This Sunday I’m preaching on Gideon, that very cautious and reluctant Bible hero who led Israel in victory over the Midianites in Judges 6-8. While I was jotting down personal observations on the text, I wrote the following: “God saw some potential in Gideon that others, including Gideon himself, couldn’t see.”
Sounds nice, right? John Goldingay disagrees.
According to Goldingay, Gideon has no potential whatsoever. But that’s O.K. because this story proves that God needs nothing from us, except our reluctant consent to be used of God.
Is Goldingay right? Well, if I were given a choice between listening to me or listening to Goldingay, I’d go with Goldingay!
Here are his words about Gideon from his For Everyone commentary. When the angel of the Lord encounters Gideon, Gideon tells the angel that he wants to see some action on God’s part:
The good news is that he is about to get some. The bad news is that he is the means of God’s deliverance being put into effect. At one level, his incredulous response is quite reasonable. He has shown no more leadership ability than anyone else in his obscure family. As was the case with Moses, God determines to use someone who is a failure, without obvious potential and without religious insight, because God’s using someone does not depend on that person’s leadership qualities or spiritual insight. God designates Gideon a mighty warrior not because he has potential that no one has noticed but simply because that is the way God intends to use him.
Gideon’s requesting a sign is a further indication that he lacks spiritual insight. Yet even this does not make God decide to abandon him and get someone with more obvious potential (perhaps there was no one).[†]
† John Goldingay, Joshua, Judges & Ruth for Everyone (Louisville, KY: WJK, 2011), 109.