Lessons From Gideon, part 5
If you missed the previous Lessons From Gideon, scroll down to the bottom of this post. You’ll find them there!
Gideon’s transformation has begun, and now it’s time for action. Gideon has amassed an army of thirty-two thousand men to confront the marauding Midianites. Things are looking up. Israel is hopeful.
But God sees a problem: “Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’ ” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.” (Judges 7:1-3)
It’s easy to be stunned at these words. “Too many men? You’ve got to be kidding!” While Israel’s goal was victory, God had a much bigger desire in mind: the restoration of Israel to Himself. It was Israel’s disobedience and abandonment of God that had gotten them into this mess in the first place. God desired them to return to Him, to once again acknowledge Him as the one true God. He did not want them to assume the victory was the result of their own efforts. So He tells Gideon to let those who are afraid go home.
What Would You Do?
Gideon obeys. Without a word. Without questioning, or complaining, or pleading. Without any more fleeces.
Compare Gideon’s response here with the Gideon we met in the previous chapter. Do you see the difference? He is no longer the same person. A deep internal change has taken place. He has moved from doubting God to faith in God.
But his faith is about to be stretched: “But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took the provisions and trumpets of the others.” (Judges 7:4-8a)
Again God gives directions that make no strategic sense. And again Gideon obeys.
Without a word.
Silently he watches nine thousand seven hundred men depart. His army has gone from 32,000 to 300 in a few short hours.
But as Gideon looks out, I believe he sees something else. He sees three hundred soldiers– and God.
And God makes all the difference. Doesn’t He?
How would you feel?
We see Gideon obeying without question or complaint. But…what is he feeling?
It should come as no surprise to discover in the next verses that God is very much aware of Gideon’s feelings– and in His wonderful love and kindness, God lets Gideon know that He knows and understands and cares: “Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp.” (Judges 7:8b-11)
God first reassures Gideon that He will give him victory. And then He says, “If you are afraid…” Actually God already knows how Gideon is feeling, because Gideon does indeed go down to check things out. And God doesn’t even send him alone– He has a servant go with him.
It’s easy to scan these verses and miss something incredible here: God cares how we feel! Our emotions are just as real to Him as they are to us. God knows that emotions are powerful. Emotions can be a stumblingblock or a steppingstone; they can move us forward or hold us back. And our emotions don’t always give us an accurate assessment of the situation we’re in.
So God gives Gideon an action step to take, something that will help him deal with what he’s feeling. What Gideon was seeing could have been a terrible discouragement: “The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.” (Judges 7:12)
Dealing With Feelings
But God told him to go down to their camp and listen: “Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.” His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.” (Judges 7:13-14)
Gideon crept down to the camp because he was afraid. And what does he find in the enemy camp? Fear! The dream itself is ridiculous– a harmless loaf of bread destroying a tent?– but it reveals the hidden fear of the enemy, and gives Gideon yet another confirmation that his tiny army– and his mighty God– would have the victory.
Gideon returns to his camp with renewed courage– and one of the strangest battle plans in history: “When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshipped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside. “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.'” (Judges 7:15-18)
From a military standpoint, this would seem to be a disastrous plan. If a soldier is holding a torch in an empty pitcher with one hand and a trumpet with his other hand, he cannot possibly hold a weapon. But this wouldn’t be the first time God gave a seemingly senseless battle plan without weapons (remember the battle of Jericho?)
When God Doesn’t Make Sense? Just Do It
“Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” (Judges 7:19-20)
Can you imagine the scene? The Midianites are aroused from a deep slumber by the sounds of loud smashing and blaring trumpets. Groggily they look out into the darkness and see the hillsides covered with hundreds of flaming torches, giving the impression of a mighty army bearing down on them. The Midianites are terrified at what they see and hear!
“While each (Israelite) held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords.” (Judges 7:21-22) In their fear and confusion, the Midianites attack each other in the darkness!
The remnant of the army flees and is pursued by the Israelites, along with reinforcements that Gideon calls up. The Midianites are routed, and Gideon has a mighty victory!
Do we always understand what God is doing? No.
Can God be trusted in what He’s doing? Yes.
Just ask Gideon.
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Who Are You Listening To? Lessons From Gideon, part 1 http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/who-are-you-listening-to
Transformation: Wimp to Warrior Lessons From Gideon, part 2 http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/transformation-wimp-to-warrior
Tearing Down, Building Up Lessons From Gideon, part 3 http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/tearing-down-building-up
Can God Handle Your Doubts? Lessons from Gideon, part 4 http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/can-god-handle-your-doubts