By Rick Elsey
Pastor, West End Baptist Church, Columbia
In the movie Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones’ character sums up our culture when he says, “They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom … They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack.” People crave peace. We work hard to find peace of mind only to discover a fleeting peace. A worldly peace can never satisfy or compare to the ultimate peace that comes from God.
Israel is caught in an endless cycle. Prosperity and blessings are followed by a falling away from God who would then bring judgment on His people. After a time, the people would repent, and God would raise up a person to deliver them from their despair and restore their peace. In Judges 6, we see the Israelites are under the oppression of the Midianites, but God is getting ready to call Gideon to deliver them. In our focal passages we will see how Gideon responds and what that means for peace in his life.
Hindrance to peace: No. 1: WRONG FOCUS (Judges 6:11-13). As we are introduced to Gideon in v. 11, we see him threshing wheat while hiding from the Midianites. He is interrupted in his work by an angel of the Lord who informs Gideon that God is with him. Gideon’s response reveals he is not convinced of the Lord’s presence. In our day and time Gideon’s response may have sounded something like this: “Really? Have you looked around? If God is with us why did He let all of this happen?”
Too often the peace of God eludes us because we cannot see beyond our current circumstances. I imagine most everyone has gone through a time in their lives when this has been true. The great news of Scripture is that God will never leave us or forsake us even in the midst of our struggles.
Hindrance to peace: No. 2: WRONG PERSPECTIVE vv. 14-16. Despite Gideon’s frame of mind, the angel of the Lord commands Gideon to go and deliver Israel. Once again I can hear his response: “Excuse Me? Go and deliver Israel? Are you kidding?” His actual response is similar to that of his forefathers. He begins to make excuses as to why he is unfit for the task. He looks at his qualifications from his perspective rather than from God’s.
To this day, as believers, we still struggle with God’s call in our lives. Fear of the unknown or focusing on our limitations keeps us from following God’s will. His peace comes when we trust in His provision and His power for success.
An overwhelming peace vv. 22-24. God gives Gideon a sign that confirms His power and presence (Judges 6:17-21). Gideon is overwhelmed with fear. He has seen the Lord and now he could die. The Lord’s response is simple yet powerful: “Peace to you.” This is not the world’s peace. This is not a peace that refers to an absence of war or conflict. This is an inner peace that produces “wholeness and well-being” in the lives of God’s children. Gideon was so overwhelmed he built an altar and called it “The Lord Is Peace.” The altar served as a testimony of God’s peace for years to come.
Jesus promised us that He would leave us His peace. He provides us both peace with God and the peace of God. We are now the testimony of that peace. Shalom.