STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS
Lord, Your strength is made perfect in weakness.
Read JUDGES 7:1–14
Gideon Defeats the Midianites
7 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.
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. Afterward, 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.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Meditate on the words of the apostle Paul: ‘When I am weak, then I am strong.’ (2 Cor 12:10)
Preachers and writers often try to explain why ‘those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps’ (5) are chosen to be Gideon’s final fighting force. Some suggest that the pose adopted by these men when drinking shows that they are alert and ready for any surprise attack from the Midianites. However, the text itself makes no suggestion that we have here a selection test to find the best soldiers – it is simply a continuation of the process of reducing the Israelite numbers begun in verses 2 and 3. Michael Wilcock comments: ‘A small corps of crack troops is exactly what God does not want. The three hundred are meant to be not an elite but a group so inadequate that when the battle is won (God declares) it cannot be a case of Israel’s saying “my own hand has delivered me.” (2, RSV).’ (Wilcock, p71)
The passage emphasizes that it is not Gideon who saves Israel, but the Lord who does this by delivering the Midianites into Gideon’s hands (2,7,9,14). This reiterates the point made in the Introduction to these notes that the judges are not the heroes here. John Goldingay tells of a children’s Bible where the stories are told in verse and Gideon says:
‘For though it seems odd, I’m not the hero: the hero is GOD.’ (Goldingay, p118)
I am convicted that, sometimes, when I tell the story of how I came to faith in Jesus, I seem to place more emphasis on my thoughts and actions in deciding to follow Christ than on what Jesus has done for me. Have you heard (or given) testimonies like that?
How could your testimony be more God-centered? Perhaps you could practice telling it that way.
Lord, fortify us against the modern day Midianites, the enemies of Your gospel. Give to us the anointing to defeat them.
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