You have to love Gideon. As he lived in a time when God seemed to be a million miles from Israel, and as he dealt each day with the fallout from that situation, he became a realist. And as a part of that realism, he asked one of the most sincere, honest, and downright blunt questions in all the Bible.
Bear with me as I set the stage for the question. Gideon lived in the time period of the book of Judges. It was a time marked by the fact that even though Israel had conquered Canaan and settled it, they hadn’t followed God’s instructions by doing a thorough job of driving out Canaan’s inhabitants. Consequently, the people of Israel didn’t have the land all to themselves. Many of the various races that had always called Canaan home were still there.
Also keep in mind that Moses was now dead. So was Joshua. This is where Israelite leaders known as “Judges” enter into the equation. Since Israel no longer had a God-appointed national leader, God began to work through an assortment of these Judges to help the nation. Generally speaking, a Judge was a territorial leader whom God raised up to lead a certain section of Israel during a time of crisis against a foreign enemy.
All this helps explain the classic literary pattern for the book of Judges. That pattern goes like this:
- The people of Israel do evil in the sight of the Lord.
- God whips the people by allowing a foreign enemy to hold sway over them.
- The people cry out to God for help against the enemy.
- God raises up a Judge to lead the people in conquest over the enemy.
- The people of Israel again do evil in the sight of the Lord and the whole process repeats itself, this time with different players.
Now let’s get back to Gideon. During his day the people of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and God delivered them into the hands of the Midianites for seven long years (Judges 6:1). Each year Israel sowed its seed for its crops, and each year the Midianites, allied with the Amalekites and some other unnamed races, came in “as numerous as locusts” with all their tents and all their livestock and destroyed what the Israelites had planted (Judges 6:2-5). The annual devastation left the people of Israel poverty stricken, living in dens and caves and strongholds in the mountains, and crying out to God for help (Judges 6:2,6-7).
God’s answer was to first send a prophet to Israel to explain to them why such devastation was befalling them (Judges 6:7-10). Next, He appeared to a timid, cowardly man named Gideon, who was a member of the tribe of Manasseh, to raise him up to be the Judge who would lead his people to defeat the Midianites. God appeared to Gideon in the form of the Angel (that’s with a capital A) of the Lord, which is actually an Old Testament appearance of the preincarnate Jesus (Judges 6:11-21).
The Angel of the Lord’s opening words to Gideon were, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (Judges 6:12). Since Gideon, at that very moment, was threshing some wheat in hiding to keep it from the Midianites, the Angel’s words seem almost sarcastic. By Gideon’s own assessment of himself a bit later in the conversation, not only was he a member of the weakest clan in his tribe, he was the least in his own family (Judges 6:15). Mighty man of valor? Yeah, right.
But it’s Gideon’s response to the Angel’s assertion, “The Lord is with you…” that has prompted me to write this post. Upon hearing that the Lord is with him and the rest of Israel, Gideon cuts straight through the red tape and asks “the elephant in the room” question. He says, “If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13).
Gideon’s stating of the obvious warms my heart every time I read it. He’s not trying to sound super spiritual. He’s not trying to voice a bunch of fake faith. He’s not trying to tell the Lord what He wants to hear. No, Gideon is asking the question that a man standing in his sandals would be mentally deranged not to ask.
And lest you think that I am overstating Gideon’s skeptical doubt that the Lord was with him and his nation, let me point out that he immediately followed up his opening question by continuing in that vein. He said:
“…And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Judges 6:13, N.K.J.V.)
I don’t mind telling you that I can relate to a guy who thinks and talks like that. Perhaps you can as well. I don’t know what troubles you are dealing with at this moment, but you might be legitimately asking, “If the Lord is with me, why has all this happened to me? Where are the miracles? Where is the deliverance?” While I myself don’t have the answers to your questions, I do want you to know that you aren’t in sin for feeling out of heart enough to ask them.
But here now is the something that I want you to consider: consider the fact that there is no Bible record of Gideon personally committing any rank sin as part of his people doing evil in the sight of the Lord. Maybe he did, but maybe he didn’t. All I know is that if we stick strictly to the facts of the Biblical account, Gideon’s personal troubles were the result of the sins of others (his nation) rather than himself. Think about that. You see, if this was indeed the case, it means that Gideon simply got caught up in the backwash of God’s judgment upon his fellow citizens. Perhaps this is even why God saw him as a candidate to be the solution to the problem.
What we can say for sure is that whatever the exact details of Gideon’s case were, it’s a plain fact that sometimes the troubles that come our way are really not our fault. We aren’t being judged for some kind of personal sin. We aren’t reaping the bitter harvest of some bad seed we have sown. We aren’t being spanked by God for being disobedient or unruly. Instead, we are being unjustly affected by the wrongdoings of others. Is this fair? No. But is it a part of living life on planet earth? Yes.
So, what you need to do anytime troubles come your way is go the Lord in prayer and ask Him to help you discern not only what is happening to you but why it is happening. Trust me, the why is even more important than the what. And if God reveals to you that you aren’t the source of your troubles, then you need to take your prayers in a different direction. You need to start asking God what He wants you to do in the midst of your situation. You know, it just could be that He is raising you up to somehow be the solution that ends your troubles. That’s what He did with Gideon, and He might just do the same with you.