Wheat and Winepresses: God Speaking Into Circumstances
Nov 27, 2016 03:19AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
He was sitting in the middle of a winepress, hiding from his enemy, threshing wheat. Defeated and discouraged, Gideon was hardly a man you would describe as part of God’s inheritance of the Promised Land. If he didn’t thresh his wheat in secret, the Midianites, his enemy, would come and plunder the food, leaving him more hopeless and desperate than ever. And yet in the middle of this sad state, an angel of the LORD visits him:
Judges 6:12, ESV
And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.”
Um, what now?
There may be circumstances in your own life where you feel completely done under, barely coming up for air, sitting in the dark threshing your own wheat just to get by, trying to manage making it through one more day. You simply want to go unnoticed and un-harassed. Oh, I know several folks sitting in that place right now. It was me last year this time. And I know that in these moments, we certainly don’t feel like “mighty men of valor,” but when God Himself calls us that, He has a clear vision of what’s ahead and how He is about to use us for good.
For good? In these circumstances of certain defeat? How can He possibly use it for good?
Well, Gideon sure didn’t jump in with both feet initially. He needed a bit of reassurance, some confirmation. Do you know why?
At first he did not recognize the angel for who He was.
How about you?
If we believe in Christ, He is always with us, but when He steps in more actively to make a way, sometimes we do not see Him for who He is in the situation.
Let’s look at Gideon’s story more closely.
Judges 6:13, ESV
And Gideon said to him, "Please, my lord, 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."
Notice, the “my lord” in lowercase. We could easily read along and miss this detail, but it’s important to understand that Gideon was unaware he was talking to the angel of the LORD, Jesus. He uses “sir” or “lord” in lowercase to address the angel as a person. This indicates exactly how limited his perspective was at the time.
Don’t we do this too?
God is so patient and gracious with us, and yet—persistent!
Judges 6:14, ESV
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?"
There it is again: “This might of yours.” Earlier in the conversation it was “valor.” Seriously? The message is so clear and yet, with evidence all around him that Israel does not currently have God’s favor, Gideon struggled to wrap his head around this whole concept of might. After all, he was hiding in a winepress with his grain. He certainly wasn’t in a position of strength from his own perspective.
Israel historically had been disobedient to God’s commands. He had brought them safely out of Egypt, helped them crossed the Red Sea, freed them from slavery, and promised them the “land of milk and honey” in Canaan. When they arrived, He asked them to fully drive out all people from the land to claim it as their own, to not intermarry so they did not succumb to worshipping other gods, and to not make a covenant with other people. The instructions were simple enough, and yet Israel only partially obeyed. The Israelites drove out some enemies, intermarried, and invited other gods into their lives. Now they were hiding from enemies and not enjoying the full fruits of the land God wanted to give them exclusively. Gideon was sitting in the middle of this mess without a clear view of God. The sin of the people separated them from seeing God.
As the angel of the LORD continued the conversation, Gideon was given the chance to not only come into the presence of God, despite the sin of his people, but to step out into God’s purposes during desperate times.
Gideon’s response in verse 15 is very telling, as is the LORD’s statement in verse 16.
Judges 6:15-16, ESV
And he said to him, "Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house."
And the LORD said to him, "But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man."
Can you see the resistance? Gideon spoke so clearly about his fears and doubt. He offered a significant, “Um, but God….”
And God answered the “but.” That’s how much He loved Gideon and His people.
Not just that, but He spoke the words we all long to hear, don’t we?
The reassurance we need?
The cheerleading we so desperately require when we are stuck in our pit of circumstances and need God to show us the way out?
The LORD answered:
“But I will be with you.”
I don’t know about you, but that soothes so many disquieted places in my heart. And while that statement should be enough for us, God is gracious enough to wait for us to grab a hold of the hope He brings.
There is more to the story we can explore next week, but for now, do you need that hope? Can you see how He reaches into your rough spots, calling you out?
You can be a mighty man/woman of valor, just like Gideon.
All you need is the blessed (re)assurance:
“But I will be with you.”
Amen, and amen.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.