Sermon delivered November 10, 2001 by Pastor Kent Crutcher

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

The Few and the True


Robbie loved science-fiction. You don't have any kids that love science fiction, do you. If it had anything to do with Star Wars, he knew about it. He knew the genealogy of Darth Vadar. Even though it is not true, he knew about it. He loved the hi-tech gadgets and James Bond movies and he could talk for hours about lasers, rockets, and cosmic rays.

His parents, Ted and Rose MacFarlane, were "Christians," but nominal ones at best. They called themselves Christians because they had both gone to Sunday school as children and they thought, "Well, maybe since we went to Sunday school, It would be good for Robbie to go to Sunday school, and maybe that will get his mind off some of these other things that he's into. Sunday morning came and they got Robbie cleaned up a little bit and dressed up a little bit and sent him off to church with their neighbors who had been inviting him for weeks. On his return, they asked him how he liked Sunday school.

"Okay, I guess."

"What did they teach you?" coaxed his mother.

"Well, my Sunday school teacher taught me about this Israeli general. Some of his men were trapped behind enemy lines. The Egyptian army was closing in on them, and it would be only a matter of time before they would be wiped out.

"But the general got there first and had the engineers build a pontoon bridge across the water. Then his soldiers crossed in safety. A plane radioed that the Egyptians were only a few miles away. The general waited until they were crossing the bridge and then signaled for the jets to attack them. They blew up the bridge with rockets, and the general became some kind of hero."

His parents looked at each other in bewilderment. Finally Ted asked, "And what was the name of the general?"

"Moses," Robbie replied.

"Are you sure that is how your Sunday school teacher told the story?" asked his father.

"Well, not exactly," admitted Robbie, "But the way she told it, you would never believe it!"

To many people, the Bible is more unbelievable than a Star Wars movie. God's actions seem to most of us like science fiction. I believe that there are even Christians who feel this way. "That was then. This is now." "That could never happen to me. Those kind of things only happened to them." And have you ever found yourself wondering, "Is God really real. Or is this just something that I've come up with."

So much is so unbelievable to our logical brains. Just as Pastor Gettys preached last week in "The Call of the Small." The fact that God called Gideon before he was "Gideon." Before people around the world for the past few thousand years knew his deeds and talked of him on a first-name basis. Called when he was the weakest link. That doesn't happen. You pick the best of the best. But God chooses the worst of the worst. That would be like me believing that someone in China could mention my name, "Kent," and everyone would know who was being talked about. That's not going to happen. That's impossible! But, as we heard last Sabbath, that is just how God operates. He seems to enjoy doing what we consider to be illogical if not impossible.

Just as illogical as Gideon's call from God was, even more so is what he asked Gideon to do. Turn with me to Judges 7. This would make a good movie. As you remember, Gideon was called to defeat the Midianites. Gideon gave a call to arms, and unknown person giving a call to arms, he was no general, gave a call to arms, he was not even a Levite, he gave a call to arms and thirty two thousand men responded. That was some miracle! Thirty two thousand men answered the horn-call to arms against the Midianites. In Judges 7, we find the Midianites encamped in a large valley and Gideon's army nearby. This chapter can be divided into three important parts: Humility, Prophecy, and Victory.

Let's start with Judges 7:1,2. 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. The Lord said to Gideon, "You have too many men for Me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against Me that her own strength has saved her."

"What?! Is there chaff in my ears from the threshing floor? Did I hear right? Too many men? The Midianites have a hundred thirty five thousand men and I only have thirty two thousand. It's the Midianites who have too many men, Lord!"

Then God reminds Gideon that he has failed to make an important announcement to his troops that was always supposed to be made before they went into battle. An announcement that Gideon had refrained from making due to the small size of his army. Look at Deuteronomy 20:1-4. Here we have God's instructions for going to war. When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say, "Hear, O Israel, today your are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory."

