We are naturally inclined to admire those who boldly champion their own cause, those self-defined, rugged individuals who declare, “I did it my way,” or “I am the captain of my soul.” But one of the most frightening lines in Scripture is this: “The LORD handed them over” (Judges 6:1).
When God hands us over to our own ways, to the consequences of our own actions, when we are allowed to captain our own vessels, this is His judgment. Why? Because we were never designed to be self-determining,autonomous creatures. We were made for God, for His glory. As Augustine declared, “Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they find their rest in you.”
When we’ve been allowed to go our own way and face the consequences of this judgment, we also tend to misunderstand the consequences. We tend to think of oppression in terms of what the oppressor is doing, or how we are suffering, but fail to account for what God is doing: God is always acting. Do we notice when God chastises us? Do we notice that His chastisements are designed to bring us back to Him?
God sent the Midianites like locusts to afflict rebellious Israel. Judgment also came in the form of cowardice and fear—Israel lost heart. When Israel finally called out to the Lord, His response addressed both of these. First, remember the God who brought you out of Egypt. He is the God who sends locusts in judgment on those who forget Him and His word. Second, do not fear. If we turn to Him, we will find a sure deliverer, for He is our salvation.
Why had they fallen prey to Midian and Amalek? Why had they given into fear? Because they had all decided to rely on themselves. “Each man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). Each man did it his own way. What this ultimately amounted to is that each man forgot God. God put it simply: “You did not obey me” (Judges 6:10).
When God called Gideon, it was immediately apparent that God was doing more than raising up a strong man to lead His people to victory. Gideon was nothing like the deliverer Israel expected. The first time we encounter this “valiant warrior,” he is hiding from his enemy. As the youngest son of the weakest family in the lowliest tribe of Israel, Gideon cowers when God says, “Go in the strength you have” (v. 14). When he does act “bravely,” he only does so under cover of darkness, because he was afraid of his own family.
How could this man deliver Israel? How could this man be a hero? The answer is simple: God was with him (v. 16). Like Jacob’s “victory” wrestling the Lord at Peniel (Genesis 32), Gideon would not win by his own might. But God’s power is made perfect in our weakness, and He confounds the might and the wisdom of the world. To give up everything to God is to win everything; to yield to Him is victory.
The story of Gideon isn’t actually about Gideon. It isn’t chiefly about his doubting or his bravery. It is about God, who alone is victory. He is the one who builds the house. All the bold individuals who seek to build on their own labor in vain.
May God be gracious and keep us from having our own way. May He triumph in our weakness, and may He receive all the glory, for He alone is our deliverer.
Written by Caleb Faires