Fickleness, Faithfulness, and Freedom
A man is working hard in obscurity. His intent is to work in obscurity because any attention was bad attention (or so he thought). But he drew the attention of the Lord, who came to him and instructed him that he would be used to rescue his people from their oppressors. The Lord filled the man with strength and bravery, and miraculously everything the Lord said would happen did happen, because of the obedience and bravery of this man.
Does this story sound familiar? It should. It’s the Sunday school story of Gideon. Although this retelling of the story has its merits and truths, as Eric Garrett pointed out in his sermon yesterday, it’s also problematic. The story of Gideon is not primarily about a brave and mighty man fighting and beating his enemies…with the strength of the Lord, of course. The story of Gideon is a story, as Eric said, that reminds us that God displays His faithful mercy to and through His fickle people by delivering them from their enemies over and over again. It’s a story about God’s fickle Gideon and, more importantly, about Gideon’s faithful God. It’s a story that constantly reasserts itself in both Israel’s history and our own personal history. God’s people, here seen through Gideon, are consistently and repeatedly fickle and double-minded, but God is unswervingly faithful and merciful to His people.
Gideon is an example of being fickle and double-minded. He obeys God’s call to fight the men of Midian, but only after demanding specific signs that God would be with him and ensure the victory. He destroyed Israel’s idols, as he was commanded, but with a competing desire for his own well being and safety, choosing to destroy the idols under the cover of darkness. After showing obedience and faithfulness in giving God the glory for Israel’s victory and deliverance, Gideon constructed an “ephod” for himself (even thought it was only supposed to be for priests) and “all Israel whored after it…and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.” As Eric pointed out, there’s a tragic irony in the fact that the very thing that Gideon was called to deliver Israel from, idolatry, is the thing that he ultimately led Israel into. This attitude of fickleness and double-mindedness is perfectly encapsulated in Judges 7:17-18, where Gideon instructs his army what their battle cry should be. “For the Lord…and for Gideon!!”
Can we not relate to such feelings of fickleness? We struggle with idols within the factory of our own hearts and in the world around us. We are constantly warring with our own competing desires for glory, recognition, and lustful passions while simultaneously attempting to fulfill our scriptural mandate to pursue Christ, preach the gospel, and be holy as He is holy. The good news for both Gideon and us is that as fickle as we are, God is infinitely more faithful. Let God be true though every man is a liar.
The Old Testament is full of “heroes” who are flawed men that displayed this same struggle throughout their lives. They obeyed God, were men after his own heart, and won numerous victories - literally and figuratively - for Israel and for God. But Jacob also stole Esau’s birthright; Joseph flaunted his coat of many colors in front of his brothers; Moses struck the rock rather than speaking to it; David had his sexual indiscretions; Samson was…well…an interesting man, and the list goes on.
But the good news is that there is a Hero whose faithfulness is single-minded and whose grace is not fickle. There was a man who stopped the cycle of peace, disobedience, rebellion, oppression, and deliverance the people of God had continually been caught in. When He delivered His people, the cycle ended. His name is Jesus, and because His obedience to the Father was not marked by Gideon’s wavering, or by Moses’s anger, or by David’s lust, or by Jacob’s greed, but was instead unwavering, perfect, and consistent, we don’t have to worry about God being fickle or unpredictable or double-minded. We don’t wake up every morning crossing our fingers and merely hoping that this day is one of the days that God’s mercies are new and sufficient. When we go through trials, we don’t wonder whether this is one of those trials we struggle through that the Lord leaves and forsakes us, or whether He will deliver us in His strength. We have a sure confidence in the Hero that has saved us, whose promises always come true, and whose power cannot be questioned or diminished. The ones whom the Son sets free are free indeed.
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