Free Bible Study Magazine
It was harvest time in Israel, and a palpable sense of anxiety was in the air. At any moment the wary farmers might lift their eyes to see a tidal wave of Midianite soldiers pouring down from the hills like a flash flood from a broken dam. The Bible describes the Midianites as a nation of “grasshoppers” (Judg. 7:12). Whenever the harvest was ripe, they would descend upon Israel’s fields and crops in vast numbers like a swarm of locusts, leaving nothing in their wake but destruction and desolation. The Israelites went on the defensive, hunkering down in caves, hiding in the mountains, and building protective strongholds. The nervous harvesters quickly reaped what they could and hid it away in anticipation of an imminent invasion.
God had a plan to deliver Israel from the hand of Midian, and He had chosen just the man for the job, but God’s choice seemed highly unlikely. Gideon was not a superhero by any stretch of the imagination. He was a victim of his society’s ills, a man who had been influenced by the climate of cowardice that had crippled and enslaved the Israelites. He was such a prisoner of fear that he would hide in a winepress to thresh his small harvest of wheat (Judg. 6:11).
A winepress is no place to thresh wheat; it’s like washing your clothes in the dishwasher. But Gideon had chosen this inappropriate place because he was afraid of the Midianites. He was afraid of losing his harvest and his life, so he hid both underground. It was in this dungeon of fear that the Lord found Gideon, frustrated, trembling, and perspiring.
And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, The Lord is with you, you mighty man of [fearless] courage. Judges 6:12, AMP
No one would have anticipated the Lord’s declaration that day. “Gideon,” the Lord says, “you are a mighty man of fearless courage!” Where others saw a coward, God saw a deliverer!
I’m so glad God doesn’t see us the way we so often see ourselves. When we look in the mirror we might see someone who is undereducated or inexperienced. We might see someone who belongs to the wrong social class, race, or gender. We might see someone who is too young or too old. And there are always a million excuses why God can’t use us. But God sees more in us than we see in ourselves, and our obstacles, failures, and shortcomings do not intimidate Him.
I am also glad that God doesn’t see us the way other people do. Many times when we begin to break out of the old patterns and mind-sets that have held us back, rejecting the status quo, and looking for higher ground, often our greatest opponents are close friends, fellow church members, and even our own relatives. In fact, it’s interesting to note that the Midianites, being descendants of Abraham, were actually cousins of the Israelites. It was these “family members,” if you will, who had so oppressed Israel that they were cowering in fear rather than living victoriously. The enemy knows how to use those closest to us to bring discouragement. They say, “Who do you think you are? Do you think you’re better than us? We’ve known you since you were a child. We’ve seen all your failures, and we know your faults. You are just one of us. Get back in your place!”
Some time ago I became interested in purchasing an aquarium. As I began to research this project, I was amazed to discover all the different types of aquariums that can be bought. There are large ones and small ones, freshwater and saltwater. There are aquariums for fish, aquariums for corals, aquariums for reptiles, and aquariums for invertebrates. What really fascinated me was the aquarium for crabs. I discovered that these particular aquariums had no lids, and I was amused when I learned why. Apparently when you have an aquarium for crabs, you don’t need a cover because if one crab tries to climb out, the others will reach up and pull him back down again. I thought to myself, “I know a lot of crabby Christians.” We don’t like to see someone succeed where we have failed. Envy and jealousy often make God’s children competitors and rivals. Often hurtful and judgmental words have wounded brothers and sisters, dragged them down, and kept them from realizing their potential.
Sadly this happens all the time in the church world. Just as God is elevating one pastor and blessing his ministry, the other pastors in town oppose him with slander and gossip. They will do everything they can to pull him back down into the aquarium of church as usual. Such a pastor, church, or Christian should take comfort. Someone once told me, “Pity you get for free, but jealousy must be earned.” Jesus Himself was delivered up by His own people to be crucified –because they envied Him (Matt. 27:18). How often we have been discouraged because of what someone else thought or said about us? Fortunately the wonderful reality is that God doesn’t see us the way other people do.