And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
Earlier he told us thirty thousand had come and as I mentioned we are told at least one hundred and thirty thousand Midianites possibly more and God says “Gideon, you’ve got too many men.” Here I see that the battles are for God’s glory and we need to remember that. As a Christian, the battles that I fight are for God’s glory. If I ever forget that it’s for God’s glory then many of the things God asks me to do are going to seem unreasonable. From a purely human standpoint, God saying to Gideon “Those that are with you are too many.” makes zero sense.
When we face that trial of faith, when we face those difficulties, if we forget that it’s ultimately for God’s glory, it will make no sense. “Why did I have to go through that? Why am I going through this? Why is this so difficult? Why is God letting it be so hard?” If I think it’s about me it won’t make sense but if I remember that it’s about God and it’s about God’s glory it makes sense. Think of the battle of Jericho. The strongest most fortified city in the land of Canaan. How much human sense does it make for your battle plan to be, walk around the city once a day? What did Joshua think when the Captain of the Lord’s host told him “This is the plan, now go tell the nation of Israel that this is what they going to do. You’re their great, vaunted military leader, you’re going to go back with this plan. Tomorrow morning we are going to get up and we are going to walk around the city and then we are going to be done. And tomorrow we will do it again and we will do it again the day after that but don’t worry, on the last day we going to do it seven times.” Nothing about that makes sense unless it’s for God’s glory.
Think about Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, “Everybody is running out of food so I’m going to send you to someone who wouldn’t have food even if there wasn’t a drought.” Because that makes sense and the Bible says that he had commanded the widow to take care of him– because that would make sense. “You have no food so I’m going to send a prophet to you to take care of.” Humanly speaking it makes no sense but for God to receive the glory, it has to be.
Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand. 4 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go. 5 So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink. 6 And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water. 7 And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.
Here I see that a mighty man of valour trusted the Lord to choose his fellow soldiers. Often times we have an idea of who we want to go into battle with and sometimes we get disappointed when the army doesn’t look like we think it should.
Sometimes we get discouraged as a pastor, as a missionary when that family leaves the church. “They had so much potential, they had so many gifts. They were really the ones that could make the difference.” As church members, we can feel the same way sometimes. We think, “Look at whose left, look at what we have left. Look at who we are, we have no strength.” We need something else and sometimes we’re looking for that saviour of the church. You know that family that has all the gifts and the talents and they’re going to come in and they’re going to make the difference. Rather than just trusting the Lord, who puts/places, members in the body to choose our fellow soldiers.
Do you think at any point Gideon was thinking, “Lord I don’t think this is going to work.”? Why did twenty two thousand leave? They had come; I think they had an idea of what they were coming for. I think it was an understanding that once they got there and they saw only thirty thousand; they knew how many Midianites there were. Maybe they were hoping that Gideon could raise an army of two hundred thousand and then they arrived and saw, “Oh there’s only thirty thousand of us. Thirty two thousand of us, “I’m out of here. He gave me an option, I’m gone.” Because they decided it’s not going to work with thirty thousand. Then it’s down to ten and God says “This isn’t going to work either.” Gideon’s like “Well yes, I could have told you it wasn’t going to work. Why did you let the other twenty two thousand leave?” “No, there’s still too many.” And then He tells him to divide them and you know I can imagine sometimes Gideon sitting there like he watches all the guys drink and he divides “Okay, three hundred, nine thousand seven hundred. Ah, I only lost three hundred this time.” You know maybe there was that thought for just a minute. God says “With the three hundred, the ones that I have chosen, those are the ones you going in to battle with.”
He trusted the Lord, the Bible tells us in I Corinthians 1:26-29, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should be glory in his presence.” Let God choose the soldiers.
And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.
The strength of his enemies and the difficulty of the battle don’t matter. When you look at the weighing out of the sides, this is kind of the pre-game show, it’s like when you watching the sporting event you know they’ve got the pre-game show and they start to, start checking off the boxes. “Who has the better defence?” “These guys.” “Who has the better athletes?” “Oh these guys.” “Oh who has the more confidence?” “Oh these guys.” And starts checking off all the boxes and it’s like Midian, Midian, Midian. There’s no way this is going to happen. The strength of the enemy doesn’t matter. David said to Goliath “Thou comest to me with a sword and with a spear and with a shield but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of host, the God of the armies of Israel whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand and I will smite thee and take thine head from thee and I will give the carcasses of the host, of the Philistines this day unto the fouls of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth and all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel and all his assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear for the battle is the Lords and he will give it into our hands.”
