My cat’s new favorite hiding place is on the wire shelf in the laundry closet. He curls up on top of my husband’s work shirts and sleeps or watches for birds out the window. Right before I started to write this piece, my cat attempted to jump from the washer to the shelf, missed, and crashed loudly in the small space between the washer and the wall. He then proceeded to explore the thin space at the back of the closet while I called his name and shook a toy against the washer. I thought for sure he had tangled himself in wires and hoses during his acrobatics. Thankfully, he finally meandered back to the doorway where I scooted the washer just enough to let him through. Long story short, I feel like this is where we find Gideon in Judges 6. Let’s dive in to the calling of Gideon.
The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”
And the LORD said, “I will wait until you return.”Judges 6:11-18
The Calling of Gideon
Like my cat exploring behind the dryer, chaos and panic rules Gideon’s community. The Israelites started worshiping other gods, but when the LORD turns from them, they ask where God is in their suffering. They do not realize that they brought this panic on themselves by neglecting their faith in God. The Israelites think they can escape this mess on their own. They don’t recognize their need for God to move obstacles to free them from their captivity. And just like my cat, they quickly turn back to their captivity and chaos once the judges die. It’s in this mess that we find the calling of Gideon.
Gideon certainly asks God a lot of questions. In fact, he seems to get away with far more questions for God and tests of His will than almost anybody else in the Bible. Even Moses was rebuked with all his questions of God’s signs and instructions. Perhaps the difference between Moses and Gideon is that Gideon does not run away from the job God has given him. He asks for many signs and for God to prove that he is making the right decision, but Gideon does not ask God to send someone else like Moses does.
Fear and Anxiety
As I said in the introduction to this series, I can’t say for certain that Gideon struggled with anxiety. He certainly expresses fear; he cowers when the angel disappears in flame, and he tears down the altar to Baal while most people are sleeping. When the townspeople wake up and see Gideon’s father’s altars destroyed and replaced by one to the LORD, Gideon doesn’t make an appearance. In fact, his father Joash handles the entire debacle and says that any god who can’t defend his own altar isn’t a real god at all.
Despite Gideon’s timidity, he gives me hope as one who honored God in spite of his anxiety. Yes, Gideon expresses fear, but he also seeks the help he needs to accomplish God’s will. (We’ll see one of the absolute coolest examples of that next week.) He does not deny the warrior identity that God gives him but learns how to grow into it over time. I mean, Gideon literally goes from separating wheat grain in wine residue (I don’t even know how on earth he did that) to leading God’s people in peace for 40 years. God uses Gideon’s humility to restore Israel’s spiritual direction. I imagine Gideon wouldn’t be quite that humble without the fears and anxieties he had to contend with.