Torches of Fire

Two hundred years after Joshua crossed the Jordan River and the walls of Jericho fell, Gideon comes on the scene and God commissions him to be a Mighty Man of Valor to fight against the Midianites.

Because the Israelites disobeyed God when they entered the Promise Land and did not rid the land of the Canaanites, there were pockets of pagan worshippers which multiplied and grew in strength once again.  The Midianites dominated the Israelites and became treacherous enemies during Gideon’s life time.

Who were the Midianites?  Abraham married a woman named Keturah after Sarah died.  They had six sons, one being Midian.  Abraham sent these six sons away so they would not compete and contend for Isaac’s position as the promised son of Abraham and Sarah.  The tribe of Midian became an enemy of Israel as bitterness set in.

During Gideon’s time, there was great fear of the Midianites which forced people to flee and live in dens and caves.  The Israelites cried out to the Lord after being in the hands of their enemy for seven years and the Lord heard their cries.  You’d think they would have cried out for deliverance much sooner.  Though, how many times do we think we can handle the problem on our own and can work it out in our own strength.  After all, we like to think we are fearlessly independent and confident or so we think until we hit the bottom of the pit and then what?  God is patient and waits on us to look up and say, “Lord, help.  I need You.”  That is not a stance of weakness but wisdom.

God answered their prayers by sending an angel to speak to Gideon and deliver an assignment.  The angel addressed Gideon as a mighty man of valor.  Gideon a mighty warrior?  He was hiding in a cave.  That doesn’t sound like a fearless warrior to me.  However, God saw the potential of what Gideon could become not where he was presently.  We are not born warriors, we become warriors when we truly believe the Lord is with us and encounter His presence.  Many scholars believe this angel was none other than Jesus Himself coming as a Christ phony, an appearance of Jesus.

Gideon responds with questions and doubt, “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? (Judges 6:13).  The angel does not answer Gideon’s questions but commissions him and says, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand,” verse 14.  He is calling Gideon to set his people free.  Are you stuck in a pit full of ever ending questions of why this and why that Lord?  If you are hiding away until your questions are answered, you may be there a long time.  God is looking for those whose ears are open to hear the words, “Go” and a willing heart to respond whether they understand or not.

First Gideon had questions and when that didn’t work the excuses started flowing from his lips.  “How can I save Israel?  My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family,” Judges 6:15.  We’ve all been there trying to get out of God’s calling on our life with the “I can’ts, I’m not good enough, others are better than I am, I’m the least.”  Being the youngest born of eleven children, I was conditioned to follow and not lead.  I understand from personal experience how limiting this mind set can be.  God had other plans for me and pushed me out of my comfortable nest of being a follower and into a leadership role.  I actually tried to give it away to others as often as opportunities would arise but the Lord would not let me use my excuses any longer.

The eagle builds her nest with all the comforts of home with the exception of several sharp end sticks pointing inward to the center of the nest.  As her eaglets grow and get plumper, the nest is no longer comfortable, confining and too small.   There comes a time when something has to give and the mother pushes her eaglets out one by one and lets them tumble head over heels, gaining speed and losing altitude quickly.  At the last moment just before the young bird hits the ground, she swoops underneath and catches the young on her back and soars upward until the baby is back safe in the nest.  This happens over and over again, until one day the bird learns to fly on its own.

I’m sure the young eaglet used every excuse possible as it was spiraling out of control, “I can’t, I’m not good enough, I wasn’t made for this,” but sooner or later, the bird learned he was made for flying.  It just took time and practice to figure out the how.  Until we learn what we were created for, who we are in Christ, and who we belong to, we will use these same excuses.

From the beginning of time, going back to Genesis 3, Satan has tried to steal our true identity of who we are in God.  The truth is it’s not about us and what we can achieve and accomplish but it’s about the power of the Holy Spirit within.  We are promised Jesus will never leave us or forsake us.  Conversely, God’s ways are the opposite of man’s ways.  In spite of our limitations and shortcomings, God chooses us for His assignments and often chooses those who are ordinary so he can have the glory that no man should boast.  1 Corinthians 1:27-28 says, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.”

God was patient as Gideon expressed his doubts, limitations, feelings of inadequacy and weaknesses and the need to throw out fleeces.  He then lovingly reminded him, “I’ll be with you.”  We often think we are waiting on God to do something but in reality, He is waiting on us to learn who He is and He patiently waits for us to come to Him.

