As most of you know we have been exploring the book of Judges over the past several weeks – looking at some of the great heros and the great zeros of that book. And so far it’s been quite a colorful journey for us. We’ve had Ehud & the fat King, Deborah the only female judge, Barak with his conditional obedience, Jael & her weapon of choice – the tent peg, and then last week we started looking at Gideon – the least in his clan, the weakest in his family hiding out in the bottom of the winepress. And yet, God was able to use every single one of these people for His glory. Sometimes in-spite of their weaknesses, and sometime because of their weaknesses.
And so today we are going to continue looking at the life of Gideon. We never got a chance to finish the story last week, and actually, we’re not going to be able to finish it this week either, because we’re going to be looking at just one of about four mini-stories within the story of Gideon. So if you want to know the whole story, you’re going to have to read through it on your own some time this week. You’ll find it in Judges 6, 7, & 8 – and if you’re really ambitious, you can read about Gideon’s son Jotham in chapter 9.
But for today, we’re going to start in Judges 7:1.
So Jerub-baal (that is, Gideon) and his army got up early and went as far as the spring of Harod. The armies of Midian were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength.
Does God know human nature or what? We are so quick to take credit for what God does. God knew that if Gideon’s large army wiped out the Midianites, He wouldn’t get any of the glory. They would claim that it was all their doing. It was Gideon’s cunning plan, or the soldier’s brilliant swordsmanship, or the archers skillful shooting – but it wasn’t God. And don’t we do that today too?
God blesses us financially and we credit it to our hard work and good financial planning. God blesses us with long life and good health, and we credit it doctors and medicine, workout programs and healthy eating. God blesses our church, and we praise our pastors & our musicians & our programs. But who deserves the credit for all these things? It’s God!
God supplies our every need and quite often an abundance more. Its God who heals our bodies and gives us every breath. It’s God who grows His church and draws people to Himself. It’s God – not us. He deserves all the credit for every good thing in our lives. And as we see in these verses here, God wasn’t about to let the Israelites take His credit for the amazing victory that He was going to bring about. And so He says in verse 3…
Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.’” So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.
That’s quite a downsizing, isn’t it? Especially considering the size of the enemy army… Remember from last week how many there were? The Bible doesn’t give us a specific number, but it says just their camels were as many as the sands of the seashore. Do you know how much sand is on the seashore?
I had a friend who one day wanted to figure out just how much sand was on the seashore. So he took a pill bottle (you know, one of those little orangy-brown containers you get your prescriptions in) and started counting individual grains of sand and putting them into the pill bottle. Well, after a very long, tedious time of counting these little grains of sand, He gave up. He had reached 10,000 grains of sand – and they had just barely covered the bottom of the pill bottle. That’s amazing, isn’t it? I want you to think about that the next time you read that passage in Psalm 139 that says how God’s thoughts about you are more than the grains of sand!
But that kinda gives us an idea of the kind of odds that Gideon was looking at. Here was his little army – enough to cover the bottom of the pill bottle – against the rest of the entire beach. If they actually win this battle, they are gonna have to recognize that it was only through a miracle of God. And yet, look what God does in the next verse. Verse 4
But the Lord told Gideon, “There are still too many! [He’s talking about Gideon’s army – not the Midianities] Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.” 5 When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” 6 Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.
7 The Lord told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.”
Can you imagine that? Gideon started with 32,000 men – and against that huge swarm of Midianites – He probably still thought it would take a miracle. Then God whittled him down to just 10,000 men. Gideon must have through that God was REALLY stretching it then. But now after this little water break, God knocks them down to just 300 men.
That would be like God asking the men in the town of Mirror to go up against the entire armies of China. Do you see how insane this is? There is no possible way that they could defeat that huge Midianite army with just 300 men. Unless God steps in.
And that’s the key phrase of the day – Unless God steps in.
You know, that family of the little boy in Sparwood who was kidnapped last week, had a scenario just like this. Their little boy had been gone for five days – they had to be thinking “There is no way that we’ll ever get him safely back – unless God step in.” And praise God, God stepped in.
You’ve probably got a dozen different scenarios in your life right now where that phrase applies. Like…
I’ll never get out of this financial hole that I’m in – unless God steps in.
I’ll never kick this habit or break this addiction – unless God steps in.
My son or my daughter will never come back the Lord – unless God steps in.
This messed up relationship will never improve – unless God steps in.
Good news people. God loves stepping in. He loves doing the impossible. He loves doing the things that no one else can do so that He, and He alone, gets the credit.
That’s exactly what we see here in the story of Gideon. God’s rigged it so that victory is absolutely impossible – unless He steps in. Which He does – pick it up now in verse 8.
So Gideon collected the provisions and rams’ horns of the other warriors and sent them home. But he kept the 300 men with him.
The Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon. 9 That night the Lord said, “Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! 10 But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. 11 Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”
So Gideon took Purah and went down to the edge of the enemy camp. 12 The armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east had settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore—too many to count! 13Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!”
