UNASSUMING LEADERSHIP

Gideon

Standing on the precipice of history was an unassuming man by the name of Gideon, who had been thrust into the leadership of the vagrant Israelite nation. It wasn’t too long ago when he like his other kinsmen, was minding his own business and trying hard to keep away from the oppressive Midianites, when the Lord decided to appoint him the deliverer.

As the writer of Judges recounts the story, it is amazing and also amusing how the angel of the Lord accosts Gideon and calls him out. “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12), the angel says to a man who was anything but mighty as he was at that very point of time fearfully threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it away from the Midianites. Yet, that has been the pattern of the Lord’s work throughout history, where he consistently makes heroes out of ordinary people. People who are simple go on to become shrewd leaders, those who are fearful become mighty warriors and the least become the greatest!

Interestingly, the space in the Bible devoted to the process of getting Gideon ready for the task is much more than the description of the task itself. It was no easy task for the Lord to convince Gideon that he was the chosen one and that he would be able to accomplish victory for the Israelites against Midian. The reasons are obvious in the account. Midian had so impoverished the nation of Israel that their will had been broken. When the chips are against you, it is hard to believe that things can change. Yet, the Lord is a lord of newness and change. When He enlightens a person, what was once considered impossible begins to emerge first in the mind of the disciple. As the angel of the Lord works on him, Gideon begins to nurture the thought that that defeating the Midianites would be possible with God’s help.

However, for Gideon to be able to become an instrument in the hands of the Lord, he needed to first unequivocally divorce himself from all traces of idolatry and Baal worship, which to begin with had caused the oppression of Israel. A military deliverance for Israel without rectifying the underlying spiritual bondage would not last and so the Lord directs Gideon to destroy the Baal altar and the Asherah pole in his own backyard. As he does so and faces the irate people, the Lord was building Gideon up to be a true spiritual leader for Israel.

Gideon’s perceived lowliness in the hierarchy of Israel and his lingering doubts about God’s ability to accomplish a miracle were all dealt with patiently by the Lord. We might marvel at the effort spent by the Lord to convince Gideon of His power at work. After numerous signs, he is also shown the precise interpretation of a prophetic dream by a Midianite that foretells their destruction by Gideon.

When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” (Judges 7:15)

What follows is a man who is convinced of the power of God, who exercises faith and who does not look back as he leads a mere three hundred men to attack and devastate the Midianite army that was too numerous to even count. Every era, every community and every church has unassuming leaders like Gideon who need to arise and be pivots to turn people to God.

 

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