32,000 men of Israel responded to the call to fight for their nation. Their enemies numbered 135,000. Israel was outnumbered by far, but God was still concerned that if Israel won the battle, they would take the credit and the glory, so He thinned out the ranks.
His first way of sifting the soldiers was to ask all those who were afraid – to go home. Fear is very contagious. 22,000 soldiers went home and 10,000 remained, but in God’s eyes, it was still too many.
The second way of sifting out the soldiers was to test the way they drank water. The distinction between the two classifications of water drinkers is a bit difficult to interpret but Josephus the historian believed the 300 men who passed the test were less watchful, which would bring even MORE glory to God when Israel was victorious. 9,700 soldiers were eliminated so that now it was 300 Israelites fighting 135,000 Midianites! It sounds crazy, but when God is on our side, the enemy is always outnumbered.
Again, God encourages Gideon by allowing him to hear a dream in the Midianite camp of his impending victory.
Judges 7:13–14 (NKJV) “And when Gideon had come, there was a man telling a dream to his companion. He said, ‘I have had a dream: To my surprise, a loaf of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian; it came to a tent and struck it so that it fell and overturned, and the tent collapsed.” 14 Then his companion answered and said, “This is nothing else but the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel! Into his hand God has delivered Midian and the whole camp.”
We don’t need to hear dreams necessarily, we have God’s Word revealing that we are victors and even more than conquerers through Christ who loves us (Romans 8:37). The Midianite dream was of barley bread crushing their camp. Barley bread was the poor man’s bread – the Midianites were largely nomads living in tents. God was about to crush the enemies of Israel. The revelation of this dream would be a faith-builder to Gideon.
I’ve always been fascinated by the battle plan – the way God brought about the victory. The leaders and then the soldiers were to blow the trumpet, break the clay pitcher, and let the light (torch) shine, that was inside the pitcher. The declaration was, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon.”
This is symbolic of what happens when we are broken of our own ways, our own wills – we also are jars of clay, earthen vessels. Paul the Apostle put it this way:
2 Corinthians 4:7 (NKJV) “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
The Treasure is Jesus, the light is the Lord, and as we’re fully surrendered and broken before God, Jesus will shine through us and the gospel will go out. This is how we defeat the enemy, and that’s what happened to the Midianites as they fought each other and were defeated by God.
During the battle, some joined, some complained, some refused to help the soldiers, but Gideon dealt with each situation wisely – truly he had been transformed into a “Mighty man of valor,” (Judges 6:12) a man of heroic courage. For this reason it was called the “Sword of the LORD and of Gideon.” God doesn’t need us, but He chooses to use those who are willing to follow Him into the battle – even the ones against all “odds.”
Jesus returned from Herod to Pilate, who caved and crumbled under the pressure of the crowd. Pilate knew full well that Jesus had done nothing deserving of death, but he made the final decision to crucify Him and delivered Him to their will (Luke 23:25). Pontius Pilate ended up condemning an innocent man, releasing a guilty man, and making friends with a wicked man (Luke 23:12) all in a day’s work. So much for Roman justice.
As Jesus is on His way to Calvary, having been beaten to a pulp by the Jewish guards and Roman soldiers; He’d been scourged and crowned with thorns, pain and blood everywhere, the ladies see Him and weep, but Jesus’ concern is not for Himself, it’s for them and the suffering they would endure. We’ll see as we go through this chapter that this act of love (Romans 5:8) is one wherein God thought only of others, His bride, the people He would save. This is the heart of Christ! Not at all interested in a sliver of sympathy, only, and solely, constantly consumed, with the welfare of others!
And there they crucified Him, driving the nails into His hands and feet, lifting Him up for all to see – God-Most-High, humiliated as He hung on the cross. His heart was all about forgiveness, wasn’t it?
Luke 23:34 (NKJV) “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’”
I’m inspired by Jesus who immediately asks for the forgiveness of those who crucified Him. Shouldn’t we do the same? (Ephesians 4:32)
They were constantly tempting Him to save Himself (Luke 23:35, 37, 39). “If You are the Christ, if You are the King of the Jews.” The elders, the soldiers, the criminals, and yet if He had chosen to save Himself, He would not have been able to save us. One of the thieves crucified next to Him eventually saw the love of the Lord in the way that He died; He asked Jesus to remember Him when He came into His Kingdom, and right there in that moment of time, the thief was saved. How simple, salvation, how simple the Gospel, O the power of Jesus’ blood – able to save the worst sinner…a man who may have lived a king LIFE of sin – saved in an instant, a moment of time. What a wonderful promise! “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise!” (Luke 23:43; John 14:3).
The fact that the LORD reigns should make all His people rejoice. We read in Psalm 97:2 that righteousness and justice are the foundations of His throne. God will defeat all of His enemies; His glory is seen in the things He has made. Why would anyone serve any other god? There is no other god!
Whenever we put anyone or anything before the Lord, we are guilty of idolatry and evil. May we return to that place of rejoicing only in the Lord our God – with passionate praise!
Psalm 97:10 (NKJV) “You who love the LORD, hate evil!”
We must not hate the sinner, but we must hate the sin.
Psalm 98 is an enthusiastic Psalm reminding us to sing afresh, to shout joyfully, to make some noise with our voice accompanied by instruments – why?
God has done marvelous things (Psalm 98:1). His right hand and holy arm (Jesus) have brought salvation to us (Psalm 98:1-2). He has been faithful and His witness is everywhere, across the world (Psalm 98:3). Not only that – He is coming soon to judge…all the evil in this world. We can praise God now, knowing that one day, justice will prevail!
V. 7 – Don’t stick around and listen to or be influenced by the fool, and it’s usually a good idea not to argue with them.
Charles Bridges said, “Some may be called to dispute with him. But take care that the call is clear.”
V. 8 – The NLT puts it this way, “The prudent understand where they are going, but fools deceive themselves.”
It’s always good to pray and think things through, where am I spiritually, where am I going in life? (Adam – where are you?) When we have those thoughts and conversations, let’s be sure to talk truth, lest we believe our own lies.
If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.