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, sir, 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 6:12-14
Would we describe him as a “mighty man of valor?” Undoubtedly not.
Is the Angel looking forward to Gideon’s future glory? Perhaps, but there is something deeper going on here. Look carefully at the words, particularly the pronouns, used in the back and forth conversation between Gideon and the Angel.
“The Lord is with you…”
“If the Lord is with us…”
“Have I not sent you?”
What’s going on with these pronouns? in fact, if you really examine this exchange, the Angel doesn’t answer Gideon’s accusation against God. The unnamed prophet, a few weeks (months or years — the text doesn’t tell us) has already answered Gideon’s accusation. God has gone from “what is the problem,” mode to “let’s fix the problem,” mode, and Gideon didn’t get the memo. That he missed the memo is even more apparent from his moving the solution to someone else — “the other,” as we might say. Gideon sees himself taking a passive role in fixing the problem, while God takes the primary, active role. But the Angel is having none of it. “The Lord is with you…” “Go in this might of yours…” God is saying, in effect, “if you want to solve this problem, you need to start with yourself.”
Just as truth always begins with a minority of one (something we would be well advised to remember in our world of consensus), so the faith of a nation begins with one. Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Ehud, Deborah and Barak, and now Gideon. God is, perhaps, transferring the problem to Gideon in some sense — not without God’s might, God’s spirit, and God’s action, but God will act through Gideon in some way. Before this is over, God is going to pare Gideon’s army down to the smallest size possible, testing his faith and the faith of Israel — but the solution has to start with one man placing his faith in God and God’s word.
So when we see a situation that looks too big for us to “do anything about,” when it seems like the best thing to do is just thresh our wheat in a grape crushing pit, minimizing our exposure, we should remember Gideon. Certainly there have been many other people who have been crushed by the Midianites — men who are stronger than us, better placed politically and socially, better fighters, even (perhaps) more faithful to God. But none of this absolves us — you and I, really — from doing something about what we see. Of lifting our voices and saying, “I will not sit down, and I will not shut up.”
No, we don’t all have the signs of Gideon, but the words of the Angel should still ring in our ears: “God in this might of yours…” And, further: “But I will be with you…”