Gideon Wants You!
You’ve likely seen a version of posters from over a century ago with Uncle Sam dressed in Americana hat and coat pointing directly at the viewer declaring, “I Want You.” America had a mission, and soldiers were wanted. “Gideon Wants You!” is a play on that. It really means that God wants you (and me) for Gideon’s army (or one like it)!
God’s mission in the world today is as daunting as it has ever been and the temptations that try to deceive us into forsaking God’s way of accomplishing that mission are as strong as they ever have been. So, we need to be very clear on how God works in the world. The start of Gideon’s story was intended to clue us in on how the Lord works.
After the Lord tells Gideon, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” Gideon responds, “Pardon me, my lord, but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” Here’s the clue: the Lord is in no way dissuaded by Gideon’s comment. It is not because the Lord didn’t believe Gideon. He certainly did. (Judges 6:14-16 NIV).
The Lord’s Unusual Way of Working
Clarity on how the Lord works is driven home through the very process by which the Lord delivers Israel from the Midianites. First, the Lord tells them that 32,000 men were too many to go up against the innumerable Midianite army. Now if 32,000 is countable, then innumerable is a lot more than that! Maybe we can suppose 100,000. So he instructs Gideon to tell everyone to go home that is afraid. 22,000 went home leaving a whopping 10,000 (Judg. 7:3). Surely that is a huge step of faith!
Apparently not big enough, for the Lord then tells Gideon, “There are still too many men.” The Lord tells him to separate the ones who bend down to drink from those who take the water up to their mouth with their hand. That put 9,700 in one group and 300 in the other. Then the Lord told him to send the 9,700 home (Judg. 7:4-7)!
I’ve heard sermons which attributed this selection to why drinking one way was better than drinking the other. That one was more alert, so the Lord chose them, but that misses the point entirely. There is only one reason why the Lord chose the 300. It was super small.
Put yourself in the shoes of those 300. They were not afraid to fight Midian when there were 32,000. They were evidently not afraid when there were 10,000. But I’ll bet you that they may well have been afraid when there were only 300. This must have felt like a ‘suicide mission.’
Recognizing God’s Working
Gideon’s story is well-loved, but I wonder if we would ever want to be in his army. Most people today are persuaded that God is going to win the world with large churches doing large things. But what if God still operated the same way as He did in Gideon’s day? What if he decided that small was the way to take the world? Would we want to be a part? Maybe more important: would we recognize it?
Paul recognized it. He not only talked about putting “no confidence in the flesh,” he stripped himself of all such means of confidence by the choices he made. He determined that he would count all the things which gave him the ability to put confidence in the flesh as loss in order to know Christ Jesus by sharing in His sufferings in order that he might share in the power of his resurrection (Philippians 3:3-11). Paul chose participation in the life of Christ over reliance upon the many fleshly strengths he had.
Because Paul recognized this great truth, he did not lose heart (2 Cor. 4:1). Despite being “afflicted in every way,” he and his team were “not crushed.” They were ”perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). Indeed, Paul understood that God’s power is made perfect in human weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
Would we recognize God’s operation in the world if he still operated as He did with Gideon? What are the visible things we put confidence in rather than participation in Christ and his suffering? Would we choose the army of 300 to go to war with the innumerable army? Or would we work all our powers of persuasion this way: “Well, you have to use wisdom. God would want us to use all the resources available to us. Certainly, God wouldn’t send us on a ‘suicide mission.’”
In What Are We Trusting?
Asked another way (from Gideon’s angle), what is the 32,000-man army we are trusting in? Or (from Paul’s angle), what is the circumcision in which we are trusting to accomplish God’s work? I am not talking about God’s work to make us righteous (though it is included). I am talking about the mission of God. How are we going to bring the gospel to the ends of the world? On what are we relying?
Is it large advertising budgets? Is it a fantastic sound system? If one were to follow the trends in church-planting, it would certainly seem that these far outweigh the means which Paul relied on. It may be tied to our fashion trends, haircuts, smoke machines or ________.
What about such means as kingdom prayer, spreading the good news of Jesus’ reign (the kingdom message), kingdom sacrifice, and loving our neighbor by doing what is good (kingdom warfare)? Not as sexy, for sure, but are we committed to God’s mission God’s way? Do we want to be part of Gideon’s army? God wants you!