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Gideon Defeats the Midianites

The Bible in Art: Gideon Defeats the Midianites  

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Verses for Consideration: Judges 7:1-8

1 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. 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ 3 Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.'” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out 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.”

5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” 6 Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

7 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 others go home.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.

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“I don’t want any help. I want to do it all by myself,” Johnny said to his father. His father was trying to help him build a birdhouse for a school project, but Johnny did not want to share the glory. He wanted to say, “It was all my doing.”

That can be funny when the subject is a little kid trying to do a project that is over his head. But it is not funny when the subject is a Christian who is trying to do God’s work.

Sadly, Christians sometimes speak that way to God-or at least they keep God at a certain distance so they can have room to work. The pastor is tempted to think his winning ways and powerful sermons are the keys to his congregation’s growth and success. The congregation is proud of its fine building, exceptional programs, prime location, keen understanding of social dynamics, and great leadership.

Not so, God says. Whatever gifts and abilities congregations and pastors have are sacred trusts from him, which the people are to use in gratitude and humility. Once in a while, God steps in, places a task before us, and doesn’t give us any resources to accomplish the task. Then, as we stumble around, he gets the job done. God impresses on us that success comes because of his power and grace.

The nation of Israel often fought against large and well-equipped armies. But in the story of Gideon, God gave Gideon only three hundred men to defeat an army numbering in the tens of thousands. Without drawing a sword, the army of Israel routed the Midianites. The Lord won two battles that day. He conquered the Midianites, of course. But he also conquered the forces of pride and self-reliance that resided in the hearts of his people. On that day the Lord made it clear to his people that the Israelites could not boast that their own strength saved them.

Thank God for the times when resources are small.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me not boast in my own strength but rely completely on you. Amen.

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Title: Gideon Chooses the Three Hundred (1896-1900)

Artist: James Tissot