The Rest of the Story

Often when I was with my dad growing up, he’d have the radio playing one of the local AM talk stations. At the time, I wasn’t a big fan of this, but now I seem to do the same thing, only with sports talk radio. (Chip off the ol’ block, as they say.) At any rate, I actually did enjoy the part of the day when radio legend Paul Harvey would broadcast. 

The man simply had a way with words. With his classic, Rockwellian voice even his commercials were compelling. I still remember the stylized way he would plug certain products (“…try the Bose Wave Radio. That’s B-O-S-E, Bohzzze.” And he could certainly tell a story. In fact, one of his programs, “The Rest of the Story,” showcased this considerable narrative skill as he explored the lesser known, but often improbable and fascinating details surrounding well-known historical figures and events. The big reveal of the subject was always held to the very end and punctuated with a signature line: “And now you know…the rest of the story.”  (Check out examples here and here.)

This all comes to my mind due to spending some time recently with what is, in some ways at least, a well known biblical story. I can’t claim the rhetorical skills of Paul Harvey, but if he were to tell the story, I can imagine it going something like this:

The young man, like so many others, had grown up in the anonymity of history. The son of a not particularly prominent family from a not particularly prominent clan who lived in a not particularly prominent town.

Sadly, like the rest of his countrymen, this young man lived in fear. He feared that his labor in the fields would be snatched away. He feared that he and his family would be left with nothing, left only to starve. For a neighboring people, a virtually numberless horde, would descend every year upon his land and devour, like a swarm of locusts, its increase. 

And so, one day as he was threshing grain in secret, a mysterious visitor—amazingly, a messenger of God—arrived with a message that he, of all people an obscure farmer, would deliver his people from the invading army. Incredulous, he asked for a sign, and was answered with what could truly be described as the miraculous.

With this sign a vivid impression in his mind, he set out to accomplish his first appointed task: the destruction of his father’s idol of a local pagan god. But he did so at night, for fear of his neighbors. And indeed his neighbors were furious, angry enough to demand his life. But his father, with a clear head, proposed that the god in question, if he worthy of the name, should be capable of defending himself. But no “divine” retribution came. Perhaps the statue of stone was not a terrifying deity after all, but merely a statue. Perhaps his people’s historic God really was with this young man. 

But the young man was still not fully convinced. He asked, in direct contradiction to his people’s sacred Scripture, for God to give him another miracle as a sign. Patiently, graciously, the Lord did so. “Let the Lord not be angry with me” the young man went on to say, “but will you provide me with just one more sign.” And the Lord, the very definition of patience, accommodated him. Again. 

When at last it came to call his countrymen to his side, the Lord knew the young man still, even then, harbored doubt. He was not yet ready to fight the battle to which he’d been called. And so, in yet one more act of graciousness, he told him to take his servant and creep to the perimeter of the foreign army. There, wonder of wonders, he heard a man relating a rather odd dream, a dream that his comrade interpreted as the downfall of their army. This downfall would be accomplished, the second person said, by none other than the very young man that was, quite unbeknownst to them, eavesdropping on them at that very moment.

Finally—finally—emboldened, it was not long before the young man led a small, hand picked force in a complete route of the mighty invaders. 

If you’ve grown up in church, you likely know this young man, the heroic subject of many a Sunday school lesson. You know this timid, wavering farmer, transformed by a patient, gracious God into a deliverer, transformed to make it clear that the Lord himself is the ultimate hero in this and, indeed, every biblical tale. 

You know him as Gideon.

What you may not know, however, is that the author of the New Testament book of Hebrews describes this reluctant warrior as one of several Old Testament figures who were “commended through their faith (11:32-39),” imperfect and reluctant as it was.

And now you know…the rest of the story. 

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