Early the next morning, as the people of the town began to stir, someone discovered that the altar of Baal had been broken down and that the Asherah pole beside it had been cut down. In their place a new altar had been built, and on it were the remains of the bull that had been sacrificed. The people said to each other, “Who did this?” And after asking around and making a careful search, they learned that it was Gideon, the son of Joash.
“Bring out your son,” the men of the town demanded of Joash. “He must die for destroying the altar of Baal and for cutting down the Asherah pole.” (Judges 6:28-30))
Gideon’s first enemies were at home. You don’t tear down someone’s altar without repercussions. Idols don’t go down easily. Not because the idol itself has any power, but because of the hold the worshiper has on it. It’s like prying it out of someone’s hands. Gideon anticipated this reaction; that’s why he did the deed at night. He was afraid.
A word about fear: God does not condemn fear. It’s a natural human reaction to danger that is part of our protection. Jesus often told his disciples to not be afraid, meaning, in the verb tense of the original language, do not continue in your fear. Do not be dominated by fear.
David Roper writes: “Courage is not the absence of fear. It is rather the capacity to draw on the resources of God to do what we know we must do — to walk through the walls of our fear in obedience to His call and in total dependence on His power. ‘Courage is fear that has said its prayers,’ poet Karle Wilson Baker says … Courage is mastery of fear, not its absence.”
Gideon tore down the altar to Baal at night because was afraid of the reaction of the people, and as you can see in the passage above, his fears were well-founded. But the point is: he got it done. And God protected him.
When we tear down our own personal idols, the most troublesome negative reaction is most likely to come from within. We become attached. Like a toddler giving up its precious blanket, getting rid of our idols puts us outside our comfort zone. For instance, if my idol is procrastination and I tear it down, I no longer have anything separating me from what I don’t want to do. I’ve already gotten rid of my “Avoid” button, so I’m vulnerable. I have only fear now between me and the thing God asks me to do, but as we just found out, God will give me the power to walk through the walls of my fear instead of grabbing onto an idol. If I’ve truly torn down those idols, they don’t exist for me anymore. And with His power, I can master this fear.
Gideon did it by night. Hey, whatever it takes. He got it done, didn’t he?
This is the hardest part of this lesson for me: taking care of things at home. (For more on this, be sure to watch our video today.) I love being out — speaking to an audience, even writing to you “out there.” But at home I go into myself like a peanut inside a shell. I’m private, staying in my shell and rarely venturing out. Living, engaging, laughing, loving … none of these things are possible from within my shell. I want to break out, but I’m afraid. I don’t know what to do with my arms and legs. And even if I should get my arms and legs out like Mr. Peanut, I still have a shell around my heart. Who wants to hug a peanut shell?