Have you ever felt completely inadequate for a task to which God has called you—as if you are the least qualified person in the world and anyone can do a better job than you? Has it stopped you from engaging in ministry? Do you shy from evangelising because you’re not convinced you have the answers to enough tough questions? Do you shy from discipling relationships because you’re afraid that you’ll mess up someone’s walk with the Lord?
It should encourage you to know that you’re not alone. Many people who have done great things for the Lord have felt the same way—both biblical and extrabiblical characters. David felt that he couldn’t possibly lead God’s people, as did his son Solomon. Moses just knew that he was not the right choice to lead Israel out of Egypt. Others could be added to the list—among them, Gideon.
From a human standpoint, few people were as ill-equipped to lead Israel’s army as Gideon. He was no Joshua. He was no Jephthah. And yet the Lord called and used him in a ministry for which he was grossly under-equipped. And he was successful because the Lord equipped him for that work.
When the angel of the Lord first appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valour” (Judges 6:12). The phrase “the LORD is with you” translates the Hebrew name Yahweh Immeka, which is the name of God we are considering this week. It was the promise that Gideon needed. He needed God’s promise, provision, and power if he would accomplish the work to which Yahweh had called him. To consider just what it meant that the Lord was with him, and to consider just how the truth of Yahweh Immeka helped him, it is helpful to consider just how ill-equipped he was for the leading God’s people. There are at least four things that we can identify in his calling that show how ill-prepared he was to lead Israel.
First, he was ill-equipped because he was afraid. When the Lord appeared to him, he found him “beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites” (6:11). Wheat was not typically beaten in a winepress, but the winepress provided a handy hiding place for Gideon as he went about his task. He was not a bold warrior who openly defied the Midianite overlords. He cowered away in a winepress so that he would not be discovered.
We should not castigate Gideon for his fear. Given the historical circumstances in which he found himself (6:1–10), his fear was understandable. It might even be argued that it was a mixture of fear and common sense that led him to beat the wheat in the winepress. Nevertheless, his fear—both here and throughout his story—is undeniable.
Have you ever felt too afraid to do what you sense God is calling you to do? Perhaps the trepidation prevents you from sharing the gospel with a loudmouthed colleague. Perhaps a sense of fear hinders you from taking a stand on truth when others are promoting ungodly ideologies. Perhaps fear of disgruntledness within the ministry group prevents you from leading in a particular direction. Such fears are understandable but, when we experience them, we need to remember Yahweh Immeka. God is with us and will prosper the work to which he has called us. He calls us to obedience, which trusts him to prosper his work.
Second, Gideon was ill-equipped because he was theologically a little blunt. When Yahweh assured him of his presence, he asked, “Please, my lord, 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 unto the hand of Midian” (v. 13).
Had Gideon been a little more theologically astute, he would have realised that what was happening to Israel was perfect in accordance with the Lord’s covenant. The Lord had promised covenant blessings for obedience (Deuteronomy 28) but had also warned of covenant curses—including servitude to foreign nations—for disobedience (Deuteronomy 27). The Lord was doing exactly what he said he would do. There was no reason that Gideon should wonder why the Midianites were so severely oppressing Israel without the Lord’s intervention.
Sometimes, we feel inadequate for ministry because we are not as theologically trained as we would like to be. We assume that the Lord requires formal theological training or at least profound theological precision before he can use us for ministry. But Yahweh Immeka assures us that he is with us and able to prosper our ministry even in the absence of formal training and precision. That does not mean we should not pursue precision, but we don’t have to have all our theological ducks in a row before the Lord can use us.
Third, Gideon was ill-equipped for the ministry because he was, frankly, unprepared. “And the LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?’ And he said to him, ‘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’” (vv. 14–15). He had not spent a lifetime training for war or leading troops. This was completely outside of his wheelhouse.
We similarly think that God can only use us in areas in which we are naturally equipped. Surely God will not call me to children’s ministry if I am not a parent? Surely he will not call me to offer counsel to my married friends until I have been happily and healthily married for 25 years? We think that God cannot use us until we have properly prepared for the ministry to which he has called us. We need to remember that Yahweh Immekais with us and frequently equips those he calls for the task to which he has called them. Willingness often precedes ability.
Fourth, Gideon was ill-equipped for the ministry to which the Lord had called him because he was slow to believe. “If now I have found favour in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me” (v. 17). We are quick to condemn him for his insistence on signs. God’s call should have been enough. Signs were unnecessary.
While the text does not condemn him for asking for signs, his seeking for signs was surely a sign that he was not as quick to believe as we would like to think we would be. He believed that his lack of faith excused him from ministry. We sometimes make the same mistake.
We don’t have the faith, we argue, to perform the ministries to which God is calling us. Let others, who have greater faith, be called to greater ministry responsibilities. But if Yahweh Immeka could use Gideon despite his doubts, be sure that he can use you despite yours. Gideon didn’t need incredible faith if the Lord was with him and prospering him. Neither do we.
The encouragement from Yahweh Immeka is that God is with us in the tasks to which he has called us and, being with us, will provide all that is needed for us to prosper in the work. Don’t allow your excuses to prevent you from ministering where God has called you to minister. Trust God’s ever-abiding presence to provide all you need to do what he has called you to do.