Monday, January 23, 2017
An Awkward Exchange
Judg. 6:11 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior.” 13 Gideon answered him, “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you.”
Gideon was hiding in the winepress beating out his wheat because he didn’t want the Midianites to see him. The people of God were again living in dangerous days with the threat of violence constantly at their doorstep. This was because of their unfaithfulness to God, but that was often forgotten.
The angel appears to Gideon and begins with an odd statement, calling Gideon “you mighty warrior.” This seems strange because the “mighty warrior” is living in fear, hiding in the winepress, trying to beat his wheat so that he and his family can make bread. That doesn’t seem very “mighty warrior” like. Instead of speaking into that comment Gideon shoots back, blaming God for the current state of affairs for the Israelites. The angel had said that the Lord was with Gideon — not with all the people. As Gideon recounts the promises of old and the faithful deeds of God mentioned by his ancestors, he seems to be angry. Why would God have helped in the past but doesn’t seemed to be helping now?
After this accusatory exchange, the Lord commissions him to go out and fight the enemy in the might that he has because the Lord is with him. The declaration of “mighty warrior” is not because of Gideon’s skill, but because of the presence of the Lord. God wants to take the ordinary man who is fearing for his life and use him for the extraordinary. It is in this way that God will be glorified as the people are saved from the Midianites. In the meantime, it took a very awkward conversation between Gideon and the Lord to get there.
Sometimes we avoid the difficult conversations with the Lord. Just like Gideon we may be suffering the consequences of what life has brought our way. Angry, hurt and beaten down we have retreated into a place of safety and are willing to live huddled up, trying not to disturb anyone. Sadly, there is no real life to be found here. Then comes the awkward moment when God answers our cry and shows up and we get angry. We join Gideon in crying out, “But sir…why has all this happened to [me]?” "It just doesn’t seem fair!" "I’ve heard people at church give their testimony about how God saved them and now I’m sitting in the middle of this mess and it feels like God has abandoned me!"
It took that awkward exchange for Gideon to be able to accept the help of the Lord. There are times when we need to be willing to have a conversation with God about where we find ourselves. I’m afraid that we think it’s impolite to have these kinds of conversations with God, but unless we actually have the tough conversations, we may never be able to move forward. God can handle us asking the tough questions! It’s when we remain huddled up in the winepress and refuse to have the conversation with God that we set ourselves up for real trouble. We close ourselves off from any possibility of being helped and we continue to suffer in silence.
God is not offended by the awkward conversation. If you notice in this story, the angel of the Lord doesn’t defend God, nor does he accuse Gideon of being unfaithful. Often those things don’t need to be said because most of us do know that there’s more to the picture than that single snapshot. It is in the process of the conversation that a relationship begins to develop. Gideon begins to trust this angel of the Lord who is about to ask Gideon to do the impossible. Only when we are willing to engage in the exchange with God will we learn to develop trust. When we begin to trust we will step out of the winepress of our lives on faith and God will take the ordinary and use it for the extraordinary. This doesn’t happen without our participation with God. Gideon wasn’t a mighty warrior, but God was a mighty warrior.
God loves us and wants to lift us out of the pit of the winepress. It may take an awkward exchange — but God can handle it! Step out on faith and have that difficult conversation that will bring healing to your relationship with God.
Lord, thank you for loving us enough to endure the awkward conversations. Amen.