Series: Discovering the Power of God (Part 2)
Episode: The Heart That Wavers
Doesn’t matter how strong we think we are, when we’re faced with impossible odds, our heart wavers. The problems (which are so close – right in front of our eyes) seem so much bigger than God – who right now seems a million miles away. We want to believe in God in the middle of this mess but …
We’ve been looking, the last couple of weeks, at the power of God. How to lay hold of that power even in the midst of the most impossible of circumstances. And yesterday we saw how Gideon, at Gods behest, assembled a great army to fight against the armies of the Midianites and the Amalekites. Even with Gideon’s army it was a David and Goliath affair. I mean Gideon had a minnow of an army, the Israelites, against one hundred and thirty five thousand Midianites and Amalekites. I mean crazy.
But then God, God pares down Gideon’s army to a mere three hundred men because God wanted Israel to understand that it was by His power that they would be delivered in this battle not through their own strength. I often wonder what Gideon was thinking and feeling in those days and weeks as God reduced his numbers and sent him on what was almost certainly a Kamikaze mission, a suicide mission. Surely no one could win this battle and from a human stand point that’s often how it feels.
Things in our lives are going from bad to worse. Instead of our prayer making things better, things seem to spiral downwards and we’re left wondering, “God, what are you up to?”
Now maybe Gideon was made of sterner stuff than thee or me but even so he needed to be certain that God was in this. So God, by His grace, gave Gideon an insight how He had already gone before this tiny rag tag band of three hundred to a sure victory against this mighty army. Let’s have a listen. Judges chapter 7, verse 7 to 15:
Then the Lord said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred that lapped I will deliver you and give the Midianites into your hand. Let all the others go to their homes’. So he took the jars of the troops from their hands and their trumpets and he sent all the rest of Israel back to their own tents but retained the three hundred.
The camp of Midian was below them in the valley. That same night the Lord said to him, ‘Get up, attack the camp for I have given it into your hand but if you fear to attack go down to the camp with your servant Purah and you shall hear what they say and afterwards your hand shall be strengthened to attack the camp’. And he went down with his servant Purah to the outposts of the armed men that were in the camp.
The Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the east lay along the valley as thick as locusts and their camels were without number, countless as the sand on the seashore. When Gideon arrived there was a man telling a dream to his comrade and he said, ‘I had a dream and in it a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell. It turned upside down and the tent collapsed.’
And his comrade said, ‘This is no other than the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, a man of Israel. Into his hand God has given Median and all the army’. When Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation he worshipped and he returned to the camp of Israel and said, ‘Get up for the Lord has given the army of Midian into your hand’.
Do you see what’s going on here? God is about to move in Israel’s favour with incredible power through this tiny band of no more than three hundred men. God is about to route one hundred and thirty five thousand Midianites and Amalekites. Just stop and think about that. The sheer and utter and complete impossibility of that proposition as you and I are standing in the night in the middle of our band of three hundred.
I mean it’s nuts right? And so Gideon’s heart, well it’s wavering, why? Because what he’s been asked to do by God is just completely unnatural. We humans have a strong sense of self preservation and so when God asks us to do something that from where we sit looks completely mad, well our hearts are going to waver. It simply isn’t natural for us to be in a dangerous place and wait for God to move in power.
It simply isn’t natural for us to rely on the fact that God has already gone ahead of us to ensure victory because through our sense of saving our own skin we look at the problem and the risks and the danger that looms so hugely, so ominously before our very eyes and we’re afraid.
The wife with the difficult husband. She’d love to flee it and leave him but in her heart she honours God, she believes in the sanctity of marriage and so she endures the impossible. Can she really believe that God has already gone ahead of her to change this impossible man?
The employee with a difficult boss who would love nothing better than to flee this horrid, oppressive work environment and go and get another job but in his heart of hearts he knows that God wants him here in this workplace to shine the light of the love of Jesus into that dark hole. So he stays on. Can he really imagine that God is doing things in these people’s hearts that he can’t yet perceive?
Do you see how this isn’t just some myth from the past? It’s a true story, it’s an historical account of the power of God and I wonder if sometimes we miss out on seeing Gods power because we just run away from the impossible just way too early. Gideon didn’t because he asked God for signs as his heart was wavering as any mans heart would do facing almost certain death.
Gideon asked the angel for a sign and fire came down from heaven and then not once but twice Gideon throws out the fleece, God tonight put dew on the fleece but not on the ground then I’ll know it’s from you. So God does that and the next night Gideon says, ‘Well don’t get angry with me God but just to make sure could you do this the other way round? Could you put the dew on the ground and not on the fleece?’ So God does that.
And here he’s about to attack this huge, HUGE enemy camp and again God gives him a sign. The two men talking on the boundary of the camp, the fear in their hearts of Gideon. That same night the Lord said to him:
Get up, attack the camp for I have given into your hand. But if you fear to attack go down to the camp with your servant Purah and you shall hear what they say and afterwards your hand shall be strengthened to attack the camp.
Don’t you love that? God knows our frailties, He understands our fears and so by His grace He leads us through the difficult times. But you and I we’re so often afraid, we’re dejected, we’re busy panicking, running around in circles, flapping, running away, man we wouldn’t hear God if He shouted. We want to see God move in power in our lives, we want to understand what He’s up to, we want to be encouraged by God and yet we run away and then wonder why we didn’t experience the power of God.
Listen to me, by definition if we’re going to see God’s power in full flight in our lives then it’s going to be in an absolutely impossible situation against impossible odds and that place, for a time, perhaps for a short time maybe even for a long time, that place is going to be uncomfortable and dark and scary. That’s the place where God does things through His power. So that we can be in absolutely no doubt that it came from Him and not through us.
And friend in my experience, really, it’s only as I look back on those times that I can truly see and really comprehend just how amazing God’s power is. Just because you and I or Gideon are afraid doesn’t mean that God’s lost His power or that God’s not going to show up. Fear is natural and I believe that what God is saying to us today is just get still and listen and let Him lead us and show us what He would show us and then like Gideon our hand will be strengthened to the battle.