Gideon, man of shadows.
Judges 6:11-18. Morning Communion
We are looking at the judges of Israel just now.
The judges of Israel guided the country before they had kings.
What tended to happen was that Israel did its own thing and drift away from God. Then they would find themselves oppressed and decide they wanted God’s help.
Then they would find someone who was already following God’s ways and ask them to help them.
God would help them through the judge and then they would be peace for a while.
Today we look at Gideon. To get a full understanding of his story we need to read all of chapters 6, 7 and 8, and I would suggest that that is worth doing when you get home.
But I think this reading today kind of sums up Gideon.
This is not a confident man.
A messenger from God comes to him and says, ‘God is with you.’
It is not a question.
The messenger does not say, ‘Is God with you?’
The messenger is stating a fact, ’God is with you.’
And Gideon’s reply isn't resounding in confidence, it isn’t...’Yes. The Lord is with me.’
If anything it is the exact opposite, ‘I don't think so, if God was with me then these terrible things wouldn't be happening in my life.’
And Gideon's confidence never really gets any better than that.
He is told to make a sacrifice to God of two bulls.
But to do it he has to dismantle his dad’s alter to another set of god’s and use the stones of the alter to make the new alter and the wood of the alter to set the flames under the sacrifice.
This is a public declaration of his faith in God.
You can’t hide two dirty great bulls being sacrificed.
You can’t hide dismantling the alter of another set of gods.
But Gideon does his best to follow the commands of God without anyone knowing about it.
He does it at night when everyone is asleep.
The town goes nuts at the desecration of their public alter and holds an investigation as to who did it.
Gideon is found guilty. And here again Gideon could publically defend himself and God, but he doesn’t. It is his dad who defends him. It is Gideon’s dad who says that it was the alter of Baal that was destroyed, if Baal is a god then he is big enough to defend himself.
And in that act of the father is the act of God.
The father disagrees with what his son has done. The father had built that alter to Baal, but he loved his son so much that he still helped him.
Likewise God disagreed with what the people of Israel were doing, but he loved them so much he still helped them.
However those acts of love don’t fill Gideon with confidence.
God tells Gideon that he has to protect the Israelites from the Midianites.
And what does Gideon do?
He doesn't raise a huge army and with confidence lead them into victory.
Instead he does what he does well; work at night when no one can see him.
He creates a small elite group, sneaks into the Midianite camp at night and then the Israelites smash pots light torches and set the tents on fire and shout, ‘A sword for the Lord and for Gideon.’
The Midiantes wake, run out their tents thinking they were being attacked by a huge army and killed anyone in front of them in fear, which were the other Midianite soldiers leaving their tents.
Gideon is not an impressive man.
Gideon is not a great leader of men.
Gideon is not a great risk taker.
At one point God is trying to convince Gideon what to do and Gideon says, ‘OK I’ll give you a test. I will put this wool on the ground. If the ground is dry and the wool is wet tomorrow morning then I will know you are with me.’
The next morning Gideon wakes up and the ground is dry and the wool is wet.
Gideon doesn't then say, ‘OK now I trust you Lord.’
Nope he says, ‘OK just one more test to make sure. Tomorrow I want the ground to be wet and the wool to be dry. Then I will know I can trust you.’
I want to give you a theory I have been working on.
Here is my theory.
I think Gideon was a member of Alva Parish Church.
The reason I think that is because he acts much the same way that most of us act.
You don’t believe me...
OK test 1. The faith test.
As it turns out I have a microphone with me. I’m going to go round the congregation and ask them the angel question.
I am going to try a few people upstairs and downstairs and maybe even a few elders and state right out to them, ‘The Lord is with you.’
I will get a few reactions out of you which will be recorded on the microphone and be permanently recorded for everyone here and everyone listening to the discs to hear.
Now who will I talk to first...
No, I’m only kidding.
But it would be interesting to know how many of us would be thinking, ‘I’m not too sure if God is with me,’ just like Gideon.
Test 2 would be the Alter test.
Gideon was asked to make an alter by destroying the false gods alter. Now we all know that the biggest false god in Alva right now is the belief that things will keep us safe. If people really believed that Brexite was going to result in food shortages and the end of civilization as we know it, they wouldn’t be running to the church to pray, they would be running to the CO OP to stock up on as much rubbish as they could.
So how many of you would proclaim outside the CO OP that they should not be trusting in things to make them happy but should be trusting in God?
And I already know the answer to that...none of you.
I have been here nearly 22 years and I haven’t seen one of you on a soap box outside the Alva CO OP declaring your faith.
Before any of you start to accuse me of not doing it. I can assure you that I have done it many times, but following Gideon's example I have been doing it at 3am in the morning when no one was about.
Test 3. The ‘doing- the-good-things-in-the-shadows’ test.
Even when Gideon was to do his big thing, he did it at night when no one could see him. Hiding in the shadows.
What about you lot?
How many times have you done really good things, but no one knows about it.
No pictures in the papers.
Even today. During the intimations I announced how many were fed by the food bank. This church is one of the highest givers to the food bank...and no one knows.
Just as no one knows the many visits that are made to the housebound,
no one knows the support we give to other churches,
no one knew of the overseas work we did.
Let’s be honest. Gideon was a card carrying member of Alva Parish Church.
And today's message is very clear.
Gideon may not have been the most charismatic judge that Israel had, but God was OK with that.
God was OK with Gideon’s uncertainty and he is OK with ours.
God didn’t turn round and say to Gideon, ‘I can’t work with this lack of trust.’
God put up with the tests and the uncertainty.
Even when Gideon said, ‘I am still unsure,’ God was OK with that.
God was OK with Gideon not been confident and not working out in the open. And God is OK with us not being big and brash with our faith out there.
God was OK with Gideon working in the shadows, and God is OK with us working in the shadows as well.
And the reason for that, I suspect, was that God wasn’t there to use Gideon.
I think that sometimes we think that the reason God wants us on his side is to use us to do stuff. We are living tools.
God has this master plan that he wants to use us to change the world for the better. But the big thing is THE PLAN, the changing of the world. And the plan is bigger than us, we are expendable to the plan.
Instead the truth was that God wants to help us.
The big master plan is to save us. The big master plan is to change us.
‘If I may ask, sir, why has all this happened to us if the Lord is with us? What about all the wonderful things that our fathers told us the Lord used to do-how he brought them out of Egypt? The Lord has abandoned us and left us to the mercy of the Midianites?’
The Lord saved the people from slavery. He did it not by clicking his fingers and all the problems disappearing.
He did it by being with them on their journey. Each day, another day taking a step together through the uncertainty. All the ups and downs, guiding and helping them through their long journey to the Promised Land.
God didn't take their problems away, God gave them what they needed to overcome their problems.
The Lord saved Gideon. Not by clicking his fingers and making the Midianites disappear.
He did it by being with Gideon on his journey. Each day, another day walking together through the uncertainty. All the ups and downs and helping him free himself and his people. God didn't take his problems away, God gave him what he needed to overcome his problems.
And the Lord will save us. Not by clicking his fingers and making all our problems disappear.
But by being with us on our journey. Being with us in all our ups and our downs. Walking with us in our uncertainty. Giving us what we need to overcome our problems.
I lied earlier.
Gideon was never a member of Alva Parish Church.
But I don't think God would mind if we followed in Gideon’s footsteps.
Because in the end,
no matter how it showed itself,
Gideon had enough courage to believe that God was on his side,
and with that, often faltering, faith,
he could still make the right choices and do the right thing.
And in the end,
even with our faltering faith,
God can still help us make the right choices and do the right thing.