IF YOU ARE AFRAID...
You Need An Army
Gideon has been given favor with the people, and he is now the leader of an army that has thirty-two thousand soldiers. Gideon positioned his troops and prepared for the conflict. It must have seemed like an overwhelming task as he assessed his men who were untrained, inexperienced, and lacked military hardware. In the midst of planning, the Lord tells Gideon that his army is too large. Gideon's army was much smaller than that of the Midianites and the Amalekites. God's reason for reducing Gideon's forces was the people falsely attributing victory to their abilities and resolve, robbing God of his glory. The military was first downsized using the provision found in Deuteronomy 20:8, “And the officers shall speak further to the people, and say, ‘Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own.” When Gideon extends this provision to his men, twenty-two thousand soldiers hurried back to their homes and Gideon was left with ten thousand in his ranks. One is left to wonder what Gideon must have thought when the Lord tells him a second time that his army still has too many warriors in it. The second wave would be filtered at the water's edge where God would test them with the criteria being the manner they used to drink the water. The soldiers would be divided into two groups, those that put their face to the water and those that brought their hands to their mouths. Gideon did as the Lord had instructed and when they were separated Gideon was left with three hundred men.
Midian was camped below Gideon and his small militia. Later that night, the Lord told Gideon to go down against the camp because he had given it into his hand. Gideon is afraid, but the Lord encourages him by giving him permission to go down to the enemy camp with his servant and listen to what they say because it would fortify him with confidence. Gideon and his servant Purah made their way to the outposts of the armed men undetected. The enemy had a vast army that covered the face of the entire area like the sand on the seashore. When Gideon and Purah arrive, they overhear a man telling his comrade about a dream with a loaf of bread tumbling into the camp of Midian and destroying it. The other man interprets this dream declaring a detailed description of Gideon, his family, his people, and his mission. Gideon responds with worship. He is overwhelmed by God's goodness and his power. Gideon returns to his men filled with faith and eager to obey. He declares to his men that this was the night that God had given Midian into their hands and he divided his men into three companies and gave them trumpets, empty jars, and torches. The plan was straightforward and unconventional. The men were to follow Gideon's example, and when he blew the trumpet, they should do the same shouting, "For the Lord and for Gideon!"
Gideon leads his men down to the camp of Midian and they separated into three companies during the transition to the middle watch. At the signal, Gideon and his men blew the trumpets, smashed the jars, and shouted the battle cry. Israel stood still as their enemies began to flee before them. The Lord threw the camp into confusion, and during the chaos, the enemy army attacked each other and fled away. Gideon summoned others to join the fight and dispatched messengers to instruct the people to block the way of escape and capture any places to cross the Jordan river. The men of Ephraim responded expeditiously, captured two princes of Midian, executed the princes, and brought them to Gideon.
Things To Consider:
- What are some ways that you rob God of his glory?
- Why does God delight in working through our weakness?
- Why do you think Gideon was still afraid?
- How do we see Gideon walk in obedience even though he is fearful?
- How are you encouraged by God's patience with Gideon?
- What has God done in your life to help you when you were struggling in your faith?
- How does God encourage us through others?
- Is God asking you to do anything unconventional?
- Who has God placed in your life to help you fight for faith?