Gideon is one of the better known heroes of the Old Testament. In fact, an international organization has been distributing Bibles using his name for well over a century. Chances are good that you have seen one of their free Bibles in a motel nightstand. Gideon was an ordinary man of extraordinary faith. It was this measure of faith that led the Hebrews writer to include Gideon’s name in the Hall of Faith listed in Hebrews 11. Today’s title was extracted from the words which God spoke to Gideon as he prepared to fight the Midianites, a perennial enemy of the Israelites during the Old Testament era.
The army of Gideon originally stood at about thirty-two thousand troops. They were prepared to go against an army of more than four times their size (135,000). When God came to Gideon before the battle, He surveyed the outnumbered army that stood ready to do battle and said, “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, 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.” (Judges 7.2-3 NIV). It would seem that four to one odds are almost overwhelming, but God instructed Gideon to reduce the size of his army; soon the odds were 13.5 to one! God's initial response, “You have too many men...” certainly was not a human response!
Notice the reason God wanted Gideon's army reduced was so Israel could not boast that they had saved themselves from the Midianites by their own strength. This "first cut" reduced the army by two-thirds, but God was not through. He further gave Gideon instruction by which he would further reduce the number of his troops. After the second cut, Gideon's army had been reduced to a mere 300 men. The battle shaped up like this: an army of one hundred and thirty five thousand (135,000) against a rag-tag band of three hundred (300) men. Listed in terms of odds, it was 1 against 450! This was the size that pleased God and which would allow Him to win the victory for Israel so that there could be no mistake as to who was to receive the glory.
The rest of the story is equally intriguing and fantastic as the first part. To cut to the chase, the tiny army of 300 men under God's directions routed the Midianites and gave Gideon a permanent place in the inspired history books. If you want to read the “rest of the story,” you are invited to turn to the 7th chapter of Judges and find out exactly how so small a number was able to decisively defeat such a superior number of soldiers. God left no doubt in the mind of any subsequent reader that the victory was from heaven and not of man!
Come to think of it, this is how God fights the greatest battles of today. He could have used supernatural forces (angels and otherwise) to spread His message and convert the hearts of men, but His way is not our way and His thoughts are not our thoughts (see Isaiah 55.8-9). God chose to use “earthen vessels” or “jars of clay” (see 2 Corinthians 4.7) to spread His gospel message throughout the world. The wisdom of this world is confounded even by the foolishness of God (see 1 Corinthians 1.17-31). Plain, simple word of mouth advertisement was God's way of effectively telling the news that would change the destiny of all who would listen. He did not need modern marketing studies to know that this simple method was THE most effective form of advertisement; He knew it even before there was such a thing as modern marketing!
Too many men are present anytime God does not receive the glory for any and every good work!
1. Why did God want to reduce the size of Gideon's army?
2. What advantage did the army of 300 have over the army of 135,000 against whom they were pitted?
3. Not by counting noses, but just knowing that God was on the side of Gideon's men, what were the odds that Gideon would come away the victor?
4. Who are the earthen vessels into whose hands the gospel was committed? What implications arise out of this for us today and for every generation that follows?
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