June 21, 2017
Seeing Ourselves through God’s Eyes
Judges 6:12-16: The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “Mighty hero, the LORD is with you.” “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The LORD brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.” Then the LORD turned to Gideon and said, “Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” “But, LORD,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” The LORD said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”
Too often, our opinions of ourselves are based on the ways we have come to see not only ourselves, but also the people around us, especially family members who lack success. What we are taught as children about our value and worth, and about the legitimacy and worthiness of the social groups to which we belong, remain with us as adults, defining what we believe about our potential for greatness and successful lives. However, the LORD sees us differently, because he looks at us through the eyes of whom we can become with his help, if we will only have faith in him. The story of Gideon in Judges, chapters 6-8, is just such a tale of someone with a low opinion of themselves, but whom the LORD saw as a mighty and valiant warrior.
In the Book of Judges, Israel did not have a king, so God appointed judges, individuals chosen to rescue Israel from their enemies. One of the judges was a young man named Gideon, from the tribe of Manasseh, who seemed the last person to be considered as a hero of his people. Here is a man who is threshing wheat in secret, to keep the Midianites from taking the wheat from him. The Midianites would come and destroy everything the Israelites produced from the earth, leaving Israel with no food. They also left no sheep, ox, or donkey. They came in hordes that resembled swarms of locusts, and they remained until there was nothing remaining in the land but devastation and despair. The Israelites had done evil in the sight of the LORD, so he allowed Midian to prevail over Israel for seven years. Yet, when the Israelites cried to the LORD because of the Midianites, he heard their cries, and chose young Gideon as the rescuer of his people.
Gideon was found by the angel of the LORD hiding from the Midianites, and still the angel of the LORD referred to him as a mighty warrior. Gideon’s ability to accept that he could rescue Israel was hampered by three factors: his views of his family and himself, his despair over the magnitude of Israel’s troubles, and his inability to comprehend that, even in the midst of Israel’s trials and tribulations, the LORD had never abandoned Israel.
Gideon had a low opinion of himself and his clan, calling the clan the weakest, or the poorest, in the tribe of Manasseh, and himself as the least of his family, making him the worst person among the Israelites. His beliefs about his clan and himself had to originate from somewhere, because individuals do not come to think so little of themselves without prompting from others. Children born into social groups that others define as inferior, such as according to social class, race and ethnicity, or national origin, internalize the stigmas attached to the groups, and they come to accept the negative stereotypes as authentic representations of themselves and of the people in their groups. Gideon’s estimation of himself and his clan speaks to the need of people to be careful about how we portray others that we perceive as different from ourselves, and of the need to give every child a sense of value and worth.
The magnitude of the troubles the Midianites caused Israel led Gideon to question the authenticity of the stories of miracles by the LORD passed down from generation to generation of Israelites, particularly the tale of deliverance from slavery in Egypt. He found it hard to believe that God had ever been with Israel, mainly because the Midianites were so wicked and powerful in their treatment of Israel that the Israelites attempted to hide from the Midianites, creating dens and hiding places in mountain caves. Whenever they had sown their plants, the Midianites would come with the Amalekites and the people from the east, and together they would destroy everything in the land. Like Gideon, when troubles seem too overwhelming, it can be impossible to believe that the LORD is still hearing our prayers.
Sometimes, it seems that the LORD is silent for so long that we question if God truly cares for us. Yet, it is in the testimonies of others that we learn that God does care, and if Gideon could only grasp how much God cares in the stories of the past, then he would know to wait on God to come to his rescue, in the LORD’s own time. It is a lesson I sometimes have to remember, especially when trials seem too impossible to change. It’s called having faith in God. The LORD appeared to Gideon, assuring him that the strength to complete the task assigned to him was already in him, all Gideon needed to do was use it to deliver Israel from the Midianites.
Isaiah 40:29 states, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” And Exodus 15:2 states, “The LORD is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” Even as Israel suffered due to their disobedience, The LORD never abandoned them, and he never forsakes or abandons his people still today. Instead, the LORD instilled strength into a young man who did not have confidence in himself, but in whom God saw great potential. In God’s eyes, Gideon was mighty, valiant, strong, courageous, and capable of great exploits. With only 300 warriors, Gideon defeated the Midianites and their allies, and there was peace for 40 years.
Gideon’s story reminds us that we must see other and ourselves in the same ways that God, the Father, sees them and us. Every child needs to know they are valuable and have worth, and it is the responsibility of the adults around them to relay this message to them. We must be careful when we use stereotypes to define whole social groups, condemning every member as the same, because God sees what we fail to see, and that is that every child is God’s creation. Once a beloved aunt told me that I would have to be smart because I was not pretty, and no man would ever marry me. I thought for years that I was the ugliest woman in the world, and that if “nice” guys liked me, there must be something wrong with them. I remained in an abusive relationship longer than I should have, mainly because I came to believe that, as a woman, I lacked value and worth without a male in my life. Through my faith in God and knowing of his unfailing love for me, and by being saved from the violent men by my Father in Heaven and given a wonderful and loving husband, I have come to know that God sees me as a capable and valuable member of the Body of Christ who is working for the salvation of others. My wish is for every child and person to know God’s love and come to see themselves as God sees them, as people with value and worth, so that they can do the work that God is calling them to do, just as Gideon did.