By Rev. Jeremiah Cheung
Someone said, “Life is like a battlefield.” For the Christian, it is indeed a spiritual battle. Every day, we encounter different kinds of temptations, different kinds of attacks. How do we win against these enemies in life? The story of Gideon and his 300 warriors is our best example. We can learn a very important lesson from Gideon: Obedience – Obedience to God’s Word.
I. Gideon obeyed God’s instruction to reduce the number of his men
Our God is a God who has a sense of humor. Twice, Gideon used the fleece to test God, and twice God tested Gideon. When the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern people joined forces to attack the Israelites, Gideon led 32,000 men to fight them. The Bible does not tell us how many soldiers the allied forces had, but according to verse 12, “…(they) had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.”
Chapter 8:10 records that 120,000 swordsmen had fallen; these 120,000 men were just a small portion of the force that came. We may conclude that the 3 allied nations had at least 300,000 men. 32,000 men against 300,000, that is, one man had to fight against ten. In the olden days, war was fought man to man, and victory was determined by the number of men. It is impossible for 32,000 men to win against 300,000. Yet, twice, God had asked Gideon to lessen his men’s number.
1. 32,000 men reduced to 10,000 men
God told 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…” With only 32,000 men to fight against 300,000, the Lord still said there were too many men. If I were Gideon I would tell the Lord, “You must be mistaken.”
2. 10,000 men reduced to 300 men
However, the Lord told Gideon, “You have too many men … announce now to the people, ?Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.?”
Do you know how these 32,000 came about? When the Midianites came bearing down upon the borders, Gideon summoned men from the whole land, calling those who were not afraid to die, courageous warriors to come; so he had the 32,000 men. We can say therefore that these 32,000 men were brave warriors. And yet, they were being asked to leave? Gideon did not say anything, he obeyed the Lord?s instructions. As a result, 22,000 men left. This is a big blow for them. If 22,000 men suddenly leaves a church with 32,000 men; that is 70% of its people leaves, it would bes frightening. It is very difficult for 32,000 men to fight 300,000 men. Now, it would be 10,000 against 300,000 men; that is, one men against 30, unless everyone of them is like Jet Lee. But Gideon did not say anything, he did as the Lord instructed.
Gideon thought God wanted him to lead 10,000 men to fight against the three allied nations. But then, God told Gideon, “There are still too many men.” Ten thousand men against 300,000 is still too many? One man against 30 men? God said, “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.” As they drank, we see that there were two kinds of men. One laps the water with their tongues like a dog; another kneels down and lapped water with their hands to their mouths.
The Lord told Gideon, “With the 300 men that lapped I will save you and and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.” Three hundred men against 300,000. Now it is one man against 1000. Even if each one of them was a Jet Lee, there is no way they could win the war. If I were Gideon I would ask the Lord, are you playing a joke on me? But Gideon did just as the Lord instructed him. This is the meaning of obedience.
II. Gideon obeyed God’s instructions to enter the enemy camp
That night, the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp.” 32,000 men reduced to only 10,000, and then to only 300. Now the Lord wanted Gideon to go down against the enemy camp. If I were Gideon, I would tell the Lord, “Aren’t you making a mistake?… God, I am only one entering into the camp of 300,000 soldiers. If each one of them hit me only once with their fists, I would be killed. If each one of them spit once at me, I would drown to death. How can I go?”
But the Lord truly had a sense of humor. He told Gideon, “If you are afraid … go down to the camp with your servant Purah.” Gideon did not say any thing and the Bible tells us Gideon went with his servant Purah. Was Gideon afraid or not? Gideon was indeed afraid, he brought his servant Purah with him. This mighty warrior had his moments with fear, but still, he went.
Gideon must have been very afraid as he went down the Midianite camp, how can he not be? But still, he obeyed God and went. But afterwards, he was changed into a totally brave man. He told the 300 men, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” What did Gideon discover when he went down into the Midianite camp? What did he hear? As it turned out, he heard a man telling his dream to a friend and the friend interpreting the dream.
At that time, the Midianite army was settled in the valley, as sand on the seashore. When Gideon and his servant went down, they saw thousands of tents. Among the thousands of tents, he chose one, went close to it. He heard a man saying, “I had a dream. A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.” Do you think this is simply a coincidence? This must certainly have been God’s arrangement. Gideon heard the man’s friend say, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.” These words came from an enemy’s mouth, how can this be? To speak such in the army would entail beheading. This is the crime of undermining the courage of the army.
In verse 11, the Lord told Gideon, “…go down … and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” If we put this statement and what Gideon heard together, we can say with certainty that God strengthened Gideon through the enemy. God encouraged Gideon’s faith and courage through an enemy?s words. When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped God. Do not be afraid, only believe. If God calls you to go, just go, because he will take responsibility over you. Courage is not the absence of fear, but it is moving forward bravely in spite of fear. Sometimes we hear people say, “Do not be afraid, do not worry.” But, weak man that I am, when I face difficulties, my heart fills with fear, I worry, but I trust in God’s mercy and courageously move forward. Today, if you ,like me, are weak and afraid, let us together trust in the Lord and move forward!
III. Gideon obeyed God’s instructions to attack the enemy
Great faith without action is not true faith. When Gideon returned to the Israelite camp, he immediately took action. He called the 300 warriors and told them, “Do exactly as I do.” I felt this was a wonderful statement. Our greatest problem is we can only talk but we do not do the talk. We can say a lot of nice sounding words, but people will not believe us until they see us do it.
When Gideon and his 300 warriors went down the camp, they had torches in their left hand, and trumpets in their right hands. They shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”
They did not have to fight at all, they only shouted, and the result? In verse 22, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The enemy fought each other, Gideon and his men did not have to do anything. Now, we understand why the Lord said that 32,000 were too many, because they didn’t need to fight, the Lord caused the enemy to fight each other. Gideon and his 300 warriors won the battle not because they were better warriors than the enemy but because they obeyed the Lord. They went and won, this the power of action.
The story of Gideon and his 300 warriors helps us learn the importance of obeying God’s Word. We are living in what is called the last days. This is a generation where disobedience to authority is the norm, as a result, we disobey even God’s Word. Just like Isaiah said, “Every one has turned to his own ways.” But this is a path to destruction. Brothers and sisters, turn back, obey God’s Word, follow His Word, this is the secret to a blessed life!