May the Odds Always Be in Your Favor

Judges chapters 6 through 8 relate the story of Gideon. Gideon was a member of the tribe of Manasseh, and at the moment, things were not going well for either him or his tribe. The Midianites regularly raided the area and stole the crops. To try to keep that from happening to him, he was down in a winepress threshing his grain, hoping not to be noticed. Suddenly, the angel of Yahweh appeared to him and announced that he was going to rescue his people from their oppressor. Gideon was reluctant both to be chosen for this, as well as doubting that it would work anyhow.

First he questioned the angel’s credentials—in essence asking for some identification, as well as questioning the justice and goodness of God: if he cares about us and is so good to us, then why is everything so miserable now? And how do I know you’re really an angel? So, the angel performed a minor miracle of making Gideon’s offering to God vanish in fire and smoke. Encouraged, he obeyed the initial instruction to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and built one for Yaweh instead.

Surviving the opprobrium of his neighbors, he then was reluctant to gather an army for God, but, after another couple of tests to find out if he was really hearing God or maybe it was just his wishful thinking getting away from him, he managed to gather a sizeable army, only to have God tell him, “that’s too many soldiers; whittle them down.”

Finally, after more than 22,000 had left, and after a test that involved drinking water, Gideon was left with but 300 men to fight against a Midianite army numbering in the tens of thousands. Following God’s order to smash jars, blow horns and wave torches in the middle of the night, the Midianites panicked, attacked each other, and ran off. Gideon gathered more men and pursued them, gaining ultimate victory over the enemies of his people.

It is not easy to do what God wants us to do. It is not easy to believe that he is actually there, or that the task he has asked of us is even possible. Often, it seems beyond possible and the thought invades our heads that we really aren’t up to the task. The longer we tread along, especially if the going is hard and not much good is happening, that we start to wonder if we maybe misunderstood what God wanted or maybe never even heard from God at all.

That’s quite normal. Doubting, second guessing yourself. That’s kind of par for the course if you’re human. So. You wonder if you’ve screwed up or misunderstood what God wanted you to do? Be like Gideon. Ask God for some reassurance. Tell him you’re tired of waiting. Let him know you’re not feeling confident. God never berates Gideon for his doubts, after all. In fact, he helps alleviate them. So God’s not likely to attack you for your questions or leave you floundering for ever, either.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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