For years we had been terrorized by the nation of Midian, of Amalek and the sons of the east. They were storming brigands and cruel bullying tyrants even down to the weakest one of them. Nothing we possessed was truly our own; nothing we worked for would last. There was no inheritance and no hope for anything better. We cried out to God without confidence or expectation. And He heard us and answered our prayer in a way that we never expected.
Sweat running down my back, I was working harder than I ever had in my life and my labor was doomed before it began. I was hiding in the winepress, sifting grain without wind or purpose. It was an entirely ridiculous and fruitless exercise. You needed an open area to separate the grain from the chaff in the process of threshing it. Instead, the closed area of the winepress choked me with dust and ill-fitting labor. But we had to remain hidden to keep anything at all. Our children were hungry, and we were doing the best we could. Separating the grain from the debris, unable to breathe I worked for handfuls of food and waited for strong men to come and take it all away.
There, in my frustration and failure, the angel came, speaking words of life and hope in my disbelief.
The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior!
There was a weight to his words, a divine sense of something more, and I struggled to accept it, even though I knew it was somehow the truth. I wasn't valiant. I was hiding. I wasn't a warrior, I was a refugee in my own home, destitute of any battle to fight, much less one to win. I wasn't a leader of men. I was alone. With the angel before me, I had a decision to make.
Could this be the way out? Could this somehow be a path to freedom for all of us?
Coming out of myself, I asked for a sign and the angel answered with fire. And just like that, it was done. We won our freedom that day, before we ever gathered an army and before we ever experienced the series of miracles to come. I built an altar and named it Jehovah Shalom (the Lord is Peace). He had brought us victory and peace with His presence and purpose, before we ever picked up a sword. I knew it deeply, beyond what my eyes could see.
In spite of my spiritual resolution, I still somehow struggled with mental questions of doubt and fear both of which were powerful enough in their own ways. Asking for sign after sign for reassurance, the Lord patiently brought me from where I was to a place where courage became an option. It slowly became something I could dare to reach for, even if it wasn't yet attained. There was no valor in the days of putting out fleeces; they were just my stalling and lack of faith. He had spoken. I had heard and agreed. In my weakness and fear, it wasn't enough. I wanted to hear it again.
How many times do we ask for one more confirmation before the moment passes and we are truly lost? Will the angel shake his head in sorrow and eventually sit beneath another tree, to speak holy words to someone else, someone who will actually hear them?
I tore down the places of evil worship at night, afraid of my family's retaliation. I was dismayed at the dissolution of our army of men—those who felt exactly like I did. We went from32,000 to 10,000 to 300 in a rush of backwards momentum I secretly feared meant quick defeat. I began to think we were just a footnote in Israel's story of oppression for another generation.
His Voice was with us every step of the way. But I had so many questions. Undoubtedly, men were afraid; they were outnumbered five to one! Why would it matter how people took a drink when they were thirsty? I doubted my own sanity more than once, but we pressed on to see what the next step would bring.
God had promised us victory, but God also knew my heart. I was still afraid.
Thinking back, going into the camp of the enemy was one more useless fleece. Even so, hearing the dream of the man and his sense of dread, it became one more sign that God was with us. With pitchers and torches and the clarion sound of trumpets, a handful of men brought a nation of locusts to its knees. Light, sound and escalating chaos turned the night into a cacophony of bloodshed. But none of it was our own.
He had done it. We were free.
In spite of my reluctant courage and stumbling faith, we had won.
We have the chance for greatness in the evidence of our souls before any battle is set or finished. We are shaped and completed internally before our plans ever become something that others can see.
There is a razor-sharp moment, dividing the infinite distance between hesitation and action, where the mind leaps forward in boldness or the opportunity passes and can never be retrieved. The point of real decision is in the heart before the words are spoken, before the action is taken ... before the stage is set or the results are known.
Don't be afraid. Your calling begins with the smallest grain of belief that things can be different. They can and they will.
Say yes. Build your altar on the simplicity of the moment before you, and know that God gives good gifts even to the weak.
"When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, "A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!" (Judges 7:20).