“And the princes of Succoth said, ‘Is the hand of Zebach and of Tsalmunna already in your hand so that we should give bread to your army?’ And Gideon answered this way, ‘As Yahweh has given Zebach and Tsalmunna into my hand, I will thresh your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.’”
It seems that perpetual suffering is the lot of cowards. As the poet, Shakespeare once wrote: “A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.” The men of Succoth fear taking sides, to feed Gideon’s men would place them as a supporter of Gideon and his 300. But what if Gideon loses? Then what? Will not Zebach and Tsalmunna discover what happened and will they not bring wrath upon the city? As the contemporary poet, Neil Peart once wrote, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” While many have tried to claim neutrality in times of crisis or decision, no one is ever truly neutral and there will be a time of accounting for our decisions either in this world or the next (or both!). So choose well and choose wisely.
Yet, how does one make a difficult choice? Certainly the answer is not to follow the model of the leaders of Succoth. These men acted in fear and with the mindset of oppressed men (remember, the Midianites have oppressed the people of this region for seven years. That’s a long time to live under the oppressive rule of an enemy king. In their mind, Gideon wasn’t going to permanently overthrow the Midianite rule, just shake things up for a season before the Midianites will regroup and return…with vengeance. Fear and faithlessness governed their actions.
Yet, we are called to fear the Lord, not to fear the wrath of men. So, to answer the question, “What does one do when one faces difficult choices?” The answer is to ask, which pathway will bring God the most glory? If we choose the path of comfort, convenience, personal success, or wealth, the path will lead into idolatry and sin. Ask yourself, which path will best allow me to glorify God even if it means that my own life will be poured out in this act. The men of Succoth should have sided with Gideon even if Gideon would lose the fight and the Midianites would return with vengeance. This is because Gideon was God’s servant to punish the Midianites and siding with Gideon would have brought God glory. Instead they tried to stay neutral and by being neutral they sided with more than just fear…they sided with the enemies of God.
How often people and whole churches side with the enemies of God by simply remaining silent and keeping their nose to the ground. Christians have permitted terrible injustices to take place in our nation and in the world because they just would not act or because they just felt inadequate to act. Yet, who is the warrior of his church? God! What have we to fear for boldly taking a stand for righteousness in this world? We have nothing to lose but this world…and for the believer, what will follow is infinitely better. So why fear to act?