No matter where the believer goes today, they feel under spiritual assault. Name the venue, and it is a constant barrage of the carnal and ungodly. Whether it be a film, the shore, the mall, or for that matter a walk on the local school grounds, there is a profound spirit of the world in our midst. There is a bombardment to our senses just about everywhere. Is this a recent phenomena, or is this a repeat of civilizations in the past? Is this a normal cycle of history, or is it more intense on our watch at this moment in time?
Jesus Himself dealt with this on a daily basis. It is difficult to find anyone with influence that came to the aid of Jesus in His hour of need. The scriptures show Jesus had a special relationship with Lazarus who had influence with the Romans, but not enough to save Jesus from the cross. Joseph of Arimathea provided a burial site for Jesus, but nothing else is known about him. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, only visited Jesus under the cover of night for fear of what others may think of his stature in the community—the most common hindrance of why the gospel is not preached with authority. It was the “anawim,” or God’s little people who sought Him because they had nowhere else to turn for truth and sustenance.” As St. Paul said, “Not many wise, not many noble inherit the Kingdom of God….” (1 Cor. 1:26-29).
When we feel outnumbered, an inspiring story to read is the story of Gideon, Judges 6-8. It is an entertaining story for adults and children alike. While Gideon was out working in the fields, an angel spoke to him and said he would save the nation of Israel (6:4). Gideon responds humbly and tells God he is from a poor family. At the same time he speaks boldly asking if God was on Israel’s side, where is He now that the Midianites are looking to destroy their land? He asks if God has abandoned his people? God was asking Gideon to lead the people into battle and save Israel.
The first thing the Lord asked Gideon was to overthrow the altar to Baal. Baal historically represents all the false idols of Israel. He does so at night with ten men so no one would know it is him. He is found out the next morning and God’s chosen people are angry that Gideon has destroyed their altar. Gideon is told to build an army. Gideon wants to test the Lord, so he asks for a fleece, not once, but twice.
Gideon had to be sure it was the Lord speaking to him, so he asks for a sheepskin (fleece) to be wet from dew, and the ground dry. The fleece is soaked sending a strong signal grace. Still not satisfied, he asks for something as bold for the next evening. He asks that the fleece be dry, and the ground wet. The Lord gives him the signs he asked for to go into battle.
The issue is now past an intellectual concept of the words of an angel, but is moving to actuality. An inevitable battle is on the horizon and he knows it. He is now satisfied as the signs are so great. As a learned man in the ways of the Lord, Gideon knew the Lord could accomplish what He wanted.
Here is the story for those of us reeling from the weight of the onslaught of our culture. The lesson taught is how the Lord will prevail if He can find someone who will do His will, no matter the circumstances in front of them. Gideon assembled an army of 32,000 men. The Lord told him it was too many, and he had to thin the ranks. Gideon told the men that those who were fearful to go into battle, they could leave with no negative repercussions for their future welfare. God had instructed Gideon to say this as the Lord was making it clear that the battle would be won on His terms. 22,000 decided to go home, and 10,00 remained (7:2).
The Lord then told Gideon that these men should go down to the river, and he should watch his men drink. Of the 10,000 men who went to drink, all but 300 drank unaware of their surroundings and took drink without the wisdom of a warrior, watching for potential peril from the Midianite army of 135,000 around them(8:10). Gideon now had 300 men from the initial 32,000.
The Lord told Gideon to go into the camp of the enemy and listen. Gideon and a servant heard a soldier tell of his dream that a great barley loaf came into the camp and flattened a tent. Another soldier interpreted the dream that Israel would win. Gideon returned excited to tell his men, that the Lord was going to perform a miracle through them. The Lord in His sequential pattern was telling them in advance they would win the battle. The Lord as always deals with us patiently sending us graces if we are adept at listening. Fear prevents us from moving in faith.
Gideon instructed his men to approach the enemy with trumpets, pitchers, and lamps, and they were to make as much noise as possible. The men were told not to engage the enemy and stand their ground. The noise created confusion and fear for the Midianites, and they turned on themselves in battle. Gideon won the battle and returned home to the Hebrew nation a hero. The people wanted to make him king, and he refused, acknowledging it was the Lord who led his people. As a result of the events, the Hebrew nation lived in peace and worshipped the Lord, and not Baal for the next 40 years (8).
The above story is not like many others in scripture that are allegory or metaphor. The story is clear that the Lord wanted to show Gideon and the Hebrew people that He will win the wars if we do as He asks. Obedience is the key to victory in spite of all odds. God used a single man for His glory in spite of such enormous odds and peculiar circumstances. It was the Lord alone who won – not the pride of any man could declare victory.
In the fight for independence from England it was approximately 3% of the people from the young, ill equipped, and financially strapped colonies committed to the birth of a nation. They prevailed through hardship. In the American Civil War it was also approximately 3% committed to the ideals of the north under Lincoln. They prevailed through hardship. The key concepts history shows us is that a small group of COMMITTED people can do amazing things under the banner of the Lord, and what He is asking from us.
The Lord tells us, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” People prefer to pontificate rather than get their hands dirty and join the battle. There are more arm-chair quarterbacks critiquing the game rather than participating. The believer most often is the philosopher at coffee shops and bars rather than actually rolling up their sleeves and out in the field hospital of broken humanity. Few are willing to till that ground, but there are more people giving opinions, than workers toiling in the field of souls in need. It is easier and less costly to let someone else do the work with the faith to go forward. It was the obedience of Gideon that gave him faith to proceed as asked. The Lord will often provide a fleece if the decision is a major one to provide assurances to sustain us. These signal graces embed in our soul to go forward. Jesus said, “They hated me before thy hated you” (John 15:18-25).
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you, is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Jesus, I Trust in You