I have a soft spot for the story of Gideon. I’m a sucker for a story of someone who’s terrified overcoming their fear to do great things. And when we meet Gideon, that’s exactly what he is: terrified.
To be fair, I absolutely would be too. Gideon, and more importantly all of Israel, are in a tough spot. Once again the Israelites have turned their backs on God and are suffering the consequences. Under attack by the Midianites, Israel’s enemies are dealing them blow after blow and the beleaguered nation has had just about enough. Into this mess, God sends an angel to call Gideon to action, a nervous young man who thinks himself weak and useless.
Now Gideon is best known for the part of his story where he keeps asking God for a sign, but that’s not actually the part that makes me love this story so much. That moment comes later, just before the big battle’s about to begin.
By this point, Gideon is ready to go. He’s done all the work to get himself on board and get his courage up and he’s out for blood. God’s been preparing Gideon, getting him ready and guiding him in what to do.
And then God does something that seems like absolute madness.
“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.’ 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.” (Judges 7:2-3)
It’s surprising, but Gideon obeys. We don’t know how he felt in that moment, but I would imagine it was a bit of a leap of faith. But God isn’t finished with him yet. He pulls Gideon up short and once again tells him that he has too many men. Again and again, he has Gideon send men home until he has just three hundred. Then, and only then, does God tell Gideon they’re ready for the battle to come.
I don't consider myself a military expert, but this doesn’t read like the normal type of battle plan. But God’s intent is clear. No one is going to be able to claim the victory by their own strength. There is now no possible way for anyone to claim that. It’s just impossible. God has seen to it that there won’t be any doubt in anyone’s minds exactly who delivered the Israelites into victory. And sure enough, Gideon’s tiny force wins the day.
Here’s the thing. We may not have an army to send home, but God very often calls us to similar action. Sometimes there are things we lack, not because doesn’t God care to look out for us, but so that there will be no doubt as to who accomplished our victory when it comes. Those seeking to honor God with their lives will find themselves in similar situations to Gideon. This is not a lack of God’s love for us but an enrichment of our own faith in him.
And it will look different from person to person, season to season. For me, this often appears in timing. The areas in my life that God calls me to step out in faith so he can be glorified are so often from a place of timing. My life has a way of getting down to the last second in ways that it seems impossible there will be a good outcome. And somehow or another, at the last possible second, God has shown up in huge ways and delivered me from every situation. People who have been listening to me or watching my situation have no choice but to admit that my deliverance was not my doing.
Now, do I enjoy this? Not a bit. I would so much rather have everything come together in a timely fashion with loads of wiggle room as a cushion. But I’m forced to recognize that to have that I would need to trade in the numerous talks I’ve been able to have with people and share what God just did. I’m not sure that’s a good trade in the long run.
Having faith is rarely easy but always worth it.
That’s just it, if you want to be someone like Gideon, strong in the face of danger, fearless, and faithful then you’re very likely going to find yourself in situations that put those traits to the test. You may not have an army at your disposal, but you will have to be willing to give up the resources you do have to let God do the big work and provide. And provide He will. In ways far beyond your reckoning. And certainly far beyond anything we could do from our own power.
God can do more with just three hundred men than we could ever do with a whole army.
So whatever your three hundred man army is in your life, hold fast. Your odds aren’t as terrible as you might think if God’s the one calling the shots.
Let’s find some joy,