Text: Judges 6:11-24
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” —2 Timothy 1:7
I once heard a child psychologist say that for every negative statement a child hears about oneself, they need seven positives to reinforce their self-esteem. That’s why we have been using an “Edification Chair” as a tradition at our youth camps for years. It’s always amazing to see the confidence swell in a child sitting in that chair as adults and peers around the room speak positive statements over them. I like to tell the young people to look one another in the eye when these statements are made. It’s a dignity-restoring tool in youth ministry.
In Judges 6, when God is about to use a young person to make an extraordinary impact upon his generation, He seems to use a similar approach. Gideon’s esteem was reeling in discouragement when the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Considering his dire circumstances, this could’ve sounded sarcastic or insensitive—even insulting. Gideon had been surrounded by so much negativity and yet God addresses him with such a bold, positive affirmation. This statement didn’t seem to fit Gideon’s Instagram “selfie” at the time. That’s why Gideon responded with such a huge question mark:
“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.”
Gideon lived during a scary time when his people were being bullied and oppressed by the Midianites. As we saw last week, the Israelites had abandoned their faith and were suffering terribly as a result. God hadn’t abandoned them, they had abandoned God. Now they were cowering in shame. So Gideon certainly didn’t feel very “mighty.” He didn’t look like William Wallace in Braveheart. He looked more like Napoleon Dynamite getting bullied in the school hallway. But then God showed up!
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?” Then we see Gideon’s inferiority complex kick in. “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.” There wasn’t much left to Gideon’s dignity, that’s why when God showed up the first thing He spoke to was Gideon’s identity—not his circumstances.
The Lord didn’t want Gideon seeing himself in the shadow of his circumstances, but to define his existence in the light of his true identity. He would have to renew his mind so that he could understand that he didn’t just randomly exist, but that he was marked by the hand of God and destined for something greater than mere survival. He was a man on a mission—sent by the authority of God to make a difference in his generation. Thus, his identity is critical to the restoration of his dignity and the success of his mission.
This transformation changes everything. When we shift from seeing ourselves in the shadow of our circumstances to being defined in the light of our God-given identity, we can have the kind of faith that the psalmist expressed when he said, “For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall” (Psalm 18:29). Gideon will soon be doing the improbable, not because of his own strength, but because he learns to trust what the Lord wants to do through him.
Lord, help us to live boldly from our core identity, not from those negative emotions, social stigmas, or unfortunate circumstances in which we might find ourselves. Like you did with Gideon, remind us of how mighty we can be, and what kind of warrior we can become, not due to our own strength, but because of WHO lives within us. Holy Spirit, grant us the power to live from that core this week. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Questions for personal reflection, small group discussion, or dinner table conversations:
- What kinds of things tend to define us in life? In what ways might we derive our identity vicariously through others?
- Why did the angel of the Lord appear to Gideon? (6:11-14) What is significant about the way the Lord addressed Gideon? Why do you think that surprised Gideon?
- For what reasons did Gideon doubt whether the Lord was with Israel? (6:13) When have you ever questioned whether or not God was with you due to circumstances?
- What did the angel of the Lord challenge Gideon to do? (6:14) How did Gideon respond to the challenge of the Lord? (6:15) What encouragement did Gideon receive from the Lord? (6:12, 14, 16)
- What does this passage tell us about the kind of people God uses to fulfill His purposes? How can you go about your week with a confidence in your God-given identity rather than what your circumstances might be speaking?
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