I have been reading through the Old Testament, and right now I am in the book of Judges. Last night I started off by reading about Gideon.
If you know the story of Gideon, you know he was on the timid side. When I think of Gideon, I think of “fear.”
We first meet him threshing wheat in the winepress “in order to hide it from the Midianites (Judges 6:11).”
Then when God calls him to become Israel’s hero, he asks how that is even possible. “Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (6:15).
In spite of God’s reassuring words, he’s still on the nervous side. So he asks for a sign from God. The sign convinces him that the LORD has indeed appeared to him.
So then God tells him to tear down the temple of Baal, and Gideon is (somewhat) emboldened to do so. But he does it at night “because he feared his father’s household and the men of the city too much to do it by day” (6:27).
When the time comes to attack Midian, Gideon’s heart gives in to nervousness again. So he asks for another sign from God, a test. When that sign comes to pass, Gideon is still not satisfied. He probably sat there, letting logic and reasoning take over his mind, and decided that it was quite possible for that sign to come about as a part of natural processes. So he decides to ask for the sign to occur again, but in reverse. When that comes true, he finally decides that God is real and with him.
So he gathers his army of 32,000 men to go out to battle. And God decides to strip it down to only 300. Then God tells him to go down and attack the camp. “But if you’re too afraid, go down with your servant first and hear what they say, and that will encourage you” (see 7:10-11). Of course Gideon is too afraid and decides to make the trip with his servant first.
Encouraged by what he hears, he finally makes his move, and God delivers the enemy into his hand.
Now, with all of that in your mind, and seeing how Gideon gave way to fear over and over and over again, is it surprising to you that the very first thing the Angel of the LORD tells Gideon is this: “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (6:12).
Valor means “boldness or determination in facing great danger, especially in battle; heroic courage; bravery.”
Gideon probably thought his visitor was talking to the wrong person. After all, mighty men of valor are supposed to be out there fighting for their people, not hiding in a winepress. Valor was really not the word to describe Gideon. He was not exactly determined to go out there and fight. He made excuses. He delayed.
So why would God call him a mighty man of valor?
I think it was because God saw Gideon – not for who he was – but for who he could become. He chose to look past the pitiful lump of clay, and to look instead at the beautiful, solid, clay pot that it could become.
Like us. If we are His children, God chooses to look past our daily failures and sins, and to look instead at who we will become in Him. He calls us His saints – His holy children.
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
– 1 Peter 2:9-10, NKJV