This is the second in a series about the “impossible” faith of the saints listed in Hebrews 11. For part one click here.
Like Noah, Abraham, and others, God asked Gideon to do something which seemed very strange. Yet, Gideon believed God, and as a result he was used by God to win an improbable victory.
Gideon’s story begins when the extraordinary disrupts the ordinary. An angel of the LORD (the extraordinary) appeared to Gideon while he was busy threshing grain (the ordinary). The angel instructed Gideon to leave his farm work and “go save Israel.” Gideon hesitated. He reminded God that he was just an ordinary farm boy from an ordinary family. In response, God reminded Gideon that who he was made little difference. God was going with Gideon and that’s all he needed to know. So, Gideon went.
As Gideon prepared to meet the Midianites in battle, God gave him final instructions – “Downsize your army; you have too many men to defeat Midian.” Any army commander would consider such advice as absurd. How was an army of three hundred better able to defeat an army as “thick as locusts”? From a tactical, even logical, point of view God’s command made no sense. Surely the original army of thirty-two thousand men would have been better? This is where Gideon’s faith shines through as an example for us to follow. Gideon received a word from God that was completely counterintuitive, yet he believed that word. He trusted God’s ways over his own. He then put his faith into action and led his modest army into battle against the swarming Midianites. God was indeed with Gideon that day and the Midianites were routed with ease. Gideon’s faith achieved an impossible victory.
Gideon faced a plague of Midianites with a miniscule army of three hundred. David faced a towering giant-warrior with five smooth stones and a leather sling. Gideon and David’s stories and their foes were quite different, but their faith and their God were the same. When David was sent to the battlefield by his father, he was given no special instructions from God to take on the Philistine giant. David took on the impossible task of toppling Goliath not because he received a special command from God, but because he was compelled to by his faith in who God was.
David arrived in the Valley of Elah as the Israelite and Philistine armies were shouting their battle cries and taking their positions. The young shepherd-boy quickly led his donkey down into the Israelite camp eager to experience the excitement of the battle. David dropped off his load of cheese, bread and grain and ran to find his brothers. As he spoke with them, another voice could be heard above the din of clanging metal and soft murmuring within the Israelite army. Goliath, the champion Philistine fighter, was issuing his daily defiance against the Living God and His army. As they had done so many times previous, the Israelite army turned and ran. David couldn’t believe it. How could an enemy of God be allowed to make a mockery of the people of God day after day? David knew that Goliath must be silenced and he knew that no else was about to step forward to take on the giant. David decided to do it himself.
Why was David so different from the rest? Why was it the shepherd-boy armed with a simple sling, and not the thousands of armed soldiers, who took on the imposing giant? If we attempt to make any sense of the situation from a strictly human point-of-view, then we will run stuck. In fact, the most plausible explanation is that this is another example of an exaggerated battle tale from ancient history.
It is not just that David was a small shepherd boy in civilian clothes attempting to defeat a battle-hardened warrior, it’s that he was the only one to do it. It is David alone, among the thousands of soldiers, who steps forward. Not even the king thinks it is possible to kill the giant.
The difference is of course faith. David knew who God was and what a life lived by God’s strength looked like. By God’s strength, David could tackle the bears and lions which threatened his flock of sheep. He had first-hand experience of God and believed that God could do the impossible. David was the boy who heard about what God had done for his forefathers and he believed that same God was his God. If God could part the ocean and make bread fall from heaven, then surely, he could use David to defeat a puny giant.
While those in the Israelite army saw the strength of Goliath and trembled, David remembered the strength of God and made his way down to the stream where he picked out the stone he would sling into Goliath’s forehead. For David, his faith was real and it gave him the eyes to see Goliath for who he was. David’s faith compelled him to take action even as everyone else refused to.
One can imagine the incredulous looks on the faces of the surrounding soldiers as they watched the slender form of the shepherd-boy standing before the immense frame of the giant. They must have remained incredulous as they witnessed what faith in the God of the impossible can do. It moves mountains and topples giants.