He was the least important child in the least important family of his tribe, in a nation oppressed for seven long years. Watched by the angel of the Lord from beneath a tree, Gideon threshed wheat in hiding down in a winepress, where the Midianites wouldn’t find him or his precious grain. He believed God had forsaken them, despite their unfaithfulness to Him. When the Angel approached Gideon to declare God was with him, Gideon spoke the honest, desperate words of a man whose daily life had worn deep ruts in suffering’s path. “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us …?” (Judges 6:13a).
Tired of being beaten down from his start on the lowest of places, Gideon asked what the honest among us will admit to wondering, “If God is with us, why is life so hard?”
Last week I created a spiritual life map of my journey with God. Some of my greatest discoveries about who God is came in my darkest places. I noticed that “valleys” were often followed by strength and advance. Gideon was in a low place when the angel of the Lord came and patiently answered his honest question. It wasn’t until the weary Israelite realized, “I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face” (v.22) that his desperation turned to fear. As if things weren’t bad enough, Gideon went from fragile to freaked out. Can you relate?
The Lord answered him where he was: “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” (v.23)
The only thing worse than being insignificant and insecure in the face of a marauding enemy is understanding how insignificant you are in the face of a holy God. Realizing he was part of a divine encounter with the God who had NOT forsaken him, Gideon built an altar of worship and named it for the discovery of his darkest moment: Jehovah-shalom. The Lord is peace. (Judges 6:11-24)
When we’re under attack, uncertain, in need, and painfully aware of our weakness, the world only offers illusions of temporary feelings suggesting peace. Jehovah-shalom IS peace, so He can promise, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, not let it be fearful” (John 14:27).
Past our understanding moments
Gideon couldn’t conceive of what happened in the wine press that day, stunned as he served meat and unleavened bread to the angel of the Lord. The peace he found “passed understanding;” he encountered true peace in the midst of hardship. He discovered what God offers each one of us reading now: real peace.
“… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
Yes, it surpasses understanding, but it can guard our hearts and our discouraged thoughts when we find ourselves in the wine press, hiding from our hardships and fighting fear. We can know the peace of Jehovah-shalom. We are meant to know the peace of Jehovah-shalom.
Let’s climb out of the wine press and get down on our knees, so Jehovah Shalom can cover us in peace that’s out of this world!
Have you had a “wine press” experience when God gave you His peace?