This is a continuation of last week’s bulletin concerning the life of Gideon, the fifth judge of Israel. His activity is recorded in the book of Judges, chapters six through eight.
Gideon, now ready to be a warrior and free the Israelites, begins to build his army. He joins the Abiezrites with the men of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. While Gideon prepares for war, the enemy awaits in the Valley of Jezreel. Even though Gideon has a great many behind him, he still lacks faith in accomplishing what God told him He would do. Therefore, Gideon asks for a sign from God. This is the second time that he requests a sign, except this time he asks for a specific sign of his choosing from God. Once again, God performs the sign of Gideon’s choosing. While I am sure that this increased the courage of Gideon, he still did not have the faith he needed to go into battle. So, for the third time, Gideon asks for another sign of which he specifies the details. Notice this time, that Gideon is concerned with the Lord being angry with his lack of faith, as he says: “do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more….” It is possibly the opinion of us all that Gideon is overstepping his limits. Even Gideon seems to be of that opinion as well. Nevertheless, Gideon has real problems with his faith, and God, without a word, once again gives Gideon the sign that he asked for.
The next phase of the narrative is God minimizing Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 300. The reason for this, according to the Lord, is “lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” Certainly, this also had an affect on the leader of this army, Gideon. Surely even after receiving the signs from God, it would be an additional source of comfort for Gideon to see 32,000 men behind him, but now, Gideon sees only 300. Gideon’s progress in his faith is put to the test here because any faith that he may have had in the strength of men is diminished. However, God isn’t done with helping Gideon to be a man of great faith.
Gideon now must accomplish a job with 300 when he probably wasn’t fully satisfied with doing it with 32,000. I can only speculate as to this point, but comparing an army of 135,000 to an army of 32,000, the odds never seemed good to begin with. Now compare 135,000 to 300 men! Who will be the victor? Now I certainly haven’t factored God into the equations above, but, if Gideon is anything like us, we tend to allow the things we see before our eyes to affect our faith in God. We worry about what we see on the news, or what’s happening at work, instead of not letting it phase us, and trusting in God to take care of every matter.
What happens next is really interesting. Gideon does not ask for a sign, nor does God freely give him a sign. However, what God does give him is a choice. God said to Gideon: “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have delivered 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 afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” And Gideon took this opportunity to strengthen his faith in God. When he went down to the camp, he overheard the enemy discussing a dream, in which, a loaf of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian; it came to a tent and struck it so that it fell and overturned, and the tent collapsed. Then it was said, “This is nothing else but the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel! Into his hand, God has delivered Midian and the whole camp.” Now Gideon had both heard and seen enough from God, and he was convinced that his 300 would be victorious over an army “as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude.”
What we’ve witnessed in this fascinating narrative is a man with struggles and weaknesses in his faith. What we’ve seen is a man who is probably fairly similar to you and I, at the very least during some points in our lives. However, that is not all that we’ve witnessed; we also saw a God who actively won the trust of a worried and fearful man. Gideon, the great man of faith that we hear about in Hebrews eleven was molded by God. God led the hand of a man with many weaknesses to victory. But isn’t that what He does with all His saints? Can our faith be anything without what He has shown to us and proven to us through His word? Has every increase of our faith in Him been the result of God proving something to us, whether through His word, or maybe even through life’s experiences? None of us are unlike Gideon; we were all led by the hand in the growth process. It’s only a matter of recognizing this and giving thanks to the God who led us.
Article by Tanner Campbell.