Tuesday, April 16, 2019

On Being Afraid

Yesterday, we looked at 22,000 men who showed up to fight with Gideon even though they were afraid. We know they were afraid because when God decided to pare down the army, His first command was that anyone who was afraid could go home. So 22,000 men left. 

But Gideon's story is more wrapped in fear even than merely this. The whole thing begins in fear, when Gideon himself is hiding out in a winepress, threshing grain. As you might imagine, a winepress is not really a great area for threshing grain; you'd normally press wine there, as you'd thresh grain on a threshing floor. But a threshing floor was an open, outdoor area where the enemy could easily have spotted Gideon and injured him. So...the winepress it is. 

Here's where we have to pause for a minute because there's just so much fear going on in this story, and it's fear that we can easily relate to. Most of us don't live our normal lives in wide open spaces in front of our enemies; we, like Gideon, know when to hide if we have to. Most of us fear that God will do with us exactly as He first did with the soldiers - that He'll ask us to show up and do something we're terrified of doing, something we are pretty sure could possibly kill us. We might, like the soldiers, show up anyway, but a lot of us wouldn't show up at all. We'd excuse ourselves before God could even speak and thus miss out on everything.

Because the truth is? Both of these stories of fear end up differently than we could ever imagine. All by the grace and mercy of God.

The soldiers that showed up scared, they didn't have to fight. God let them go home without ever even lifting their sword. We think that's probably good enough reason to not show up at all, if God isn't going to make us stay, but that's not true - we have to show up. Then let God be the one with the glory in sending us home. 

And Gideon? Gideon goes on to fight and to defeat the princes of the enemy people. And wouldn't you know it? The last prince that he kills in the fight...he kills in a winepress. Of all places. 

It's no accident the way that God redeems us from our fear. Not by a long shot. It's no chance occurrence that a scared man shows up and finds that he isn't needed; you couldn't have predicted that. Nobody, at least at this time and in this kind of battle, makes his army smaller before engaging the enemy. Maybe you think you show up and not enough men are with you, but you'd never think you have too many. Yet that is precisely what God says - I have enough, and you will not be required to do this today. But thank you for coming. That just doesn't happen. 

Unless, of course, God is merciful. 

It's no random situation that Gideon finds his final battle where he had his first calling - in a winepress. A pursued man, like the prince, would do everything in his power to run away from a losing battle before he would settle for hiding among it. Gideon probably anticipated chasing the prince away, losing him somewhere in the wilderness or on the plain, driving him out of his land to some place of exile. He couldn't have fathomed the prince would be so hard-pressed as to hide, well, in a place that Gideon knew so well. 

And so we go from the place where the Lord first proclaimed, "Hail, Mighty Warrior!" to a fearful Gideon to the very same surrounding where Gideon is, as proclaimed, a mighty warrior, grabbing the final victory. 

You can't make this stuff up. It doesn't just happen. It's not by chance or random occurrence or accident. It's by mercy, by God's incredible grace. By His design. He will redeem our fear.

If we just show up and give Him the chance. 

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