Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gideon and the 300

I am sure that many of you have seen the movie, The 300, the story of 300 Spartans who defended the pass at Thermopylae against an overwhelming army of Persians in 480 BC. It is based on a historical event and it is considered one of the most remarkable military feats in history. Although the 300 inevitably lost the battle, they allowed the Greek city of Athens to evacuate and be spared from the revenge of the Persians who were defeated by the Athenians at the battle of Marathon. The Persian king, Xerxes (Ahasuerus), who led the Persian army, married Esther after returning from this invasion of Greece.

But I am not focusing on that event, but on another battle recorded in the book of Judges that occurred 700 years or so earlier. It is the story of Gideon and his 300 warriors who defeated an invading army against overwhelming odds. God had called Gideon to raise and lead an army to defeat the Midianites who had invaded Israel. Gideon called on the Israelites to defend their country and 32,000 men showed up. Then God told Gideon to send most of them home.

"The LORD said to Gideon, You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, 'Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.' So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. But the LORD said to Gideon, There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift 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. So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the LORD told him, Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink. Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. The LORD said to Gideon, With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midians into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place." Judges 7:2-7

First, God sent 22,000 home. Then He sent another 10,000 home, leaving only 300. Then those 300 defeated the Midianites in battle. It's a great story, but what lessons can we learn from it?

The first lesson we find in the passage above. If the Israelites had a military advantage, then they could boast of the victory themselves instead of giving God the credit and glory that was due Him. It needed to be obvious that God won the victory.
We must not take credit for the victories that God gives us. How prone we are to say the our faith or works has accomplished some good thing for God. No, it is God Who has done it and we have played a part in it.

Another lesson can derived from this as well. And that is the principle that God does not need everyone to accomplish any particular good work, even as something as big and important as delivering Israel from its oppressors. Now don't get me wrong, God needs all of us to do something for Him. We all have assignments from God. But we all have different assignments. He calls some to do one thing and others to do something else.

But I have noticed something that happens often in the church. Someone deeply cares about some important issue and, perhaps, is called by God to do something about it. They then try to recruit every Christian to fulfill their vision and help them with their ministry. However, not every Christian (or church or ministry) may be called to do that. I have heard time after time, though, that this particular issue is so important and so urgent that everyone needs to pull together to solve this problem. But it is simply not so.

God is the One who solves the problem. It is He who calls whom He wills to do something about it. It is He who gives them the strategy and wisdom and ability to accomplish the task. It is He who gets the glory. He is not going to bless our plan.

Now there are some things that God calls all Christians to do. We are all to pray for those in authority and government. We are to pray for one another. And as we pray about the bad things that we see, God will begin to prepare the way and call some to help Him bring deliverance and change where it is needed.

And God will not just work on one problem, but on all of them. He will call some to one task and others to the rest. He will give the leaders the vision and direction necessary to accomplish the task and He will provide others to help fulfill the vision. Some works will have many workers and some will have a few, but "nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6).

I think that this tendency to recruit everyone to our good cause is the result of our focusing on our meager resources rather than on God and His abundant supply. We focus too much on the problem and not on the solution that God can bring. And we generally would not approach the problem the way that God would. Which one of us would have done what God told Gideon to do? God's ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. So let's do things His way and not our own. Let's get the victory from God and give Him the glory.

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