We have reached the point in Gideon’s story where he is finally on board with what God is calling him to do. His objections have been answered, and the signs that he has asked for have been performed.
So, Gideon has recruited an army of 32,000 soldiers to fight the Midianites, and they are on their way to the valley where the Midianites are currently camping out.
But then, God does something curious. He tells Gideon that he has too many troops. God says that with this many troops, that the nation of Israel would get full of themselves, and that they would take credit for their victory, rather than attributing it to Him. Gideon has to send some of them home.
Gideon obeys. He allows anyone who is fearful to leave, leaving him with an army of 10,000. But 10,000 is still too many for what God is wanting to do here.
God wants the people of Israel — Gideon included — to understand that this victory will not be something that they achieved through their own efforts. It will be a gift. So, God further pares the army down, until there are only 300 soldiers left.
And on that very same night, God sends Gideon and those 300 soldiers into the Midianite camp with no weapons — just jars and trumpets. They break those jars and sound those trumpets, and the Midianites are so startled by the noise and by the timing, that Gideon and his army don’t have to do a darn thing.
In their confusion, the Midianites defeat themselves, and by the grace of God, Israel is set free.
All is grace, Friends. The vegetables from the garden that you planted this past spring. That nosy neighbor who also sometimes bakes you pie. Your family and your friends. Mountains, lakes, forests, and oceans. Your talents and your skills. The sound of crickets singing as the sun goes down.
Wellness. Christian freedom. Love. Baby smiles and puppy kisses. A hug from your spouse. The little communities that we build at church, at work, at the places that we volunteer, within support groups, and on the internet. Joy. Peace. Salvation. Victory.
Even life itself.
All of these things — and more — are gifts. None of these are things that we have earned by our own accord, or frankly, even deserve to have. And yet, we still get to enjoy them, because God freely gives them to us.
And I know that sometimes, it doesn’t feel that way. When young, otherwise healthy mothers end up on ventilators, when we are nervously awaiting test results, when the world is seemingly falling apart, or when the people who we love most make harmful choices, it can be hard to see our lives as anything besides a never-ending struggle.
It becomes difficult for us to see these so-called gifts anywhere. I also know that there are plenty of times when our pride — as well as that Puritan work ethic that has been so ingrained in us — bristles at the idea that we might have ever been helpless. We don’t like that very much.
But when you get down to it, grace is the rhythm by which God has situated His entire Creation. We have a need, and God responds to our need with mercy, beauty, and goodness. God takes note of what we cannot do for ourselves (which is just about everything) and He provides.
God sees us — depleted and small, with our jars and with our trumpets — and He makes a way for liberation. God continuously offers us His gifts, regardless of whether we are good stewards of them or not, because of how very much He loves us.
So, this week, Friends, I hope that you will embrace the grace that is all around us. I hope that you will look for all of the gifts from God in your life, and that you will be grateful for them.
I hope that you will become comfortable with accepting God’s little handouts, and that you will maybe even come around to viewing them in a different way. I hope that you will enjoy the people and the things that God has provided you with.
And most of all, I hope that you will remain open-hearted and tender to all of the gorgeous things that God is doing in this tired, weary world — because all is grace.
Hannah Lutz is Pastor of Ada Chapel Friends Meeting.