And he said to the men of Succoth,
“Please give loaves of bread to
the people who are following me,
for they are exhausted, and I am
pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna,
the kings of Midian.”
Gideon, finds himself still in pursuit of the Midianites, whom defeated and destroyed some of God’s people in Tabor. Gideon’s army is outnumbered 300 to 15,000, and though pursuing with passion, they are now hungry with the major part of the vision yet to accomplish!
There are many things I love about this text starting with Gideons’ thoughts. He encounters the leaders of Succoth, and though Zebah and Zalmunna are on the run, he still remembers he is being followed. Gideon says, “please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me…”
Though he is focused on the vision, he is in touch with the people following him.
Though this would seem simple, it is more challenging that it seems. There are times when the vision and the people seem to be pulling in different directions, and other times when the people are in pursuit with the man of God, but have needs that complete with or slow down the time frame for accomplishing the vision. When these things occur, it is easy for the man or woman of God to focus their full attention on the completion of the task at hand, putting those following on the back shelf. Neglect is in these cases is the outcome, but exist because there is confusion as to what is most valuable.
We found Jesus in this same situation. Busy teaching and preaching, in the midst of traveling to another location, and being confronted with the issues and lack in the life of those following Him. Though spreading the good news was his purpose, ultimately dying for the sins of the world, He was still compassionate and concerned about those following Him. We too have to continue valuing the members of the kingdom, while we carry out the cause of the kingdom.
Unlike Gideon, for many, the voice of God and the desire to complete His vision is so deafening, that those following and assisting in the completion of the vision or simply hungry. Honestly, I believe this is much of the story of the #churchhurt story line. We hear over and over about those who have felt the sting of ministries and leadership whom have become so “kingdom focused” that they forget about the “kingdom citizens.” The Kingdom is made up of citizens, not buildings, and while buildings are needed to house the citizens for worship, the order of importance should not be forgotten. There are those who view and treat people like pawns on a board to protect the King and Queen for the sake of defeating the adversary. To God, the sheep are just as valuable as the shepherd. He values the sheep so much, that He will leave the 99 to gather the one. Much like He left heaven to restore the relationship between the lost sheep and He, the good shepherd. In the kingdom, each has the same purpose; to build the kingdom through evangelism, and then to disciple all who are willing to follow Him.
I also love that Gideon asks on their behalf. He is beyond personal or corporate pride and immersed in concern. Though they were not Gideon’s people, Gideon saw them as his responsibility. He says “please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me”. Yes, they chose to follow, but they are now experiencing a hardship because they are helping Gideon accomplish his vision. For this, Gideon feels responsible.
Gideon not only knew that they needed their strength for the journey, but understood that they needed food for survival. I believe this is important because many will feed and nourish to accomplish the vision and task, but wont supply nourishment to live or even for the journey home.
We must fight to make sure a proper perspective is kept towards God’s people. As those imitating God, God keeps a relationship with those who choose to follow Him, and even supplies food for those who haven’t acknowledged Him as Lord. He rained on the just and the unjust. He healed those who believed, and healed those filled with doubt. God cared about people, not just about the task.
I love Gideon’s last statement, “and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” I know that the two thoughts are connected, letting us know that Gideon is not foolish. He knows that defeating the 15,000 might require each life, but if they perish or choose not to continue, He restates his focus, “I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna”. He is not distracted or discouraged. He knows what God would have him to do, and he is determined to see it through. He knows that God is with Him. and knows that God will honor His Word, but remains aware that in the life, others are often needed to accomplish your goals. I gather that he is both grateful and appreciative for those who remained past the original 30,000 men, whom were reduced to 300. So must we continue to care for and shepherd the 300, despite the choice of the 29 thousand at home watching you struggle to accomplish the vision in exchange for the cares of this world.