Bowling With Barley BreadJon Burgess
13Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”14His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”15When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” Judges 7:13-15
This was never going to work. That's what everyone was thinking, including Gideon himself. Even after he played the "fleece flip-flop" game with God he still wasn't convinced. Gideon had a number of facts to bolster the case that this attack against the Midianites was a disaster just waiting to happen. Gideon was no warrior. He was the least in a family that was the least in its clan that was the least in its tribe that belonged to a people who were the least likely to survive another Midianite attack. He had been found by God hiding what wheat he had left and now God was calling him to attack the very people he was hiding from. To make matters worse God cut his army down from 32,000 to 300. This would be like looking out at a crowd of 5,000 hungry people and telling him to feed them with five loaves of bread and two fish. Well, that's impossible right? In this case they didn't even have that! They had one loaf's worth of provision. It was a barley loaf at that! How did the Midianites know that the dream of the barley loaf represented victory for Gideon and his Israelite army? God knows how to get his message through. Historically, the Israelites had learned to bake large round loaves of bread from the Egyptians while they had lived there. It's why the "feast of unleavened bread (Ex. 12:17-20)" was a way to remind them of being called out from Egypt. Most of the Middle East ate flat bread so this "round loaf" would be unique to the Israelites and their Egyptian origins. Secondly, according to the historian Josephus, barley bread was barely fit to eat because of how hard and coarse it was in comparison to wheat bread. It was a bread for the poor which was certainly what Israel had been reduced to as a result of the Midianite raids. The message was clear to both the Midianites and to Gideon. Even the most common and coarse, poor and passed by, abused and abandoned, worst and least person could take down an army when in the hands of God! The dream also revealed it wasn't Gideon's skill that would win the battle. It was God who was bowling with barley bread that would score a strike at the heart of their enemies! What was a once a symbol of shame, barley bread, would now be celebrated as a sign of God's redemptive power through His people!
There's rarely a day that goes by when I'm not being challenged by God to do something I feel ill-equipped to handle. Like Gideon, I look at the task ahead and I'm just not convinced I've got what it takes. The great news is, I don't have to! Though I continue to increase in skill and knowledge as a life-long learner God reminds me through this story that this is not what will win the day. It's God's M.O. to put me in situations and circumstances where the only way it will work is if everything I have is in the hands of God. If God can speak through Balaam's donkey to avoid disaster, and God can bowl a strike with Gideon's barley bread 300, and God can use a rag tag group of 12 fishermen, zealots and tax-collectors to change the world, then there's a good chance He can use me too! He's just waiting for me to trust Him. His plan is not unto disaster but deliverance. It's not about me, nor will it ever be. It's about the good that God can do when I put it all in His hands and watch Him move!
Like Gideon, I fall to my knees and worship you! I hear You saying to me this morning to me what you said to him. In the face of all his deficiencies, insecurities and inferiorities God boldly challenges him to“Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” (Judges 6:14). I'm sure he was thinking, "Strength, what strength". That was what he were trying to teach him the whole time and are trying to teach me right now- You are the strength that I have. I go forward in Your strength!