Gideon's "Tunnel Vision"
In the book of Judges we find an individual named Gideon, who in later times will gain the testimony of being one of the great "men of faith" of the Old Testament (Hebrews 11:32). Gideon represents an interesting example of faith, a man who continually needed signs from God to be assured of His will, yet when he did act, he did so mightily in the LORD.
Even though Gideon often hesitates and has his doubts, when God first approaches Gideon, Gideon seems to show no compunction in bringing forth an accusation against God.
And Gideon said unto him, "Oh, my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where are all his wondrous works which our fathers told us of, saying, 'Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?' but now the LORD hath cast us off, and delivered us into the hand of Midian," (Judges 6:13).
Why is Gideon saying such things?
And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel; and because of Midian the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and the caves, and the strongholds. And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east; they came up against them; and they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance in Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. For they came up with their cattle and their tents; they came in as locusts for multitude; both they and their camels were without number: and they came into the land to destroy it. And Israel was brought very low because of Midian; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, (Judges 6:2-6).
Israel was having a hard time. The Midianites, Arabian nomads, along with their allies, were continually destroying all of their crops, and therefore Israel was in a really bad position. When God sends His angel to announce to Gideon that God will raise him up to deliver Israel, Gideon charges God with wrong on the basis of how Midian has been able to treat Israel.
One can certainly understand Gideon's viewpoint. After all, did he not hear all the stories of how God delivered his fathers from the hands of the Egyptians, a far more powerful people than the Midianites? And yet, as it seemed to Gideon, God had completely forsaken His people, for He had not delivered them from Midian. Gideon, therefore, certainly believes that he has a case for his beef with God.
Yet what do we hear from the viewpoint of the inspired author of Judges?
And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of Midian, that the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel: and he said unto them, "Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, 'I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drove them out from before you, and gave you their land; and I said unto you, "I am the LORD your God; ye shall not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell." But ye have not hearkened unto my voice,'" (Judges 6:7-10).
Furthermore, in the next act of Gideon, we see a powerful demonstration of this very matter:
Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had spoken unto him: and it came to pass, because he feared his father's household and the men of the city, so that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night. And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built.
And they said one to another, "Who hath done this thing?"
And when they inquired and asked, they said, "Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing."
Then the men of the city said unto Joash, "Bring out thy son, that he may die, because he hath broken down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the Asherah that was by it."
And Joash said unto all that stood against him, "Will ye contend for Baal? Or will ye save him? he that will contend for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him contend for himself, because one hath broken down his altar." Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, "Let Baal contend against him," because he hath broken down his altar, (Judges 6:27-32).
The act of Gideon and the response of the people could not more clearly show why God had delivered the Israelites into the hand of Midian. As opposed to doing as the Law would have it, to stone those who worshipped the foreign gods, the people would stone the one who removed the foreign gods and destroyed them! The people had determined evil to be good, and good evil.
What, then, shall we say in regards to these matters?
It's always easy to remain locked in one's own viewpoint and have a case of "tunnel vision". In this tunnel vision, you neglect your own difficulties and sins, and instead see yourself as entirely justified, and then presume to charge a wrong to another. Gideon certainly did this...if he were a bit more circumspect, he would surely understand why God had delivered Israel into the hand of Midian. On the basis of his own narrow perspective, and not taking into account the sin of Israel, he presumed to charge God with having forsaken His people...when, in reality, the opposite was the case.
How often do we see God being charged with wrong when the problem tends to lay more with those charging God with the wrong? How often do we hear of people asking how God could allow the tsunami, or the hurricane, or a fire, or an illness, to strike, and people seem to never chalk such things up to either happenstance or the presence of sin! People are always quick to charge God with wrongs, but never thank God for blessings. The focus is always on what is wrong, and never on what is right.
Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that we in Christ are immune from this thinking; we often betray such by how we handle one another. We often suffer from the same tunnel vision in regards to our own brethren. How often do we overlook our own shortcomings and faults and go after our brethren for theirs? It's always easier to point the finger at someone else-- it's never comfortable to return it to yourself.
Consider the example of Paul. How many letters did he write in which he had the need to rebuke and chastise brethren for their shortcomings and faults? And yet it is difficult to find a letter in which Paul does not have at least something through which he can commend those brethren. The Corinthians, if nothing else, did have a generous heart. Notice also that he always did make commendation where appropriate-- for, in the end, no matter how many difficulties our brethren may have, they remain our brethren, the elect of God, those for whom Christ died. That ought to count for something when we consider how we are going to treat them!
Let us all consider this example of Gideon and his "tunnel vision" and strive to have a more perspicacious perspective, taking into consideration not only ourselves but how God would perceive the matter (as we can understand from His revealed word), and how others are perceiving the matter. Such reflects the attitudes enjoined upon Christians in 2 Corinthians 13:5, Romans 15:1, and 1 Corinthians 10:24. Let us not be chastised or condemned for having "tunnel vision"!
By Ethan R. Longhenry
From Expository Files 13.7; July 2006