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Gideon and the Gospel


As published in the Antrim Review on April 29, 2008

A number of churches in our area recently hosted the Gideons during Sunday services. If you have ever stayed at a hotel or motel, and you found a Bible tucked in a drawer in your room, it was probably placed there by the Gideons. The Gideons are believers in God's Word, and that belief is quite noticeable.

Why? The tournament managers scheduled the final for Sunday, May 25, 2008. The spunky lasses from Scotland's Isle of Lewis chose the Lord of the Day (Revelation 1:10) over the gods of sport.

I'm sure there are many different responses to their decision. Perhaps the most insulting is the facile jab that they chickened out when facing their last challenge. Mockers (Isaiah 57:4) like that can hardly conceive of stakes higher than the outcome of a children's game. Unless it is the outcome of a children's game played by adults.

The name Gideon comes from the book of Judges. In chapters 6-8 we find the story of one judge, or deliverer, of Israel whose name was Gideon.

"The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years" (Judges 6:1). The Midianites were an alien tribe from the deserts eastward who in this period annually raided Israelite territory, swallowing the labors of farmers, killing any who resisted. The survivors of the onslaught could mount no resistance, and fled: "the children of Israel made themselves dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strongholds." (6:2).

God allowed this situation to befall his people because they had grown ignorant of his Word, "You have not obeyed my voice" (6:10). The solution to the crisis could only be found in a new willingness to listen to that Voice. "And the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, and said unto him, 'The LORD is with you, mighty man of valor!'" (6:12).

Gideon's circumstances at that instant make God's statement sound odd. Gideon is hiding in a hole trying to thresh a bit of grain, to keep it from the raiders. Just now, his courage is only to be found in God's declaration.

Will Gideon believe the Lord?

God promises Gideon he will be with him to drive the Midianites away from him for good. Like most of us, Gideon repeatedly shows an imperfect faith in God's promise. But God in his grace supplies what is lacking in his chosen ones. God chose Gideon, and made an example of him of faith in the Word of God's promise, in his gospel. God ensured all knew it was he, and not Gideon who delivered the people (7:2, 7). Really, all Gideon had was little faith, but it was in the mighty God (see Hebrews 11:32).

In Colossians 1:9 Paul prays, "that you might be filled with the knowledge os God's will in all wisdom and understanding." If you had asked me, even not so long ago, what was meant by "the will of God" in that verse, I would probably have responded with something specifically related to God's will for me, for my life and behavior. If so, I would have effectively forgotten Gideon and much else in the Bible.

For the Bible is primarily about God's own will, Him desiring then accomplishing whatever it is He wants to do. The entire story presented in the Bible is of God making promises to his people, like his promises to Gideon, and then fulfilling them. And the basic promise is: God the Judge will Deliver his people from captivity of sin and death.

The gospel is the good information that God has wrapped up all his promises to his people in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. So, when Paul prays that you will be "filled with the knowledge of God's will," he is asking for nothing less than that you will be filled with the Gospel. That gospel in the broadest sense is the fullness of the Bible. Christians are called "believers" because they believe all God's testimony, and his directions. Believing is for living and bearing fruit of the Gospel (Colossians 1:5-6, 10).