Faith and doubt
So I was reading about Gideon and sort of connecting with his doubt/faith. God tells him to go in his (Gideon's) strength and calls him a mighty warrior and he kind of shrugs it off until there's further proof. He (Gideon) sort of has no reference point for all these amazing miracles that God is capable of, and that he's heard about, because they (the Israelites) are getting so thrashed by the Midianites. It's all he can see, and who can blame him? But then God provides the proof that's needed. It all ends up good, of course, [except that Gideon's kids go AWOL. But this is normal Bible stuff - see Annette's prior discussion]. I'm getting somewhere with this... Oh, I know. Gideon expects God to answer him. And God does. My questions are - when did Gideon demonstrate faith, and when doubt? And why does God continue to answer our somewhat idiotic requests (the fleece incident), seemingly encouraging us to just talk to Him? How do we distinguish between faith and doubt? What is the difference between the source of doubt and the source of faith? Why are we so encouraged to keep asking when no answers are apparent? Does this reinforce faith or doubt?
Katy, Friday, 5-19-06 12:45 AM
re: Faith and doubt
Gideon is one of my favorite Old Testament heroes. You can kind of see God leading him when he grants his requests for some petty miracles (dew soaking one object but not the ground in the morning and vice versa after the first one was performed). Here he's kind of in the mode of asking God for a sign, which I think a lot of us can relate to---but God doesn't stop there at all. God is resolved to deliver Israel from bondage, having heard their cries for forgiveness and mercy to Him. But He wants more than that despite the fact that He's stuck with a fairly flawed example of a would-be hero (or maybe that's the way He wanted it, making His power perfect in Gideon's weakness). God wants Israel (and presumably also Israel's foes) to know that He is the Lord. So Gideon is able to rally a pretty huge force of Israelites, but God tells him to send some of them away---and then to send more away---and yet more, until he's down to just 300 to face a vast army of the wicked. Certainly you can support the argument that God wanted Israel to know that not by force of arms did it prevail, but by the power of the living God, but I think there's more to it than this. My guess is that it pleased God to kindle the fire of faith for Gideon, his tiny elect of 300, and all those who have been inspired by the story down through history. Its easy to read this story from a perspective of hindsight---after all, we know that Gideon is going to win---but imagine it from the perspective of one of the 300. Israel was seriously outnumbered and almost certainly seriously overmatched in the other fundamentals of warfare as well even before Gideon started sending away the bulk of their army because he said that God told him to do so. Now he wants us to go against this huge army with only 300, and what's more, he expects us to win a mighty victory because the Lord will deliver them into our hands? No doubt there's serious doubt here. But clearly here, God was faithful, and it requires little imagination to grasp how this must have ignited the faith of the 300 and later the entire nation of Israel. The story continues to inspire to this day. It is really difficult I suppose to truly embrace that God's will, carried out in the manner of God's choosing, will have God's resource, but it is something we are called to do. Perhaps we'd be more joyful when facing apparently impossible trials if our minds went more towards Gideon and less to the Charge of the Light Brigade :->

David C, Friday, 5-19-06 1:15 AM
re: Faith and doubt
I've periodically wondered the same thing as Katy when reading the Bible - sometimes setting up tests for God seems like what's desired, and other times it's condemned. I'm rarely clear on the reasons for this in the Bible, which makes it difficult to see how this should apply to current life.
David, Friday, 5-19-06 1:39 AM
re: Faith and doubt
So, David C seems to be saying that Gideon wasn't showing much faith when he asked for the petty miracles of the fleece, but God used him anyway. And by the time he had to whittle down an inadequate army into an even less adequate one, he actually was demonstrating faith because - hey - it takes a lot of that to go up against Midianites "outnumbering the sands of the sea" with 300 guys. Then again, he got a sign even that time: he was instructed to sneak into their camp so he could overhear their discussion about the dream of destruction. In fact, he got a significant sign prior to every major event that is recorded - even before tearing down Baal's altar he had the sign of the consumed sacrifice. Faith? Really?
But he makes the list in Hebrews 11. The author says "I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised..."
Maybe God is just really really patient with us - and he's willing to work with the fact that we don't have a ton of native faith - that is, faith entirely divorced from any sign whatsoever. That's why he's written down those signs for us - so we can fight against our doubt with the evidence of those who came before us.
ROUS  Annette Collins, Friday, 5-19-06 7:10 PM
re: Faith and doubt
Or maybe faith is just being able to spot the signs... you know, like that song, "I saw the sign... I opened up my mind. I saw the sign..." Blah blah blah. If faith is the proof of the things we hope for (our faith is proof - weird. wrap your brain around that one) and evidence of things that are invisible... Again, the mind reels. Why is it so hard to believe that God is really looking out for us sometimes? It's so easy to get overwhelmed with doubt. I was trying to remember the last time I was overwhelmed with faith. Bad missionary wannabe. Bad, bad missionary wannabe. ;). But I do like Gideon, and I get what you're saying, David C. And I'm glad you get what I'm saying, David B. and it is exciting that Gideon made the list. I wonder - I think we may be on the list too. I hope this is encouraging. If people can look at you sometimes and say, "They believe in something that really matters and has made a difference in their life (pardon the wrong usage of pronoun if you will, I hate using he/she)" then they are seeing us "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith" (Hebrews 12:1) Tonight I'm on the up-swing. God is there, not silent. Thank Him for that.
Katy, Friday, 5-19-06 10:18 PM
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