The divine fire that consumed Gideon’s offering reignited his fear as well. Suddenly realizing who he he was facing, Gideon wailed about his imminent destruction upon seeing the face of the Lord. God’s response expresses his desire, saying “Shalom!” Be at peace and without fear. Gideon’s response is worship, building an altar and giving it the name that we can hang on to this day, the Lord is Complete Shalom.
The Lord wastes no time in revelry of the worship. He calls and Gideon obeys. While his response to the appearance of the Lord is to be properly pious, the fear in his heart remains. The first steps of obedience that he must take are to follow the Lord’s instructions in destroying the altar to Baal and the Asherah pole that stands beside it. Not just any altar, but one constructed by his own father.
It would be one thing of God to ask him to challenge the status quo in an anonymous fashion, you know, go knock down some stranger’s altar; cut down the pole in some distant faceless village. It is another thing entirely to confront those closest to you and stand up in obedience to their beliefs and behaviors. We’re called to act in this same obedience even when confronted by our family and friends. There may be an enormous cost to pay but what choice do we have? We can attempt to evade the responsibility much as we saw Gideon do. Will God give up? No. We can claim fear and weakness. Will God give up and move on? No. We can even go so far as to demand a sign in our ferret-like attempt to squirm away from the call but God will not be deterred in His purpose. Yes, there may be an enormous cost to pay but in light of the cost that was paid on our behalf, can you argue any further?
Gideon acts in obedience, carrying the theme of the entire book of Judges. He demolishes the altar and topples the Asherah pole, using it as fuel for another sacrificial fire. He is still fearful, acting in the dark of night, but he takes those first few important steps. He has counted the cost and decided for the Lord. He has decided to cut through the duality of Israel – calling out to God for redemption while continuing the Baal worship in its midst – and at personal risk, follow God in obedience. What will the morning bring?