Hunkered Down Devotion

Judges 7:1-7 (Voice)
7 So then Jerubbaal (Gideon) and all the troops with him rose early, and they camped beside the spring of Harod. The camp of the Midianites was to their north, in the valley below the hill of Moreh.
Eternal One (to Gideon): 2 You have too many warriors for Me to allow you to defeat the Midianites. As it is now, the people of Israel would just deny Me the credit and claim they had won the victory on their own. 3 So go out and tell your army, “Any of you who are afraid and trembling are free to leave Mount Gilead.”
After this announcement, 22,000 left, so Gideon reduced his army to 10,000.
Eternal One: 4 You still have too many warriors. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you. When I say, “This one will fight for you,” he will go with you; but when I say, “This one will not fight for you,” then he will not go.
5 So Gideon led his army down to the water.
Eternal One: All of those who lap water the way a dog drinks, put them to one side. All of those who go down on their knees to drink, put them on the other side.
6 Three hundred of the men lapped up water by raising a hand to their mouths, and all the rest went down on their knees to drink.
Eternal One: 7 I will use these 300 who lapped from their hands to deliver Israel and to give the Midianites into your hand. Send all the rest home.

This passage from Judges is one of the more well-known stories in this book, after all, it even got the ‘Veggie Tales’ treatment several years ago.  It’s a popular story because it is a classic underdog tale: Gideon leads a vastly outnumbered group of Israelite warriors against the mighty Midianite army.  Because of the presence and might of the almighty God, the victory is assured, even despite the odds.

I have heard many sermons preached on this passage, and often the preacher – I have even read some commentaries that have done this – tries to extrapolate some deeper meaning from how God sifts the soldiers that will fight with Gideon from the ones that get sent home.

The first cut is an easy and obvious one – getting rid of those warriors who are afraid, or who are willing to admit that they are afraid makes sense in lots of ways.  There is the practical element of fear likely being a detriment to your abilities, and then the spiritual one as well – fear, on some level here might imply a lack of trust or faith in God.  

Even so, I don’t think process that God has Gideon go through is about sorting out the able fighters from those less skilled.  I don’t think, really, it has anything to do with the soldiers at all.  Instead, I think the whole point – the morale of this story for us – can be summed up in phrase I have heard but cannot attribute: one plus God is a majority.  

God, in his conversation with Gideon actually makes this clear for us: You have too many warriors for Me to allow you to defeat the Midianites. As it is now, the people of Israel would just deny Me the credit and claim they had won the victory on their own.

Even we as Christians often make this mistake, we look to stories like David and Goliath, Daniel and the lion’s den, or this one and we (even though we know and believe in the power and might of God) still see those on the side of God as the underdog.  That is a mistake.  

No matter what it might look like, if you work it out on paper or ‘do the math’, one plus God is a majority.  David wasn’t an underdog because God was with him; Daniel wasn’t in danger because that wasn’t God’s plan for his life; Gideon’s battle was won before it even started because that was the will of God.

Even my slogan still doesn’t give God enough credit.  In reality it isn’t one plus God that equals a majority, it’s just God.  The choice for us is which side we want to be on.

Sharing God’s Love,

Prayer:  Help us, almighty God, to trust in your goodness and your greatness.  Lead us to always be on your side. Amen.

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