The book of Judges records Israel’s continuous apostasy (state of ungodliness) and struggles to obey and follow God’s ways.
In this period, the nation of Israel repeatedly went through a four-step cycle: Rebellion/Sin-Retribution/Servitude- Repentance/Sorrow and then Restoration/Salvation. In the first stage of the cycle Israelites forsook God, sinned and followed Baal. In the second stage, God punished them for their sin (by sending enemies, drought, diseases). Then in the next step they suffered greatly; and when they cried to God in repentance, God listened and answer them by sending a judge/deliverer to bring them salvation and restore them to prosperity path. The appointment of Gideon, as a judge to Israel, was a response to Israel’s repentance after a prolonged impoverishment and suffering in the hands of their Midianite enemies.
The call, and faith of Gideon is an encouragement today as we seek to be used of God.
Gleanings from the Calling and Mission of Gideon:
- God in His wisdom chooses to use weak vessels to display His strength–
When we read of Gideon in Hebrews 11 we are tempted to think that Gideon began as a hero of faith. This is untrue. When God called Gideon he was a man full of weaknesses and inadequacies. He was not a superhero but a very ordinary man. He struggled to believe that God could use him and his background to accomplish his purposes.
“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” (Judges 6:15).
According to Gideon, God’s calling was beyond his ability; in fact, in his self-assessment he claims not to have influence over his family, leave alone mobilizing the entire tribe.
God often chooses the “weak of this world” to accomplish great things for his glory (1 Cor. 1:26-29). Gideon was a man who frequently needed signs and assurances from God in order to be firm. But God saw potential in him and called him a man of valor/mighty warrior (Jdg.6:12).
He chose Gideon and gave him His promise- “The Lord said to him, ‘I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man” (Jdg. 6:16).
He chose Gideon and empowered him with His Spirit (Jdg. 6:34). Through this Gideon was helped to overcome his fears and wavering faith. God’s Spirit worked on him and changed him to bring about the needed courage and faith.
This is an encouragement for us not to despise our small beginnings because through it what God is able to achieve something bigger and greater.
Your inadequacies cannot limit God from using you for his noble purposes. An ungodly life is the only hindrance that can make God’s power and life not flow through us.
What are those things that make you feel inadequate? Could it be age (as it was to Jeremiah), eloquence (Moses)… Remember He is God who makes his power manifest in weakness (2 Cor. 12:10). Trust in his power.
- God does not need numbers to accomplish his purposes, (Jdgs 8:1-10)-
In the fight against Midianites and its coalitions, Gideon marshaled his troops and they numbered 32,000 in total against a total of 135,000 Midianite soldiers (Jdg. 8:10). You don’t need to be a military expert to know that there was a colossal problem here. Humanly speaking warfare, like politics, is a game of numbers and so Gideon needed to up his game. But instead of increasing the numbers God told Gideon to downsize it!
The first elimination method employed was that all that tremble with fear should go back home. A total of 22,000 men left. Certainly, the journey is not for the fainthearted.
Mosaic Law offered military exemptions for several classes of people- including those who had just build a home, who had just planted a vineyard and have not enjoyed its fruit, those engaged to be married, and the fainthearted (Deut. 20:5-8).
Only ten thousand recruits remained. But in God’s terms they were still many.
In the second round of elimination, they were taken down to the river. And Gideon was to separate those who lapped the water with their tongues and those who knelt down to drink. Three hundred men lapped water with their hands. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
The Lord approved the 300 men that lapped the water with their hands to be enlisted for the battle. The rest were summarily dismissed to return home. Thinning of his army needed faith and courage.
It was now 300 vs. 135,000men. The numbers were not adding up. Gideon might have feared and so needed some encouragement. The Lord told him to visit the enemies’ camp secretly at night. There he found people conversing about a dream that the interpretation was to the effect that the Lord had handed over Midian to Gideon. This bolstered his strength and caused him to worship God (Jdg. 7:15).
In a quick and decisive victory, the 300 men routed Israel’s enemies because God fought for them. The Lord confused and caused Israel’s enemies to turn against each other with their swords.
Gideon’s story shows that God is not limited by numbers. God can wage his battles and win. Moses had assured the Jews that if they obey the Lord, one soldier could chase a thousand or two soldiers would “put ten thousand to flight” (Deut. 32:30). In this regard, all that Gideon needed was 27 soldiers to defeat the whole Midianite army of 135,000 men, but God gave him 300.
In history, God has always worked with few people to accomplish great things… Therefore it is not about what you have or don’t have but about what God can do with the small you have or even don’t have.
For us, it is possible to deceptively think that when I have more of this and that I will be able to be an effective/successful servant or make a greater impact for God-we think, when I have a six-figure bank statement, good communication skills, another degree, or more experience. Gideon did not need additional army because when we are in God’s side we certainly win. God’s presence is what we need.
Again, to be able to accomplish God’s mission God’s way some downsizing is necessary. What are the things (in your life) that you need to downsize today?
Our faith in God wavers when we start comparing God with our circumstance/resources we have (it often looks intimidating: 300 vs 135,000). Rather, we need to believe. Mathematically speaking things may not add up in your case but wait on God to solve the equation for you. Gideon learned that one with God is majority. Gideon believed and that is why he is listed among the heroes of faith. He believed in God who can turn impossibilities to possibilities.
Whenever God call us to task that we think is beyond us, we must be careful to look to God and not on ourselves. God does not need numbers because nothing is impossible with God. God asked Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14); “for nothing shall be impossible with God,” (Lk. 1:37). Job discovered that God could do everything (Job 42:2); Jeremiah admitted that there’s nothing too hard for God (Jer. 32:17). Jesus told his disciples “with God all things are possible” (Matt.19:26).
- God wants us to give Him glory in all things-
God pointed out to Gideon that he had too many men for God to deliver Midian into his hands. God downsized Gideon’s army so that through what is achieved, God is glorified. Not one would boastfully say, ‘my strength/hand/skill/connection/weapon saved me’. But that they would exclaim, ‘the Lord has done it!’
God handed over them victory without much struggle. The Israel’s force only blew horns, broke jars, and shouted causing the enemy to kill each other in their confusion. Through reduction of Gideon’s army, God’s role in the victory became clear with only 300 men.
The war was won not because they had a great military leader, powerful arsenal, or numerical strength but because- God was with Gideon, the Holy Spirit’s empowered him, and the fact that Gideon obeyed God’s word.
God ensures that the situation nears impossibility so that when He acts his power is manifest and consequently he receives all the glory.
Our lives, families, relationships, jobs, education should glorify God alone. In every endeavor we should acknowledge His power and Spirit’s enablement (Zech. 4:6).
Indeed as David admitted, “No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his strength” (Ps. 33:16). Victory and glory belongs to God.
Victories that are won because of faith bring glory to God because nobody can explain how they happen.