December 14th, 2013

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Gideon – mighty man of valour

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Scripture: Judges 6 & 7

Gideon isn’t an intimidating hero.  His abilities and moral character do not stretch high like a tower casting an imposing shadow over us all.  He is initially cynical, scoffing at the relevance of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt in light of the current oppression from Midian.  He is debasing but realistic in assessment of his lowly position amongst his family, his clan and his tribe, arguing that it was unlikely that acts of valor were in his future.  And he needs constant reassurance, requesting validation and proofs repeatedly.

Maybe it is because of Gideon’s unlikely hero status, that the story itself is so familiar.  We know how Gideon’s ‘army’ was progressively reduced from thousands to three hundred men. We know they were armed only with trumpets, torches and clay pots.  And we know how they skulked to the edge of the Midianite camp, blasted the trumpets, busted pots and waved torches to watch the Midianites panic and flee.  Gideon’s example somehow manages to convince us that God will use anyone.

As I was reading through the story this time though, I noticed a little exchange between the LORD and Gideon that gets covered over in all the other reassurances Gideon received.

Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the LORD.  And Gideon said, “Alas, O LORD God!  For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.”  But the LORD said to him, “Peace be to you.  Do not fear; you shall not die”  (6:23)

Peace.  How is it that God’s presence brings peace to us when we are surrounded by difficulty?  Did a warm sensation suddenly flood Gideon as he stood in the wine press?  Did the reassurance that he would not die settle his unease?  Why did Gideon continue to need reassurance even after this encounter?  I wonder if God’s servants need to practice peace just like they need to practice faith.

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Notice what Gideon does in response to God’s words to him.  “Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it.  The LORD is Peace.” (6:24).  He erected a monument and named it, something that would mark the place and define the encounter, reminding him that God is peace.  Is this the practicing of peace that Paul speaks of in Philippians 4: 6 & 7?  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Praying our requests and giving thanks to God releases His peace.  It is the peace of God that does the work, guarding our heart and minds against the anxieties that arise in life.  Gideon may be our most vivid example of this principle in practice.  “O mighty man of valor!” indeed.

Lord Jesus, as we turn toward Christmas, turn our hearts toward you. Amen