A mother who was reading some Bible stories to her young daughter was telling her about the great heroes of the Bible like Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Elijah, Daniel and others. After listening to these stories for a little while, the girl said, “You know, Mommy, God was a lot more exciting back then.”
That is how some of us might feel: Wow, those were the good old days, but God isn’t working any longer. Why aren’t things happening like that today? Where are his miracles?
The Bible records a time in Israel’s history when people were feeling that way. Approximately 200 years had passed since Joshua led the Israelites in their famous march around the walls of Jericho. By God’s power, those walls had fallen, and the people of Israel had conquered many of the inhabitants of Canaan, including the Amorites, Hittites, Ammonites and Jebusites. The problem was they didn’t finish the job. God told Israel to drive out all the inhabitants of the land, but they did not do it. So 200 years later, the Midianites came to haunt Israel. Their army was gigantic, far outnumbering the army of Israel.
The Israelites would plant their crops, and when it was almost harvest time, the Midianites would ride in on their camels, tear out the crops, destroy them and leave the Israelites with basically nothing. This would happen year after year after year, because Israel had disobeyed God and was facing the consequences of its actions. God had allowed the Midianites to oppress the Israelites because of their worship of false gods. Effectively they had brought this on themselves.
But the people of Israel called on God for help, and he answered them by deciding to raise up one of the most unexpected people to lead them out of their defeat and into victory. His name was Gideon. An angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and told him he was being commissioned to lead the Israelites out of the place of misery in which they found themselves. But Gideon protested and said, “But Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” (Judges 6:15 NLT). Gideon was essentially saying, “Lord, you have the wrong guy. I am not the one you are looking for. I am the runt of the litter, the least of the least.” And this is why he was exactly the right man for the job.
There are some people who, had they been in his position, would have said, “Well, God, it is about time you got around to me. I am so talented. I am so articulate. I am so intelligent. And best of all, I am so humble.”
God uses people who are not proud and arrogant, but who see themselves for who they are. He uses people who are humble. And this gives hope to those who were never extraordinary, but very ordinary. They were not the best students in the class. They weren’t the homecoming queens, the class presidents or the quarterbacks. They didn’t make People magazine’s “100 Most Beautiful People” issue. They don’t have any great or outstanding talents. They are ordinary people. And it is as though God goes out of his way to find people like this so he can do extraordinary things through them.
God sees who we can become, not just who we presently are. You might see only a lump of clay, but God sees a beautiful sculpture. You might see only a blank canvas, but God sees a masterpiece. You might see only a failure, but God sees a success.
In Gideon, God saw a mighty warrior (see Judges 6:12). But Gideon felt unworthy, so he asked God for a little miracle – a little confirmation. God gave Gideon what he asked for, and so he was feeling relatively reassured that he should move forward with God’s plan.
But before moving on to the next phase, God gave Gideon a little test. Gideon’s father worshiped a false god, Baal, so God told him to tear down the altar to Baal, build an altar to God instead and then take a bull from his father’s herd and offer it as a sacrifice.
That took courage because this meant incurring the wrath of his father. But Gideon went out and did it. This teaches us that God also uses people who are faithful in the little things. As Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10).
So Gideon obeyed God, and when his actions were discovered, his father was moved by what Gideon did. It seemed as though his own faith was reenergized by the stand that his son had made. So this made Gideon a little bolder. And I have discovered that God will lead me one step at a time as well. That is why it is so important to be faithful in the little things.
When it was almost time to rumble with the Midianites, God had one more test for Gideon. He essentially thinned down Gideon’s army from 32,000 men to a final 300 who were left to face more than 130,000 Midianites. Why does God do things like that? Because he wants to get the glory for the work he does. Sometimes he will allow things to stack up in a certain way so there is no way out but him. If you are in a situation like that right now, a place where you don’t have anything but God, then it is a good place to be. God likes those kinds of odds. He specializes in taking impossible situations and turning them around for his glory. That is exactly what God did for Gideon. He gave the Israelites an amazing military victory.
God is still looking for faithful, obedient, watchful servants to change this world today. He is looking for men and women who will love him more than anyone or anything else. John Wesley once wrote, “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergy or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.” I believe this is still true today.