Yesterday, we started examining the account of Gideon in Judges 6-7.
God trained Gideon to trust Him through a series of “trust exercises.”
The first training exercise was a call to arms.
The second was tearing down the altars of Baal that belonged to his family.
If God gives a command, He will help you succeed if you trust and obey.
Let’s look at the remaining exercises and the final outcome.
Exercise #3: A sign… or two.
Before we dive into the signs from God, I want you to take note of verse 34 in chapter 6:
“the Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, and they too were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they went up to meet them.”
In the first exercise, God said He would be with Gideon three times, and He kept His promise.
Gideon is still in doubt-mode. He sees that the Lord is with him, but he is intimidated by the strength of the Midianites. So, he asks for two signs. First, he puts a fleece on the threshing floor by itself and asks God to make the fleece wet and everything around it dry. God obliges Gideon and it happens. In fact, the fleece is so wet, that he filled a bowl with water when he wrung it out.
Gideon humbly asks for the opposite to happen (fleece dry, everything else wet) and God does that too!
Many tend to focus on Gideon’s need for a sign. I prefer to focus on God’s patience.
God knows that He is asking Gideon to do something terrifying. Like a parent coaxing a child to jump in a swimming pool for the first time, God is leading Gideon to the edge of the pool, lovingly and patiently. He is not going to allow Gideon to drown.
Exercise #4: Culling the army
Most people believe there is strength in numbers.
I absolutely love the scene in the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King when the hordes of Orcs and goblins surround the city of Minas Tirath, and a small cavalry comes with the sun shining behind them to engage the enemy. The men in that cavalry know they are outnumbered, but they also know that they need to fight the evil. If they don’t stand and fight, who will? They would rather die fighting for what is right than to live beneath the reign of evil.
About 32,000 men came when Gideon summoned them to fight against the Midianites. God, well-aware of the Israelites’ tendency to be forgetful, knows that this victory has to be miraculous. If the Israelites defeat the midianites with 32,000 men, it would be amazing, but not necessarily miraculous. They would think they had won by their strength alone. God needs to shrink the army.
First, all those who are afraid are told to leave. 22,000 people high-tail it out of there. That’s 22,000 people who fear the Midianites more than they fear God. It’s a sad state of affairs, but not surprising. Now, Gideon is left with only 10,000 fighting men.
God says 10,000 men are still too many and thins it down to a mere 300.
The Midianite army wasn’t a small group of bandits. They are described thus:
And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance.
Consider briefly another fighting force of 300 men—the Spartans in the Battle of Thermopylae. Modern scholars estimate that the Persians numbered in the range of 70,000 to 300,000. 300 Spartans vs. 70,000 Persians (on the low side). The Spartans fought to the last man. They lost. Three hundred against ten thousand is practically impossible, even with the most valiant and strong warriors…
…impossible, that is, unless you have God fighting with you! That is what makes the account of Gideon so amazing!
Exercise#5: Reassurance through the enemies’ dreams
I find this part of the training rather amusing. After all the reassurance God has given Gideon up to this point, he says to Gideon:
“Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.”
Most people, when prodded with the “if you’re scared” line, try not to succumb to the jab. I don’t think God is taunting Gideon, but with as many signs as God has given Gideon, you’d think he’d be ready by now. Instead, Gideon immediately goes to see what God is talking about.
Here is what Gideon hears in the Midianite camp:
When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.”
If Gideon wasn’t sure before, he’d better be now!
Final exam: Facing the Midianites
Finally, Gideon is confident that God is not going to leave him unaided. He tells his 300 men: “Arise, for the LORD has given the host of Midian into your hand.” (Judges 7.15)
Read what happens next:
So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow.
And they cried out, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. When they blew the 300 trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. And the men of Israel were called out from Naphtali and from Asher and from all Manasseh, and they pursued after Midian.
The Midianites were defeated by one man’s obedience and God’s great might.
You might think Gideon weak for needing all that reassurance, but try to keep it in perspective. God knows that we are weak. He has chosen the weak things of the world to demonstrate His power through them:
For consider your calling, brothers:
not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,
not many were powerful,
not many were of noble birth.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;
God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
~1 Corinthians 1.26-29 ESV, emphasis mine
If we were able to accomplish God’s purpose through our own strength, skill or smarts, how much glory would we give the Lord? What would be our level of trust? God calls us to step out in faith. He asks us to trust in Him and not in what is seen.
Learn from Gideon. Learn to trust in the Lord.
Press on to know the Lord, my friends. He is trustworthy and faithful.