Daily Devotional

Gideon and the Fearful Army

by Simon Whitton

"2 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,
3 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.
4 But the LORD said to Gideon, "There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them 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 like a dog from those who kneel down to drink."
6 Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. 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 other men go, each to his own place."
Judges 7:2-7(NIV)

The Midianites were camped on Israel's territory and had a force of about 135,000 swordsmen.  The Lord desired to free Israel from the oppression of Midian, but He was concerned that Gideon's army of 32,000 men would think it was their strength that prevailed on the battlefield.  So the Lord came up with a plan that would leave no doubt that He alone was the source of victory.

First, the Lord had Gideon tell any who trembled with fear that they could turn back, and 22,000 men left.  Despite Gideon's considerable army, the men that turned back knew they were greatly outnumbered and visibly feared for their lives.

This left about 10,000 men in Gideon's army, but this many armed men were still an awesome sight to behold.  These men had no outward fear, but that did not necessarily mean that they fully trusted in the Lord.  Many of these men probably believed God would assist them, but were afraid to trust God alone; instead, in their deceptive hearts, they depended on their own strength.

you have eaten the fruit of deception.
Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors,
Hosea 10:13b (NIV)

The Lord told Gideon He would "SIFT" the remaining men. Almost every time this word (orig. Hebrew) is used in the Bible, it's talking about refining and testing, often in reference to men's hearts.  God was no longer looking for the physical outward fear of 'trembling'.  Now it appears He was continuing the same process, but looking deeper, searching men's hearts for those who were afraid to trust Him inwardly.  The Lord brought forth the very purest; refining the army from 10,000 outwardly brave men, to 300 whose courage sprang from their faith in God.

I doubt many of the 300 were elite fighting men, the strongest or fittest; they probably didn't have the best equipment or skills.  These men may have been weak and probably had no confidence in themselves.  But I believe these were the ones who most trusted God in their hearts; and in victory they would credit the Lord's strength.

This is what God is looking for in us.  He's looking for hearts that have the courage to trust Him alone.  The Christian life is not about our abilities, talents and skills, our position of power or our numbers.  It's about hearts of faith that look to the Lord and trust in His power and strength.

Spend some time in prayer, and pray that the Lord would reduce you and remove strength where your confidence is in yourself.  Pray that He would not only remove outward fear, but that He would search your heart and remove hidden fear that keeps you from trusting in Him alone.

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