Ever been to a car show?
A guy will restore an old car and make it beautiful.
It becomes artwork on wheels.
Car buffs polish their vehicles and protect them. They’ll put their cars in nice garages or storage units — and may not take them out for a spin or to a show if they think it’s going to rain.
I started thinking about cars while preparing a talk on Gideon for my church.
We can learn so many lessons from Gideon. Please let me briefly recap the story.
For a long time, the Israelites had been in a bad cycle. When times were good, they forgot about God and did evil stuff. He’d let their enemies oppress them. Then they’d cry out to God and he’d send someone called a judge to help them defeat their enemies.
As long as the judge was alive, the Israelites did pretty well. After that judge died, they’d return to their wicked ways.
Gideon lived at a time when the Midianites had devoured the Israelites’ crops and livestock for seven years. The impoverished Israelites hid out in caves.
Our friend Gideon was hiding out in a winepress, threshing grain, when an angel of the Lord told him to save Israel.
Gideon couldn’t see how that was possible. He saw himself as the weakest of the weak.
But God said he’d be with him. Gideon asked for three signs, which God provided.
Then Gideon, who steadily sought the Lord, gathered 32,000 Israelites to battle the Midianites.
It seemed like Gideon had a fighting force.
Yet God wasn’t going to have the Israelites saying they defeated the enemy in their own strength — so he had Gideon send all but 300 men home.
Gideon and his 300 men surrounded the Midianite camp, which was in a valley. He gave his men trumpets and jars with torches inside. In the middle of the night, Gideon had his men break their jars, blow their trumpets and shout. The men yelled, “A sword for the Lord and Gideon!”
At the sound of the trumpets, the enemies turned on each other with their swords and many fled.
Gideon and his men chased the enemies. During the chase, Gideon and his men were refused food in a couple of Israelite towns. He later returned, inflicting severe punishment and death on his own countrymen.
He also killed two enemy kings.
After that, the Israelites wanted Gideon and his sons rule over them, saying he’d saved them.
Gideon refused, but never really turned back the honor to the Lord — reminding the Israelites of who’d really rescued them.
Instead, Gideon had an ephod made. An ephod was a priestly garment worn with a breastplate of precious stones, which – in this case—became a source of idolatry for the Israelites.
In addition, Gideon had 70 sons, plus one by a concubine. After Gideon’s death, the concubine’s son killed all but one of his half brothers. The Israelites fell into idolatry and doing evil — all over again.
Not a happy ending to a story — and a man — who started out so well.
What do we learn from Gideon?
Lots of things, but let me list four that I see:
Bad stuff happens. Sometimes we suffer because of sin and rebellion like those Israelites who kept forgetting what God had done and turned to evil.
But bad things still can happen – as in the case of a long-suffering man named Job—who was loving and serving God when hit with the loss of his 10 children, most of his servants, all of his livestock and his own health. Why? Nobody knows all the answers, but we do know we’ve lived in a fallen world ever since Adam and Eve munched on that forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. And we’ll continue to live with the repercussions of that until we die and go to heaven or Christ comes back for his people.
In the meantime:
God is merciful, faithful, forgiving and good. Remember what happened when the Israelites cried out to God? He rescued them. As it says in the Bible, in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
God is with us in our life struggles. He helps, nurtures, directs and provides. He forgives and can help us win victories and make a new start.
Go can do more with his 300 than you could ever do with your own 32,000. I learned this through a study called “Gideon: Your Weakness. God’s Strength” by speaker and author Priscilla Shirer.
Remember Gideon? He started out with 32,000 men, which God had him reduce to 300 – whom our Lord used to defeat the Midianites.
Maybe you don’t think you have enough money, education or training. You’re outnumbered, outgunned, outmanned – and out of time.
If that’s the situation, please remember what the Apostle Paul said the Lord told him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
You don’t have to be the biggest, bravest, toughest and smartest.
You’ve got the God of the whole universe behind you—and he is all these things.
He’s in your corner. He’s on your side. He’s got your back.
You may be weak, but he is strong.
And remember what the Lord told Gideon when he faced the biggest battle of his life?
“I will be with you.”
God is with us, too.
Be careful so you don’t get off track. Gideon’s story should be a warning to us. In the start of his story, Gideon is constantly seeking God’s direction. God speaks to Gideon, who listens.
But somewhere along the line, we don’t hear where Gideon is asking for God’s will any more. We don’t read about God talking to Gideon.
Instead, we read about Gideon going here and there and doing stuff. Gideon severely punishes his own people for their lack of help. Granted, they should have helped, but we don’t read where God ever told Gideon to whoop down on them when they didn’t share their bread.
We don’t hear that God ever told Gideon to make an ephod.
And we certainly don’t hear God telling Gideon to have 70 sons. How many wives do you think Gideon had to have all those kids?
More than one wife was too many. And can you imagine Gideon’s kids trying to get some quality time with dad?
Gideon’s story — and indeed that of all those forgetful Israelites — shows how easily we can slip away from God’s guidance and fall into real trouble.
It doesn’t take much.
We get so busy and distracted.
But we can’t become lax in seeking God’s will for our lives, praying, reading, studying and thinking about his word.
So what does the story of Gideon have to do with cars?
Think about how men or women will take such good care of a car.
But let’s face it — a car can get in a wreck. It can be destroyed if a garage or storage unit catches on fire.
In other words, it’s a perishable item.
Yet a relationship with God has everlasting benefits.
So if a bunch of guys can take such good care of perishable cars, how much better should we be about nurturing our relationship with God – who is eternal?
Just like we don’t want our cars to go off the road – which can have disastrous consequences — we don’t want to get off track with God.
God can keep us on the right path as we trust and obey him and keep seeking his guidance.
And while we may not be as polished as a classic car, God can make artwork out of our lives, too.