Gideon has finally accepted the fact that God is going to use him to deliver Israel. But wait! There’s more. That army he was depending on to help him is going to go through some SERIOUS downsizing.
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Now that Gideon has accepted that the Lord is going to be fighting for him in the upcoming encounter he feels secure when he looks around at all the men who have assembled. There are at least 32,000 men who have come to fight alongside him. Not as many as are in the opposing force but a decent showing. “
Maybe I could get more if I let the other tribes know what is going on.” Not a bad idea.
But God has other ideas. “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands” (verse 2a).
“WHAT! Too MANY? But why God? Isn’t having MORE a GOOD thing?”
“Not if I am trying to let Israel KNOW that I am God. If Israel goes into battle with these numbers they will ‘boast over me, saying, “My own hand has saved me”’ (verse 2b). THAT is NOT going to happen!”
“Ok. So what do You want me to do about it? Should I send a few of them home? Who would I send?”
“Tell the people, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead’” (verse 3a).
“But what if..”
“Don’t argue. Just do it.”
“Ok. I’ll do it.” Gideon calls the people together. “God is going to prove to us that it is by HIS hand that we win this battle. He has told me to let anyone who is scared or not confident about going into this battle go home. No one will think any less of you. God has authorized this.”
Murmuring is heard throughout the assembled group. No one wants to be the first to leave but when one does the exodus becomes like water draining from a jar. Gideon watches as the troops in front of him dwindle to less than a third of their size. “Surely God will stop this! Maybe He will bring some of them back. How are we supposed to win against such a HUGE army with this group?!”
“That’s a good start Gideon but there are still too many.”
“WHAT?!? You can’t be serious! This group is TINY compared to the enemy!”
“Not when you count Me on your side. You asked where the miracles your fathers talked about are. I’m about to do another one of them with you.”
“Alright. Now what do you want me to do?”
“I want you to take the people down to the water. I’m going to tell you which ones to keep and which ones to send home. And when I tell you what to do you WILL do it.”
“Yes Lord. I’ll do it.” Gideon calls the people together again. “The Lord says our forces are still to numerous to show that the battle was won by Him. He has a test for us to perform at the water. Follow me.”
Several of the soldiers talk amongst themselves. “What kind of test do you think it will be?” “I don’t know but I hope I pass it. I WANT to fight this battle!” “I doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. My father sent me to represent our house but if Gideon doesn’t choose me I will be happy to return home and help my family stay hidden.” “I’m tired of hiding! Let me at that test!”
“Now I want you to tell the men to drink from the water. ‘Every one who laps the water with his tong, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink’ (verse 5b).”
“God wants each of you to take a drink from this stream. Spread out and begin to drink.”
Puzzled faces look around. It’s such a simple task. How is this a test? Some move right onto the task while others hesitate for a few moments. Before long though groups of men are at the stream. Some bend down and bring their faces to the surface of the water, open their mouths and take in water as it flows by. Some bend down, dip their hands into the stream and bring water back up with their hands and then drink it from their cupped hands. As each man completed his task, Gideon would point to where he wanted them to stand. On the east side of the group were those who brought their hands up with the water. On the west were those who brought their faces to the water.
Gideon watches as the groups grow. One group is outpacing the other by a LARGE margin. Gideon is certain he knows which group the Lord is going to use. “The Lord didn’t get rid of very many men with this test. I sure hope He doesn’t have us do another test. The group is small enough already.”
“Gideon, you are to send everyone home who brought their face down to the water to drink.”
“WHAT!?! But Lord, that is everyone except this small group of men! There can’t be more than 300 here. Surely You don’t…”
“Send them home Gideon.”
“Yes Lord.” Gideon turns to the large group. “I want to thank you for your bravery and service. The Lord has not chosen you to be part of this victory. Take provisions for yourselves and return to your homes.” Gideon then turns to look at the smaller group. “The Lord has chosen you to act as His hands as HE delivers Israel from their enemy. Return to camp, prepare your hearts and rest for tomorrow we will see the mighty things that the Lord has promised!”
