Overcoming fear-induced paralysis, through faith, to step into your potential
Amidst all that was going on in Gideon’s life, God was waiting for the moment when he would take a step of faith and do as he was asked. The questions and arguments were only just the beginning, Gideon had more fears and doubts yet to come.
God continued his message, “I will be with you, and you will strike down the Midianites, leaving none alive” (Judges 6:16 NIV). Or “as if fighting one man” (Judges 6:16 NLT).
Gideon was a man of fear. He couldn’t possibly believe the messenger and follow the instructions. He had to be sure the message was really from God; He needed proof. He rushed home and cooked a meal as a sacrifice, placed the food on a rock and poured the liquid on top, just as the messenger instructed. The messenger touched the rock with his staff, fire came out of the rock, consumed the offering and the messenger disappeared.
By this point, Gideon realised something significant had happened, this was a defining moment. He freaked out, suddenly petrified because he had just seen the face of the Lord, so now he would die. God reassured him. Everything would be okay, Gideon would not die, and there was nothing to be afraid of. So, Gideon built an altar to the Lord and named it Yahweh Shalom, meaning The Lord is Peace. Gideon discovered something important in this exchange, God was not out to destroy him, but to use him to help bring peace to his people and nation. The peace that had been shown to Gideon was a sign of the relationship God wanted with His people.
Later that night, before Gideon had a chance to forget all that had happened and before his fears got the better of him again, God spoke to him. God asked him to pull down the altar his dad had built to Baal – a god we encounter many times in the Old Testament – and to build an altar to the Lord there instead. Not only that, He asked Gideon to sacrifice one of his father’s prize bulls on the altar.
Gideon was afraid, very afraid. He was afraid of what his father, family and community would say. Afraid of what they might think. And especially afraid of what they would do. He was also afraid of what God would do if he didn’t obey. He had a problem, and while he hadn’t openly questioned the message this time, he had clearly questioned it in is head. How could he accomplish such a task?
The answer came to Gideon in the way it always did, to follow his fears. That meant working in secret and hiding, so that he would not be discovered. Gideon carried out the task under the cover of darkness, alongside a few of his servants. No one would know it was him, no one would see.
Morning arrived. The family and tribe saw their altar and idol had been destroyed. Not only that though, it had been switched for another. They angrily demanded the blood of whoever had carried out the terrible deed. Eventually, the finger fell on Gideon, his secret plan had not been so secret, he had been found out. Gideon grew fearful once more. The people chanted for Joash, Gideon’s father, to hand him over so they could kill him. Joash did not hand him straight over, he was not among the crowd demanding punishment, he simply said, “If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who knocked down the altar” (Judges 6:31 NLT).
We don’t know a lot about Joash, but I wonder if he was also a fearful man, if Gideon had learnt many of his behaviours from his father. I have no doubt Joash loved his son but was he truly brave enough to stand up to the entire community, the whole angry mob, as they demanded the blood of his son. I suspect Joash’s conscience had been plaguing him since the moment he had built the altar but really was too scared to take it down again; God was prompting him to do the right thing. After all, if the God their ancestors had told stories of, the one who had performed miracles, was the One true God, then surely, He was a God to be feared. If God had asked Gideon to destroy an altar, then who was Joash to argue with that plan. And if Baal was the true god, then Joash would be okay, he had built the altar, he could always build another. He created a backup plan, one that would allow him to talk his way out of divine punishment, whichever way it fell. Joash sat firmly on the fence, with a foot in God’s camp and a foot in Baal’s camp, not convinced enough to stake his life on either side out of fear of the people and the gods. This story may not be about Joash, but you can see just how easily fear can take hold, and how similar Gideon’s response is to that of his father.
Gideon lived to tell the tale. That’s not the end of his story though, there’s so much more. God had a much larger plan for Gideon in mind, one far beyond just destroying a family altar.
Shortly after the altar event, various of the surrounding nations’ people formed an alliance to control the valley, its farming and its grazing land. Their army formed a camp on one side of the valley, their battle lines were drawn and ready. The Israelites were left with no choice, they would have to go to battle if they were to ensure their survival.
Gideon, suddenly spurred by the Holy Spirit that came upon him, grabbed the battle horn and blew it to call his tribe to war. He sent messengers to surrounding tribes for them to join him. Many Israelites came, the people were ready to fight. The enemy still vastly outnumbered the Israelite army, but they had at least changed the odds. The battle might even be won.
Gideon was suddenly struck by fear, yet again. Unsure of who he was or what he was doing, he began to worry. He was not a commander. Who was he to lead an army into battle? And how could they win again such a vast army?
He called on God to provide proof. Proof that God really was asking him to do this task. Proof in the form of a wet sheep fleece on dry ground (Judges 6:36). God provided the proof as demanded. Unsatisfied with God’s first answer, Gideon asked Him to perform the miracle again, but this time the ground wet and the fleece dry. Both times, God answered exactly as Gideon had requested. Gideon now knew, without a doubt, he was being instructed to do this impossible task. Gideon’s human mind only saw human solutions, logical conclusions, and none of them figured a weak nobody like himself leading an army to victory against the current world champions stationed in the valley.
God wanted to save Israel using Gideon’s hands.