In the Word there are many people God used to break expectations, and, in the doing: help His people, bring spiritual awakening, further His Kingdom, etc. Yet, it was not always the mere expectations of those surrounding the men and women God chose which needed to be broken. Instead, more often, it was the very expectations of the ones God chose.
- Moses told God that he did not have the ability to do all God was asking of him.
- Jonah literally ran away from the call and purpose God placed before him.
- Abraham doubted his ability to have the son God promised him.
- Gideon told an angel of the Lord that God had basically, chosen poorly, because he, Gideon, was the weakest in his clan and therefore not suited to save God’s people.
Yet, all these, and many other men AND women of the Word, were used by God to break expectations and do His will in spite of their doubts. They may not have seen their value, but the God of all creation saw it and did not relent until they saw it too.
When we first see Gideon… he is hiding.
Israel is in the hands of the Midianites who control God’s people, and Gideon, instead of working to free his people, is threshing wheat, covertly, in a winepress.
He does not appear, nor even believe himself to be overly courageous in this. Yet, God sees something different in Gideon. Where Gideon sees himself as weak and “less than” the other tribes and his kinsman, God sees a “mighty man of valor!”
Indeed, God must have seen what Gideon could be, for it was in Gideon’s very act of hiding that God sends an angel to him. One who, by order of God, would set Gideon on his path to becoming an “expectation breaker.”
The angel tells Gideon that he is a “mighty man of valor,” prophesying into the atmosphere the truth of what God sees in Gideon. This was necessary for Gideon to start on his journey, not only because of the power of words, but because Gideon needed to understand his identity in God. His true identity…
Because, God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called—and it is His pleasure to work mightily in those who do not see their Heavenly value.
Still, even as the angel of the Lord speaks what Gideon was to do, Gideon questions him, giving all the reasons why he is not qualified. Yet, Gideon does not stop there… he wants a sign that the angel is really from the Lord… and that he, Gideon, is meant to answer this call placed upon him!
“Then he said… ‘If now I have found favor… show me a sign that it is You… Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You and bring out my offering and set it before You.’
“And He said, ‘I will wait…’
“So Gideon went in and prepared a young goat, and unleavened bread… …and he brought them out… and presented them.
“The Angel of God said to him, ‘Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.’ And he did so.
“Then the Angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of the Lord departed out of his sight.
“Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the Lord. So Gideon said, ‘Alas, O Lord God! …I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.’”—Judges 6:17-22
So, with the sign at hand, Gideon finally believes it was an angel of the Lord who had spoken to him. Therefore, when God tells Gideon to destroy his father’s altar to Baal, build an altar to Him in its place, and burn a sacrifice upon it, Gideon does so under the cover of darkness. Yet, when day breaks and those who go to worship Baal discover the destruction, they also discover that it was Gideon who had done this and quickly set out to punish him. However, no harm would befall Gideon, for the Lord would protect him due to his obedience…
When they arrive ready to kill Gideon, Gideon’s father—seeing the error of his ways for having an altar to Baal—said to those who would kill Gideon, “Would you plead for Baal? Would you save him? Let the one who would plead for him be put to death by morning! If he [Baal] is a god, let him plead for himself, because his altar has been torn down!” (Judges 6:31). And upon hearing those words the people left Gideon unharmed, for they began to realize that Baal was not a true god, but that their God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—is the One TRUE God.
Yet, even after God protected Gideon that day, Gideon still wants a sign to prove that he is the man to save God’s people…
Gideon would put a fleece upon the ground and if in the morning the fleece has dew upon it but the ground is dry, he would know the truth of God’s will. And so, God does as Gideon asks to confirm His desire and directive.
Yet, even when the Lord shows him this sign, Gideon wants more proof. Again he puts out the fleece, only this time, he asks that the ground have dew and the fleece be dry. God, again, answers his request for proof by doing as Gideon asks… and so, Gideon, at last, truly believes.
In the natural we might think that Gideon’s requests for three signs, being so uncertain of God’s choice, would be reason enough for God to choose another. Yet, the ways of God are not the ways of man, for God delights in proving the wise foolish, and the foolish wise. So, God used him…
Gideon gathers an army to reclaim Israel and free God’s people. Yet, the army Gideon manages to gather is too large. God does not want His people to return to their backsliding ways, or believe it is their strength, not His, that brings the victory. So, God tells Gideon to send home any who are fearful of the Midianites. Yet, even with 22,000 out of 32,000 leaving due to fear, the army is still too large for God. He wants no question that it is He who saves His people. And so, God commands Gideon to have the army drink from a body of water. Those who lap the water like a dog—only 300 men—would go with Gideon to fight the Midianites, while the 9,700 who scoops water to drink, must return home.
That very night the Lord assures Gideon of the victory over the Midianites. But if he is afraid, God tells Gideon to go down to the camp of Midian with his servant, where He would give Gideon a sign concerning their coming victory. Spying on the camp, Gideon overhears a man telling a dream to his companions that puts the fear of Gideon, and the God of Israel, into the whole camp. It was then Gideon knew God would give them victory!
Gideon gathers his 300 men and divides them into three companies, giving each trumpets and pitchers, with nothing but lit torches inside the pitchers. Then he said to them, “watch, and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do: When I blow the trumpet… then you also blow the trumpets on every side of the whole camp, and say, ‘The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!’” (Judges 7:17-18).
Thus, Gideon and his men went and blew their trumpets, broke their pitchers, and waved their torches, and when they did, their enemies began to flee; running this way and that, fighting and killing themselves in their terror! God brought them victory, leaving only 15,000 men to chase of the 135,000 they had originally come against. And in the days following, they pursued the 15,000, finding the victory through God!
Yet this was not the end of Gideon’s journey—though perhaps the most vivid of his role as an “expectation breaker”—for the people wanted him to rule. Only, Gideon knew better. He knew what the people expected, but he also knew what God expected… he understood that it was God and not he who had won the mighty victory. So, Gideon told the people, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you” (Judges 8:23).
Still, despite this wisdom, Gideon makes one request which would be a snare to his family and Israel. Gideon asks for a portion of the plunder from their enemies, which the Israelites gladly give. The weight of the gold alone at 1,700 shekels, in addition to many other valuable items, became an object of worship fashioned by Gideon… and sadly, the people quickly came to idolize the treasure, return to Baal worship, and forget the victory which God had so miraculously given.
Yet, today, we still remember Gideon for his obedience to God. Not because Gideon was perfect, but because his story reminds us of God’s power, compassion, and of course, His ability to use anyone as an “expectation breaker.” Because in God alone, we find our greatest strength.
“He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.”—Isaiah 40:29