Our story is the story of Gideon. It is in the book of Judges. You know, each spring time in Palestine in those days the gypsy-like animal herders known as the Bedouins invaded Palestine from the Armenian desert lands. They brought all their camels and animals into Palestine and as if by magic their tents popped up like spring mushrooms on all the hillsides and valleys.
Gideon's family were mostly farmers. The strife between farmers and herders was so bad that God's people were so oppressed they had to hide to do their farming. The angel under the oak spoke to Gideon. And Gideon probably thought, who is this? JUDGES 6:12-14-- "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior." Now I'm sure Gideon didn't felt like some mighty warrior. He was just a farm boy. Verse 14: "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand!" Well, that was quite an announcement, quite a job description.
Gideon, like Moses, was chosen by heaven to deliver his people. And when God lays His hand on you to do something, you don't say no! Gideon was busy. Notice that God always chooses busy people to do His work! God doesn't go to the couch potatoes. Gideon was threshing wheat. He was no couch potato. James and John were busy mending their nets. Saul was busy searching for his fathers lost flocks. Elisha had been out plowing with 12 yoke of oxen when he was chosen by God! That's 24 oxen! That would have pulled a 12 bottom plow! He was farming big-time.
Thresherman Gideon was not too sure that he could be a five star general. Gideon threw out the fleece. One night it was wet and the ground dry. The next night it was dry and the ground covered with dew. This must be God's will! So he sent out the word and he was able to muster 32,000 men to vanquish the 200,000 invaders. The Midianites were as numerous as flies on a dairy farm. Gideon's situation looked hopeless.
But God told him to go, and when God tells you to go God knows what's best. Often the real problem is not the one that we worry about.
Now God verified that there was a major problem. Judges 7:2 "The Lord said to Gideon, 'You have too many men! Too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands.'" Do numbers count? Well, Gideon thought so. Actually, with God on your side, you are a majority. Don't forget that. You might be just one person, but you with God on your side are going to be successful.
God instructed Gideon to make an announcement to his men. "Anyone who trembles with fear may now go home." 22,000 men deserted him like rats fleeing a sinking ship. Off they went! They were afraid! They were fainthearted. God doesn't want fainthearted people in His work.
Faintheartedness! How many of us would go deer hunting if the deer could shoot back? You wouldn't do it! 22,000 men went home, their heart was not in it. I guess one of the nice things about being a coward is that you seldom get hurt. Someone asked an ex-paratrooper how many jumps he had made. He responded by saying, "None! I was pushed out 18 times!"
Don't be afraid when you step out for God. If God leads you He will also go with you, He will guarantee your success. When Sabbath work problems come up, You stand for what is right. A man who gives in when he is wrong is wise. But a man who gives in when he is right is a coward. God will eventually reward you. God needs courageous people to finish the work. The fear of God makes one a hero; the fear of man makes him a coward. -- ( Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990.)
In Gideon's day 22,000 men took advantage of the fear loophole. God wants people in His work today that are in it with all their heart. Totally, wholeheartedly committed.
Judges 7:4 There was still a problem. "But the lord said to Gideon, 'There are still too many men!" I imagine poor Gideon was about ready to give up. What do you mean I have too many? I've only got 10,000 left. But Gideon was a leader of great faith. He did not question God. Gideon had the ability to step out. Whenever God said to do something, he did it and was rewarded. One of the greatest needs today in our church is for leaders with deep faith in God. In the nursery, in VBS, in Sabbath school, in Pathfinders, in the pulpit. Wherever it is we need people that have faith in God. We need ministers that have faith in God.
God was reducing their numbers so they would know that the victory comes by His power and not their power. God still does that. The next time the numbers of life don't add up, keep your eyes on Jesus and He'll do something.
Notice what God does next. Judges 7:4 "Bring them down to the water and I will sift them there for you..." So here comes the WATER TEST! They're going to be tested with water. There is something you should know to understand this a bit better. Even today military historians celebrate this battle for its strategic brilliance. It was a battle where Water was a central issue. In fact, when you go over here to Look-Out Mountain and you see the Confederama and you see the maps and charts of the Civil War, this is a studied battle. And people have developed charts about this battle of Gideon's. Very interesting strategy going on here. Brilliance on this battlefield. It was where water was the central issue. Not only in the physical, but in the spiritual battle.
First of all these vast hoards of invading, warlike animal herders reduced the Israelites to near prisoners. They didn't have any freedom. They were just holed up there, but they were holed up at the spring of Harod. There was just one area water source. Gideon's men controlled the spring which denied the Midianites and all their thirsty animals access to water. So war was immanent.
Fortunately the supreme commander of the Israelites was God Himself. God was in charge. When you put God in charge of your life you're going to win. We must never forget that God is in charge of our life unless we attempt to fight life's battles without Him.
Just before the battle God again drastically reduced the numbers of fighting men. This time the test was Secret. They didn't know they were being tested. They were all very thirsty, they knew the battle was about to happen, and they wanted a last cool drink before the great fight.
Judges 7:5 "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."
