Hard Times Heroes. That’s the way we’ve branded the mid-week devo that Noah Elias and I launched last Wednesday on our Facebook Group platform. (Note: you don’t have to “be on Facebook” to view that. Click here to view the March 23rd Facebook live post without having to “join”.)
Here’s the BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious): heroes are born in adversity. There are no Purple Hearts awarded in peacetime. War is Hell… but that’s where Heaven invades to confront the Enemy and to rescue the prisoners. Warren Buffet may be the Oracle of Omaha, but at Omaha Beach there were Medals of Honor bestowed on 12 soldiers when they and 130,000 Allied troops invaded the beaches around Normandy on D-Day. That set in motion the beginning-of-the-end of World War II. Buffett may be a financial genius, but heroes are cut from very different cloth…
We’re spending a few Mondays revisiting the story of Gideon; you can read it firsthand in Judges 6-8. His life, before his historic notoriety, was anything but meritorious: a frightened farmer, trying to refine and protect his meager wheat harvest by threshing it in a protected winepress. The Midianites were the marauding military force that had Israel under the cloud of terror; Gideon was doing his best to stay in the shadows. Success – for him – would be to simply survive.
“The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!” (6:12) Though quickly realizing that the Angel of the Lord was Almighty God himself, Gideon’s instant push-back against the disclosure of His explicit plan was evidence of his longtime musings about the sad condition of his own life and his nation’s despair. He had a hamper full of dirty laundry to air with God, calling out His failures…
“Why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders? The Lord has abandoned us…” For Gideon, the charges against God were clearly articulated and presented as uncontestable, as if God was the defendant in the courtroom of history. Then as now: when people decline into circumstances that always reveal the infection of sin and the cultural rejection of God’s requirements, the blame is pointed toward the Holy Creator rather than the unholy creation.
After hearing Gideon’s multi-layered argument claiming that God’s call in his life was at odds with all of the evidence available to him, humanly, God does not relent: “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive” (6:16).
God started the conversation with the ultimate headline: “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!” But, for Gideon – as with all whom God calls to greatness – the path leading to courage would include some stretching steps. “Gideon replied, ‘If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign…’” God – whose patience is seen throughout this account – replies, “I will wait…” (v 17-18).
Remember that the backdrop for this drama is a food shortage caused by Israel’s turn away from God. He removed His protection from Israel, and the Midianites exploited the situation – by God’s design – to prove God reliable: “If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 8:19-20). The penalty had been clearly prescribed; God’s warning had been dismissed.
Gideon went to his home and prepared a take-out banquet: a young goat, soup and bread. He brought it all out to the Angel. In the shortages caused by the Midianite invaders, nothing was more precious than a gourmet meal. The instructions he received: lay it all out on the rock. The Angel touched the meal with the tip of his staff… and fire came out of the rock and utterly consumed the food.
Before God could elevate Gideon, he had to prove his utter dependence on God. How would that happen? Take what was in shortest supply – that had the greatest value – and bring it to God.
Then, as now: God doesn’t need what we bring Him… but He needs to see us prove that He is the source of our security rather than our inventory of valuables that we’re trying to protect.
Gideon saw his precious meal – brought as a sacrificial gift to God – go up in smoke. This, the first of a series of tests that would clear Gideon for hero duty.
God has big plans for you, as well. But, as with Gideon, there is a process that unleashes your destiny. In a time of growing shortage – with fear brewing on the horizon – the need to prove your trust in God may require the sacrifice of some high-value securities that He doesn’t really need to receive but you really need to release.
What do you have to prove… to Him?