Forty years of peace post-Deborah until Israel slips backwards into old ways. They’re caught up in back-then sin, caught worshipping the gods their own God said not to. They’re forgetful—like always. Lifeless, aimless, running in circles. So the Lord hands them over to Midian—who attacks from all sides and angles, ravages the land bare, drives Israel into caves and back-corners. Israel’s defeated and deflated, wayward and worn out. They’ve fallen all-time-low to their own little valley, and it’s just what it takes to get their attention. For the valley is the place of vision—their eyes are forced upward. There’s only one way to look from down here. When they lock eyes with the God they’d forgotten, He doesn’t list out a million remember-whens or call them crazy for forgetting, doesn’t shake His head in disappointment or leave them out to dry. He’s the One that set them down safe in the valley—not as timeout or “take that!”—but to last-resort win their attention. And it works! Here they’re so low they can only look Up, so somber even His whisper breaks the silence. My Israel, watch Me get you out.
The Lord scans the place and handpicks Gideon for quarterback, who’s tucked away and okay with it as he labors. He names him–yes, him!–Mighty Warrior—tells him to ready up, suit up for big things and big plays. God tells Gideon it’s time to get Israel the heck out of the valley—and he’s leading the charge. But Gideon’s like anyone. He’s come to grips with the valley, made a sad little living down here. He’s all-fixed on the lonely, hard and hungry days, the days where God seemed anything but good and for Israel—there’s not a speck of hope left in him. Gideon’s like anyone. A proof-requirer, though everything in him wants to just believe easy and already! He wants to take God at His word when He promises to pilot and fight beside, but He’s slow to trust in God’s goodness and promise. He can’t lock eyes with Him: There’s no way You could call and carry a nobody to something wild like this. There’s no way You mean me. Gideon’s like anyone. Gideon’s like me!
God handpicks a nobody to call the plays and lead Israel to better days. He’s like anyone—but to the Lord he’s just right! God chooses oak tree anyones like Gideon and myself. His whisper breaks our silence and tilts our head back up. He has a way of shaking inadequacy and not-enough and fear right out of us and shutting down quick our reasoning for why He must be mistaken. He tells Gideon and his Israel company: Go! In the strength you have—what little is left—and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Fear not—it is I who sends you! He knows they’re run ragged and worn down—but He makes the valley the place of vision. It’s where we call the depths home but see big God dreams in the heights. It’s where we look Up and lock eyes with the One that gets us out.
I’m like anyone–I make friends with the valley, I get cozy and comfortable here. I busy myself here, find my hiding place and home here. Weighed down, slowed down here. Dreams are colorless, heart and hands are light on hope. Heavy-laden. Somber. Exhausted by the mere thought of scaling these way-high walls. But the God of Moses and Zacchaeus and the woman of Samaria comes to find me, picks me up, dusts me off. He breathes adrenaline and new Life back into valley bones. He picks me–yes, me!–to lead this charge out of a lifeless, lonely valley. It was never meant to be made home. Adventure’s awaiting! But I’m just like Gideon. I whisper a muffled, shaky yes as I stare straight up at walls there’s no way I’m scaling. But He’s louder than my fear, mightier than gravity, when He speaks the mountains shudder and listen. I hear His Gideon charge echoed: So, go! In the strength you have—what little is left—and save my people from valley lows. Fear not—it is I who sends you! For the valley is the place of vision–a vision that teems with color and endless horizons of possibility and promise. A vision I’ve got to see up close, surely worth the calloused hands and the climb. So I look Up. My hands and feet follow. Onward, upward, chasing my summit someday. It‘s only up from down here.
Lord, high and holy, meek & lowly
Thou hast brought me
to the valley of vision
where I live in the depths
but see Thee in the heights.
hemmed in by mountains of sin
I behold Thy glory.
let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime
stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells
the brighter Thy stars shine.
let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.
the valley of vision // a puritan prayer
my Jesus–You’re the God of ups and downs, of valley lows and the highest Heights. You turn nobodies to somebodies, turn oak tree anyones into the mightiest warriors, You multiply strength and steady shaky knees and handpick me though I’ll never quite get it. pilot Jesus, lead me on. lead me onward, upward, Homeward. let me find Thy victory in my defeat, Thy heights in my depths, Thy glory in my valley. for the valley is the place of vision–where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights. You meet me here in this valley and walk me Up all the way. I count it a joy to be sent. ‘Til our summit someday, J!