I was thinking about Gideon the other day.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Gideon, well, you’re one of today’s lucky 10,000. Gideon’s story can be found in the book of Judges, chapters 6-8 specifically, if you want to read it for yourself. But basically, it runs like this:
Gideon is going about his normal day, doing his normal day work and all of a sudden God shows up and says ‘Hey, I want you to free the Israelites from foreign oppression, work yourself up an army son.’ And then, and this is the important part, he disappears without saying a whole lot more. Gideon isn’t super convinced at first that God has found the right cat for the job, but he warms to the task after a bit and works himself up an army. He marches this army down to a spring and then God shows up again and says ‘Eh, you might have actually done too good a job here, son. I don’t want y’all thinking you did this by yourself. Tell you what, how about you keep about 1% of your soldiers there and tell the rest they can bounce.’ And then, again he disappears without saying a whole lot more. So now Gideon is left without about 300 dudes to take on this vast foreign army that’s camped below him. He and a buddy of his sneak on down to the enemy camp to do a little reconnaissance and there he finds out that the enemy soldiers are already assuming they’re going to lose to him. So he goes back up to his camp, puts together this devious plan and then goes and ambushes the enemy out of their pants. A fearful slaughter ensues, princes and kings and chieftains are slain, and with the enemy not really in a position to do a whole lot of oppressing anymore, Gideon goes back and settles down to a long life of not ruling Israel.
Yeah, it is a great story, and I do tell it well, thanks for noticing. But I do hear rumblings of discontent from the audience there in the back. The question of modern-day relevance has been raised. I will admit it is a fair question. Without relevance to the modern reader, what is so special about this story that I take the time to share it? I might as well maunder on about the Iliad or Anabasis. One of the great things about the Bible, as opposed to other ancient texts that concern themselves with the doings of heroes and deities, is that there is nothing in the Bible that is not relevant to your life right now here today. Like Native Americans using every part of the buffalo, there is nothing in there that you can’t use for one purpose or another.
So here is where I break it down. God showed up, gave Gideon a job and then left. Gideon figured out how to do the job largely on his own, working within the society he lived in and using the existing social structures of the day. Then God showed up, gave him a more difficult job and vanished again. Gideon figured out how to do that job, again using the resources he had at the time. And I imagine that the skills he learned from these experiences stood him in good stead and improved his life from that point forward.
Very rarely is God ever going to show up and tell you do a specific thing and then tell you to leave at a specific time so you can take a specific route so you can talk to a specific person about how to specifically do that thing. Most of the time, He does what He did with Gideon. He shows up, tells you he wants a specific thing from you, and then vanishes like America’s interest in soccer did once we were eliminated from the World Cup. He could tell you exactly what to do to accomplish His end. He could guide your path with infinite precision, making sure you never put a foot wrong. But if that was what he wanted, He wouldn’t have bothered giving us free will, which I can only imagine is a pain in His ass occasionally.
God doesn’t do it this way because He likes to watch us bumble around and knock into life’s sharp corners and be generally mystified as to what He wants. He does it this way because He’s giving us the gift of figuring it out for ourselves. He wants us to grow and stretch. To do things we didn’t think we could or weren’t sure we were the right person for. And once we’ve done those things, we’ll find that we’re set up with skills and lessons from experience that will be useful for the rest of our lives. If God has given you a desire, but seemingly none of the tools or skill sets you think you need, and it seems scary and out of your reach, and you turn to the Bible but can’t seem to find anything in there that addresses your situation, just maybe you’re being given the gift of figuring it out.
So get to figurin’. That army isn’t going to conquer itself, you know.