Peninsula Community Church
God Prepares the Army
August 12, 2018
Judges 7:1-7 Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.”
Last week we looked at the preparation of the man to lead the army. God transformed Gideon from a weak, intimidated, and fearful man to one who was ready to lead the army against the Midianites. This week will focus on the army that God will use. As we see in this passage, Gideon had 32,000 men that were trained for war but that was not in the plan of God. Think about this scene for a moment. Gideon finally musters enough strength and faith to assume command of this army and then God does the unexpected. God requires that the army be slimmed down to the bare bones.
It is noteworthy that the odds of them winning this battle was against them, even with 32,000 warriors. Based on Judges 8:10 Midian’s numbers exceeded 135,000 warriors. How would you like the odds they had been given? With135,000 men versus 32,000 men, the odds were certainly against them. The odds were 4:1. But, God does something that amazes Gideon and still amazes me in many ways. You see the 32,000 were too many for God to use effectively. So he began a process of slimming the army down. As we will see, the army would be reduced to 300 men. This increased their odds of winning to 400:1. What a reduction? What a decrease? But, with God nothing is impossible.
We find in this story a paradox. It is this, less is more! It is amazing how many paradoxes there are in Scripture. To be rich, you give away. To be lifted up, you go low. We conquer by yielding. We find rest by taking on a Christ’s yoke. We reign by serving. We are exalted when we are humble. We become wise by being fools for Christ’s sake. We are made free by becoming bondservants. We gain strength, when we are weak. We triumph through defeat. We find victory by glorying in our infirmities. We live by dying. And to do more, we become less. It seems that all of these are against what the world would propose as a way to success. It runs counter to the prescribed ways of winning, but it is God’s mode of operation here. Less is more.
Look at the people God uses. God commanded Noah to build an ark in the middle of a desert. God commanded Moses to lead the Israelites through the Red Sea, rather than going around it. God sent a teenage boy with a slingshot and five stones to take down a giant. God sent Samson to take down 1,000 Philistines, armed with nothing but the jaw bone of a donkey. God commanded Elijah to have the servants soak the wood on the altar before He sent down fire from heaven and consume it.
As we look at the paradox before us, today, we see that Gideon and his army are about to fight one of the fiercest enemies they will ever face. To make this even more interesting and seemingly impossible God tells Gideon he has too many men. I wonder if in Gideon’s mind that he was thinking, I do not have enough to fight as it is and now you are asking me to reduce the number I have. How crazy and absurd that is, he thought? Are you sure God, you know what you are doing? Are you sure you are aware of the enemy’s size and might? Are you sure you are aware of how few there are of us already?
Through this, we learn a valuable lesson. God is in control and He has a plan. God wanted Gideon to have men who were ready for battle. He wanted an army that would be aware of their surroundings and would not walk in fear. He wanted an army that would not fight in their might but in the might of His power. The army had to be slimmed down. You see there were two key ways God would reduce the numbers. First, God said that the ones who were fearful and trembling could return home. As a result 10,000 men left to go home. Secondly, God wanted those who would be aware of their surroundings and would be observant of the enemy coming their way. So, he chose those who would lift the water from the stream and lap the water from their hands. These men would stay while everyone else could leave and go home. It is estimated that 21,700 men returned home as they failed God’s terms for enlistment.
You see, God wanted an army that would fulfill His words of Deuteronomy 8:17-18. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. God wanted to use this reduced number to glorify and honor His name through victory. After all, this has always been the goal of God. He wants us to trust Him and He wants to get the glory and honor for His successes.
It is here that I thought of John the Baptist and his words in relationship to Jesus in John 3:30. He proclaimed that He must increase, I must decrease. This is one of the great paradoxes of the Bible. To win, we get smaller. To be successful, we go with less. God is saying to Gideon that He needs a smaller, leaner army. Gideon’s army needed to decrease, so that God might increase. He was forcing Gideon and his army to a place where they would be totally dependent on God and not their individual ability or power. This reminds me of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:7. …we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. Outside we are weak, but inwardly we are strong, because within us is a power that belongs to God. He fills us and anoints us to accomplish what only He can do.
I wonder today if God is calling us to get smaller so that He is glorified and honored in our life. I wonder if He is calling us to let go of some things so He gets the credit for the victories in our life. Perhaps, we need to let go of pride that is preventing the healing of a relationship. Perhaps, He wants us to let go of the need to control outcomes. Perhaps, we need to stop worrying about who gets the credit. Perhaps we need to let go of false expectations, hurt or rejection, the distractions of life, and personal intimidations. Too often, we tend to hold onto these things and we continue to lose battles.
God is calling us to decrease that He might increase in us and through us. We give up these things so that He is glorified and so that He is honored. In essence, we fight the battles we face with a different spirit. What we give up is matched by God. Instead of forcing our way, we rely on God to make a way. Instead of relying on our ability to negotiate, we rely on God. Instead of moving from the position of pride, we move from a position of humility.
Now let’s look at the rest of the story. What did God call them to do? Gideon divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars. And he said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon (Judges 7:16-18). When the army follows the lead of Gideon, the Lord confuses the Midiantes and they began to kill themselves. The rest of the Midianites began flee, fearful of their life.
Gideon called for the rest of the army, who had gone home, to go after what was left of the Midianites. You see, those who went home were blessed by the obedience of those called by God to battle against the Midianites. Here is the truth we learn from this. When we get small and allow God to be honored, we bless others in return. Others are blessed and are encouraged to enter the battle because of our obedience. We encourage others when God is revealed through us. That was God’s purpose. He wanted to show Himself strong and that those who surrender to His ways are blessed and victorious.
You see if they had battled in their own strength, they would have been royally defeated. But in their obedience, God was honored and His name was glorified. How about you? Where do you need to get smaller? Where are you trying to control? Where are you trying to move in your own power, when God wants you to humble yourself so that His power is revealed through you.
So are you ready to get small so that God is magnified? Are you ready to decrease so that He is increased? Are you ready to see Him glorified and through you glorify others? His goal is to transform our fear, intimidation, and trials into amazing testimonies of God’s grace. Are you ready? God prepared an army and He will prepare you.
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Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom