Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?”
Judges 6:11-14 (ESV)
God is patient. Really. Patient. If we continue reading the narrative of Gideon we find he goes to great lengths of inquiry1 before doing what God asks; testing Him very nearly the entire way. At this point in history Israel was being repeatedly attacked2 by an alliance of armies from the East. They would swoop in, steal food, and retreat through the desert. Gideon struggled to understand why he had heard so many stories of God rescuing His people only to find himself in a situation where God was apparently absent.
God’s never really absent in any situation; however, God’s involvement in any given situation is often a reflection of our engagement with Him. In this passage God told Gideon, “go in this might of yours.” It seems absurd that God would suggest Gideon has any might at all, let alone to go in it. What’s interesting is that the Hebrew word translated might is used many times throughout the Old Testament, sometimes when referencing the yield of crops. Its root is a word that describes capacity. It might be easier to understand what God is saying if it were communicated go in whatever quantity of might you presently possess. This makes sense because in the New Testament God tells the apostle Paul:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)
To be clear, it’s not that God needs us, it’s that God wants us (so much so that He often limits His involvement to working through us). He recognizes we don’t have the full capacity to do what He wants us to do so He doesn’t expect that, but He does expect that we will do what we have the capacity to do.
For God the quantity of might Gideon possessed was enough because He could make up the difference. This is true for everyone, in every situation, when God calls upon a person to act—as we read in Corinthians with the apostle Paul. This means there must be something unique about Gideon that made God choose him over everyone else.
And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
Judges 6:12-13 (ESV)
What was the first thing that transpired when Gideon met with God’s messenger? Gideon was called a mighty man of valor but he didn’t respond to that. Instead Gideon questioned why the messenger was saying, “The LORD is with you,” when every possible observation of the situation was contrary to that. I believe this response shows Gideon’s heart and is the single, most significant reason why he was selected by God.
Gideon cared. He didn’t just care about himself, he cared about everyone. This is evident because in verse 12 God told Gideon that He was with you singular (in the original language) and Gideon replied by asking God why He wasn’t with us plural. These short, two sentences tell us Gideon’s calling—his unique function. He, himself, may have not yet recognized it, he may have not yet understood it, but there was something inside him that motivated a response to the situation he and his people were in. Gideon recognized a wrong and immediately called God out and the very next verse God says, “Go in this might of yours.” God told Gideon to go in the strength he had, but more than that God was telling Gideon to put into action a passion that was already there: You recognize something’s wrong, Gideon? I’m sending you. Go and make it right.
A calling of God is not something foreign. It is not something ethereal or illusive. A calling of God is something inside each person, individually. It starts as an idea and grows. Sometimes it takes a while to grow, other times it happens fast. The concept of a calling is misleading because we often view it as great deeds done by amazing people recounted in the timeless stories of the Bible. But most people in the Bible are not those great people. They are normal, everyday individuals who knew God and lived a life that drew both themselves and others closer to Him—focusing on their unique contribution.
It was their function. Their reason for existing. It wasn’t always flashy or glamorous (though sometimes it was). But they did it. They did the thing they were passionate about. The thing that at any given moment they (like Gideon) recognized as something needing to be done or changed. Then they allowed God to make up the difference. To use their passion and their skills, gifted by God, to enact change in their sphere of influence. Their role may have been small, it may have been large, but it was never insignificant and in God’s eyes it mattered.
When you consider what it is God wants you to do, think of the things you are gifted at. The things that come natural to you—you do well at them without even trying. Consider what causes you to feel a sense that something is wrong or a desire to make something better. These are the clues of your function in God’s plan. If you follow them and keep your focus on God, you cannot miss your unique function, you can only fulfill it.
The narrative of Gideon is not about a man whom God used to do great things. It is about one person whom God instructed to pursue his own passion. In a sense, God gave Gideon permission to do the very thing Gideon wanted to do. And the Bible is replete with others3 who did4 the same5.