The LORD looked at him and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” But the LORD said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” So Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me.” (Judges 6:14-17 NASB)
When confronted by God, the first thing Gideon does is show off his ignorance. He is in a culture completely unaware they live in violation of their covenant with God. And yet, God doesn’t say to Gideon, “What’s wrong with you people?” We say that as we read, but God’s response is different. He drags this guy back into a covenant relationship with Him.
There are some interesting details given about God’s interaction with Gideon. For instance, the Angel of Yahweh sits under the oak in Ophrah, and then appears to him. The language is specific that Gideon couldn’t see Him until after He sat under the oak. And now, we have the description that Yahweh looks directly at Gideon. Gideon has His full attention, a dangerous thing of Yahweh’s to have.
These details may not seem like much, but they provide some insight into God’s character. And it’s His character here that I think is so important. Gideon gives one excuse after the other, and Yahweh patiently ignores and sweeps them aside. First, Gideon is a “valiant warrior” with whom Yahweh hangs out, but Gideon asks the insulting question of where is this Yahweh. Then Yahweh ignores the response, stares at him and tells him to go “in this your strength” and defeat Midian.
The fact that Yahweh doesn’t debate the first question, nor accept the falsely humble statements of Gideon about his family, and then waits around for the first “test”, all indicate that Yahweh is patient. When He sends the prophet with the scathing rebuke, we think Him harsh. But we forget that Yahweh didn’t wait around for their repentance. In fact, there’s no real indication that the people truly repented.
God’s grace in this story is truly grace. It’s not conditional on the objects of His favor, it didn’t wait around for some criteria other than the people calling out for God. He just wanted to be acknowledged. Clearly they didn’t understand their covenant relationship with Him. Obviously they didn’t change their ways, they try to worship the stupid gold pendant Gideon has made at the end.
The point of this story, for the author and for us, is that God’s mercy is always available. It may not look like we want. It may not involve the people we would choose. It may not be the most comfortable thing to receive. But it’s always available, and available for the asking. We may be amazed at how much we can survive, but we’ll survive. It may be we only see the sheer amount of mercy He shows when we are before Him in heaven.
The thing is, God is merciful to the idiot, the ignorant, and the bonehead. He is faithful to the unfaithful. So, what are we? Do we have all the answers? Do we “get it”? Are we faithful? Don’t we have altars to other gods in our front yards? Don’t we demonstrate the same level of ineptitude that Gideon showed? Sure we do. Daily, we display our ignorance and arrogance before God and everybody. And yet, He continues to show His love for us.
The truth is that we are as dependent upon our Master as any believer in a third-world country. In some ways we’re probably worse off. And yet, as bad off as we may be, or may get, the love of God for us is as strong as His love for those more faithful followers in other countries. He doesn’t wait for us to “get it”, to understand Him more, or even to repent. Repenting is good, but God doesn’t wait for us to be faithful to Him, He simply is to us regardless.
Even repentance is a response to the love and faithfulness of God. Even falling before Him in anguish over our sinful ignorance and boneheadedness is a response to His mercy. We worship because He already loves us. We honor Him because we’re already accepted. We serve because we have already received His blessing.
I suppose the question for today is, what will you do in response to Him today?
That’s my view through the knothole. What’s your view of God this morning?