The Numbers Game
Mighty God, help me to be a courageous member of Your army.
Read: JUDGES 7:1–14
Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ 3 Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”
5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” 6 Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.
Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. 9 During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. 10 If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah 11 and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. 12 The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.
13 Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”
14 His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”
Reflect: THE LORD CAN SAVE “BY MANY OR BY FEW.” HAVE YOU EVER EXPERIENCED THE TRUTH OF THAT STATEMENT? IS IT STILL ALWAYS TRUE?
More than once in this passage, the Lord seems to be concerned to know how many are on his side and appears to want to reduce the number of volunteers to more manageable proportions, a far cry from over-stocking his armies with the half-hearted or the curious. Gideon’s army is reduced from 32,000 to 10,000, and eventually to just 300 men (3,8). It is not clear what test, if any, the 300 were expected to pass. Perhaps it was just the way a smaller number were selected. But the 300 knew at once, almost overnight, that they were a highly privileged band to serve in the front line of Gideon’s army. What a boost that would have given to their confidence!
Those of us who belong to small fellowships do nevertheless give thanks to God for the successful large churches we see around us, even though we know they make heavy demands upon their leadership. But the mini-congregations are equally valid and deserve our prayers, along with their pastors.
Pray for all those who carry a heavy burden of pastoral care, that they would remain faithful and filled with the Spirit.
Lord, at times I am one of those who “trembles with fear.” Make me one of Your mighty warriors today.
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