Courage, selflessness, outstanding achievements, noble qualities – these are some words used to define or describe a hero. With the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, we are recognizing that we have many heroes in our midst. They are the frontliners who brave the risk of getting the virus to fulfill their duty and calling to attend to the sick (doctors, nurses, health workers), bravely facing the risk to themselves and their families. It brings grief to see many have lost their lives already as a result. Some work to keep the food chain coming and are hailed by netizens as heroes in this crisis, such as the farmers, fishermen, market vendors, and others. Many selfless, courageous people serve and look after their constituents instead of staying home. In times of crisis, many ordinary people rise to the occasion and show courage and commitment to do what needs to be done. Such is also the story of Gideon at a dark time in his nation’s history (Judges 6-8).
For seven years, the Midianites and Amalekites oppressed and impoverished Israel by wasting and destroying their crops whenever they planted on their land. The enemies destroyed everything, including their donkeys, sheep, and cattle. The Israelites even had to seek shelter for themselves in the caves and mountain clefts for when these invasions take place. So it was natural for Gideon to be afraid, beating wheat in a winepress instead of in the open field. What is ironic was that an angel appeared to him and called him “mighty hero”, “mighty man of courage, the Lord is with you.” Gideon’s responses to this visitation and call to lead his people against the invaders could help us with what we are going through at this time.
Gideon questioned God: “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about?” These valid questions, maybe made out of frustration for a people who are supposedly chosen by God to be blessed and to be a blessing, were not answered. Instead, God wanted to use him to make a difference.
Gideon saw his unworthiness: “Have I not sent you?” “Oh Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Behold my clan is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” He focused on himself, instead of the God who said, “The Lord is with you.”
Gideon asked for signs: “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the LORD speaking to me.” Gideon was so unsure of himself he needed assurance that God was actually with him, commanding him to do things, even to lead Israel against the Midianites.
Gideon obeyed despite his fears. He was told to destroy his father’s Baal statue and the Asherah pole beside it, which he did at night. When told to battle against the combined enemy forces with just his 300 men, he went but only after he dreamed and felt assured God will bring the victory. As Nelson Mandela puts it,”The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
Gideon built an altar when he met the Lord. “And Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the LORD is peace”)”, which was apt for the forty years Israel had peace against their invaders because Gideon was willing to obey God.
As we see how the virus is ravaging lives, many of us have questioned God as to why he allowed this to happen. Many of us have been reduced to helplessness as we battle against an unseen, insidious enemy. The frontliners have no choice but to obey the call of duty despite their fears. With the Filipino’s ingenuity, our bayanihan spirit, many have joined forces even online in order to uplift the sagging spirit, raise funds, contribute something so that we could emerge victorious in the end. Many of us too have regained our innate spirituality and trust in God, mobilizing prayers for the sick, for our leaders, for our frontliners, for the end to this pandemic. Crisis does bring out the heroism in many ordinary folks as we join forces to heal as one.
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