Given the many challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to offer my Holy Yoga group a calming meditation this week. It seemed appropriate to pair it with a Bible story focused on finding peace.
The story I settled on (after searching a Bible app for “shalom”) was that of Gideon, who was called by God to deliver the Israelites from their oppressors.
(This might not initially sound like a story of peace, but stay with me.)
Here’s the context: The people of Israel had made it to the Promised Land but had adopted the gods of the tribes around them and were being ruled — and overrun — by those tribes.
An angel appeared to Gideon and, after conversations with the angel as well as with God, Gideon realized that he was indeed being called to save the Israelites from the Midianite tribe.
Preparing for his mission, Gideon recruited 32,000 men. That’s a small city!
But here’s the thing: God wanted the Israelites to know that He was the one who would bring the victory. So He told Gideon to send home all but 300 men.
Gideon’s crew could never beat the Midianites with that number — not without God’s help. Still, they embarked on a sneak attack against the Midian encampment, blasting horns, smashing jars and carrying torches, creating panic and confusion, depending on God to show up. Which He did. They won the battle, and soon the Israelites entered 40 years of peace.
Here is what particularly impressed me about this story:
First, as Gideon explained why he was unqualified to carry out the mission, “The Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?'” (Judges 6:14, NIV)
God didn’t tell him to prepare by lifting weights or taking a short course in military strategy. No, he said, “Go in the strength you have.”
How often do we sense a call, perhaps one that could bring about peace, but reject it or avoid it, thinking, “If only I were more qualified …”? Or, “If only I had a huge group backing me up”?
What if we were to just answer the call in the strength we already have?
Second, Gideon built an altar and inscribed on it “The Lord is Peace”—Jehovah Shalom. That is not so surprising, but what is interesting is that he build the altar not after he won the battle but before.
Shalom—peace—is defined by Pastor Tony Evans as “a life put together, a life characterized by a sense of wholeness and well-being.”
Don’t we all want that?
But does anyone’s life look put together now, in the days of COVID-19, as we debate whether we should wear masks to the grocery store? Is it possible right now to live a life characterized by a sense of wholeness and well-being?
Like the Israelites, it’s easy to look to many external things to save us. Then it was other gods. Now … maybe it’s news reports, social media, stashes of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
It’s important to stay informed and take care of ourselves and our loved ones, but in the midst of it all, it helps to remember that God is the true source of peace.
“Like Gideon,” Evans writes, “we can rest assured that even in the face of incredible turmoil, God can still be known as Jehovah Shalom (the Lord is peace), when the ultimate source of turmoil and the true source of peace are understood.”
Peace be with you and yours today. Right now, today.