The men break up and do as they were each instructed. There is no arguing but there is some serious ‘head scratching’ in wonder. The Lord proposed this test and the Lord made His choice.
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If I were Gideon this is about the time I would be thinking seriously about laying another fleece! He had moved from 32,000 men ready for battle to 300. A 1000% decrease.
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Gideon KNOWS the Lord has called him to do this job. He KNOWS that it was the Lord who spoke to him. He KNOWS the Lord is faithful and keeps His promises. But he DOESN’T know how the Lord plans to do this! He is but one man and he has such a small force against the might of these gathered nations. He wrestles with himself all through dinner. He WILL believe the Lord! He WILL follow where He leads, no matter what lays ahead! That doesn’t mean that his stomach isn’t tied up in knots though.
“Get up Gideon. ‘God down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterwards your hands shall be strengthen to go down against the camp’ (verses 10-11a).”
Gideon is MORE than happy to take Purah with him. He needs all the courage he can get. He wonders at what the Lord has waiting for him. “Lord You know my heart. I want to do this thing for You, but I’m afraid! I’m afraid I won’t be enough. I’m afraid I’m not listening to You correctly and that I’m getting off track. I’m afraid I will somehow make a mess of the job you called me to do. I’m trusting You for a sign. I’m CERTAIN You wouldn’t have send me down with my servant if You didn’t have one waiting for me. Though my hands are sweating, I’m going to go down as You commanded.”
Gideon finds Purah serving the evening meal to the small group of men the Lord kept. “Purah, we have a mission to do for the Lord. Come with me.”
Purah doesn’t hesitate for a moment. He puts his serving ladle and follows Gideon out of camp. The two of them quietly make their way down to the edge of the camp gathered in the Jezreel valley. As they approach the perimeter of the camp they see two men engaging in conversation. Gideon overhears his name and signals Purah to wait and hide. Both men listen in from their hiding places.
The tallest of the two men looks like he is a mighty warrior. His hands look like they could bend steel. His arms look nearly as big as Gideon’s own legs. He is a formidable looking man, except for around the eyes. Gideon sees fear there. It is radiating out so clearly Gideon can almost taste it on the wind. Gideon wonders what he has to be so fearful of. Finally the man’s words carry over the distance right to Gideon and Purah’s ears.
“I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned upside down, so that the tent lay flat” (verse 13b).
His companion doesn’t even take a moment to think about the dream. “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp” (verse 14b).
Gideon’s spirit soars! It is all he can do to slip away without breaking out in shouts of praise. The two men quickly return to the camp. Gideon is not about to wait for morning. The Lord has called and they are going to go, NOW.
“Get up! Get ready! We are going down to the enemy camp tonight. The Lord has given them into our hands!” Shouts of joy erupt but are quickly quieted as Gideon gives instructions to his men.
He picks up a trumpet and an empty jar holding a torch. “Each of you are to take one of each of these. I will divide you into three groups. ‘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’” (verses 17b-18). Gideon finishes dividing his men into groups of 100. He and the men quietly begin their move toward the camp of Midian.
(To be continued)
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God knew that Gideon was going to need another convincer. He prepared in advance for this. He gave the man the dream, had him tell his friend at just the right time, and gave our second man the interpretation. There is NO other way this could have been orchestrated by ANYONE but God! He knows our needs before we even ask! He set things in motion for Gideon long before He brought him to this point in his life. He KNEW Gideon’s needs and He planned for them.
Father God, NOTHING in my life is chance! You began working on the places of importance where I would stand LONG before I was even born. You know how much I want to please You and walk in the path YOU created for me. Help me be able to hear the gems of encouragement You have prepared for me for just the right time. Speak to my heart and get my attention for those special times. “’I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). Thank You that I can ALWAYS trust Your plans!