Gideon is one of my heroes because his diffident faith reminds me so much of myself. For many Christians, he’s nobody special, a bit of a wimp. Judges 6, which tells of his calling to rescue Israel from the hands of the Midianites, seems to many to be an object lesson in obfuscation and doubt. They are scornful of his questions and constant ‘bargaining’ with God, with his fear (he built an altar to the Lord at night because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, we read in Judges 6:27) and with his sheer uncertainty. It is these characteristics, however, which offer me hope, because I see this shyness and uncertainty as arising from his lack of self-confidence. Gideon reminds me that God doesn’t only use confident, assertive people. He uses wimps, cowards, doubters and fearful people as well! – and therefore there’s hope for me too!
Gideon asks many of the hard questions we’d prefer to ignore (‘if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the wonders that our ancestors told us about…?’ Judges 6:13) His conclusions may be flawed (as ours often are, believing the Lord has abandoned us in times of testing, even though the very conversation he was having with the angel of the Lord was actually proof that this was not the case), but his raw honesty is something I believe we should emulate, not hiding our confusion beneath pious platitudes but being real with God.
It’s perhaps in his need for reassurance and affirmation that I most identify with Gideon. He seeks reassurance and confirmation from God by making an offering to Him and putting fleeces out so God can demonstrate His awesome power (Judges 6:17-23, 36-40). Some may feel this is putting God to the test, but I believe Gideon’s reported politeness (‘pardon me, sir‘) and humility (‘do not be angry with me‘) indicate a fearful heart, not an unbelieving one. God’s graciousness to Gideon (offering him hope and the revelation ‘the Lord is peace’ (Judges 6:24)) goes a long way to mitigating my fears and offering me reassurance.
We like our heroes to be tough, dynamic and fearless, but Gideon – named in Hebrews 11, that chapter listing heroes of the faith – reminds us what makes a hero is not a person’s flawed personality but the presence of God with them, a lesson from which we can all take comfort and reassurance.