When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
Judges 6:12-15 NIV
Year after year after year, Israel suffered at the hands of the Midianites. After seven years of tyranny, Israel cried out to the Lord for help. God sent an unnamed prophet who told them, “you have not listened to me.”
Then God called Gideon.
Of all the judges of Israel, his story is the longest and he’s the only judge granted a face-to-face with the angel of the Lord.
Pardon me, my Lord
When the angel of the Lord told Gideon the Lord was with him, his response revealed his doubt about the presence of God. The NIV interprets it as “pardon me“. In other words…..‘excuse me, did I hear you correctly? That’s not how I see it.’
Gideon continued, “but now the Lord has abandoned us.”
Again, the angel of the Lord reassured Gideon and told him to go in strength and save Israel. And again, Gideon said, “Pardon me, my Lord.” In other words…..’excuse me, did I hear you correctly? There’s no way I can do that.’
The Lord again promised Gideon His presence and added, “you will strike down all the Midianites.”
Gideon didn’t say pardon me. Instead, he asked for a sign. After he’d prepared and offered a meal of meat, bread, and broth, and it was consumed by fire, the angel of the Lord disappeared. Gideon realized in a flash he’d seen the angel of the Lord.
Again, the Lord comforted Gideon. “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”
The full story in Judges chapters 6 through 8 reveals even more about Gideon. He doubted God’s presence, doubted His promises, feared the Midianites, feared his own countrymen and asked over and over for signs and reassurance.
Gideon was no mighty warrior. Not on his own. But God is El Shaddai. God Almighty.
Too often I’m like Gideon. Scared of what I don’t know. Scared of what I do. My heart full of doubt instead of faith. Unable to see past the circumstances or the pain.
We’re all more like Gideon in our faith than we like to admit. Sure, we muster up the courage to proclaim what we say we believe. Sometimes to convince ourselves. Most the time to convince others. We ought to be as honest as Gideon with our questions and doubts. God knows anyway.
How comforting to know we don’t have to fake it. Thankfully, God doesn’t depend on our level of faith to act on our behalf, but He will strengthen our faith as he did Gideon’s.
Take heart mighty warrior! God is sovereign and He is at work, no matter the strength of your faith.