You may have perhaps heard the story of Gideon, ( Jdg 6:36 -7:23) chosen by God to defeat the Midianites, a nomadic people who were tormentors and enemies of Israel and would invade their land and disperse them into the mountains. The Midianites were idolaters and often led Israel astray to worship their gods. They often rendered the Hebrews tributary, mistreating and oppressing them ( Num 22:1-41, 31:1-54). They stole and destroyed the Hebrews’ crops and harvest, trampling their land as if by right.
The Hebrews definitely needed to rid themselves of these tormentors, but they had neither the courage nor the faith to do so. As was often the case, God chose a person who seemed least qualified to free his people of this problem. We know that this pattern only reinforces the fact that we do not see, measure, or value people and things as God does.
According to Scripture, Gideon began with an army of 32,300 to fight against the Midianites, but God told Gideon to send home any who were afraid to fight, for such men would only hinder the mission at hand. We are told that 22,000 men thus left, leaving only 10,000 to fight the large Midianite army. After this, God said that there were still too many and had Gideon remove those men who left themselves vulnerable to enemy attack while drinking water, by dropping all weapons and drinking with both hands. God told Gideon to keep only those who held on to their weapons, ever watchful of possible attack, and drank with one hand only. After this second filtering only 300 men remained who, following God’s strict instructions, dispersed and defeated the much larger enemy by creating confusion and panic among the Midianites.
As would be expected, the story of Gideon teaches a number of critical lessons which we can apply in our journey toward God. Each of these lessons carries the fact that God downsized Gideon’s army so as to de-emphasize the role of men in what was to happen, as well as to test the faith of all involved. Also note that the army defeated here was the one without the one true God, who relied on earthly power and perception only, and who experienced confusion and panic as a result.
Faith………….Obviously, we must always begin with faith in God’s Will and love for us. The first group which God removed from Gideon’s army consisted of those who were afraid and preferred to flee than fight for their cause. We know from experience that half-hearted actions steeped in doubt only hamper results, and it is often better to remove elements of doubt from our effort before we even begin. Gideon had difficulty fully believing God at first, but his ultimate faith helped him to complete God’s request. Also, reducing his army when facing a powerful foe would make Gideon look like a fool by earthly standards. Are we not called to be fools for Christ if we are to follow him? ( 1 Cor 4:10). Speaking of measuring, we move on to the second lesson of…
Evaluation of Evidence…..All too often, we love to evaluate by our standards, as if our measures mean anything to God Almighty. By earthly standards, Gideon reducing his army to only 300 men seemed a foolish and suicidal choice, yet, because this is what God wanted him to do–with God’s help–Gideon was able to set in motion the ultimate dispersal and defeat of his enemies.
Action and Application…….Having faith and not judging by our standards mean nothing if we do not follow God’s promptings as best we can. Gideon and his men followed God’s guidance to the letter, and thus obtained the results which come from obedience to God.
Review Results and Repeat…..Upon applying God’s guidance in our lives, we are called to learn from what has happened, including how to understand the results that we obtain, and repeat this process as necessary. We know from history that the Hebrews often did not fully appreciate God’s direct help and expected God to give them the results they wanted rather than letting God decide what was best. How many times, for example, do we consider our prayers answered only if we obtain the result we seek? Have we considered that God’s answer may simply not coincide with our wishes?
Our True Enemy
Please note that the first letters of the lessons cited above spell out the word FEAR, which is our true enemy. Peter denied Jesus three times out of fear. The apostles abandoned Jesus upon His arrest out of fear. The apostles did not initially spread the teachings of Christ out of fear. Saul, who later became Paul, and his ilk tried to destroy the Christians, out of fear that they were a threat to the status quo.
Whenever we violate one of the Ten Commandments in general and commit sin, it is usually out of some sort of fear. We do not put God before everything in our lives because we are afraid to let go of this world’s assurances and comforts. We lie to and about others out of fear that they will harm us in some way, if we are honest. We disrespect our parents and all authority out of fear that said authority is not working in our best interest. The best way to determine if authority is working for us and consistent with God’s will is to filter that authority, not through only our eyes or the standards of this world, but much more importantly, through God’s Word and Christ’s example.
Ultimately, sin is created out of fear, and fear is born out of a lack of faith–faith in God’s goodness, mercy, divine justice, and wisdom. God forgives our sins if we drop our fear that He will not and ask for mercy. We will keep rising up to serve God if we drop our fear that it will be a worthless effort. We will find and apply our talents for God if we drop our fear that they will be insufficient, mocked, ignored, or directly rejected.
Note that FEAR is also an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. God is truth; He is the only evidence we need. If we rely, as we should, only on God, we will not need the appearances of this world to guide us. Lastly, if we rely on what this world calls reality, we may experience confusion and panic, as the Midianites did. By contrast, if we rely solely on God and trust in Him, there will be no false evidence which appears real in our lives and, thus, no fear.
May Our Lord grant each of us the faith, courage, determination, and perception to defeat the fear, and sin, in our lives.
2016 Gabriel Garnica