The Mystery of God’s Ways.
Judges 5-6, Acts 20
And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” – Judges 6:13 ESV
It is sometimes difficult to understand how God works. Because of our limited perspective and somewhat myopic, self-centered viewpoint, we can find ourselves looking at the events taking place around us and come to the wrong conclusions. Gideon did. He was secretly threshing grain down in a wine press just to keep the Midianites from knowing about it. As he assessed the circumstances surrounding the people of God, he couldn’t help but conclude that God had abandoned them. He had a hard time understanding why they were under constant attack from their enemies and living in fear for their lives. Of course, we know that it was because “the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian for seven years” (Judges 6:1 ESV). This was all part of the cycle of rebellion that marked the lives of the Israelites during the period of the judges. But for Gideon, it was all a mystery. He wanted to know where the great God his ancestors worshiped had gone to. From Gideon’s perspective, it was God who had left them, not the other way around. But in spite of Gideon’s faulty assumptions, God was going to use him to deliver His people. God even referred to Gideon as a “mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12 ESV). Which I find interesting, because at that very moment, Gideon was hidden away in a wine press beating out grain and hoping the Midianites didn’t discover him. But God had a job for Gideon that was going to be way out of his comfort zone. He was going to accomplish His will through Gideon and reveal that He had never really forsaken His people at all. But again, Gideon’s limited perspective prevented him from seeing how any of this could work. His response to the angel of the Lord was, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15 ESV). None of this made sense to Gideon. As far as he was concerned, he made a highly unlikely hero.
What does this passage reveal about God?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8 ESV). God rarely does things the way we think He should. And sometimes, like Gideon, we can misread God’s actions and draw faulty conclusions regarding what it is He is doing. There was no doubt that God was punishing Israel for its unfaithfulness. But God had not abandoned them. He had already made plans to send a deliverer. But His choice for a deliverer was going to be a surprise for everyone, including Gideon himself. The presence of trouble wasn’t proof of the absence of God. It was evidence of the unfaithfulness of men. But God had a plan. Unbeknownst to Gideon and the rest of the Israelites, the days of the Midianites were numbered. The suffering of the people of Israel was going to come to an end. How? No one had a clue. When? God had not yet revealed His timeline. But it was wrong for Gideon to assume that God was not at work and that He had no plan in place for the salvation of the people of Israel. It was also wrong for Gideon to conclude that he was the wrong man for the job. He was about to learn that God’s ways were quite different than anything he could ever have imagined.
It’s interesting to note that when Paul spoke to the elders in Ephesus, he revealed that there was much about God’s plan for his life that he didn’t know or understand. He told them, “And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained bythe Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there,except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me” (Acts 20:22-23 ESV). All Paul knew was that he was headed to Jerusalem, having been given clear direction to do so by the Holy Spirit. But he didn’t have any idea what was going to happen to him when he got there. Except for the fact that the Holy Spirit seemed to let him know that imprisonment and afflictions were on the agenda. It would have been easy for Paul to ask God why. He could have questioned the wisdom behind God’s plan. But rather than doubt, question and fear, Paul simply responded, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24 ESV). Paul may not have completely understood what was going on, but he completely trusted that God’s will for his life was best and could be trusted.
What does this passage reveal about man?
We have an insatiable desire to know and understand. We want to have an explanation for everything. But God is not obligated to explain Himself or His ways to us. He does not owe us an explanation. He is God. His ways are not our ways. His methodology does not always make sense to us, but He can always be trusted. Paul knew that. Gideon was going to learn it through personal experience. Every time Paul got on a ship, set out on a journey, walked into a new town or opened up his mouth to “testify to the gospel of the grace of God,” he was venturing into the unknown. He never knew how people would respond. In some cases, they gladly received his message and placed their faith in Christ. Other times, they responded in anger, hurling accusations and throwing stones. Paul’s obedience to the will of God was not based on the response of his audience, but on his willingness to do what God had called him to do. He was content to trust God with the outcome whether he fully understood what was going to happen or not.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
So much about our life on this earth as followers of Christ is a mystery. We don’t know what the day holds. We have no idea what is going to happen in the next half hour, let alone the next decade. There is much about God’s will we know and understand, but there is also much of it hidden from our view. We suffer from a limited perspective and a distorted viewpoint. But we must constantly learn to trust God. He knows what He is doing. Paul told the elders at Ephesus, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32 ESV). Paul encouraged them to trust God. He wanted them to understand that it was God who would care for them, protect them, and ultimately, provide for them their future inheritance as His children. Their trust needed to remain in God. Their hope needed to based on the character of God. Circumstances change. God doesn’t.
Father, thank You for this reassurance this morning. Forgive me for making snap judgments about You based on what I see happening around me. May I have the mind of Paul, that whatever mystery I may face in life, I keep moving forward, trusting in You and resting in Your faithfulness to me and love for me. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men