So, there were LAPPERS and there were SCOOPERS! The men came running down to the creek. They expected an immediate attack. Patriarchs and Prophets (EH White) page 549 makes it clear what happened. "A few hastily "took a little water in the hand and sucked it up as they went on, but nearly ALL bowed upon their knees, and LEISURELY drank from the surface of the stream." That's what happened.
You know, God was testing them secretly and often times God does test us in the smallest of things. Sometimes our tests are not very big. But this secret test revealed their heart. You know, God may be testing you. Even today there may be a little piece of the world in our heart that we can't quite give up yet. There may be a little reluctance to give up something that to you may be insignificant, but that God may use as a secret test to reveal your true character. It could be in areas of diet or ornamentation or anything. God is testing you.
Today God is looking for men and women who are true to Him. Who are zealous and anxious to do His will. People who will not be slow in following Him. Judges 7:7 "The Lord said to Gideon, with the 300 men that lapped I will save you..." Who does the saving? God does the saving. Verse 8 - "So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites to their tents..." Go home! So he ended up with 300 men.
At the water test, out of 10,000 men 9,700 failed to pass the examination. What a score. Actually only 1% of the original 30,000 passed the test. God does not need more of us but a better brand of us.
After a nighttime stealth intelligence-gathering trip, Gideon was encouraged. Even tho the invaders were as numerous as a vast plague of Locusts God showed Gideon that the victory was his. After pausing to worship God Gideon walked the four miles back to rally his men. Notice their Organization. When you are few in numbers or in means you have to be organized. He divided the 300 men into 3 companies and gave each man something to hold in his right hand and in his left hand. He gave them a ram's horn to hold in one hand and a water pitcher in the other. Inside each empty pitcher was a burning torch.
Down they came from the heights of the Hill of Moreh. Down like invisible stealth bombers swooping on their unsuspecting sleeping target.
Ezekiel 3:18 God's people should give the warning. Trumpets were used to signal danger. God's true church must sound the alarm. We are living in the last days. Time is short. Each of us must give the alarm a certain sound. Sound the truth loud & long. We need to share Jesus Christ with them.
Let's think about this. There's 200,000 enemy soldiers out here, and here's 300 people and Gideon says to leave their swords and spears and shields there because you're only going to have both hands used on this horn and this pitcher and torch. Therefore, they went out there defenseless. If God did not deliver them, they were dead ducks. They were dead in the water. Either God would act, or they would lose their lives. They were totally dependant on God. And until YOU are totally dependant on God you're not going to be successful. That's a factor I had missed. And what a key factor that is. Otherwise without God they were on a suicide mission. With no weapons, just 300 people, that close to the camp, they had to have great faith.
Judges 7:19-22 (NIV) "Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch (about mid-night), just after they had changed the guard. 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 in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, 'A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!' 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."
So, who gave the victory? The victory was given. I want you to notice: the victory is always given. You don't get victory by human effort. You don't get victory by trying, but by dying, total surrender.
This Midianite Midnight March! I've heard of the million man march. Well, this was different than that. They fled. No less than 120,000 enemy were killed that night (PP553). Three hundred people didn't do all that work. God gave them the victory. Victory comes as a gift from God. Not by human effort but by having the light of Christ burn bright inside our heart. By being a light-bearer! By going out in God's will and knowing that God had sent them there, they were successful. The greatest thing that can happen to people today is to know in your heart that you are doing what God wants you to do.
When I became a minister, I have never, ever, doubted my calling. I had known for sure. This is what God wants me to do. I would not do anything else. I know this is where God wants me to be. And therefore, I can go forth in faith. And I believe that God will bless my efforts. We need to know in our heart that we're doing what is right. If you know that what you're doing is wrong, you don't have God with you. You're going out on your own way. You're one of those three hundred people, maybe, and you're going out there without God: you are going to be killed. So we need to be totally dependant on God. We need to be sure He is our leader and that we're following Him.
Now, today in 1997, we're approaching the year 2000. We're living in the very last moments of time. We are living in a time of tense spiritual warfare. You know that, don't you? The powers of evil are all around us. Hoards of problems invade our life. You look at television, you get on the Internet: There is wickedness being piped into out homes. What are we going to do about that? We need to make sure that in this battle of spiritual warfare that God is leading us, otherwise we are destined to fall. Hoards of problems are invading our homes, our schools, our churches. But when we in faith turn to God, He will provide an answer. There may be times we will seriously question what God is doing. "God, we don't have enough numbers here. Our church budget is in the red. We aren't going to make it! Our check book doesn't balance! We're going under, we're going bankrupt, we're not going to make it!" But if God that is leading you, don't worry about the numbers. God can work with small numbers. You just be totally dependant on Him. If God is our ally, we don't worry about the number of troops. We will have victory.
Let's look at a beautiful, beautiful text. Ephesians 3:20 (NIV) "Now to him (God) that is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us," Jesus Christ wants to be in your heart, He wants to be the light of the world, shining out through you. Will you give your heart to Him this morning? You know, I want to be "Wholly Thine."
Opening Hymn--572 Scripture-- Responsive Reading # 809 Closing Hymn--308--I would be dear Savior wholly Thine
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last updated 2/3/98 by Bob Beckett.