Encouragement and the Character of God
“And it was in that night that Yahweh said to him, ‘Get up and go down into the camp, for I have given them into your hand. And if you fear to go down, go down to the camp with Purah, your servant, and you will hear what they are saying and afterward your hands will be strengthened when you go down against the camp.’ So he went down and Purah, his servant, to the edges of the formations which were in the camp.”
Within these verses lies one of the most fascinating insights into both the character of Gideon and into the character of God. This is the night before the big battle. The Midianites are encamped below in the valley and Gideon and his 300 have the high ground in the hills. On a human scale, the numbers are outlandishly in favor of the Midianite Hordes. Yet God has promised that He will deliver the enemy into Gideon’s hand.
And know that Gideon is trusting in that reality. He must have in the back of his mind Abraham and the 318 men that overthrew Kedorlaomer and his five armies, but remembering events of the past is a very different matter than finding yourself in them. He was a man of faith, but he was no less a man. And men have doubts and fears; it is a natural part of our fallen state.
So, in the state of concern, God shows his fatherly and graceful character. He goes to Gideon and essentially says, “let me show you something that will encourage you.” God still requires Gideon to have faith, but he gives Gideon a little foretaste of what is going to happen next. And God even does one better and tells Gideon, if you are afraid to go down where I will lead you, take your servant, Purah, with you. What a gentle hand our God has when it comes to encouraging the faithful.
Our temptation, though, is to think that this kind of thing only happened back in the Biblical days, and that thought would be in error. The Bible itself is God’s witness to us through the generations that he will preserve His witness as well as preserving his people through times of great trial and difficulty. The sad thing is, despite the encouragement that is found in the Bible and that has been seen in God’s working through history, people choose to ignore it and take things into their own hands, usually fleeing from battle.
In our society today, many in the Christian church have thrown up their hands in surrender to the culture. They feel weary from fighting a battle on multiple fronts: fighting against abortion on one hand and the gay and lesbian movement on the other hand; fighting against Transgenderism becoming a norm in one field of battle and fighting against pornography on the other; defending our right to have a public witness while fighting against the flood of secular humanism that infects the curriculum of the local schools. And many voices in the visible church are signaling retreat.
But this ought not be. Did Gideon back down? Did Abraham back down? Did the Apostle Paul back down? Yes, they faced times of danger, challenge, and discouragement, but they ran the race to completion regardless the cost. They needed glimpses of encouragement, but they never counted the cost too great and they trusted the hand of God would be victorious, even if they did not see the glorious victory in their lifetime.
So, friends and loved ones, do not despair and do not retreat. Do not fail to seek out the encouragement that God offers in His word and in His world. And engage the culture with the weapons of God’s warfare: prayer and scripture. God’s word is Truth, so what have we to fear? It may seem wearying to face challenges on multiple fronts, but be of good cheer, because as Christ has overcome the world, so will we when we stand in faith.