This morning we continued our whistlestop tour of the Old Testament whizzing through the Books of Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua and Judges. Here were the headings, followed by the story we looked at in detail, Gideon’s Victory over the Midianites from Judges Chapter 7.
1. The spies in Canaan Numbers 13 Deuteronomy 1
2. The people rebel against God and will be punished for 40 years Numbers 14
3. Water from the rock and God’s judgment on Moses Numbers 20
4. The bronze snake Numbers 21 (c.f. John 3:14)
5. Offerings, the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles Numbers 28-29
Joshua (around 1220 BC)
6. God commissions Joshua Joshua 1
7. Crossing the Jordan and the stones of remembrance Joshua 3-4
8. The fall of Jericho Joshua 5:13-6:27
9. The sun stands still in the sky Joshua 10
10. The Land is divided between the Twelve Tribes of Israel
11. Joshua renews the covenant Joshua 23-24
12. Israel takes possession of the rest of the Land Judges 1
13. The Israelites forget God Judges 2-3
14. Ehud the deliverer Judges 3:12-30
15. Deborah the prophet Judges 4-5
16. Gideon the mighty warrior Judges 6-8
Like the Israelites we need to learn to trust in God to act in power in our lives and our church.
A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!’ Judges 7:1-25
How can we be sure that we are serving God in God’s strength and not just in our own human efforts? When it comes to loving other people, or witnessing, or all kinds of other things we do in daily life or in the church, how do we make sure God at work through us, and not just us?
Going in God’s strength
Judges 7:1 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.
Learning to put our trust in God and not in our own strength – relying on God.
Giving the glory to God and not keeping any for ourselves.
God gives the victory
Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. 9 During that night the LORD said to Gideon, ‘Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. 10 If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah 11 and listen to what they are saying. Afterwards, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.’ So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. 12 The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.
13 Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. ‘I had a dream,’ he was saying. ‘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.’
14 His friend responded, ‘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.’
What won the victory was God’s supernatural intervention speaking into the dream even of a Midianite – as to Pharaoh in the time of Joseph, or to Nebuchadnezzar in the time of Daniel, or Pilate’s wife
We have to play our part
15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshipped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, ‘Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.’ 16 Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.
17 ‘Watch me,’ he told them. ‘Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all round the camp blow yours and shout, “For the LORD and for Gideon.” ’
19 Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. 20 The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, ‘A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!’ 21 While each man held his position round the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.
22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah towards Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath.
God gave Gideon the victory over the Midianites But Gideon and his tiny army had to play their parts. God could have defeated the Midianites without Gideon or his army lifting a finger! God could have sent an army of angels and surrounded the Midianites with horses and chariots of fire, as he did when Elisha was trapped by the Arameans in the city of Dothan. But God chose to use Gideon and his 300 warriors. So it was swords “for the Lord AND for Gideon.”
Both us – and God! Learning to trust in God the Holy Spirit working within us.
In his Morning and Evening Devotional, CH Spurgeon wrote this about Judges 7:20.
“If we only cry, “The sword of the Lord!” we shall be guilty of an idle presumption; and if we shout, “The sword of Gideon!” alone, we shall manifest idolatrous reliance on an arm of flesh: we must blend the two in practical harmony, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!” We can do nothing of ourselves, but we can do everything by the help of our God; let us, therefore, in His name determine to go out personally and serve with our flaming torch of holy example, and with our trumpet tones of earnest declaration and testimony, and God shall be with us, and Midian shall be put to confusion, and the Lord of hosts shall reign for ever and ever.”