I’m keeping it somewhat short and potentially sweet today. I want to submit some scriptural taffy for us to chew on this morning from the life of that unlikely Old Testament hero, Gideon, and his life lessons. A hundred years ago, Christians understood the concept of God’s method of employing the takeaway. My great grandfather’s generation had a firm grasp on the clearly amplified biblical truth that God often whittles away at His own. He makes something greater by making it lesser. He strengthens us by weakening us. He expands our influence by reducing our lists of qualifications. He is the master Chisler.
“The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ – Judges 7:2
God was soon to defeat the opposing marauders, the Midianites, on behalf of the children of Israel. There was a compelling issue to be considered first: there were too many soldiers enlisted in Israel’s army. If Israel went to battle and God granted the victory to them in their current state, some wise-guy would conclude that they were truly a capable group of soldiers, and then the aroma of self-congratulations would fill the air as the soldiers applauded themselves for bringing a series of seven-year defeats to an end. The Israeli national anthem would then be robustly sung to the glory of…themselves.
God was not interested in perpetuating Israel’s self-reliance, so He begins to do the unthinkable; God begins to weaken the army by removing capable soldiers. God chose to take away their might – or at least enough of it to cause them to tremble. God commenced to dismantle all of their fleshly confidence and chopped away at anything that might seek to cast a puny shadow across His infinite glory. This victory would be about the God of Israel, not the Israel of God. Hear that sound? That is countless sets of Hebrew knees beginning to knock. God is supposed to be their Giver, not their Extractor.
May I confess that God does this to me? Forgive me for pointing out the elephant in the room, but we really need to get a grip on this. God does it to you also if you have determined to live for His glory. Don’t forget what we’ve prayed: God, use me. God, break me. God, fill me. God, change me. Remember those words from your lips? We sincerely desire the result of a spiritually genuine life, but I think we suffer from amnesia when considering how God makes this happen. To give us the new and the better, He must do away with the old and the lesser. He must take before He gives. Do people know that you belong to Jesus Christ? Then Jesus Christ must be foremost in your life. He must be recognized. He must be exalted. He MUST get all the glory. Interestingly, it may not be your weaknesses that threaten to interrupt this process. It is likely that it is your strengths that more often interfere with this greatest of purposes in your life. God may need to place a mark upon a few of your successes so you will slow down. He reserves the right to reduce your cash reserves. He is not above moving out significant people from your life that have become a little too important. Don’t let this frighten you – let it enlighten you. These are often the ways of God. He often reduces our pride and presumption by ordaining some difficulty to find us, which we simply cannot overcome by virtue of tactics we have employed in the past. In short, God often submits to us a season of life that we cannot handle. You’re not imagining things. He’s ordaining your eventual gain through your temporary loss.
So what do we do?
Well……..if God has ordained a time of sovereign reducing for us, then I suppose we should be reduced. If He deems it best to take, then I reckon we must turn loose of whatever His hand is now upon. If He requires weakness in order to accomplish His will, then let’s become as weak as we can become so that His perfect strength will graciously empower us. If God needs me small then I should shrink. If God declares that I should lose my confidence then let me tremble in silence. If God wants to reduce the might of my personal army a few days before my biggest battle, then I ought not seek to recruit new soldiers. Gideon, brother, we feel your pain. We prefer the glorious glue which fastens additional things onto us. Nobody likes the sound of the chisel which removes. But sometimes your victory is on the other end of what He is removing.
So stand still and trust the Carpenter. He’s amazing with a chisel.