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Friday, September 16, 2011

One Company Left

19-22 Gideon and his hundred men got to the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after the sentries had been posted. They blew the trumpets, at the same time smashing the jars they carried. All three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands, ready to blow, and shouted, "A sword for God and for Gideon!" They were stationed all around the camp, each man at his post. The whole Midianite camp jumped to its feet. They yelled and fled. When the three hundred blew the trumpets, God aimed each Midianite's sword against his companion, all over the camp. They ran for their lives—to Beth Shittah, toward Zererah, to the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath.
(Judges 7:19-22)

The story of the battle against the Midianites has a couple of messages that might just help to guide us through our daily "battles".  Gideon was not a valiant warrior, tested on the battlefields.  In fact, he was a regular guy, minding his own business, working on the threshing floor one day when God calls him to be the leader of the army that would ultimately bring Israel out of their bondage to the Midianites.  I am encouraged by the fact that God uses ordinary people to do the  most extraordinary things!

I will encourage you to read the entire chapter, but for the purposes of the blog this morning, I will simply give you a run-down of the events leading up to the defeat of the huge, powerful army of Midianites camped all around Israel.  In the previous chapter, we have the account of Gideon having a struggle with the calling on his life - he did not see himself in quite the same way God saw him.  That is often the case with us, too.  We simply have a different "image" of ourselves than God does.  That "image" limits us - not because we really 'are' a certain way, but because we see ourselves as that way.  

Gideon goes through all kinds of back-and-forth dialogue with God - all in an attempt to come to a place where he actually believed that God was with him, involved in the calling on his life to go up against the huge army of Midianites, and that God was empowering him for the battle.  Admit it...we do the same thing!  We put God to the test - attempting to come to some "reasonable" conclusion that what we "think" we heard God tell us to do was really the voice of God!  When we finally come to that place of believing, it is time to take the first step.  Don't you know...we likely do it just the way Gideon did!

He takes a huge contingent of men with him to fight the battle.  The men are not the best trained warriors, but there is strength in numbers - right?  God "checks" him on that move.  He stops him short and tells him he has too many men to go up against Midian!  Ummm....God, have you actually seen the size of THEIR army?  So, Gideon has come a little way in his faith by this time, so he actually listens to God when he tells him to "pare down" the troops.  

The way God tells him to "pare down" the men is kind of humorous to me - he tells Gideon to ask who is afraid, or who has any qualms at all about going to battle against this huge army.  Twenty-two companies of men step forward and admit that they are afraid or in doubt!  That leaves Gideon with ten companies of men!  If you know anything about battle, a company of men is about 250 foot soldiers.  So, do the math - 5,500 leave and 2,500 remain!  He has essentially lost two-thirds of his troops in one fell swoop!

If that is not enough, God asks him to "pare it down" just a little further.  God has the men drink of the stream...those that kneel down, putting their face to the water are to go home.  Now, he is left with a little more than one company of men - 300 in total!  Why did God ask that his numbers be reduced so low prior to the battle?  It was simple...God wanted Gideon and Israel to know that it was God that won the battle, not them!  If he went out with 8,000 men to the battle, Gideon and Israel could begin to think that their own might, military prowess, or tactical skill resulted in the "win".  

God has our end in mind in every teachable moment of our lives!  For Gideon, this was a teachable moment.  He was being asked to trust in the impossible. So many times, God asks us to trust him IN the impossible and WITH the impossible.  Both are tremendously hard for us to do, but both carry a reward far greater than we'd ever imagine.  Gideon's 300 troops, in the hand of God, were more than sufficient for the battle.  The Midianites were routed!  And...God got the credit!

When Gideon speaks to his troops, he gives a simple charge:  Get up!  Get going!  God has given us our enemy!  When we are in God's timing, in his plan for our lives, it is much easier to respond to the call to "get up" and to "get going"!  Trying to do things in our own strength makes the battle much harder! Think about it...300 versus 8,000 men.  How much easier was it to rally the 300?  Significantly!  God's plan was "manageable"!  That is always the case!  God always has something prepared for us that is more "manageable" than what we'd concoct any day!

Gideon thought he knew how to take the enemy - God showed him he did not. Gideon believed he had the necessary tools (a huge army) - God showed him that a smaller tool chest was really sufficient!  In God's economy, more is not always better!  In fact, God says he takes the small things and uses them confound the biggest stuff in life!  God's economy lessons are definitely worth learning!