If you wanted to sum up today’s world in one word, turmoil would be a good choice. Between acts of terrorism, public shootings, racial divisions, politics of antagonism, rising divorce rates, struggles with depression … turmoil captures the tension we feel.
How can we experience peace in the midst of turmoil? How can we feel calm when there is so much drama around us? In the midst of oppressing circumstances, Gideon experienced peace only found in God’s presence. He discovered that God is Jehovah Shalom—The Lord is Peace. His encounter with God reveals that A mind set on God’s presence brings life and peace, shalom.
During the period of the Judges, the prevailing philosophy was, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). As a result, Israel experienced a five-part cycle that was repeated seven times over a period of 400 years. The people practiced SIN which led to SERVITUDE when other nations came in and oppressed them. They cried out to God in SUPPLICATION. God raised up a judge who brought deliverance or SALVATION. Israel then experienced a time of SILENCE or peace. The people became comfortable and once again fell into SIN and the cycle started all over again.
The story of Gideon (Judges 6-8) starts at the beginning of another cycle.
Disobedience brings distress (6:1-10). Because of their sin, God allows Israel to be oppressed by the Midianites (1-5). At harvest time, the bullies of the neighborhood, the Midianites, swooped in and stole everyone’s lunch money. They came with their camels, livestock, and tents, and gobbled up all of the available resources (3-5). Like a plague of locusts, they stripped the land bare.
When the nation cried out for help (6), God sent a prophet who explained the reason for their troubles (7-10). Israel turned their back on God, worshipped the false gods of their generation, and disobeyed God’s instructions. Curiously, there is no evidence of repentance, only cries for mercy.
Distress leads to doubt and discouragement (6:11-21). When we first meet Gideon (11), he is living off the grid and flying under the radar. In order to get enough grain to feed his family, Gideon is trying to farm and harvest in secret. I doubt that worked very well for him.
An angel shows up unbeknownst to Gideon. The angel greets him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor” (12). While Gideon is not acting like a mighty warrior, it is so like God to see our potential and challenge us to live up to it.
In a rather rude welcome, Gideon throws back the greeting into the angel’s face (13). “If God is with us … and I don’t believe he is … why is life so hard? If God cares … and I doubt he does … why does he keep dumping crap on me? I’ve heard all the stories about God from my ancestors, but I don’t see him at work in my life today. If God is so great … how come we are victimized by every bully in town?”
Gideon was just like us, blaming God for his troubles. What he failed to realize was the cause—effect relationship that brought him to this point. He also missed the obvious fact that God was standing right in front of him.
In a series of three statements, God gives Gideon some significant promises. “I will send you … I will be with you … I will make you successful” (14, 16).
Gideon responds like a good resident of Missouri and says, “Prove it! Give me a sign” (17-19). While God could have chastised Gideon for his lack of faith, he graciously provides a sign as proof of his presence and plans. (20-21). Gideon reacts like we would, “OH. MY. GOD!” (22).
Gideon found peace in God’s presence (22-24). Peace or shalom, is not the absence of conflict. It is completeness, health, and welfare. To enjoy peace, we must … Recognize God is present (22) … Rely on him for peace (23-24) … and Change the focus of our mind (Romans 8:5-6).
While his circumstances did not change, Gideon’s change of mind prepared him to face the enemy. A mind set on God’s presence brings life and peace, shalom.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 31, 2016. It is part of a series on The Names of God. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.