We began the story of Gideon yesterday — the guy who was hiding out from the Midianites, the guy who attacked the Baal altar at night, and the guy who asked for the sign of the fleece twice before he’d consider attacking the Midianites. Gideon is not your average heroic figure, and perhaps that’s the very reason that God chose him.
Even after Gideon gets courage enough to gather an army together to deal with the Midianites — an army, by the way, that was only about one-fourth or less the size of the Midianite army — God still makes a strange choice.
“The LORD said to Gideon, ‘The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, “My own power has delivered me.'”” Judges 7:2, NAS95.
So, they tell the army of 32,000 that everyone who’s afraid is welcome to go home — and 22,000 went home! But that was still too many for God’s taste. He gave Gideon a test of sorts having to do with the way the men got a drink of water from the spring of Harod (see picture).
After that test only 300 were left — 300 against 120,000 plus. But with God that’s more than enough for victory. Gideon and the 300 routed the Midianite army with God’s military strategy and miraculous power. If I may, for just a moment, make the observation that the quality of the men that Gideon had might be worth a closer look. Certainly, the victory was because of God, period. But look at who God wanted to go into this lopsided battle — those who had courage (who believed that God is a majority in any circumstances) and those who were vigilant (bringing the water up to their mouths to drink). Faithful courage and vigilance, there’s a combination for success no matter what the odds might be!
After the Midianite army had been routed, Gideon chased them across the Jordan and sought help from two Israelite cities that he had every right to expect help from, Succoth and Penuel — but they refused on fear that Gideon might not be successful. After Gideon’s victory, he returned and punished the leaders of those cities for not helping his army with bread and sustenance — and they deserved it. There’s a lesson here about the need to give assistance when God’s leaders ask for it. Sometimes it is for sustenance, but more often than not it is assistance. There is always much to do in a church for each other and for evangelism and a minister, or elders, or deacons often don’t have enough hours in a day to do it all. But what a difference in the church and in evangelistic outreach could be made, if the church membership would quickly and sincerely give the assistance that their leaders needed.
The last thing I’ll comment on today is simply the short memory that men tend to have about what God has done. Interestingly enough we don’t seem to have short memories for grudges and trivia, but when it comes to remembering what others have done for us, we seem to have a little bit of amnesia. This is what had happened in Gideon’s and God’s case; the people forgot them. This led Israel back to Baal worship and to disloyalty to Gideon for the risk he took against Midian and then the peace that he brought to Israel afterward. Don’t be short-memoried. One of the great benefits of thanking God in prayer is the reminder it gives us of how much he does for us all the time; and that reminder will draw us back to Him in love. Don’t be short-memoried; keep alive the memory of those who have served the Kingdom faithfully and follow their good deeds.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.