As you read the Bible, do you ever find yourself wondering what was God thinking? Sometimes, I find myself asking God, “Why in the world did you choose that individual? Wasn’t there someone better suited to the task at hand?”
Let me just say this: Gideon is definitely not my favorite person in the Bible, but in some ways I totally relate to him. He is NOT someone I would point to as the model leader and yet God chose him to lead an army. Hmm… maybe the shortcomings and failures of Gideon are ones that are staring back at me in the mirror? I have some of the same fears and insecurities that Gideon experienced.
You know, it’s been said that we don’t like things in other people that we often have in ourselves. Ouch.
Before studying Gideon’s life, I would have said he was a weak leader because of his fear and how he kept asking God for confirmation and assurance every step of the way. I realize now that fear doesn’t make you a weak leader, but it’s what you do in spite of fear that makes you a great leader!
…Have you ever noticed that God’s ways are not our ways? His math is not like our math? His plans don’t always make logical sense? Finally, have you ever noticed that God’s plans require your total trust and reliance on Him?
Yet, God’s plans are always exactly what is needed to bring about victory and success! Gideon’s story in Judges 7:3-22 is one of those stories that has you answering YES to each of the above questions. As you read it, he is putting together an army per the Lord’s direction to fight against the Midianites and deliver God’s people from their oppressors.
When the battle call is made, there are 32,000 Israelites that show up prepared to battle. The Midianite army is 135,000 strong. Already God’s math is way different than man’s math. Man’s math says the Israelites are already outnumbered 4 to 1.
In Judges 7:2 God says 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.”
Self-sufficiency is our enemy. It makes us believe we don’t need help from others, or God. God didn’t want Gideon or the Israelites to take credit for the victory He was about to bring. So what does God do? To prevent the attitude of “I did it on my own,” God takes the army from 32,000 to 300!
The Lesson: Don’t rely on our selves – our strength – our wisdom – our plans – our health – our finances — It’s all God! – rely on Him – His plans – His Strength – His Provision – His Well Being.
So how did God pair down the army to only 300 men? He did it in two ways. The first makes logical sense. Everyone who was fearful got to return home. A whopping 22,000 men left, leaving only 10,000, which was still too many for God.
The second way God chose who would stay and who would go doesn’t make clear sense (or does it?). God told Gideon to choose the ones who would stay by the way they would drink water in Judges 7: 5-8:
5 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.” 6 Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
7 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.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.
Most commentaries don’t have thoughts on why one way is better than the other. My opinion, however, is this:
When kneeling to drink, a person is not really watching what’s going on around them. Their face is in the water, focused on their need and desire to quench thirst. However, if someone scoops water and remains standing, they are able to pay better attention and are ready to fight.
In Judges 7:10-11, we learn that Gideon was afraid after this. I mean, wouldn’t you be? 300 men against an army of 135,000? Not very good odds. In fact, the ratio was 450 Midianites to every 1 Israelite. God understood and knew Gideon was afraid, but that didn’t change His plan. God didn’t let fear be an excuse for Gideon, and the same is true for us. Like the Israelites winning the battle against the Midianites when it didn’t seem logical or likely, God will deliver us out of our own similarly dire situations.
His point is for us to not place our trust in others or even in our own abilities (self-sufficiency). He wants us to place our trust and confidence in Him and Him alone!
Dear Jesus, please show me where I am relying on myself or others instead of relying on and trusting You. I ask that you would forgive me for the times I haven’t trusted you. I want to trust you more, I ask that you help me during the times when my trust and faith waiver. I choose this day to put my trust and confidence in You, no matter what situations may come. Thank you for your love, care, and guidance. Amen.