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Cave Dwellers

There’s a wonderful story in the Old Testament about God’s intervention in the life of a man who was confined to a cave — spiritually, physically and emotionally.  The event takes place during a time in Israel’s history called the period of the judges.  This era refers to the decades that followed the death of Joshua, before the rise of the prophet Samuel.  It was a kind of “wild, wild west” in Israel.  Chaos and anarchy reigned because of the wickedness and idolatry of the Israelites.  God’s people often found themselves oppressed and ravaged by enemy forces, seeking God’s help only when their pain was unbearable.

This was the case during the days of a man named Gideon.  Because of Israel’s continuing sin and rejection of God, they found themselves under the control of a group of people called the Midianites.  It was a brutal season for the Israelites.

Take a look at the way the Bible describes this time:

“Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds.  Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it.  Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.”  —  Judges 6:2-6 (NIV)

It’s hard to imagine living under such dire circumstances as these.  The Hebrew word for “impoverished” gives us a graphic image of the condition of God’s people at this time.  It means “to hang low, languish, become thin and small; it is used of a lame man’s legs or a water source that is practically dry; it is the picture of faded hope.

The Israelites were in a very low place, emaciated spiritually, physically and psychologically.  They lived in dread and fear of the next Midianite invasion, powerless to put a stop to their ravages.

In response to Israel’s cries for God’s help, the Lord showed up in one man’s life, lifted his spirit, inspired his heart and called him out as a leader:

“The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.  When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.'”  —  Judges 6:11, 12 (NIV)

It’s important to understand what’s really happening here.  Gideon had managed to secure a little bit of grain for his family.  He had taken it into his hiding place, hoping to protect the food from the next Midianite invasion.  We see him doing the work that animals were regularly used to do — threshing wheat.  He’s at a critical low point in his life.

Here’s a pitiful portrait if you’ve ever seen one.  The atmosphere was saturated with intimidation, insecurity, anxiety and raw fear.  In every sense of the phrase, Gideon was a cave dweller.  He suffered with a cave mentality — hiding, trembling, on constant alert dreading the next attack of the enemy.

But suddenly the story really gets good.  God came to Gideon in his cave!  Instead of waiting for Gideon to shake free of his fears, God showed up right where Gideon was physically, spiritually and emotionally!

God had a plan for Gideon’s life.  Gideon was God’s man to lead Israel to stand up and defeat the Midianites, but Gideon couldn’t complete this assignment in a cave.  God invited Himself into Gideon’s cave and called him out to a new way of thinking — a mindset of faith rather than fear.  And because of this, Gideon became a “former cave dweller.” His life changed.

If you continue to read the record of Gideon’s life, you’ll see that he indeed  became a “mighty warrior.”  God used him to defeat the Midianites he once so greatly feared.  Because of Gideon’s response to God, not only was Gideon blessed, Israel experienced 40 years of peace!

What a great reminder this is for us.  God lovingly calls “Gideons” out of their caves of intimidation and insecurity and transforms them into “mighty warriors.”  He breaks the grip of fear and brings us into a life of faith!

Hear God’s voice calling you out of your cave as He did Gideon.  Be filled with faith and be mighty in spirit.  You’ll be amazed at what God will do through you!

Pastor Dale