I am a former atheist who discovered Jesus in June of 2000. Now I am a chaplain and a licensed UPC minister who loves the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. . . I once was blind, but now I see. . . never say never.
And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.
The Hebrew word used here, "eem" is a common preposition used over 900 times, translated into English as "with", but the common never remains that way when used in conjunction with the Lord. In this passage the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and announces to him that he will be used to save his people:
And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
Gideon does not believe. Gideon does not understand that the Lord is with him. God's plan is very thorough. There are no surprises to God. Gideon claims weakness:
And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.
But the name that Gideon's father gave him speaks otherwise, Gideon means 'warrior'. In man's eyes, in Gideon's own eyes, Gideon was weak, a very minor player, but somehow before his birth, his father had been inspired to call him warrior. God's plan does not begin nor end on any particular day. When God is with you events, places, names, resources have been long set in place to fulfill His plan, accomplish His purposes, and to bring Him glory.
The Israelites had turned their backs on God and as a result God had delivered them into the hand of the Midianites:
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.
Now God's plan is coming to maturity. He never leaves His children perpetually in the darkness. They needed to be taught a lesson. God provided himself a warrior for their deliverance in Gideon:
And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
Gideon is rightfully convince of his own weakness, but he is forgetting that God is with him. Gideon's abilities and disabilities are not at all important. The plan of God is. From the very beginning of the oppression of the children of Israel, God provided a sacrifice for this very day of deliverance:
And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: (26) And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.
This is not a coincidence. Nowhere else in the Bible are the people instructed to offer a sacrifice of a seven year old animal. This animal was set aside by God for this very purpose from its very birth. Maybe even on the very day of their deliverance to the Midianites this bullock was provided to be used in the restoration of the people back to God.
God's plan works together as a finely tuned machine. It's very interesting how everything meshes in God's plan. Before I decided to write this compound name, before I began looking at Gideon and the sacrifice of the bullock I had been reading in the New Testament:
And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: (42) For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him. (43) And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, (44) Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood staunched.
Two people. . . two needs. . . an important significant man, a ruler of the synagogue crying out publicly. . .humbling himself. . .placing his important position in the temple at risk for his daughter. . . an anonymous already very humble woman, an outcast due to her condition, prohibited from going into the synagogue, prohibited from support and companionship, in many ways similar to a leper hiding herself in the crowd. . . choosing this moment when she would most likely not be noticed, to come with a very private and personal need. . .desperately. . .quietly. . . silently seeking. . . the ruler loudly begging for the restoration of his joy. . . the woman silently, tentatively, meekly slipping her hand to touch the very edge of Jesus garment in faith for deliverance from her personal hell on earth. The rulers joy and and the lady's despair both began 12 years before. These two needs illustrate the complete range. Jesus was available to both on the very same day, at the very same time, He was with them both in a seemingly chance encounter on the street to restore the joy that ended for one and began for the other possibly on the very same day 12 years earlier. . .
Interestingly the humble woman's need was answered immediately, on the spot. The important man had to wait a little while for his deliverance.
LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear:
God is with you. Turn toward Him. . . reach out your hand. He is prepared. There are no surprises to Him. I look back upon my life, Events across decades worked together in a seemingly random and coincidental fashion. In the early 90's Jackie and I went to San Antonio, Texas to visit her brother who was stationed there in the U.S. Air Force. I also had been stationed in San Antonio while in the U.S. Army. While there, we took a little trip down to the Mexican border town Neuva Laredo. During this little jaunt I broke a tooth. Our being so very far out of town, added with my habitual dislike of dentists combined to my never getting the tooth looked at. Scroll forward to 1999, some 6 or 7 years later. I was having health problems. I was not satisfied with the care that my family physician was providing and I insisted on being referred to a cardiologist. My (now former) family doctor resisted saying (Jackie witnessed this), "Why would you want to go to a cardiologist? I can do everything for you that a cardiologist could do." He was treating me for high blood pressure. . . My appointment with the cardiologist was set for some 2 months later, the first week in January of 2000. Between Christmas and New Years an abscess formed in my now 6 or 7 year old broken tooth. I was put on antibiotics to take the swelling down and heal the infection and had an appointment to have my tooth worked on in the second week of January.
I kept my appointment and saw the cardiologist. Less than 10 minutes after reviewing the same test results that my family physician had, the heart doctor told me exactly what was wrong with my heart. He wanted to do more tests, but he told me that I had a birth defect of my heart which resulted in severe leakage of my aorta valve and it looked like I would need surgery to correct it. One of the final things he said was, that if I had any dental work done, even a teeth cleaning it was very important that I be sure to be on antibiotics, for it was very possible for my heart to become seriously infected from even minor dental work. . .
I hadn't had my teeth worked on since I was in the U.S. Army more than 20 years before. With my heart condition, even a routine teeth cleaning was a potential risk for a very serious infection of my heart. . . everything worked together. . . all through this time of my coming to God over and over again coincidences kept happening.
I searched the Internet for my heart condition and found a revolutionary procedure, a minimally invasive procedure invented by and now named after a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, to correct the very aorta valve problem that I had. This man, Dr. Toby Cosgrove who was then the head of the cardiac unit at Cleveland, and now heads the Cleveland Clinic discovered a way to repair my heart. Virtually everyone else in the world was replacing aorta valves with the problem that I had. Those replacements only last for 10-15 years and you must be on powerful blood thinners for the rest of your life. I would have had to have had 3 or 4 or 5 more open heart surgeries to replace the replacements. I did not know all this at the time. What I did know was that I could have the surgery in Elkhart almost immediately, but there was an almost 6 month wait to have the surgery done in Cleveland.
I really wrestled with this decision. Until you've faced something like this, you cannot understand how heavily all this weighs on your mind. I had an appointment for, I think it was the third week in February, with a local surgeon to schedule my surgery in Elkhart. My local cardiologist told me that he was very much against my going to Cleveland to have this surgery. He told me I would have more complications, more pain, and a longer recovery period. . .all those things were absolutely 100% wrong as I found out later.
I think it was the 12th of February, 2000. It was a Saturday night about a week before my appointment with the local surgeon. Remember I was an atheist at this time, anyway I had a dream and the voice in the dream told me to go to Cleveland to have my surgery done there. I told Jackie about this the next day. Based upon that dream, I made my decision to go to Cleveland. The following day I went to work. Jackie and I haven't watched television since 1995, but that Monday I received a phone call from my sister and a friend from work. Both of them told me about a news program they had seen over the weekend. They each had seen a special news segment on a heart procedure developed by Dr. Cosgrove of Cleveland to correct bicuspid aorta valves (the birth defect that I had). I very much took this as confirmation of my decision to go to Cleveland. . .Dr. Cosgrove personally operated on me. . .as a result I am on no medication. . . I should never have to have any more surgeries on my heart. . .
This is by no means the end of the things that have occurred in my life. . . time and time again. . . events. . . chance encounters. . .people. . .all in place to accomplish God's purpose in a grand tapestry woven wondrously to accomplish His ends. . .All these chance events were revealed to me in a vivid vision in June of 2000. . .My whole life passed in front of my eyes sweeping away my unbelief in God. . .