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Imagine you’re sitting at home with your nearest and dearest, around a fire, eating some food, watching a movie. You’re trying to make the most of those few weirdly glorious days in between Christmas and New Year when everyone loses touch with the day of the week and the time of the day. What day is it? Don’t know. What time is it? Who cares?
Recharge. Refresh. Feet up.
You’ve forgotten the distress.
Then imagine that a crowd of one thousand people silently appear outside your house. It’s night time. Vaguely familiar, the strange company stand facing your tower of refuge with large, flamed torches illuminating a thousand more columns of cumulus breath rising toward the naked sky and the stars beyond.
There is only evil intent. Your home and your family are under attack.
A gradual remembrance of fractured thoughts filter through your skull, drip-feeding, like waking to an awful sickness – you do know what to do.
Muting the TV, kicking off slippers, putting on winter shoes with layer upon layer upon layer of woolen clothes, everyone hurriedly leaves the house through the back door with a kind of silent distress.
The Eastern People have come to invade, pillage and destroy everything that you hold dear. Just like they’ve done every year for the last half a decade, at exactly the same time, a looting swarm of oppressors have marched to your exact post-code to comprehensively consume your life.
You and your kin head for the cave dwellings in the mountains, shivering and tired.
God approached Gideon in a cave like this. God approached Gideon – that in itself is a miracle, is it not?
Facing the consequences of their own idolatrous sin, the people of Israel cried out to God under the vise-like hand of Midianite power and God heard and God relented.
And so God came.
We all know the story of Gideon: God calls him a mighty man of valor and then sends him on his way to smash up the enemy.
But what might we have missed?
Gideon couldn’t see what his fathers were talking about. Surely God had abandoned them: “Where is this “coming” He promised? … everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Pet. 3:4) was the looping playlist while he worked in darkness, hoping for the faintest breath of wind. Indeed, the peculiarly debilitating distress that comes from the belief that God has abandoned us is based on a lie from the pit of hell. But it is a real and legitimate enemy nonetheless.
Gideon’s complaint seems reasonable because of these crushing blows from the enemy, every single year. After all, Gideon likely saw his friends murdered, his family tortured, his favorite animals killed, his best efforts dashed.
He was man. A young man.
What was the point?
I love to imagine Gideon running out of the winepress, leaving the wheat behind and tearing down the altars to Baal under the cover of night. I love to imagine him building another altar for Yahweh and all that followed in his life of sign and wonder.
But it is Gideon’s inner healing that comes first.
Gideon didn’t just go on from this cave to rescue Israel as a Spirit-anointed Judge. Gideon went on to miraculously be a man of peace. In a moment of epiphany, Gideon realized that he’d seen God face-to-face and had been floored, petrified and, most likely, paralyzed on his knees.
Then the real miracle came. God wanted to finally end Gideon’s doubt-filled wondering about His power and covenantal (hesed) love for His people.
God was going to use Gideon as a mighty warrior to reach back to honor the prayers of his fathers, yes as a Man of Might but, first, as a Warrior of Peace.
The most profound altar in Judges 6 is not the crushed altar of Baal or the restored altar of Yahweh. The most profound altar in Judges 6 is the personal altar of peace that is built in Gideon’s heart before he’d even got off his knees. That spiritual altar built, he then stands to build a physical altar as a permanent, lasting memorial to his inner breakthrough – Judges 6:23-24.
But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”
So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace.
Gideon’s colossal might in slaying thousands of men in war is not at odds in any way with his heart and posture of peace. Gideon was fully a man of peace and yet he was also a man of violence, aggressive strategy, confrontation and victory.
Gideon would never have achieved this, never would have functioned as one of Yahweh’s Judges of Israel, had his own personal peace with God not been built first. It was this peace that made him foundationally capable of destroying the locust scum that came every year to destroy the hope of the people of God.
Peace and might.
God is with you. God is your peace. He is your strength.
But first, only in His peace, will you rise.