Who is your labeler?
Although the Bible is not renowned for humor, Judges 6 must surely stand as one of the funniest passages. The situation is that Israel is being oppressed by the neighboring peoples, the Midianites, the Amalekites and other eastern peoples. They are invading the land, taking livestock and crops, and generally making life miserable for the Israelites. The nation is so desperate that they call out to God for someone to save them.
In the midst of this story is an unassuming character called Gideon. Just as a brief character sketch, this is what we learn about him through this story. He is skeptical about God being with them or able to help them in a time of trouble (v13). He has an inferiority complex about his tribe being the weakest, and he being the least in his family (v14). He meets an angel and thinks he’s going to die (v22). He obeys God in tearing down an altar to Baal and Asherah, but he does it at night because he is afraid of the townspeople (v27). He doubts God so much that he asks God to provide a miraculous sign not once but twice (v39).
So, how does God ‘label’ this skeptical, inferior, fearful, doubting character? We find out actually at the beginning of the story, where the angel addresses him thus:
12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
Er, excuse me? I can imagine Gideon looking over his shoulder to see who the angel is really talking to. I mean, he hardly seems to have the right stuff to qualify for the title of Mighty Warrior. Is the angel being sarcastic? It seems not.
The point is that God knows more about Gideon and his potential than Gideon does. In the very next chapter, this unlikely hero leads just 300 warriors into a battle that completely routs and defeats the Midianites.
I don’t know what labels have been put on you throughout your life. Probably a few negative ones. But when God speaks, he speaks destiny into you, for he has in mind the plans HE has for you. There is a destiny and a character that God has for us to grow into.
We are also promised that we will receive a new name in heaven:
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:17)
Let’s be careful with labels. Particularly in this election season, it may be tempting to identify ourselves with a particular candidate, party or issue, but we must remember that it is God’s label for us that is eternally significant. On November 9th, whatever the result of the election, you will still be ‘Child of God’, you’ll still belong to a heavenly kingdom and God will still be on the throne. Amen to that.