The 21st century Christian has more access to other believers than ever before. The internet, telephone, and quick transportation lend themselves as tools for unity. But the Church still isn't as unified as it should be. Greater opportunity for communication has only given us greater opportunity for bickering and fighting. In Judges 7-8 Gideon teaches us how to say no to disunity.
"No Room For Heroes"
Many people know about George Whitfield, who in the 1700's was instrumental in the flames of revival in several countries. But few have heard of William M'Culloch - a parish minister in Scotland who prepared the way for Whitfield. He was a scholarly pastor excelling in Biblical languages, especially Hebrew. He had little gift for the pulpit. His own son described him as "Not a very ready speaker, not eloquent. . . his manner was slow and cautious. In fact he was called an "Ale-minister", which meant that, when he rose to speak, a number in the audience left to quench their thirst at the local tavern. Yet God used him to prepare the way in the hearts of people to hear the saving truth of God's word.
Frankly, we would have probably overlooked the ministry of M'Culloch too - we're naturally more impressed by the impressive. We're swayed by impressive numbers; impressive personalities. When we see some famous person or celebrity who becomes a Christian our natural tendency is to say, "Wow, just think how fortunate God is; I wonder how God ever got along so well without that person. . . the church will really fly now!
2 Corinthians 12:9 nicely sums up God's attitude toward that kind of thinking - "My power is most fully displayed when my people are weak."
You may not feel weak at all. It has little to do with how you feel. You do not feel weak - you are weak, that is, you are stripped of all human resources and are forced to rely totally upon God's strength.
So we find God here, not so concerned with Gideon as He is Gideon's army God uses servants not heroes - Gideon is surrounded by too many heroes.
Let's pick it up where we last left the narrative:
Judges 7:1. Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him, rose early and camped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley.
It is probable that from this vantage point, Gideon could see much of the Midianites army. They are described in verse 12. "Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east wee lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore.
Perhaps Gideon glanced over at his band of men - 32,000 without any real weapons. Here they are encamped by the springs of Harod - "trembling".
While all these thoughts and probably fears flooded the mind of Gideon, God spoke to him and said - 2. And the Lord said to Gideon, "The people who are with you are too many for Me, for Me to give Midian into their hands."
I can just hear Gideon saying. . ."Sure! Right; listen Lord, I'm a farmer, not a mathematician - but the way I figure it - we're outnumbered." But God had something else in mind - note the rest of verse 2b "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, lest Israel become boastful, saying, "My own power has delivered me."
That says it all! The problem is not the size of the Midiante army, the problem is the size of the Israelite ego! It isn't Midianites power, it's Jewish pride. God is implying that even thought the Midianites number more than 100,000 and Israel has only 32, 000; Israel would still take credit for the victory.
God is not interested in simply giving you and me victory. He is more concerned with teaching us dependance. If our victories make us self-reliant, they are ultimately more disastrous than defeat. The real battle is not with Midian - they're small potatoes for God - think of Revelation, following the millennial kingdom - Satan, the armies of the world will march against Jerusalem and surround it - one word from God will bring fire from heaven and extinguish them all in one moment.
No the battle is with the hearts of Israel who had long since forgotten their dependance on God. So also with us. . . we need to learn and re-learn the simple truth from Christ's own lips - "Without me you can do nothing".
God honors the one who abandons himself to God's strength.
So God unveils the plan that will produce total dependance; He reduces Gideon's army two ways:
1) He allows the secretly frightened to return home.
v.3. Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, "Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead" (Gideon probably held his breath) So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained." (2/3rd's said, "Man am I glad you gave me a chance to rethink this thing - now that I've seen the army we're up against. . . no thanks."
Now remember, under the Mosaic system in the Book of Deuteronomy that if anyone was drafted into the army and was afraid, he could go home. Don't forget, in the Israelite army, your faith in God was paramount. SO if you didn't have the faith necessary to follow God, it would be better that you didn't infect the rest of the army with fear.
After Gideon counts the men who remain (10,000); while his insides are beginning to churn - God speaks again 4. Then the Lord said to Gideon, "The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. (The Hebrew word for test could be rendered smelt - a word used by coppersmiths; goldsmiths who separated the metal from the dross. The divine method is not quantity but quality.
God will reveal at the water fountain a subtle indifference to the enemy - Let's take a look at the test 5. So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, "You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink."
I must have read these verses 50 times to fully understand what was going on. There are two types of drinkers here (sound right?!)
Those - who laps the water with his tongue (v. 5) as a dog laps.
Putting their hand to their mouth (v.6)
Those - who kneel to drink (v.5) who kneels to drink (v.6)
9,700 of the soldiers, knelt to drink (the key distinction is that they never used their hands) thus implying that their faces were to the water - not on the enemy camp.
The other group, the 300, are evidently crouching or bending down to scoop water into their hand. With one hand he holds his sword, with the other he scoops water to his mouth and laps it up.
What the manner of drinking did was reveal an attitude toward the enemy: those who flopped down were not alert - they forgot momentarily about the enemy - they were unafraid but unfocused.
Those who scooped up the water remained focused, ready, alert.
Note verse 7. And the Lord said to Gideon, "I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his home. How many men does Gideon have now - 300!!! Think about it - 300 men going against 135,000 men! God is once again teaching us that more isn't necessarily more powerful. The battle is the Lords'!
