October 25, 2010
Completely Improbable, Imminently Possible
John UpChurch, Editor, Jesus.org
And he said to [the angel of the LORD], "Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house." (Judges 6:15, ESV)
The Old Testament judge Gideon asked an angel of the Lord how he could possibly take on the mighty Midianites, being a wimp as he was, and God answered every request the man put forth—almost to the point of being ridiculous. On the other hand, Zechariah, a faithful Levite serving the Lord and John the Baptist's father, asked only once how he could possibly have a son in his old age, and an angel told him he'd be unable to speak until it came to pass.
That hardly seems fair—harsh even. Why would God punish one and let the other get away with so much? We might think there's a discrepancy in the treatment—until we examine the differences between the two men's responses.
Let's look at what's the same first. Both of them were dedicated to God—Gideon seems to have been seeking God as he beat out the wheat and he later tore down an altar to Baal, while Zechariah served faithfully in the temple. In fact, you could say that Zechariah had the greater claim to being godly. Both men received shocking, seemingly impossible news from an angel. Both asked very similar questions.
God, however, didn't just look at the questions. He looked at the reason for asking. Obviously, we don't know what Gideon or Zechariah was thinking, but God did. Notice, for example, that Gideon's fleecing of God reads much like Abraham's petition for Sodom. Just as Gideon asks God not to be angry with him as he asks for more proof, Abraham asked God not to be angry as he begged for the lives in Sodom (see Genesis 18).
On the other hand, Zechariah simply doubts. And that's why the angel zings the old priest. He's not asking God for proof. He's not begging for evidence. He's not amazed that something like this could really happen (as Mary was). He just doesn't believe it can happen.
Gideon believed God could do what He said He would do. And that's the key—he believed God to perform something amazing. What the man wasn't sure about was his own ability and his calling. He believed God for the outcome; he questioned the agent, the catalyst. God graciously proved the calling by many unimpeachable signs.
Intersecting Faith & Life:
I'm certainly not suggesting we test God's patience—or test God at all. But God knows humans. He knows our doubts and our fears and our feelings of inadequacy. He's been there and done that—all without sin.
Gideon doubted himself, and God patiently showed the seeming wimp that he was, in fact, a mighty man of valor. If God has given you a calling that seems improbable because of your failings, remember that what God purposes to do is imminently possible. In other words, He doesn't pick the wrong person or give the wrong vision.
Whatever you do, don't doubt the power of God to do whatever it is He's given you. That's where we get into trouble.