Conquering Spiritual Paralysis
Everyone struggles with something. Even when we try to follow the Lord, we find that problems; heartaches; and vast, deep valleys of sorrow and pain bring discouragement and fear. We pray and seek the Lord’s direction and help, never realizing that, more often than not, we do not see the entire picture. We see life from a human, finite, and therefore distorted perspective, while the Lord sees things from an entirely different vantage point. Consequently, our vision is skewed. This situation can often lead to a kind of spiritual malaise—a spiritual paralysis—that can prevent us from effectively serving our God.
Look Beyond Your Circumstances
In Judges 6:11 Gideon, the man God chose to deliver Israel from its troubles, “threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites.” Israel was under oppression once again, this time from the land of Midian, located east of the Sinai Peninsula.
The Midianites sprung from Midian, Abraham’s fourth son. His mother was Keturah (Gen. 25:1–5). According to dr. Henry M. Morris, “Of Keturah’s six sons (all probably born early in Abraham’s thirty-five year period with her), Midian is the only one whose descendants, the Midianites, are adequately identified. The others probably mixed with the various descendants of Ishmael, Lot and Esau to become the modern Arabic peoples. Abraham sent them ‘eastward’ (Gen. 25:6) with adequate gifts to begin their own tribes, and this would correspond to Arabia.”1
Midian is also the geographic region where Moses dwelt when he fled Egypt in Exodus 2:15–22. It was there he married Zipporah and tended the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro.
The Israelites encountered the Midianites during their wilderness wanderings. They fought each other, and Israel almost completely destroyed them (Num. 31:1–20). Enmity existed between these nations. And now the tide had turned, and Israel was under Midian oppression.
Now the Angel of the Lᴏʀᴅ came and sat under the terebinth tree…and said to him [Gideon], “The Lᴏʀᴅ is with you, you mighty man of valor” (Jud. 6:11–12).
Gideon’s response was quick and pointed: “O my lord, if the Lᴏʀᴅ is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about…? But now the Lᴏʀᴅ has forsaken us” (v. 13).
From Gideon’s perspective the Lord had somehow failed His people. Why else would they be under Midian oppression? Why else would he have to thresh in such a pathetic location and hide the grain from his oppressors? Obviously, he thought, the Lord has forsaken us. Gideon felt the Lord was at fault.
In this respect, he was much like us. So many times, when we face deep waters and dire situations, we blame God, believing He has somehow let us down or forsaken His promise never to leave us. It’s amazing how quickly our thinking would change if we could see our situations from God’s perspective.
Earlier in Judges 6, the Lord revealed why Israel suffered so much and why the Midianites raided her crops: “The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lᴏʀᴅ. So the Lᴏʀᴅ delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years” (v. 1). God had not failed His people; they had sinned and fallen away from Him and were reaping the consequences. Gideon had misinterpreted his situation. Although it may appear the Lord has forsaken us, the reality is quite different. Sometimes we suffer because of sin. Other times God uses circumstances to protect us or give us a testimony to glorify Him. No matter what the circumstance, we must look beyond it and remember that God never forsakes those who are His; and He is never unjust.
Reassess Your Resources
The Angel of the Lord, who is a preincarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus, identified Gideon as a “mighty man of valor” (v. 12). Would a man of courage and fearlessness thresh his harvest in a valley instead of on a mountaintop, as was traditionally done?
Threshing, or winnowing, separates the grain from the chaff, the useless husks that grow around the kernels. On a mountaintop, the wind blows the chaff away, while the kernels fall to the ground. The high plateau of the Temple Mount, for example, was originally the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (1 Chr. 21:18).
Gideon, this “mighty man of valor,” was hiding because he didn’t yet realize to whom he was speaking. “Then the Lᴏʀᴅ turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?’” (Jud. 6:14).
