Today the Church commemorates the Righteous Gideon, a righteous man of the Old Testament. We first meet Gideon in the narrative of Judges 6 –
Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor.” And Gideon said to him, “Pray, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this befallen us? And where are all his wonderful deeds which our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian.” (Judges 6:11-13)
Gideon speaks what is on his heart and mind, even to an angel of the Lord (though at the beginning of the narrative Gideon has not yet recognized to whom he is speaking). The angel honors Gideon telling him that the Lord is with him. But Gideon finds this puzzling, for he does not see the Lord being with his fellow Israelites as Israel is in a downtrodden position and the Lord’s saving acts for Israel are all ancient history. To Gideon it appears that God has in fact abandoned His people for God has not recently done anything great for them.
Note also that while the angel tells Gideon that the Lord is with him, Gideon understands himself as part of Israel. If God is not with all of Israel, then from Gideon’s viewpoint, God is not with him either. Gideon sees salvation as something that affects all of God’s people, not just an individual.
Gideon expresses a lament to the angel of the Lord about the current condition of God’s people. It is wonderful in the distant past that God was with His people, but such ancient wonders do little, Gideon says, for the people in Gideon’s day. Eventually Gideon realizes the ‘man’ speaking with him is actually an angel of the Lord and he is pretty dismayed and terrified that he has been talking so openly and casually with God’s angel:
Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the LORD; and Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.” But the LORD said to him, “Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die.” Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD, and called it, The LORD is peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites. (Judges 6:22-24)
Gideon realizes something has been revealed to him that few others have experienced and he is literally scared to death. The angel assures Gideon that all will be fine by blessing him with peace. This so stuns Gideon that he builds an altar to honor the God of peace.
While many think of God as terrifying and threatening (Hebrews 10:31, 12:29), God also reveals Himself to us as Peace (for example, see: 1 Chronicles 23:25; Psalm 85:8; Isaiah 9:6; Romans 15:33, 16:20; Philippians 4:7) and we should call this to mind and worship our God of Peace. It is ok to offer lamentation to God for the way things are on earth, and even to question God as to “why?” It is within the spiritual tradition to be troubled about what God does or is doing or isn’t doing, but that also needs to be paired with trust and hope in the God of Peace – that God’s Wisdom does govern the universe.