Gideon needed a sign that God was really with Him on this one.  Confirmations are a good thing.  Gideon told the angel to stay put and not ago away until he came back with an offering as an act of worship.  When Gideon returned, the angel told him to take the meat and bread offering and place it on the rock.  The angel touched it and flames of fire flared from the rock and consumed the offering and the angel disappeared.

This is a picture of the Lord’s table of communion where we will often find confirmation as we offer our sacrifices of praise.  When we take time to commune with God during communion, confessing and praising, God answers our questions and gives directions to our struggles.

It was at the oak, at the altar of communion, the Lord spoke and said, “Peace!  Do not be afraid.  You are not going to die,” Judges 6:23.  Gideon called the place “The Lord is Peace,” (Jehovah Shalom).  Gideon found peace in the face of a storm.  He was about to lead out a battle with feelings of being unprepared, uncertain and unsure of himself.  This was much bigger than himself, yet he found peace at the Lord’s table.

God wasn’t finished with Gideon as he wasn’t quite ready to be sent out as God’s warrior quite yet.  There was a family problem that needed to be resolved.  Often God wants us to get our family in order before we are sent out to restore order in others.  In God’s economy, family is a top priority then comes ministry.  The Lord told Gideon to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole and build an altar to the Lord.  Gideon waited until night to do this because he was afraid of his family and the town’s people.

Gideon stood up against his father and town’s people which showed he was now a leader and not a people pleaser.  As long as we hold people’s opinion above God’s plans, we will always falter and waiver on our God assignments.  Paul in Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Gideon was now ready to be a leader.  The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and he blew a trumpet summoning men to join him for battle.  Why would men rally around a farm boy, a common man, whose knees were knocking together hiding in a cave?  He had no credentials or reputation of leadership.  This was a God thing.  God moved in the hearts of men and gathered them together; a moving of the Holy Spirit. Do you want people to follow your leadership?  Ask the Lord to fill you with His Spirit often and to give you favor with those who are to follow you.

Gideon’s 32,000 men were overwhelmingly outnumbered by the opposing troops of 135,000 men. The odds were stacked against them four to one.  God loves to work in the realm of the impossible so He gets the full glory so no man can boast.  The odds were bad enough and the Lord continued to cut Gideon’s number of men down to the bare bones of 300 men.  Now the odds were 450 to 1.  What was God thinking?  Do you wonder what God is doing in your life when the odds are desperately against you?  Are you going through a time where things look impossible?  God loves to show Himself strong and bring you through the bleakest of times.  It’s His style.

The night of the battle, Gideon told his men to watch and follow his lead.   He took his fledgling troops and surrounded the Midianite camp as the enemy slept in their tents.  Gideon’s men were instructed to break out into three companies of one hundred men surrounding the camp, carrying a trumpet and a torch covered by an earthen jar.  When Gideon blew his trumpet, broke his earthen jar and shouted “For the Lord and for Gideon” all the men followed his lead.  What noise and chaos erupted filling the dark of the night waking the sleepy, confused men. As they jumped to their feet and looked out their tents they saw 300 torches blazing all about them.  Because it was a normal military practice to have 1,000 men behind one torch, they assumed they were surrounded by over 300,000 men.  They were so terrorized and confused they started fighting themselves and fled for their lives.

When the torches of earthen clay jars were broken in the dark of the night, fire lit the sky.  We are likened to earthen vessels in 2 Corinthians 4:6,-7, “For God who said Let light shine out of darkness, made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

We must go through seasons of breaking so the light of Jesus can shine the glory of God.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go the way we want and our hearts get broken.  Because we live in a broken world, we experience broken relationships, broken dreams and broken promises.  It is through breaking that we become compassionate toward others who are hurting.  We are able to relate and extend a hand because we know what they are going through.  We can become blessings to others through our brokenness.

We live in a broken world.  Isaiah 61:1 tells us why Jesus came, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”

Gideon didn’t start out carrying a torch of fire but he chose to rise to the occasion as a leader because he knew the Lord was with Him.  God uses common, ordinary people throughout scripture.  People like Jacob the deceiver, Moses a slave in exile, Esther a slave girl, and Peter a fisherman.  God can use anyone who knows God is with them.
Do you know that?  Do you know you can do the impossible because God is with you?

As a believer, we are called to be ambassadors for Christ.  We have enlisted and signed on the dotted line to be in God’s army of love.  We are to carry torches of fire to ignite others who have become but a smoldering ember; cauterize the bleeding of the wounded hearts and light the path to Jesus to this lost, broken and forsaken world. ~Elizabeth Thompson

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