The Lord told His chosen vessel to go and lead Israel against its enemy. He also gave him a key to this instruction: “Have I not sent you?” The Lord himself had commissioned Gideon. If we are His children by faith, He also has commissioned and commanded us to do certain things. So many times the Lord chooses a reluctant servant like Gideon. Like Moses before him, Gideon attempted to reject the Lord’s direction for his life.
How often do we today find ourselves following a similar pattern? For example, we know there are needs within our local fellowships, but we feel inadequate to the task. We must reassess our resources and remember that God has given us spiritual gifts for the purpose of serving Him.
Gideon’s response was clear: “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (v. 15). He was saying, “I am not worthy of the task; I am not well-known enough and am too insignificant to do what you ask.”
Interestingly, Gideon used the Hebrew word Adonai as he spoke with the Angel of the Lord. Adonai is one of the names of God found in the Hebrew Scriptures. It can be translated “master.” If the Lord is our Master, then He has the right to expect absolute obedience to His every command. And His servants can expect Him to provide all the assistance necessary to complete the assigned task.
The apostle Paul understood this concept, as the Holy Spirit inspired him to pen one of the most powerful verses in the New Testament: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). God’s work is done through God’s power. We do not count on our resources; we count on His. That power was available to Gideon. The angelic visitor assured him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites” (v. 16).
despite these assurances, Gideon was still uncertain. It appears he doubted the one who stood before him and did not entirely trust Him. Perhaps he did not yet realize that it was the God of heaven and earth commissioning him and promising victory.
So Gideon asked the Angel of the Lord for a sign: “Show me a sign that it is You who talk with me” (v. 17). He then suggested his visitor wait while he prepared a sacrifice and set it before Him (v. 18). This must have taken time, since he had to kill and skin a goat, cook it, and bake unleavened bread. When his offerings were ready, “he brought them out to Him under the terebinth tree and presented them” (v. 19).
Then the Angel of the Lᴏʀᴅ put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of the Lᴏʀᴅ departed out of his sight (v. 21).
It was then Gideon finally realized he had been in the Lord’s holy presence: “‘Alas, O Lord Gᴏᴅ! For I have seen the Angel of the Lᴏʀᴅ face to face’” (v. 22). He must have expected to die because the Lord assured him, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die” (v. 23). The servant responded to his Master by building an altar, which he called “The-Lᴏʀᴅ-Is-Peace [Jehovah Shalom]” (v. 24).
Like Gideon, we often mistrust the Lord’s call on our lives. Yet Proverbs instructs us, “Trust in the Lᴏʀᴅ with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (3:5–6). The New Testament also admonishes us to trust the Lord when He calls us to serve: “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Th. 5:24). If the Lord has a mission for you, you can trust Him to give you all that is necessary for you to comply with His instructions.
The Lord was faithful to Gideon, who again questioned His Master by asking for yet another sign, this time utilizing fleeces. Gideon laid a fleece on the threshing floor and “said to God, ‘If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said,’” then let the fleece be wet and the floor dry. In the morning, “it was so” (vv. 36–38).
Then he requested the reverse: wet ground and a dry fleece. “And God did so that night” (v. 40). Gideon was finally ready to attack the Midianites.
However, the Lord wanted it clear that the victory belonged to Him alone, and He whittled down the size of Israel’s army from 32,000 to 300 men. First He sent home those who were afraid (7:3); then He released men based on how they drank water from the water’s edge.
So Gideon and his unlikely band of 300 routed men who were “as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude” (v. 12). And Gideon delivered Israel, just as God had promised.
The same Lord who assisted Gideon and his men more than 3,000 years ago is the same Lord who supports, protects, defends, and empowers His servants today. He has not changed, nor will He ever: “For I am the LORd, I do not change” (Mal. 3:6). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
We must remember that God’s perspective is the right perspective. And the best way to conquer spiritual paralysis is to keep our eyes firmly fixed on Him and run the race that is set before us, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).
- Dr. Henry M. Morris, quoted in Paul S. Taylor, “Midian” <www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/midian.html>.