Now, here's the announcement: Deuteronomy 20:5-8 The officers shall say to the army: "Has anyone built a new house and not dedicated it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may dedicate it. Has anyone planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else enjoy it. Has anyone been pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may marry her." Then the officers shall add, "Is any man afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too." Important instructions. If one man loses his cool in battle and can't take it any more and he leaves, other people might say, "Hey, this is worse than I thought" and go with him. So if you're scared, leave now. We can't use you. If your mind is on things back home leave now. We can't use you. It kind of reminds me of what Jesus said, calling some of His disciples. "O let me go back and take care of this and this." "Let this and that take care of themselves. Follow Me."

Judges 7:3. "Announce now to the people, 'Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.'" So twenty two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

Evidently, the vast majority did not like the odds. They had been used to worshiping powerless gods. That's what it will do to you when you worship something other than God. You lose faith in what He can do because it's science fiction. If our minds are spent on so many other things what God can do no longer seems possible. We look at the logical, not the foolishness and the things that God can do. Foolishness in our minds. After responding to the call to arms, reality and logic stepped in. "Um, God? Are you sure that was a good idea? I just lost over I just lost over two thirds of my army."

This would have been a good time for Gideon to stand up for his rights. "How do you expect me to lead an army with no army. You called me to this task, now don't take away my tools." But Gideon obeyed. There can be no success without obedience.

What did he obey? Look at verse 4. But the Lord said to Gideon, "There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them 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." "Okay, Lord." That's why God chooses the inadequate. Because the person who thought he was adequate would argue with God, "Hey, I'm a general. I know better. This is not how a war works." God says, "I know it's not how a war works. It's how I work."

Verses 5-7 So, Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, "Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink." Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

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 other men go, each to his one place." So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites to their tents but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets for the others. Incredible!

The people, having been led to the brook, evidently expected to cross immediately and advance to the camp of the enemy some distance away. A few were eager to begin the engagement, and as they crossed the brook they merely scooped up a little water in their hands and immediately passed forward. Others, fearful of the impending battle and with but little hope in victory, saw here an excuse for tarrying. They knelt down and leisurely drank their fill. Those who hurriedly took a little water in their hand, and sucked it up as the pressed forward toward the camp of their enemy, numbered only three hundred. With these, the Lord promised to bring about the defeat of the Midianites. The sifting served to remove those who were tainted with idolatry, and to single out those who were men of courage and faith. Men whose confidence in God had not been lost. They had the faith to believe that with God on their side success could be theirs even though their number was small.

Three hundred men! Talk about cuts in defense! Three hundred! It reminds me of the saying from the United States Marine Corps: "The Few, The Proud, The Marines." By the way. Today is more than just Veteran's day. Today, November 10, marks the birthday of our Marine Corps. In 1775, two hundred twenty six years ago today, the Continental Congress established the Marines Corps. Happy birthday! Proud to have them. I love their motto: "The Few, the Proud, the Marines." What would have been the motto of Gideon's rag-tag men? "The Few, The Humble, The Faithful." Wow. I want that to be my motto. God needed men of humility and faith to serve Him and that is what he got out of Israel. Three hundred of them.

Proverbs 15:33 says, ...humility comes before honor.

Now that humility was in the camp, God comforted them with something. When I first went through this chapter that something didn't seem all that important. I thought, "We'll just skip that part then I'll go on to the exciting part. Then I looked at it a little more closely. God comforted those soldiers. In this day and age we need some comfort. He comforted them with a tool called, prophecy. Look at verse 9.

Judges 7:9-14. 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. If you are afraid to attack, You know, God knows us. He knew that Gideon, even though he was obeying only had three hundred men and what did it look like to him? He knew that Gideon was afraid. go down to the camp with your servant Purah 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. 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.

Gideon arrive 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 If you read this in the Hebrew, it is like "The tent of the commander." Sort of like the "White House." It struck the general's tent with such a force that the tent overturned and collapsed. Again, the Hebrew says: "turned it wrong-side out."

