The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands.”
From Our “Here”…
Think about Gideon. Not the civic-minded guy who leaves a Bible in your hotel room, but the Old Testament weekend warrior in the Book of Judges who famously defeated hordes of Midianites “like swarms of locusts” (Judges 6:5) with a band of just 300 soldiers.
It’s an amazing story and, like many other examples in the Bible, it’s tempting to look at the resulting victory without considering what was required to get there. Particularly, in regard to that final count of 300 men.
When you read Judges 6-8, you discover that 32,000 Israelites responded to Gideon’s call to arms. Gideon issued that muster because God expressly told him to do so. But then God gave Gideon a divine directive that appears to be completely at odds with Gideon’s original mission.
“You’ve got too many men,” God told Gideon. “If you win the battle, you’ll think your victory is due to your own strength.”
So God commanded Gideon to issue an open invitation to his men — anyone frightened about the upcoming battle with 135,000 Midianites could just go home, no questions asked.
Some 22,000 of Gideon’s soldiers accepted the invitation.
If the remaining 10,000 soldiers were irritated about the desertions, they probably took heart in the fact that frightened troops are more of a liability than an asset. Yet, God next told Gideon there would be a final selection process that God himself would oversee. And when it was done, God told Gideon to send home 9,700 soldiers.
Imagine how it felt to stand in front of those men and tell them they were no longer needed. However far they had journeyed, regardless of the sacrifices they had made and the risks they were willing to take, they could please pack up and head home, thank you very much.
…To God’s “There”
Gideon was forced to act counterintuitively, but the scriptural record is clear — Gideon was obeying God the entire time. As hard as it is to understand, God made His demands of Gideon for the welfare of Gideon and his men. God then gave Gideon’s tiny band complete victory.
The dangers of human pride and its resulting false confidence always outweigh any potential embarrassment and ridicule for obeying God. God wants His people to trust Him personally and directly. A derivative trust in the resources He gives is not enough. Focused faith is the only option. Anything else is fraught with terrible risk — even when success seems within reach.
Missionaries face a seeming mountain of resource needs as they prepare to serve overseas. But, again and again, they discover God’s faithfulness to be unwavering. Eventually, they are in place and in ministry and reaping a harvest. The key to continued effective ministry? A priority focus on God rather than on their support base back home.
Making the Leap
If God is asking you to do more with less today, take heart. When Gideon swallowed his pride and clung to his faith, odds of 450 to 1 didn’t matter. Wherever God may lead you, even to the ends of the earth, He wants you to keep your eyes on Him and Him alone.