I am Gideon. I’m afraid the Midianites will catch me threshing this little bit of wheat that my family was able to grow and harvest. I hate those Midianites, who like locusts descend on Israel at harvest time and take away the crops, leaving us to starve in caves. I am threshing the wheat, cloaked in the shade of a giant oak tree, bent down to hide in an indentation in the ground used as a winepress in better days.
I am angry at the Midianites, but there’s nothing I can do. I am barely a man.
I hear a noise, and I lift my head. A stranger sits cross-legged next to the winepress. How did he approach? Is he an enemy?
He looks at me with expressive, loving eyes. This is no enemy. He’s tall, straight-backed, dark-haired.
“The Lord is with you, mighty warrior,” he says.
That’s an improbable thing to say to a teenager cowering in a winepress. And who is this Lord, anyway? We have many gods here in Israel. The one called the Lord is only one of them. I’ve heard some say the Lord is a god who chooses only one people for his own, us, Israel. But if that’s true, the Lord must be a weakling. He’s not protecting us. I voice my thoughts. “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the wonders we have heard about? The Lord has abandoned us.”
He stands up and beckons. I climb out of the winepress and stand to face him. What authority there is in that calm face!
“Go,” he says. “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midianite’s hand.” His arm swings to the east, palm up. “Am I not sending you?”
His voice rings with authority. I know now who I am talking to. “But Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
“I will be with you,” he says. “You will strike down all the Midianites together.”
I can understand that this is the Lord, and that he wants to send me to victory over the Midianites. But does the Lord have the power to make that happen? All I can see is a man my height with expressive eyes and a commanding voice. My family doesn’t pray to the Lord and expect results; we pray to Baal and Asherah, lords of fertility and the harvest. Those are the ones who answer our prayers. I’ll bring this man an offering, some precious meat, bread, and broth. If he’s a god, he’ll take the offering.
I bring him the meal and place it on a rock, as he bids. Then he touches the rock with his staff, and fire flares up from the rock, consuming the meat, bread, and broth in an instant. Indeed, he CAN do miraculous things. Stunned, I fall to my knees. “Ah, Sovereign Lord!” I have been standing on holy ground.
“Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” In an instant he vanishes, and I build an altar there. But I know this is not the end of it. Did he not say, “Go and save Israel” to me? I still do not know how this might play out. My stomach flip-flops.
Reflection: How is God calling you out of an idolatrous culture? (An idol is anything that attracts you more than God does.) Can you identify some idols in your life?
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/babasteve/38803192/