Did you catch that? David is talking to Goliath and he had no reason to think he was going to beat Goliath, humanly speaking, but he says “I’m going to feed the carcasses of the host of the Philistines. Goliath, once I brush you out of the way, the rest of you, I’m coming for you too because your strength doesn’t matter.” The strength of the enemy doesn’t matter because it’s God’s battle. In verse ten to fourteen, God further assures Gideon, he tells him “Go down to the, if you’re still worried, go down to the camp of the Midianites.” And he goes down and he hears two men talking and one shares his dream. “I had a dream and this rolled in and it wiped out the whole host and our tents.” And the other responds “This is none other than Gideon, the son of Joash.” The enemy held him in higher regard than he held himself.
The Bible tells us in James 2:19, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” We often forget that we’re on the winning side when the devil doesn’t. Matthew 16:18, “And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” That is God’s promise to his church. Now as most of you have probably heard, gates are not offensive weapons. When I go out to invade a land, I don’t bring my gates with me. Gates are defensive and so God is promising his church as you go out there and you go to battle, the enemy can’t stand against you and the devils know that and they tremble. Can we have the same confidence?
And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do.
A mighty man of valour leads by example. Husbands, fathers, men we need to lead by example. I want my sons to grow up to be servants of the Lord. That’s only going to happen if they see me being a servant of the Lord. I want them to grow up and be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and that’s only going to happen if they see me being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and that means more than showing up at church two or three times a week. Jesus called his disciples to make disciples and they need to see that by example, me sharing the Gospel with others.
And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply. 2 And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? 3 God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.
This mighty man of valour was willing to share credit for the victory. Here are those that wanted no part of the battle really, once the victory is being won and Gideon’s got them fleeing and enemies being killed and decimated then they jump in and they clean up a little bit and they come and claim, “Why didn’t you invite us to the party?” “Who am I compared to you? Look at what you’ve done.” Did they have any right to this victory? Were they willing to go up three hundred against a hundred and thirty thousand? Harry Truman is credited with this quote, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” We should be willing to share the credit, an act of humility.
And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them. 5 And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian. 6 And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army? 7 And Gideon said, Therefore when the LORD hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers. 8 And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise: and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered him. 9 And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower. 10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their hosts with them, about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all the hosts of the children of the east: for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword. 11 And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host: for the host was secure. 12 And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host.
He came to a couple of cities, cities of Israelites and he asked for provisions. “We chasing after these princes and we’ve got the enemy on the run and we want to pursue them and destroy them” and they said, “Are they already in your hand? Is your victory really assured? We don’t think so, so we’re going to stay out of this.” And two different cities said that to him. Cities that were of his kinsmen, those that should have been his allies. I see here that this mighty man of valour was not discouraged or dissuaded when even his own allies stood in the way.
Christians, sometimes we can get that idea that I get to quit because another Christian stood against me. I get to quit because another church member caused me some trouble. I get to quit because my pastor wasn’t all that I thought he should be. I get to quit because some missionary didn’t live up to my expectations. A mighty man of valour rests on the Word of God, not on the help of his allies.
And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.
This mighty man of valour would not usurp God’s place. Never should we be promoted to a place of leadership that belongs only to God. Husband, you’re under God. I’m given a place of authority in my home but only in as much as I’m under God. Pastors, we’re given a position of authority in a church but Christ is the head. We can never usurp authority that belongs only to God.
And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.
Here we see this ephod was made from the spoils of this war. He collected the earrings of the Midianites and the necklaces from around the camel’s necks and he makes this ephod and it becomes an idol and we see here the danger that the spoils of victory can become our greatest defeat. At the point where it seems like the victory has been won, when the goal has been accomplished and then we can relax and then we can make some very poor decisions. We can allow idolatry to creep in, we can turn and worship something other than God. We can be lifted up in our pride and our accomplishments. And really when you think about it, what was he creating as an ephod? The victory. “Here’s the spoils of the victory, look at what we’ve done and we can sit back and bask in the glory of our accomplishment.” And it becomes an idol and we turn from God.
And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives. 31 And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.
If you go on and read chapters number nine and ten, Abimelech kills the other sixty nine sons. Sets himself up as king, lives a wicked life and ultimately results in his own destruction and the destruction of the people in Shechem and a terrible story, based on Gideon’s failure in his family. He had many wives and many sons and then one extra son from a concubine. A man who had a life of such great victory but failed in his family and that taints his legacy. There are others in scripture. David, a man after God’s own heart but when I think of David, I can’t help but think about Bathsheba and when I think about Bathsheba, I can’t help but think of Amnon and Absalom and his legacy is tainted.
I think of a man like Samuel, great man of God. Prophet, judge but then I think about his sons. I think of on the other hand, of someone like Hannah. We know almost nothing about Hannah except that she was Samuel’s mother and we revere a woman like Hannah. She is looked to as a woman of great faith. We think of people like Zechariah and Elizabeth, we know next to nothing about them except that they were chosen to be the parents of John the Baptist. Jesus Christ would say “There is none greater born of women than John the Baptist. The next generation depends on us and my ultimate legacy as a mighty man of valour or as one that led people to stray will often be carried out in the lives of my children.