This chapter speaks of 2 men: Gideon – the quiet weak-link in the community and Samson who #bulks #gains and #liftsbro, and is clearly the strongest man in the pack. And yet he uses both these opposites to conquer nations for Him, because if there’s one thing we’ve learnt so far, its that God can use literally anyone to do His work.
In case you aren’t gathering this from other chapters, God’s people are pretty inconsistent in their ability to remain faithful to Him. This chapter starts off by listing just some of the rises and falls of the people. They sin – anger, war, death, murder, adultery, hatred all coming into their lives – and so God sends them a deliverer, and they are thrilled! All of a sudden this generation loves God again, and everything is fantastic. But then that generation dies, and the new lot of people go, “Well we’ve never seen God ourselves, who cares,” and we are back to the anger, war, death, murder…
But God keeps appointing people to bring His people back to their relationship with God. Something about them calls out to God and he knows that they will do good things for him. What’s the most important quality it takes to be this person? Well, you’d assume it would be confidence. You’d assume it would be manliness, or strength, or boldness, or size – after all, often they went to war with other groups who were against God. So you’d obviously need someone who could lead this. You’d also think that God would pick someone who was super obedient to him, and would do everything he’d say, because that’d make the job easier. This seems fair enough.
Well, Gideon was the opposite of this. Gideon was the weakest link in his tribe. He was chilling in the fields, just slashing some wheat as you do, when God spoke to him. He addressed him as a “mighty warrior”. And what was Gideon’s reaction? Well he started with, “Pardon me, my Lord,” showing how small he considered himself, so polite! But he went on to tell God the truth, that he’d only seen hard times, and he hadn’t experienced God’s love and mercy and grace. The God he knew wasn’t there for him, so why would he believe that this God wanted him now?
God told Gideon that yes, there had been hard times, but he was now sending Gideon to save the people, and he would give him strength. Now it wasn’t that Gideon didn’t want to believe God, and what he does next isn’t out of a malicious or angry heart, but instead out of genuine curiosity. Gideon decides to test God, and does a series of little experiments to see if God delivers. And did He? Well, of course, He’s God!
And sure enough, after some convincing, Gideon agrees to give himself over to God, who then uses him to save the people again. This gives them all some hope for a little while, but soon after Gideon dies, they are back to square one again – overcome by sin. These people were against God, and were turning His followers away from Him with their evil ways, so God needed to stop this.
The next person he sends wasn’t an adult, or a teenager, or even a child, OR EVEN a baby – nope, he wasn’t even BORN yet. God says to a woman – who is barren and childless by the way – that she will have a baby son who will lead Israel on the one condition that she never cuts his hair. Well, sure thing like God said, she has a son and names him Samson. Now Samson isn’t just any man. He’s the bible equivalent of Mr Incredible. In fact, it says he rips a lion IN HALF. I sometimes struggle to open a packet of chips let alone an entire lion.
God uses Samson’s strength and faith to conquer a lot of groups threatening His people. But Samson is also very much a human, and so has some traits that aren’t so good as well. For a start, he is very, very confident, and his pride was blinding to him in times. For example, he poses a riddle to a group of guests at a dinner party, and when they can’t work it out, they threaten his wife unless she finds it out. But Samson refuses to tell his wife what the answer to the riddle is, and really doesn’t care that she’s so distressed. He shows no signs of love towards her, and get’s so consumed in his own anger and revenge that her father gives her to someone else because he is so sure Samson hates her. Ouch!
His behaviour makes him a few enemies. Eventually when a particular group of them find out that it is his hair keeping him strong, they cut it off and blind him. Samson is weak and put to death, but just before he dies, his hair grows back a tiny bit and God gives him one last boost of strength to bring down the whole stadium, so the people against Israel were put to death too.
So, yes, this chapter is again full of a lot of violence and drama, but we have to remember that these people at the start of the bible are just that – people. They are human, just like us, and so we can relate ourselves with parts of their personalities, and so I encourage you to reflect on not just what you read, but who you read. What is it about Gideon that you can relate to? Can you see yourself in Samson’s pride? Here’s some questions to reflect on:
Do you ever think that you are LACKING something to do God’s work? That you aren’t brave enough like Gideon? That your hair isn’t as luscious as Samson’s? No, but really, do you sometimes find yourself thinking about all the things you don’t have, that other people seem to have and use for God?
Well have you tried looking at the opposite of this, and thinking of all the things God has given you that make you different from the rest? Are you using them?
Do you ever let your pride, selfishness or vanity get in the way of God’s work through you? Are you letting those things influence the way you speak to God, or even about God to other people?
God bless you guys!