Gideon

Something about that story intrigues me.  The ranks of the available personnel was whittled away. Twenty-two thousand warriors are released from duty leaving only a relatively small remnant.  And interestingly enough that was God’s will.   Ferreting out what God has in mind is always fraught with frustration and misunderstanding.  The fearful were released first taking the numbers down to ten thousand – still too many.  And then it was down to a  piddling three hundred.  I can only imagine what was going through the minds of that small battalion.

Having read the twenty four chapters of the Book of Joshua­ you’d think that Canaan had been conquered by the Israelites.  But then when you continuing reading Judges which describes the tribes settling the Promised Land you become aware that much of the territory hadn’t been subjugated.  Midianites and Amalekites, in great numbers, were a continual threat to the security of the tribal settlements.   There is an important truth underlying the reality described in these two books.  Yes, you can make a conscious decision to dedicate one’s life to obedient service to the Spirit of Christ, that’s the Joshua conquest but you will forever have to deal with the settlement realities of having to deal with conflicts within our selves.                                                           

Those of us of a more pacificist leaning tend to struggle with the God of the Old Testament.  The period of Israel’s conquest and settlement of the Promised Land filled with much violence.  For forty of those years Gideon served as God’s Judge over Israel. We remember him for his having put out the fleece of sheep to have his call verified by God.  And we also remember him for his victory over the Amalekites and the Midianites.  What we’ve too often overlooked is how that great victory was actually won.  God didn’t want Israel’s military to take credit.  God wanted Israel to know that they were indebted to God.

Judges 7: Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the troops that were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was north of them, below the hill of Moreh, in the valley. 2The Lord said to Gideon, “The troops with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand. Israel would only take the credit away from me, saying, ‘My own hand has delivered me.’ 3Now therefore proclaim this in the hearing of the troops, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home.’” Thus Gideon sifted them out; twenty-two thousand returned, and ten thousand remained. 4Then the Lord said to Gideon, “The troops are still too many; take them down to the water and I will sift them out for you there. When I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go with you; and when I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” 5So he brought the troops down to the water; and the Lord said to Gideon, “All those who lap the water with their tongues, as a dog laps, you shall put to one side; all those who kneel down to drink, putting their hands to their mouths, you shall put to the other side.” 6The number of those that lapped was three hundred; but all the rest of the troops knelt down to drink water. 7Then the Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred that lapped I will deliver you, and give the Midianites into your hand. Let all the others go to their homes.” 8So he took the jars of the troops from their hands, and their trumpets; and he sent all the rest of Israel back to their own tents, but retained the three hundred. The camp of Midian was below him in the valley.

Something about that story intrigues me.  The ranks of the available personnel was whittled away. Twenty-two thousand warriors are released from duty leaving only a relatively small remnant.  And interestingly enough that was God’s will.   Ferreting out what God has in mind is always fraught with frustration and misunderstanding.  The fearful were released first taking the numbers down to ten thousand – still too many.  And then it was down to a  piddling three hundred.  I can only imagine what was going through the minds of that small battalion.

9That same night the Lord said to him, “Get up, attack the camp; for I have given it into your hand. 10But if you fear to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah; 11and you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to attack the camp.” Then he went down with his servant Purah to the outposts of the armed men that were in the camp. 12The Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley as thick as locusts; and their camels were without number, countless as the sand on the seashore.

It calls to mind a song from my younger days;  It went something like this

(that famous day in history the men of the 7th cavalry went riding on) (and from the rear a voice was heard) (a brave young man with a trembling word rang loud and clear) What am I doin’ here? Please Mr. Custer, I don’t want to go Hey, Mr. Custer, please don’t make me go I had a dream last night about the comin’ fight Somebody yelled “attack!” And there I stood with a arrow in my back.

13When Gideon arrived, there was a man telling a dream to his comrade; and he said, “I had a dream, and in it a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian, and came to the tent, and struck it so that it fell; it turned upside down, and the tent collapsed.” 14And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, a man of Israel; into his hand God has given Midian and all the army.” 15When Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped; and he returned to the camp of Israel, and said, “Get up; for the Lord has given the army of Midian into your hand.”

16After he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and put trumpets into the hands of all of them, and empty jars, with torches inside the jars, 17he said to them, “Look at me, and do the same; when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets around the whole camp, and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon!’” 19So Gideon and the hundred who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. 20So the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21Every man stood in his place all around the camp, and all the men in camp ran; they cried out and fled.

Did you catch that line “I had a dream, and in it a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian,…”  It’s a great story.  Barley bread is humble and crumbly.  It is the main stay of those who can’t afford the good stuff.  The Midianites considered the Israelites to be like barley bread, of poor quality yet the dream describes God uses that which is considered the lesser to overturn what is considered to be superior.  Hearing the dream related gave Gideon the confidence to move forward with his effort.  The dream, being reported through out the ememy camp was sufficient to demoralize the Midians.

And of what did Gideon’s plan consist?   Three hundred men surrounding the invaders camp with torches in jars and trumpets; not a sword among them.  The sound of smashing earthen ware jars with the flare of three hundred torches augmented by three hundred trumpets was enough, in God’s hands, to rout the enemy.

In Ephesians 3:14-21Paul wrote this:  My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

 

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