avoid being seen. But this baby step on the road to being a “mighty man of valour” actually awakens the conscience of his father, Joash, and shows their enraged neighbors just how powerless the all-powerful Baal really is. And I love how God blesses Gideon’s baby step in His direction (Psalm 37:23-24, James 4:8).
By the end of Chapter 7, the Midianites were the ones who were running scared, so terrified that they turned their swords on each other (Verse 22). And as for the Children of Israel, with forces that had been whittled down to only 300 men, outfitted with pitchers, torches, and trumpets, they were more like a parade than an army (Verses 19-20). And their battle cry, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon,” summed the situation up perfectly – this victory, and any glory from it, belonged wholly and solely to God (Judges 7:20, I Corinthians 3:6,15:57-58, II Corinthians 12:9).
I don’t know about you, but I can relate to Gideon pretty well. Like Gideon, I could give you a list of my own flaws and failings, along with a corresponding list of excuses for each of them (Judges 6:15). Like Gideon, I would sometimes rather hide from my problems than hand them over to God, and like Gideon, I sometimes have the audacity to ask God where He’s been while my life has been falling apart in my own feeble hands (Judges 6:13). But praise God, just like He was with Gideon, He is still the same God, and He is patient with me. He is faithful to all that He has promised (Judges 8:28). And He has a purpose for me that has nothing to do with who I am, and everything to do with Who He is, and He can bring it to pass, in spite of me – just like He did with Gideon (Psalm 138:8, Jeremiah 29:11, Isaiah 43:1-2).
More than once, in the cluttered and “lived-in” rooms of humble homes, I have seen a plaque hanging on the wall that says, “God bless this mess.” When I Iook at my life, I know that God has truly blessed the mess that is me. And while my mess seems to change a little every day, it’s good to know that He’s the same – yesterday, today, and forever.