At one point or another we all struggle with Identity. We look in the mirror with critical eyes and make comparisons with those around us, or some ideal image we’ve created in our mind. The reality is, when we reject our identity and design, we are ultimately rejected the One who created us, God.
As we turn to the book of Judges this week, this is exactly where we find God’s people, the nation he has created. They’ve made it out of the slavery of their past in Egypt. They have entered the land promised them. They are given houses they didn’t build, fields of grain and produce they didn’t plant. Their enemies have been run out before their very eyes. They have so much going for them…. But instead of focusing on all that God had done. Instead of looking through the upper lens and seeing Him present with them, working in, around and through their lives, they focus their attention on everything and anything but God. And when we come to Judges chapter 6, verse 1, we find that “God’s people were given into the hands of the Midianites”.
The Midianites were extremely powerful and oppressed the Israelites to the point that they left their homes and were living in caves and strongholds fearing for their lives. Finally, after seven years, the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help. And his answer came through a man named Gideon who, as we will see, struggled with his identity.
God speaks to Gideon and his first words are: “The Lord is with you Mighty Warrior.” What’s interesting about this statement is that at this point in Gideon’s life he sees himself as anything but mighty, anything but a warrior. He’s hiding out trying to hold on to the little he has left, believing that at any minute that will be taken from himself as well. Wondering why He couldn’t see God and doubting his true identity. But God calls Gideon a Mighty Warrior, because GOD is certain of my identity, even when I am not.
How do you view yourself? If you were to write down two words that describe you – what would they be?
God calls him by the description of who he was intended to be and reminded him that he was Chosen –The Lord is with You Gideon.. And then God called Gideon to go in the strength that he had. The bible says that “faith as small as a mustard seed can say to a mountain “be moved” and it will move.” And here is what happens. Engaging my identity in God with the faith I have today, will bring me to deeper faith and understanding of my identity tomorrow.
In verse 25, God began to lay out the plan for not only how He was going to use Gideon but a plan that began with Gideon confronting the very force that had captured him and the attention of his community, even his own father – A false god by the name of Baal and a goddess by the name of Asherah. The first place God sent Gideon was into his own father’s back yard to tear down the altar to Baal and construct an alter to God.
Some view this as a test, but I think it is a very natural progression in the life of every believer who responds to God’s voice and sets out to follow him in complete obedience. God requires that I confront the issues that I have allowed to master my life. The first place God sends Gideon is Home, to his father’s back yard.
What’s going on in your backyard, in your home that has shaped your identity, that may be keeping you from not only accepting, but engaging the identity you now have in Christ?
Verse 34 says “The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon” and Gideon begins assembling an army to go after the Midianites. He called all of the people together and went up to meet with them to set out God’s plan to go after the people who had been stealing their cattle, destroying their crops and taking everything they had for the last 7 years.
In Chapter 7, there are around 200,000 Midianites (the enemy) and Gideon has assembled about 32,000 men to fight them. And God says to Gideon in verse 2 “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands.” “Gideon, I know the odds still look tough, but with 32,000 of you, if I let you beat the Midianites, chances are you and the Israelites are going to look back and think maybe you did it on your own. So here’s what I want you to do. Gideon, it’s really important to me that you know I’m fighting for you. You line up the guys and ask if any of them were afraid – if they are let them go home. So in verse 3, 22,000 men went home and 10,000 remained. In verse 4, God said “still too many” and then God helps him sift through the rest of them until there are 300 warriors left. And that’s when God said in verse 7 “With the three hundred men I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands.”
Here’s how the battle goes. Chapter 7, verse 16, “Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside. Verse 19 as they went into battle, The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed there jars. (I want you to circle that) Grasping the torches in their left hands shouting, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon” Vs 22 “When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled, the Israelites pursued them and defeated the enemy.
An army of 300, led by a man who had spent the early years of his life hiding out, trying to hold on to what little he had, convinced that his identity was what he saw in the mirror every day when he woke up, the comparisons he made with others.
What Changed? Gideon recognized that GOD is the treasure in this jar of clay called me.
God says we are His Workmanship, we are his prized creation, we are his children, we are his chosen people. He has said it since the beginning of creation, and he confirmed it when He gave his Son’s life for us. But there is only way for us to really know for ourselves, and that is to respond to his voice and live out the reality of who he says we are, and let our lives point back to Him. And here is how that works. It is just like Gideon and the army of 300. “We have this treasure (this light, the Spirit of God) in jars of clay (this mortal body designed by God for the purpose of carrying His Spirit) to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)(NIV)
I look forward to the transformation God is bringing us this weekend through His work. Don’t miss the treasure this Saturday at 5:30 and Sunday at 10:30. I’ll meet you at the door. Dave