14 His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!”
Now that is an interesting interpretation of that dream that this companion gives to the dreamer. I’m not sure I would have come up with that one. I think that if I were the companion I would have said something like, “Your dream can mean only one thing – that you’ve got a serious craving for a toasted barely loaf, an apple turn-over, and some flat-bread.” That might be a little less discouraging to the guy. Because, come one, if you’re a Midianite, that’s not exactly the thing you want to hear just before you go into battle. But over-hearing this conversation certainly encouraged Gideon – look now at verse 15.
15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord. Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up! For the Lord has given you victory over the Midianite hordes!” 16 He divided the 300 men into three groups and gave each man a ram’s horn and a clay jar with a torch in it.
17 Then he said to them, “Keep your eyes on me. When I come to the edge of the camp, do just as I do. 18 As soon as I and those with me blow the rams’ horns, blow your horns, too, all around the entire camp, and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon!’”
19 It was just after midnight, after the changing of the guard, when Gideon and the 100 men with him reached the edge of the Midianite camp. Suddenly, they blew the rams’ horns and broke their clay jars. 20 Then all three groups blew their horns and broke their jars. They held the blazing torches in their left hands and the horns in their right hands, and they all shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”
21 Each man stood at his position around the camp and watched as all the Midianites rushed around in a panic, shouting as they ran to escape. 22 When the 300 Israelites blew their rams’ horns, the Lord caused the warriors in the camp to fight against each other with their swords. Those who were not killed fled to places as far away as Beth-shittah near Zererah and to the border of Abel-meholah near Tabbath.
And although the battle rages all the way into the next chapter, we can see how this story is going to end. The Israelites are victorious, the Midianites are wiped out, there is peace in the land for as long as Gideon lives. Mind you, of course, as soon as Gideon dies, they forget all about God and go back to worshiping idols and the cycle of sin begins again – but that’s a story for another week.
For now, let me point out just one little lesson from this story, and then we’ll be done. We talked earlier about some of the impossible situations we find ourselves in – situations that are hopeless… unless God steps in. And I believe that God brings these situations into our lives for a purpose. He certainly had a purpose in whittling Gideon’s army down to just 300 men from 32,000. But what’s the purpose in our situations? Why does God make us go through such difficult and sometimes even painful situations? I think there are a number of reasons why – but let me give you just one to think about this morning.
That is: Impossible situations cause us to put our trust in God.
When you’ve got just 300 men and your facing an army of thousands or hundreds of thousands – you have to put your trust in God. There are no other options. As long as Gideon had a large army, He could have tried to do it on his own. He could have come up with his own battle plans – maybe tried to make an alliance with another nearby nation. But when God took him down to just 300 men, he had no other options but to put his faith in God.
And maybe that’s why God has allowed some impossible situations to come into your life. As long as we’ve got other options, we tend to leave God out of it. We try to make it through on our own strength. So in order to get our attention, sometimes God takes away those other options. He puts us in a place where all we can do is look to Him.
When my daughter was still less than a year old, she became very ill. She had been looking pale and acting pretty sluggish and so we took her to see the family doctor. He did some blood tests and sent them to the lab and we went home. That night, the doctor called back with the results and said we needed to take her to the hospital right away. We took her into the Red Deer hospital and after the doctor there checked her out, they told us there were going to send her to the Intensive Care Unit in the children’s hospital in Calgary because her red blood cells where rapidly breaking down and they had no idea why. So they flew her down to Calgary in the STARS ambulance – got her into ICU – and they still couldn’t figure out what the problem was.
And I tell ya, that’s an impossible situation. To have your little girl laying there in ICU in the children’s hospital knowing that there is nothing you can do for her. Knowing that there was nothing the doctors could do because they couldn’t figure out what was causing it. All we could do was look to God. At the time we were working full-time for Camp Little Red and so along with our friends and family, we had all kinds of camp-connected people praying for us – asking God to step in on our behalf.
And don’t you know it, God stepped in. She started getting better – the doctors never did figure out what caused it – their best guess was a spider bite. But whatever it was, God used that impossible situation to draw us – and many others – to put our faith and trust continually in Him.
What’s your impossible situation? I’ve already mentioned a few possibilities – financial problems, addictions, relationships, health – you know your situation. Could it be that God has allowed this to happen to draw you closer to Him? Could it be that He’s just waiting for you to come to the end of your rope so that He can step in and you can trust fully in Him?
You know, some of us are slow learners. Some of us are like the Israelites – as soon as God rescues us from an impossible situation – we forget about putting our trust in Him and we go back to our old ways – and so guess what happens? God allows another impossible situation to remind us to put our trust in Him.
Can I encourage you this morning – what ever impossible situation you’re in – whatever difficult circumstance you’re going through – Will you put your trust in God? Will you stop trying to fix the problem on your own and let Him step in? Let God get your attention. Let God show you how powerful He is, how much He loves you, how much He cares for you. Will you put your trust in God?