His friend responded, "This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. Evidently they had spies and knew what was out there. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands."

Why was this man so sure that the barley loaf represented Gideon? Barley bread was the food of the poor. Josephus, who lived in the first century AD adds, "The seed called barley was the vilest sort of seed and the Israelites were known to be the vilest people of Asia." Here's the weak of the weak, the poor of the poor, the vile of the vile. "And He's going to conquer us.

Let's read verse 15. When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped God. I wonder, what would I have done? I'd probably have rushed back, "It's time to attack!" He took time to worship. Sometimes we forget the importance of worship, praising God for what He has done, and praising Him for what He is about to do. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, "Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands."

What confidence he now had because he had prophecy foretelling the end of these events. Now that Gideon's army had humility and prophecy, it was time for victory!

Verses 16-20 Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside. It doesn't say anything about swords. What a crazy army!

Watch me," he told them. "Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. When I and all who are with me blow their trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, "For the Lord and for Gideon."

Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. This would have been sometime between ten and twelve that night. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, "A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!"

No military skill was needed. Just the ability to blow a horn, break a clay pot, wave a torch and give a shout! Pastor Gettys told me that Gideon knew how to use his Audio/Visual Department. It's obvious. The battle belongs to the Lord! This was more of an act of worship than an act of war. Trumpets of ram's horn were blown just as the priests blew around Jericho, and just as the priest blew to call people to worship. The clay pots had to be broken in order for the torches to burn brightly. The clay could represent you and me as it does elsewhere in the Bible. The light of God can only smolder inside of us unless we allow ourselves to be broken and humbled before God. You know, that's what baptism is about. Laying self behind so God can shine through us. Only when we are broken can He shine with brilliance.

What was the result of God's military maneuver?

Verses 21-24. While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.

When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. Israelites from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, "Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Borah."

When God is in charge of the battle, the enemy takes care of themselves. So confused were they that they struck at anything that moved. Can you see the tents being torn apart as they tried to get out among all the ruckus, killing anything around them. Those that ran assumed that those who followed were Gideon's men and the turned and fought their own. The next chapter tells us that the enemy lost a hundred twenty thousand soldiers that night! Do you have any concept of how many that is? I didn't, so I got on the internet. The RCA Super Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana, where the Colts play and where the 1990 General Conference Session was held. That super-dome holds sixty thousand two hundred seventy two people. So God took out two Super Domes of people using 300 men. Less than half the membership of the McDonald Road church. Awesome science fiction! Wow, I love God.

Did you notice more good news? Some of those who had walked away came back to help! He called on them again, "Come back. We need you." If you have been a backslider in the ranks of the Lord's army, it is not to late to rejoin the fight! Victory is at hand and you are needed!

We are much like Israel. Satan has been oppressing God's people for over six thousand years. We are weakened and impoverished. The world is in a tailspin away from God. The population is growing faster than the Gospel is spreading. Yet God has called us to do the illogical and the impossible. Matthew 28:19 and 20 gives us the gospel commission to go to the whole world and tell everybody. It seems more far fetched than Star Wars or any other kind of science-fiction you can think of. More impossible that three hundred against a hundred thirty five thousand. I'm glad because this is going to be good! We get to see God in action like we have never seen or heard of before! Are you ready?

The setup for Gideon's victory is the same as ours. We need to be broken and humble before God, realizing that He chose us because we were the weakest link. We need faith in Him as we move against overwhelming odds.

We have prophecy about the future. If you are unsure about how it will end, pick up your Bible and go to the end of the Book! Lift up the trumpet and loud let it ring, Jesus is coming again! So cheer up ye pilgrims! God is coming back. Victory is ours.

Then, like Gideon's soldiers, we need to let our lights shine while God fights the fight!!

God does not need us. He wants us! Will you be found standing for Him?

Bulletin
Hymn of Praise: #27, Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart
Scripture: Judges 7:19,20
Hymn of Response: #618, Stand Up! Stand Up For Jesus!



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