The Messenger of the Lord came and sat under the oak tree in Ophrah that belonged to Joash from Abiezer’s family. Joash’s son Gideon was beating out wheat in a winepress to hide it from the Midianites. The Messenger of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, “The Lord is with you, brave man.”
Gideon responded, “Excuse me, sir! But if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracles our ancestors have told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and has handed us over to Midian.”
The Lord turned to him and said, “You will rescue Israel from Midian with the strength you have. I am sending you.”
Gideon said to him, “Excuse me, sir! How can I rescue Israel? Look at my whole family. It’s the weakest one in Manasseh. And me? I’m the least important member of my family.”
The Lord replied, “I will be with you. You will defeat Midian as if it were only one man.”
Gideon said to him, “If you find me acceptable, give me a sign that it is really you speaking to me. Don’t leave until I come back. I want to bring my gift and set it in front of you.”
“I will stay until you come back,” he said.
Then Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread made with 18 quarts of flour. He put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot. Then he went out and presented them to the Messenger of the Lord under the oak tree.
The Messenger of the Lord told him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” Gideon did so. Then the Messenger of the Lord touched the meat and the bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared up from the rock and burned the meat and the bread. Then the Messenger of the Lord disappeared. That’s when Gideon realized that this had been the Messenger of the Lord. So he said, “Lord God! I have seen the Messenger of the Lord face to face.”
The Lord said to him, “Calm down! Don’t be afraid. You will not die.” So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord. He called it The Lord Calms. To this day it is still in Ophrah, which belongs to Abiezer’s family. (God’s Word Translation)
Today’s story is familiar in more ways than one. It’s a typical interaction between the Lord and the individual. And it’s also the typical way people respond to God, even now in our contemporary world.
Notice how the interaction between the Lord and Gideon unfolds:
The message: The Lord is with you. You are brave.
The pushback: It doesn’t look like the Lord is with our people (and a purposeful ignoring of the bravery thing).
The message: The Lord is sending you (and a purposeful ignoring of the pushback).
The pushback: I’m too weak for that.
The message: The Lord is with you. You got this.
The pushback: It can’t be me. Give me sign.
The message: I will stay. I am with you.
The pushback: I am not acceptable. Here’s an offering.
The message: Chill, dude. You’re wound way too tight. I am with you. You got this.
The acceptance of the message: Here’s an altar to remind me that God is here, and God calms my fear.
Sound familiar? How many times have you had a similar sort of interaction with the Lord?
The message: “Don’t be afraid. The Lord is with you. You have everything you need.” (assurance and reassurance)
The pushback: “Huh!? If I had everything I need, why are my circumstances so hard? Every time I turn around, there’s another adversity staring me in the face!” (ignoring the presence of God)
The message: “Go and make disciples. Love God. Love your neighbor.” (ignoring the bunny trail)
The pushback: “I’m the least gifted person in the world to be doing that sort of ministry.” (goes off point)
The message: “I am with you always until the end of time.” (stays on point)
The pushback: “It can’t be me. Give me a sign.” (i.e. I can’t accept myself, so there’s no way that you do!)
The message: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” (a demonstration of the presence)
The pushback: “I’m not the acceptable person for this… Here, I’ll put something in the offering plate.” (having a hard time wrapping head and heart around God’s grace)
The message: “You are anxious and upset about a great many things. I am with you. You got this.” (still remains on point)
The acceptance of the message: “Here I am, Lord, a living sacrifice.” (now on the same page with the Lord)
Christian ministry is not the absence of doubt or fear; it is doing what the Lord calls us to do, despite the surrounding circumstances.
We are never promised anywhere in Holy Scripture that life will be a bowl of cherries, that somehow circumstances will always be smooth. Instead, we are continually reminded of the promise that God is with us.
It’s the presence of the Lord that makes all the difference. Our abilities, or lack thereof, have nothing to do with the equation. We are already in the image and likeness of God, created with the inner resources to do the will of God.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need. (Psalm 23:1, GNT)
We have everything we need to live a life that pleases God. It was all given to us by God’s own power. (2 Peter 1:3, CEV)
You already have God’s acceptance; you don’t need to earn it.
“I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. Those who fear him and do what is right are acceptable to him, no matter what race they belong to.” (Acts 10:34-35, GNT)
When God promised Abraham and his descendants that the world would belong to him, he did so, not because Abraham obeyed the Law, but because he believed and was accepted as righteous by God. (Romans 4:13, GNT)
Honor God by accepting each other, as Christ has accepted you. (Romans 15:7, CEV)
There’s a lot we don’t know. Yet, what we do know is that God is with us and God has accepted us. And that’s all we need to hang our hat on.