The Bible repeatedly refers to God as an all-seeing entity. In Genesis 16:13, Hagar called God El-Roi, which means “the-God-Who-Sees,” because he saw her plight and intervened. In 1 Samuel 16:7, when Samuel was sent to anoint David as the next king of Israel, God told him that He “sees not as man sees” because He “looks on the heart.” The author of Hebrews wrote, “no creature is hidden from [God’s] sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). All of these passages indicate that God is the one who sees everything.
If God is “the-God-who-sees,” then what does God see when He looks at me? Many answers could be given to this question. One might say, “God sees our sin.” Another might say, “God sees our faith.” Still, others could say, “God sees our needs” while others contend that “God sees our good deeds.” All of these answers would be correct, but all too often when we think about what God sees, we overlook something important. Not only does God see our sin and our faith as well as our needs and our deeds, but He also sees our potential. The story of Gideon illustrates this truth quite well.
In Judges 6:12, when God addressed Gideon for the first time, He called him a “mighty warrior.” That choice of a title for Gideon is strange because there is nothing about Gideon at this point in his story that is mighty or warrior-like. Consider four characteristics exhibited by Gideon when we are introduced to him in Judges 6.
First, the Gideon of Judges 6 is a coward. When we are introduced to him, he is “beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites” (Judges 6:11). In other words, Gideon was fulfilling his agricultural duties in secret because he was afraid of a marauding military who would steal his harvest if they saw him with it. And before you defend Gideon’s decision as an act of pragmatism, notice the details of his first assignment. God ordered him to destroy all the idolatrous items in his father’s community, and Gideon completed this task at night “because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day” (Judges 6:27). The point is, in his introduction, Gideon demonstrates a degree of cowardice absent from our introduction to heroes like David, Elijah, and Daniel. And, yet, God called him a “mighty warrior.”
Second, the Gideon of Judges 6 is a pessimist. When the angel of the Lord appeared to him, he said in Judges 6:12-13, “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.” Gideon’s words imply a pessimistic outlook toward Israel’s situation. He had nothing positive to say about his people’s current condition, nor did he have any hope for the future. Gideon communicated a defeatist mentality, even going so far as to declare that “the Lord has forsaken us” (Judges 6:13). These are not the words of a “mighty warrior.”
A third reason why the “mighty warrior” title is unbefitting of Gideon at this point in his story is because he had a poor self-image. When presented with God’s mission for him, Gideon questioned his own ability to fulfill it. He said, “How can I save Israel?” (Judges 6:15). In his mind, he could not lead this mission because his “clan [was] the weakest in Manasseh” and he was “the least in [his] father’s house” (Judges 6:15). Gideon saw himself as an insufficient and incapable candidate for God’s mission, which is just another reason why he seems like anything but a “mighty warrior.”
One final characteristic of Gideon worth mentioning is he was a doubter. Before Gideon would commit to this mission, he required God to prove He would be with him, not once or twice but three times. Gideon’s first requirement was for the angel of the Lord to remain at the winepress until he could return with an offering (Judges 6:16-24). His second requirement was for God to cause dew to fall on a fleece without falling on the ground. And the third requirement was for God to cause dew to fall on the ground without falling on the fleece (Judges 6:36-40). All of these signs reveal that Gideon struggled to trust God when He said, “I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:16). Such distrust is unbecoming of a “mighty warrior.”
Since Gideon is introduced as a coward, a pessimist, and a doubter with a poor self-image, it seems clear that God did not call him a “mighty warrior” based on his present standing. The only basis God had for identifying Gideon with this title was His ability to see Gideon’s potential. What potential did God see in Gideon?
Maybe God saw in Gideon the potential for obedience. Unlike Abraham, Moses, and David, Gideon followed God’s directions perfectly. As God whittled down his army from 32,000 to 300 soldiers, Gideon did not complain or resist or second guess. When God instructed him to go to war armed with only trumpets and torches, he did not usurp God’s will by supplementing swords. He obeyed God’s orders even when they didn’t make sense. As a result, Gideon epitomized unwavering obedience.
Another option is that God saw in Gideon the potential for humility. When his military campaign concluded, the Israelites begged Gideon to “Rule over us” (Judges 8:22). But Gideon refused this lucrative offer because he understood that such a position belonged ultimately to God. He responded to their invitation by saying, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you” (Judges 8:23). In so doing, Gideon became an example of true humility.
Whether it was his obedience, his humility, or some other trait, God saw in Gideon the potential for something great. That is why God called him a “mighty warrior” long before he was deserving of such a title. And, just like Gideon, God sees unique potential in each of us. That is why we are called His “workmanship” who are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which [He] prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Did you catch what this verse is saying? God has already prepared a plan for our lives; we just have to walk in it. And, if we do, then we will have fulfilled the potential that He saw in us when He called us His “workmanship.” So, today, choose to be who God made you to be.