Gideon Answers God's Call
Gideon (Part 2 of 3)
Gideon was the fifth judge of Israel. He played a small but important role in
the history of God's people. Gideon lived during a time when Israel had
forsaken God and had worshipped idols. The nation had abandoned its true
source of national strength and the source of its blessings much like our own
nation has done today. God had withdrawn his blessings and protection, and the
nation had suffered. As voices began to call upon God for deliverance, God
used Gideon to answer the need. Gideon was a reluctant leader who was finally
convinced of the power of God. He ultimately led the children of Israel in
victory over their enemies, the Midianites.
“Saved By My Own Hand”
After God had called Gideon and Gideon had been persuaded to accept the task
God gave him, it was time to act. We find the account of Gideon's defeat of
the Midianites in Judges 7:1-8:21.
Gideon's army of 32,000 was reduced in size (vss. 1-8). Already sorely
outnumbered (the enemy numbered over 120,000 swordsmen), most would see this
as a time to go out and recruit more warriors. But it might be that after the
victory the Lord would give them, the people might think it had been by their
own strength and ability that they had won the victory. So, the Lord commanded
Gideon to further reduce the number under his command "...lest Israel claim
glory for itself...saying, 'My own hand has saved me.'" (Judges 7:2). Any who
were “afraid and trembling” were told they could go home. Some 22,000 departed
leaving 10,000 to fight the Midianites.
So, it went from being outnumbered 4 to 1 to being outnumbered 12 to 1. No
doubt Gideon was surprised to hear what the Lord said next: “Then the LORD
said to Gideon, 'The people are still too many; bring them down to the water
and I will test them for you there.'” (Judges 7:4).
At the site to which the Lord had directed Gideon's army there was drinkable
water. The army stopped to drink and 9,700 knelt down on their knees so they
might drink directly from the stream. The other 300 cupped their hands and
took water into them, drinking it from their hands as a dog would lap water
from his bowl. “The LORD said to Gideon, 'I will deliver you with the 300 men
who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other
people go, each man to his home.'" (Judges 7:7).
“The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon”
Gideon attacked the Midianites with his 300 men who took torches, pitchers,
swords, and trumpets. (vss. 9-23). “Now the same night it came about that the
LORD said to him, 'Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into
your hands.'” (Judges 7:9).
Gideon's 300 divided into three groups of 100 each. They spaced themselves
around the Midianite camp, and when signaled, they broke the pitchers
revealing the torches. They shouted, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!"
There was much confusion in the camp as startled Midianite fought against
Midianite in the darkness. That night the Midianites were routed. As they
retreated, the assistance of the tribe of Ephraim was requested to cut off the
fleeing Midianites as they crossed the Jordan.
As Gideon's 300 continued to pursue the scattered remnants of the Midianites,
the people of Succoth and Penuel refused to give bread to Gideon's army. They
did not want to give assistance because they were not sure which way the
battle was going. If they helped, and Gideon lost the battle, they might be
punished by Midian. Later, after the battle was won, Gideon would return and
destroy the two towns (8:5,8,16,17).
The final battle of the campaign was fought at Jogbehah. The Midianite army
was routed again, and the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna were killed.
One Man and God is a Majority
God does not depend on large numbers of people to accomplish His goals. This
is certainly one of the things we learn from the battle Gideon and his 300
waged. The Lord has often demonstrated His power by taking a few and
accomplishing His purpose. To His disciples Jesus once said, "Do not be
afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the
kingdom.” (Luke 12:31-32). Don't be afraid of being in the minority if that is
what it takes to be right with God! It is better to be in what Jesus referred
to as “little flock” just as it was better to be among Gideon's 300. Paul once
stated it this way: “...let God be found true, though every man be found a
liar…” (Romans 3:4). Our number one priority is to stand with the Lord on any
and every issue. We are at war; a spiritual conflict (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
We can go with the majority, or we can go with God.
God's Power and Victory
Another thing we learn from Gideon's victory over the enemy is that God's
power is enough to win in any conflict. All spiritual victories occur because
of God's power and not because of ours. The Scripture says, “For the word of
the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being
saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Whether it be Gideon and
his battle or ourselves and our salvation, the power for success is God's.
Those of Gideon's day had no reason to boast concerning their own power. The
Lord wanted them to realize that they did not deliver themselves from the
Midianites. Likewise, He does not accept our own boasting about our salvation.
“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God,
and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is
written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:30,31).
Assisting Those Who Fight the Lord's Battles
One final point to be made from Gideon's experience is that we should always
be willing to assist those who are carrying out the Lord's will. The people of
Succoth and Penuel had refused to give bread to Gideon's army and were
punished. They wanted to see the outcome first before they risked anything.
Sometimes, people of faith simply must be willing to take risks when it comes
to doing the will of the Lord. Paul expresses his gratitude for
“Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked
their own necks…” (Romans 16:3-4). We are encouraged to support those who put
forth effort in the field. This is a worthy and noble endeavor (3 John 5-8).
Sometimes the battle will be ours, and we should be able to have confidence in
our good brethren's support. Likewise, when the battle is theirs, we must fill
the supportive role, that God's work might be done.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 14.6; June 2007