Ninth in the COURAGE series
The way of courage is the way of danger and harm. The soldier must not fear death but be willing to risk his life to defend his nation and troops. If he should desert or fail his comrades, he will be known as a coward.
The way of courage is the way of derision and insults. A bold-hearted person will stand up against the crowd and their popular opinions, knowing it may cost his life or livelihood.
The way of courage is the way of self-denial and willingness. The brave man cannot allow personal discouragement or needs to draw him away from duty and mission.
Whatever our circumstance or state of mind, the Lord will help us to take courage. Consider Gideon of Judges 6-8 as an example to us of a coward who became courageous by God's help...
After the glorious success of Barak and Deborah (Jdg 4, 5), Israel enjoyed 40 years of rest, but as we encounter Gideon, the Hebrews are a ruined people whose crops and livestock have been decimated by the Midianites. Hungry and cowed, they cried to the Lord, and he sent a prophet who explained their misery to them, "…but ye have not obeyed my voice." (Jdg 6:8-10)
After this, an angel of the Lord came and sat beneath an oak tree on the property of Joash the Abiezrite (of Manasseh), where his son Gideon was threshing wheat by the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. The angel said to Gideon, "The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valor." (Jdg 6:12) Yes, the angel was an appearance of the LORD.
Gideon replied, "Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites." (vs 13)
Gideon was deeply discouraged, fainthearted and without any national vision--the very opposite of a courageous man. Nevertheless, the Lord simply responded, "Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?" Evidently, all that we need to take courage is to know we are doing what God has told us to do. By his Word we can do valiantly. (Ps 60:12 et al)
Gideon continued to object-- his family was poor, he was the least in his household; but the Lord continued to encourage him: "Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man." (vs 16)
Gideon then asked for a sign, and upon realizing the Lord truly was with him, he proceeded to do as told, to …"throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it". (vs 25) Furthermore, he was to sacrifice a bull belonging to his father on a new altar.
Gideon determined to do all this at night because he was afraid of his family and the men of the city, but in the morning, the work had been done and the bullock offered. The men of the city wanted to kill him on behalf of Baal, but Joash said, "If he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar." (vs 31)
Now that proper worship had begun to be restored, it was time to defeat the Midianites and their cohorts (Jdg 6:33). The sons of Manasseh and of Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali gathered as one, and the Israelites were ready to fight-- well, almost.
First, Gideon needed more assurance from the Lord. And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. (vss 36, 36)
Again, and then again, the Lord proved his presence and help to Gideon, but then he had his own test. And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me. (Jdg 7:2)
Gideon was to select only those soldiers who were unafraid, which left 10,000 out of 32,000 (vs 3). But that, too, was too many. God tested them by noting which ones would lap water as a dog laps by its tongue. Then, only 300 troops were left to fight. Perfect! Yet, in the valley, the enemies lay like grasshoppers for multitude and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seaside for multitude (vs12).
O dear, another sign is needed! Then, a fellow soldier reported to Gideon a dream that a cake of barley tumbled into the host of Midian, and came into a tent, and caused it to fall. (vs 13) Gideon knew this portended victory for Israel, so he worshiped and rallied the troops after dividing them into three companies. Each man carried a trumpet and a pitcher that held a lamp. Upon arriving at the enemy camp, they were all to blow their trumpets when Gideon did, and to say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon! (vs 18)
They attacked at night in the middle watch, a strategic moment when the enemy was off guard. The battle was the Lord's.
And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them. (Jdg 8:4) In the end, …the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. But Gideon said, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you. (Jdg 8:23) Israel then enjoyed 40 years of rest. (vs 28)
The entire account is encouraging to any Christian who struggles with depression, discouragement, fear and timidity.
The Web MD website describes numerous types of depression but all have similar symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, impaired concentration, insomnia or sleeping too much. We all experience these problems from time to time, and some among us have very good reasons. Nevertheless, we can count on the LORD to encourage us in his Word so that we become willing and determined, denying personal emotions and stepping forward to meet every challenge.
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. (Ps 27:14)