Are you desperate for victory? Over sin? Over despair? Over loss? Bow down and worship. “Draw near to the Lord and he will draw near to you,” (Jms. 4:8) James admonishes. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise,” (Ps. 51:17), David echoes. This is not a promise of victory in our way and in our timing. God’s victories often look very different than our version. But God’s glory is made manifest when our hearts draw low in worship.
We’ve all had moments in our lives where it seemed like all hope was lost. I remember sitting at my desk in high school, staring at an AP Chemistry test that might as well have been written in Latin. I felt so doomed. My mind spun. I was going to fail this test. I was going to fail the class. Would I have to take summer school? Would I be able to get into my dream college? I had catastrophized this one test into determining the trajectory of my future years.
We’ve all experienced failure and hopelessness: the creeping dread of loss.
Why does God allow us to fail? And how can God bring victory in hopeless circumstances?
In Judges 6, fear is spread like a blanket over the hearts of Israel. The Midianites have “overpowered Israel,” scattering the people of Israel into dens “in the mountains and the caves of the strongholds” (Jdgs 6:2). Israel cannot even harvest crops, “For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them” (Jdgs 6:3) and “leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey” (Jdgs 6:4). The Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey, had become a barren graveyard.
In their despair, “the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord” (Jdgs 6:6).
And God responded in the most unexpected way. He sends an angel to a fearful Gideon who is beating out grain not on a true threshing floor (where wheat was usually threshed), but to a Gideon who is tucked into a winepress (traditionally carved into a rock) away from Midianite eyes. Without proper access to wind which was needed to carry away the chaff, the return for his efforts must have been nearly inedible grain: as much chaff as wheat.
“The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor!” (Jdgs 6:12), the angel of the Lord greets Gideon.
Gideon’s head swivels, his heart thumps. Where did this intruder come from? What did he want with him? Gideon wants to run, but freezes instead.