Today we read the story of Gideon, who come across as a fascinating mix of faithful obedience, fearful reluctance and eventual corruption by ego.
Like Moses before him and others afterward, Gideon’s response to God’s call is first of fearfulness and running down his own abilities. It’s only when he’s convinced by a pretty persuasive sign from God that he gives up on his excuses and starts his work to save Israel by destroying his village altar to Baal.
Even then, when God calls him to step up further and take on the Midianites, Gideon hesitates and tries to put off the inevitable. His first test for God shows that God is really calling him, so just to be sure he sets another... but at last he answers and leads the army to a victory which makes sense only because God is behind it.
The story doesn’t end with victory, though – Gideon refuses to be crowned king, on the grounds that the LORD is Israel’s one true king – but his vision of the LORD is too small, and he breaks the second commandment, leading his people into idolatry, then himself into immorality.
What then can we learn from Gideon? First, that God can use our faithfulness even when it begins in fear, provided we trust him enough – eventually – to get on with it. Second, that unless we keep renewing our vision of the greatness of God, we will end up going astray, however well we start in God’s service.
When did I last hear God’s voice and act upon it? Can I see times when I have not acted on what I have heard?