By Kevin Freeman
Read Judges 6:11-18, 28-40; 7:1-9, 19-23
Key: Follow God’s leading, no matter what.
Courage in the Lives of the Judges
Do you remember those Magic Eye 3D pictures which became popular in the late 1990s? Small art shops and shopping mall kiosks suddenly became littered with prints covered in tiny blobs of color which resembled a seven-year-old’s first foray into modern art. Beauty was most definitely in the eye of the beholder, whose job was to adjust his or her eyes to see the three-dimensional image within the prints. Proponents said that a sophisticated process of focusing on the image and then moving away from the image while no longer focusing would change the intended result. The viewer’s reward was not much more than a blob of dots that vaguely resembled a particular shape floating slightly in front of the other blobs of dots. If this description seems a bit unflattering, you might conclude it was written by someone who could never quite make out the 3D shape and is perhaps still a bit miffed about it. You would be correct.
If you had been present when an angel called a man hiding in a winepress a “mighty man of valor,” you might also have concluded the angel could make out some vague, Magic Eye illusion hovering above the blob of humanity that people called Gideon. No amount of squinting would conjure valor in a man who was too timid to thresh and winnow wheat in the open where it made sense. Instead of doing the job upon a hilltop, so the wind could blow away the chaff, Gideon was secretly working in an enclosed space to avoid being raided and having his food stolen. It was not a particularly bad idea, given the oppressive situation, but neither was it valorous.
This same fearful man of valor is known for several hesitant acts. He removed an idol under cover of night to avoid detection. He set out a fleece – twice – in order to doubly confirm that God indeed wanted him to attack the Midianite army. In fear, he snuck into that army’s camp to hear a conversation confirming that God would wallop Midian on behalf of Israel and Gideon. All of this occurred even as God apparently was speaking directly to Gideon, supposedly eliminating the need to skulk about and live fearfully. Perhaps Gideon was concerned that God’s voice was only something he imagined after inhaling too much chaff while in the winepress.
But amid Gideon’s halting, timid behavior, one surprising attribute hovered to the forefront. Gideon was responsive to God’s direction. When he dismantled and desecrated the idol, he did so at God’s direction, fully expecting to be put to death as punishment. His fleece-laying exploits were the product of a man ready to do exactly as God said while wanting to truly know it was God who was saying it. Culling an army of 32,000 down to 300 was an act of sheer lunacy, except that Gideon did so under orders, God’s orders. Gideon well understood that he was unequipped to handle any of these tasks on his own, which put him in the perfect position to be responsive to whatever God called him to do.
Gideon’s story is a call to the Christian in the winepress. Too many Christians stay in hiding when times are tough. In fear, they count themselves out, never once considering the audacious valor of timidly stepping out on the basis that God said so. Action amid fear brings acclaim to God. Gideon laid out the fleece to confirm God’s orders. He might be jealous to learn that you have the complete Word of God to consult and the living Spirit of God dwelling within you and guiding you!
When unlikely people step out for God amid overwhelming odds, something much more discernible than a Magic Eye image appears. The high definition image of His glory practically jumps out for all to see. They might see God’s powerful hand bringing victory, as in the case of Gideon’s 300 men defeating an army of 135,000. They might see God’s compassionate heart beating through your ministry to the homeless. They might see through God’s eyes that all are equal in his sight as you, in word and action, promote the value of every person, no matter their skin color.
Without Christians who step out, the world is left with a 3D blob, an indiscernible mass of Christians who swear the image of Christ is to be found in them, but force people to squint in the hope that they might catch a small glimpse of this Savior who Christians say is so life-changing. From one who was never good at seeing such images, let’s not make it that difficult for them.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how much valor do you believe you display?
How does valor as responsiveness to God’s command change your answer?
When have you felt God’s leading to take some sort of action?
What issues exist in our culture today that require a strong voice for God? Make a list below.
Looking at your list, circle two or three that personally concern you the most.
Putting it into Practice
Memorize Ephesians 2:10.
Begin praying about the issues you listed above, and ask if God is leading you to respond.
Share the story of Gideon with one other person this week, letting that person know how it has impacted your thinking.
Final Takeaway: Responsiveness to God is the key to valor.
What thoughts might have run through Gideon’s mind when he was called a “mighty man of valor”?
What Christians can you think of who have displayed valor like Gideon? Describe.
What pressing issues call for believers to display Christ-like valor?
Gideon laid out a fleece for confirmation from God. How do Christians today discern what God is calling them to do?
Describe one step of valor that God may be calling you to take.
Kevin Freeman is an associate pastor of Redland Baptist Church in Rockville, Maryland.