What do you see when you look in the mirror? When I look in the mirror, I see flaws. But when God looks at you and me, he sees things differently. We see weakness; God sees potential. We see what we are; God sees what we can be. We see the past; God sees the future.
The Bible tells us about a man named Gideon who had no visible potential whatsoever. Yet he became a bona fide world changer. In fact, Gideon’s name is included in Hebrews 11, which is known as the Hall of Faith. Gideon had a weak beginning and, quite frankly, not the best ending, either. But he made it into an exclusive list of courageous men and women who put their faith into action.
When we look at a guy like Gideon, this gives hope to people who are more on the ordinary side. God goes out of his way to find ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Why? So he gets the glory.
Gideon was living in a time when people were morally upside down, and that was because they were spiritually upside down. Whenever there is a spiritual breakdown, there will be a moral breakdown and a cultural breakdown. In a sense, Judges 17:6 explains everything: “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (NLT).
In other words, everyone just did their own thing. Some things were in chaos, not unlike the Wild West. So the Lord raised up judges to rule over Israel. There were 13 in total, 12 of whom were men. These were not robe-wearing judges like we see in our court systems; they were more like the lawmen of the Old West. God raised up these judges who were, in many cases, warriors as well.
It had been 200 years since Israel had marched around the great city of Jericho and saw the walls fall by the power of God. But things hadn’t changed, because they didn’t finish the job. God told Israel to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan, which included the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Ammonites and Jebusites. Israel obeyed partially. But they allowed the Canaanites to continue to grow and get stronger. As a result, the Canaanites came back to haunt them and ultimately rule over them.
God answered the Israelites’ cry for help in a very unusual way. He sent the answer in the form of a man named Gideon.
As our story begins, we find Gideon trying to prepare a little wheat, hiding behind the walls of a small winepress to conceal the grain from the Midianties. Suddenly an angel appeared and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” (Judges 6:12 NLT).
I don’t think Gideon felt like a mighty hero. I think he probably felt more like a pathetic zero. Yet God reassured him that he was the one.
But before Gideon led Israel in the battle, there was test, and it was a test in his own home. God told Gideon to tear down the altar his father Joash had erected to a false god. He also was to take his father’s prized bull and sacrifice it. So Gideon did what the Lord told him to do – and it wasn’t easy.
After he tore down the altar, the people were so angry they wanted to execute him. But amazingly, it was Gideon’s father who defended him. Joash said to the people, “Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar!” (verse 31 NLT)
Gideon passed the first test with flying colors. Then God told him to get an army together, so Gideon rallied 32,000 men. That was pretty good. But considering the Midianites had more than 100,000 troops, it wasn’t that many. But then God told Gideon he had too many warriors, so Gideon told the people who were timid or afraid to go home. As a result, only 10,000 were left. Why would God tell Gideon to ask them to leave? Because fear is contagious.
But even with 10,000 men left, there still were too many. Gideon took his warriors down to a spring, and God told him divide the men into two groups. In one group were those who cupped the water in their hands and drank it. In the other group were those who drank with their mouths in the stream. This revealed their attitude toward the enemy. The 300 men who drank from their hands indicated they were aware of the enemy. The rest were sent home.
Gideon was down to the cream of the crop, 3 percent of the original 10,000. And what was the battle plan? Gideon divided the men into three groups and gave each man a torch, a clay pot and a ram’s horn. The Bible tells us, “It was just after midnight, after the changing of the guard. … Suddenly, they blew the rams’ horns and broke their clay jars. … They held the blazing torches in their left hands and the horns in their right hands, and they all shouted, ‘A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!'” (Judges 7:19–20 NLT)
All of a sudden the Midianites heard the noise and commotion and saw the torches. Hearing the trumpets, they thought it was a massive army coming to destroy them. By the time Gideon’s men reached the camp, the confused Midianites soldiers were turning their sword on each other, while the remaining soldiers fled the camp.
Of all the upsets celebrated by military historians, none is more amazing than this one, which God accomplished through Gideon.
John Wesley said, “Give me 100 men who fear nothing but God, hate nothing but sin, and have the love of Jesus in their hearts, and with them I can move the world.”
God effectively changed the whole culture through one man who was willing to stand in the gap and make a difference. And God can do the same today with an ordinary person who will say, “I am willing to be that man. I’m willing to be that woman.” God often will use the unqualified to do the unexpected. Will you step forward?