Helen Keller wrote, "The world is not moved by the shoves of mighty people, but by the tiny pushes of little people."
God says, "Gideon, I just want 300 men to prove my point."
verse 8 - So the 300 men took the people's provisions and their trumpets into their hands. And Gideon sent all the other men of Israel, each to his tent, but retained the 300 men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.
You had trouble sleeping lately. . . God ever moved you to try the untried, the impossible? Imagine Gideon and his 300.
In the middle of the night, God came again to Gideon. Gideon's reaction must have been. . . "No Lord, don't take any more men away."
Kinda like the General of a small army who was foolishly naive, although he certainly possessed a terrific attitude. The day of the battle he said to his troops, "Men, as you know we are completely surrounded; so don't let any of them get away."
What really happens is God reinforces his command, and reencourages with His promise. Verse 9, Now the same night is came about that the Lord said to him, "Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hands." The next verse is absoluely incredible. 10. But if you are afraid to go down, go with Pruah you servant down to the camp.
11. And you will hear what they say, and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp.
The compassion and patience of God is fantastic. He does not ridicule Gideon's anxiety; his tenuous steps; he doesn't come and say, "Gideon, what in the world are you waiting for. . . attack!"
Faith is developed. The other day my kid said, "Catch". . . "Jump" c'mom I need a sermon illustration. . . What step are you standing on?!
The wonderful thing is that God never berates you for standing on the third step - He will reach you and develop you where you are - NOTE: you can sit down and refuse. . . many believers. . .!
God meets Gideon at his point of need and arranges for encouragement to come from the very lips of a Midianites soldier.
verse 13. When Gideon came behold, a man was relating a dream to his friend. And he said, "Behold, I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the cam of Midan, and it cam to the tent and struck it so that if fell, and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat."
Just as Gideon sneaks up to the tent a soldier wakes up. . . shakes his buddy awake - You won't believe the strange dream I had. A little barley roll tumbled down the hill smacked into our tent and knocked it flat.
Two gals in our church had dreams lately.
1) We were practicing for the first service - the front row - leaders who were judging the activities of the service: everything was ready except the sewage.
2) First service - new church - got there late - sat on front - it was a porch swing and Brinker asked them to stop swinging cause bothered him; they couldn't stop, Brinker had them to leave.
Now last week, I mentioned that God doesn't speak anymore through dreams. . . is this coming back to haunt me. Our sewage is behind schedule and we're probably going to need more chairs.
His buddy said; "That's clear - Barley was a food very poor people ate. It represented Israel during this time of famine. The tent was an obvious symbol of the nomadic Midianites - "We're in big trouble".
What God allowed Gideon to do was peek behind the curtain and observe the providence of God.
- God provided the dream for the Midianites guard
- God arranged for Gideon to arrive just at the right time/directed the steps of Gideon to that very tent
- God allowed the other soldier to interpret correctly the dream
- God assured Gideon's safety - wasn't detected caught
- God created the fear in the Midianites hearts - was already lowering the morale and striking fear
Now verse 15. And it came about when Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, that he bowed in worship.
God was at work. . . Gideon was at worship! When you understand that God is alive and at work in your life and in your world - can you do anything other than obey and worship Him.
Gideon returns and arouses his troops - v. 15b He returned to the camp of Israel and said, "Arise, for the Lord has given the camp of Midian into your hands."
16. And he divided the 300 men into three companies, and he put trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers.
17. And he said to them, "Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do.
18. When I and all who are with me blow the trumpets, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp, and say, "For the Lord and for Gideon."
Here are your weapons:
- a trumpet to blow
- a torch to wave
- a pitcher to break
- a voice to shout.........no swords, shields, plan of attack
Just surround the Midianites. . . read for ourselves (make brief comments) - v.19. So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, (between 10 & 11 pm) when they had just posted the watch (before the new sentries could become accustomed to the darkness) and they blew the trumpets (made from rams horns - would sound like 1,000 battle charges) and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands.
Smashing did two things:
Exposed their torches and made a great noise, indicating that battle forces were already clashing; the noise also undoubtable stampeded the thousands of camels who now rushed about the camp in terror - probably destroying as many soldiers as sword.
20. When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, "A sword for the Lord and for Gideon." (Which is interesting because the Israelites didn't have their swords with then.)
21. And each stood in his place around the camp; and all the army ran, crying out as they fled.
Get the picture - The torches were customarily made in a way that smoldered until waved into the air - burst out with flame. The Midianites knew they were surrounded (they just didn't know it was only 300.) The pandemonium of shattering jars deluded them into thinking that the Israelites had already entered the camp and were creating havoc there. Thousands of terrified men and bellowing pounding camels stampeding creating incredible confusion and fear. And the battle cry with the dreaded names of Yahweh and Gideon did the rest. While Gideon and his 300 men just stood in their place blowing their trumpets, waving their torches, the Midianites ran around and killed one another. J. Vernon McGee wrote that the torches served as a light for the Midianites to see just enough to go after each other.
120,000 Midianites died without an Israelite ever lifting a sword; they never even entered the camp!
When we are at our smallest, God can be at His greatest.
When we are at our weakest, God is at His strongest.
You can't be too small for God to use, but you can be too big.
There isn't room in chapter 7 for heroes. . . just human beings who leap from the top stair into the everlasting arms of God.
The only hero, the only one worth worshipping, is the one who wages and wins the battle, while we simply obey and follow the battle plan - our hero is God!