Whose Testing Who?
Three steps forward and one step back. That's always been the trajectory of my path toward the kingdom. Right when I think I have made progress something comes along to shake my faith, not in God himself, but in my perception of his abilities to fulfill my expectations.
Take Gideon in the book of Judges. An angel comes and addresses him as a mighty man of valor, but he was hiding in a cave from the Midianites. There were two different perspectives, the way God saw Gideon and the way Gideon saw himself. Something had shaken this mighty man to his core and now he was hiding.
The implication of the passage is that Gideon's family tried to remain faithful to the Lord even though the nation was suffering under God's discipline. Gideon was discouraged and he told the Angel how he felt. "Where has God been?" Gideon was confusing God's withdrawal of discipline as abandonment. The fact that the the Angel was there was answer to the question. God was ready to act on behalf of his people. But Gideon forgot the reason why the Israelites were under Midianite oppression and his question was a chastisement of God's ability to deliver. So God suggests that Gideon go and fight the Midianites in his own strength, in other words, "how's what your doing working out for you?" Oh, yeah, Gideon was hiding in a cave.
Gideon finally realizes what God is asking and he's not sure he wants to take the chance. Mighty man of valor? That's not how he felt. His clan was the smallest in Israel, and he was the weakest of his family. Surely there was someone else that God would rather chose. However, there wasn't, and God assures Gideon that the Lord would be with him. Yeah, right.
Gideon was hiding in a cave because he was afraid of his enemies. The presence of God had been long gone, seven years. Now some Angel comes along and expects him to drop everything and go fight the people he is hiding from? The cave felt safe. If Gideon was going leave his safe place he asks for a test, "show me you are with me." This happens three times befor Gideon is ready to commit himself fully to God's plan. In the end God keeps his promise, delivers Israel, and returns peace to the land for forty years. Gideon grows old and leaves a legacy of seventy sons.
The world can be harsh and the feeling of God's absence overwhelming. Our caves are different, our oppression diverse, but we often find ourself hiding when God comes calling. Maybe we are hiding from a failed marriage, financial struggles, family difficulties, abuse, disappointment, or impurity. Maybe you have been terribly hurt by someone or the church and have withdrawn into hiding. I am sure that wherever you have run it feels safe.
The problem with caves is that it hides us from the light, and it is in the light where we find freedom and rest. But God isn't calling you out of the cave to wrap you in a nice warm blanket, he wants you to confront your fears, but he assures us of His presence. Test him, he's not afraid. Take two steps forward and one back, he will steady you.
Walking with God isn't easy, but the blessings and rest is greater than anything the world has to offer. "In the world'" Jesus said, "you will have troubles, but do not fear, I have overcome the world."
l'm poking my head out of the cave this morning and taking the hand that God is offering me. I trust him, sort of, three steps forward. I'm just saying.