Gideon had no physical strength. He was weak physically and came from a very weak lineage. He said that the gleanings of Ephraim was better than the full harvest of Abiezer. If the deliverance would come by strength, then the tribe of Ephraim (and others) would have led the charge. But if the men of strength are also hiding from Midian, then what would a poor frightened man of Abiezer do? He accessed himself and knew where he stood. He took a full stock of his strength, it didn’t amount to much.
When the Lord spoke with Gideon, He didn’t lie to him either. The Lord does not lie, He also does not flatter. He did not flatter Gideon. He did not tell him what he did not have. He did not look into Gideon and saw any hidden muscle which Gideon was not aware of, no courage that was unrevealed to Gideon, no capacity he needed to be reminded of. The truth is, Gideon was a fearful man and it was obvious. But he had a different kind of strength. He knew he had it, but he didn’t know it was strength. He had hunger! He had a hunger for God that was obviously absent in the majority of Israelites. He had often contemplated as he hid in the winepress to trash wheat that if what they have been taught in the synagogue about God was true, then something was wrong.
They have often been told about God and His wonders. The priests have read from the Torah and other writings about the great wonders of God’s work. They have discussed time and again about the great wonder that was the exodus from Egypt, the conquest of the Canaanites and other warring tribes they met on the way to the Promised Land, the journey through the wilderness, the manna and other outstanding works of God. We discuss in church about the outstanding works of God. We read it in the Bible. We tell stories and stories of generals that have been raised by God until we can retail the stories with our eyes shut. Gideon has often heard these stories and have often wondered, ‘if these were true, then where is this God? Was He powerful at a time and has now lost all his powers? Or were all those fairytale, make believe stories to stimulate emotions and that’s all?
If God is real, if He is true, then the things happening, the oppressions by the Midianites shouldn’t be happening! This is Gideon’s strength. It was a thought on his mind, on his lip, on his tongue. The first time he encountered somebody who seems to have a likely idea of an answer, it was the first question he asked! Even before he could gather himself to defend that apparent flattery (as he thought), he has blurted out his waking thought. ‘God, the one we have read about and heard about, the destroyer of Egypt, the divider of the sea of reeds, cannot be with us, and we will be under this heavy oppression, hiding to do our businesses. I disagree!’
But this hunger is a strength before the Lord. It is all that the Lord requires to move into action. The Lord saw that hunger and called it strength, for the Lord addressed it as; ‘this your strength.’ It was already present in Gideon. He had it. It was not to be given. And the Lord says; go in this one, it is enough.
Our strengths are useless before God. It is only His strength that can help us. It is only His strength that will bring Him glory. 1 Peter 4:11. Any work we seek to do for the Lord for which we have some form of energy available in us already, is likely to fail, because the strength to do God’s work must come from God. If the Lord will show you mercy, He will first empty you of that strength before He fills you with His strength to do his work. What the Lord considers strength is the hunger to see His own strength revealed.
To prove that Gideon will not venture to go outside the strength of God and employ his own, he repeatedly asks for proofs that it was God indeed he encountered and that He was going to GIVE him victory. If he had thought he had some form of strength or strategy, he would have indeed ran along immediately he confirmed that God was now ready to ‘partner’ with him. But God does not really ‘partner’ with us in this context. The strength must be His 100%. Many may think here that Gideon was faithless and was just testing the Lord repeatedly. No. Gideon was just confirming his helplessness before God, demonstrating that he had rather spent the whole time confirming that the God of the Bible, whom he had read about and heard about was ready to demonstrate His power as it has been of old, than for him to run along in zeal without backing. There’s wisdom in keeping back your leg sometimes to confirm your standing with God before you run. Immediately Gideon confirmed beyond doubt that it was God, he became radical. He fearlessly tore down altars that were previously feared. He chose 300 men out of a possible 32, 000 and marched on against an enemy of hundreds of thousands to prove the power of God. And indeed to confirm that this was not because of any natural strength that was in Gideon as a person, he did not strike down one Midianite, at least the Bible did not record that he did. 120, 000 fell before 300. A further 15,000 was killed before their two kings were captured. God took all the glory.
Gideon’s strength was his hunger for the manifestation of God in his generation. A hungry soul shall be satisfied, and they that hunger for righteousness shall be filled. The Bible says in the book of Isaiah 44, I will pour water on the thirsty soul, I will flood the thirsty ground. God gives more than we ask for. He gives more than we request. In John 7:37-38 Jesus said, if you are thirsty, come. The water is for everybody, but only the thirsty will get to be given, actually the desperately thirsty. If you are just casually thirsty, you may not get anything. But if you are desperately thirsty, you are calling the fullness of God. A people must rise and begin to say, we have heard about you by the hearing of the ear….but we must encounter you. When we begin to see the stories of the bible as a challenge to seek to see similar things in our time, then our strength is calling God. God uses the weaker things of the world because they are those who position for God’s outpouring. How hungry are you for God to replicate Azusa street revival in our time? How hungry are you to replicate what we read in God’s generals in our Africa? How hungry are you to look into the scriptures, see the promise of God and determine that you will be the proof of that promise, the word made flesh of that prophecy. I am hungry. If you are, I invite you to dig deeper, we must find God.