Gideon was an underdog. No one believed in Gideon’s ability. And unlike some of the great underdog stories we know – Rudy comes to mind – Gideon doesn’t even believe in himself. Not exactly a great starting point.
But in chapters 6 and 7 of Judges, we see Gideon go from zero to hero. And we’ll see the thought process – the faith process, really – that he went through as the transformation happened.
The people of Israel are back to rebellion and evil. In spite of their covenant with God, they continue to work their way through a cycle of rebellion, retribution, repentance, and rescue as they repeatedly break their covenant, seeking the pleasure offered by the pagan idolatry that was popular in their culture. Because of their rebellion, God again removed his hand of protection, leaving them this time to face retribution from the Midianites.
The Israelites are stuck hiding in their own land in an effort to find safety from Midian as the Midianites robbed them of the produce of the land and all forms of sustenance – all prophesied results of the broken covenant. Their difficult situation caused them to cry out to God for help. And God answered by sending a prophet to remind them of their covenant, and to let them know their situation was a result of their disobedience, their broken covenant. He reminded them of all the times He delivered them and of all the victories He provided. And He reminded them of their sin.
An Angel appears, who many scholars believe is Christ himself. The angel speaks to Gideon, telling him to go and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Gideon was skeptical, his lack of scriptural teaching from his father left him not realizing that the situation in which he and the rest of the Israelites found themselves wasn’t a failure on God’s part, but failure on their part because of their sin which resulted in a broken covenant. The angel calls Gideon to do what he can, and trust God with the rest. But again, Gideon is a skeptic. His tribe is small, and he is smaller. There’s no logical way for him to defeat the Midianites. Wanting to believe, he asks the angel for a sign that the angel is indeed bringing a message from the Lord, and the angel delivers.
Gideon recognizes the sign and decides to follow as the Lord leads, tearing down idols and making a sacrifice to the Lord. Tearing down the idols angered many of the residents – they were Jews who should have known better than to worship other gods in addition to Yahweh, but the culture had influenced their thinking. They were upset by Gideon’s destruction of their idols.
Gideon asks again for a sign from God, mainly because he really doesn’t want to fight the Midianites, he’s hoping to get out of this calling. God had already spoken and given him his sign. But God knew Gideon was raised by a father who had not taught him the scriptures, and who had allowed idols to have a place in their belief system, so God mercifully complied, giving Gideon another sign, assuring Gideon that God indeed intended for Gideon to go and save Israel. And God expects him to do it with even fewer people than Gideon anticipated.
God instructs Gideon to address his army of 32,000 men and send home all of the men who don’t actually want to be there to fight the Midianites – and 22,000 left! God wants Gideon and everyone else to recognize the victory doesn’t come from strength or might but by God’s power. God instructs Gideon to send home, even more, shedding more troops, leaving him with only 300 people to fight the Midianites.
From the start, Gideon was aware there was a problem: The Israelites were in hiding and many were dying as they were oppressed in their own land because of their rebellion. God called Gideon to lead the people out of their suffering. It was a challenge, in the face of such turmoil could Gideon – would Gideon – step out in faith at the Lord’s leading? He had a decision to make.
Ultimately Gideon decided, after hearing from the Lord and seeing His signs, that he would take this step of faith.
And then the opposition began. Things were indeed bad, but the thought of change, of stepping out in faith to fight a scary enemy wasn’t something most people found comfortable either.
And in the midst of opposition, God caused shedding. Once Gideon recognized the challenge, decided to follow the Lord’s leading, and stood firm even in the face of opposition, God told Gideon to dismiss the vast majority of his army. It required another step of faith, but Gideon took that step. God put Gideon in a position where victory was truly impossible, where only God could bring them to victory, and where only God could get the glory.
That’s what created the impact. Gideon’s faithfulness and obedience led to a victory that could only point to the power of God.
What is God challenging you with today? What decision do you have to make? Where will you face opposition when you choose to follow God’s leading in that challenge? What things will you have to shed before you can move forward in God’s leading? What things will you have to leave behind to see the impact of God’s power? Because our goal is to make a difference for His Kingdom, for His glory. And to do that, we have to be willing to follow Gideon’s faith process: Challenge, Decision, Opposition, Shedding, Impact. We have to be willing to become the underdog.