I am named after a month of the year. So while I haven’t met a ton of other “Aprils” in my life, my name is common in that there are only 12 months. I’ve personally never met anyone named October, but I did know a January. So as far as names go, the list of potential names derived from months erodes down to about half or so.
I have a serious “why is everyone talking about me” complex whenever the month of April rolls around. And don’t get me started on how much I loathe April Fool’s Day.
While my name is commonly used, it often still does get mistaken for other names. I’ve been Rachel, Amy, Anna, Eggroll, Lisa and most recently Ava. Seriously. I went to pick up my takeout order from a local restaurant, and they couldn’t find my order. So, we were all very confused. Turns out I was just Ava instead of April. I guess I should just start answering to any name!
I’ve been reading in Judges, and I came across someone who was called by the wrong name, too–Gideon. The Angel of the Lord came to Gideon in Judges 6 and called him “O Valiant Warrior.” A couple sentences later, Gideon was reminding the Angel how he’s the youngest in his family and that his family is the least of his tribe. He was essentially saying, “Whoa, whoa, valiant warrior? Who? Me?” But God knew that’s exactly who he was.
See Gideon thought his life, his story, was about himself. God knew Gideon’s story was about God. God had strengthened the Midianites against Israel because of Israel’s rebellion and refusal to follow God. Their persecution was a direct result of their own sin, but even in their discipline, they cried out to God to be rescued.
And He heard them.
And He was going to raise up Gideon as a valiant warrior to deliver them.
What viewpoint do we see in our own lives? Do we see ourselves stuck in the circumstances of the present, unable to move forward, unable to see the potential of delivery? Are we looking at things from Gideon’s perspective and wondering who the Lord is talking to (it can’t be us)? Or can we see in faith that God has a purpose for us and that He may call us to be that warrior–a warrior that God gives strength to and comes alongside.
Let’s look at how God did just that in Gideon’s life.
He came to where Gideon was.
The Angel of the Lord found Gideon beating wheat, hiding it from the Midianites. He wasn’t a great orator standing at the street corner recruiting people for the rebellion or a decorated soldier with a copious military experience. He was the youngest in his family in the least of his tribe trying to make sure his family had food.
What has God been laying on your heart to do, and you don’t think you’re good enough? How often do we make excuses not to serve or isolate ourselves because we think God can’t redeem our pasts or help us overcome our sins?
He spoke encouragement.
God came right out of the gate with “O valiant warrior” and told Gideon he would deliver Israel by his own hand. I’ve experienced this kind of encouragement before. It seemed that the task in front of me–the one I truly believed God was calling me into–was impossible. I’ve heard those heart-whispers from Him: “I’ll go with you. You’re not alone. You can do this in my strength and not apart from it.”
What a great God who doesn’t leave us hopeless and breathes life into us with words of encouragement.
God gave him a smaller task first.
Gideon would eventually lead the small army that would defeat the Midianites according to God’s plan. But he didn’t start there. First, God asked him to pull down the altar of Baal and replace it with an altar to the true God. And Gideon did this smaller task … in the cover of night for fear of retribution.
God is so gracious to lead us in baby steps of faith, one by one.
God was patient through Gideon’s doubts.
Gideon asked God for two different signs to reassure himself that what God was saying was indeed going to come to pass – that he would deliver Israel from the hands of the Midianites.
It’s easy to be critical of Gideon in his fear and seeming lack of faith. How often do we ask for the same reassurances from God? No, we might not be putting literal fleece out, but we often desire a sign–or ten signs–to show that we are moving forward in the direction the Lord would have us go.
God confirmed His word.
My favorite part of the story is this part. God had whittled down the army to just 300 men. This victory was to be God’s, and He warned that if He allowed too many men, that they would just boast in their own prowess and ability. Trying to win the battle with only 300 would assure that the glory would be God’s alone.
But once they were down to their final 300, God once again strengthened Gideon in the most peculiar way. He told Gideon to go down to the Midianite camp and witness what he overheard–and if he was afraid to go alone, he should take his servant. Gideon and his servant waltzed on down to the enemy camp and overheard one man telling his dream to another man. The dream essentially was that Gideon would be victorious against the Midianites. This news reinforced God’s words in Gideon’s heart.
Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.” But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.” So Midian was subdued before the sons of Israel, and they did not lift up their heads anymore. And the land was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon. Judges 8:22-23, 28
Israel was delivered from their persecution and enjoyed 40 years of peace after Gideon’s victory. What a valiant warrior! Just the name that God called him from the beginning.
What might God accomplish with us if we listened to what He was calling us? It might not sound like a name we identify with yet. It might mean that God will lead us in steps of faith before we ultimately see that title. What a great opportunity for us to trust God through our “Who? Me?” doubts!