The dreaded day has now come for Gideon and his countrymen. Gideon has faced his unbelief, he’s faced his fears, and he’s stood face to face with God. He’s stood up to false gods and their worshippers. Now he must stand in battle against the Midianites. If ever he needs to know that the Lord is with him, it is now. Here’s a simple analysis of a famous and treasured story:
A Stripped-down Army
Too many soldiers will mean too little confidence in God. I’m sure that no one in this army believed that they were anywhere near large enough to face the locust-like Midianite hordes. God did, though, and stripped them down, so that the remaining 300 were less than 1% of the original army. But 300 (v.7)! What was God thinking?! Don’t get distracted by the strange selection process (possibly, the men with cupped hands raised to their mouths were more battle-able, as they were perhaps more alert to danger by not drinking with their faces down to the water). The fact is that God was pleased to send a ridiculously understrength army to win His victory.
A Strange Dream
While the Israelites are having nightmares, a Midianite is having a very strange dream. Remember how the Angel of the Lord met Gideon when he was threshing wheat? Well, now the Midianites will face a rolling barley loaf, smashing their camp into bits. One man has grown to be a warrior, the leader of an army whose real Head is the Lord God of Armies. And do you know what? It was a dream from heaven (vv.13-14).
If the army selection process is strange, and the dream is also strange, then the details of jars and lights and trumpets are not. If you can’t win by brute strength (and 300 brave souls couldn’t), then you must win by stealth and strategy. And by psychology. So Gideon’s strategy is clever, and devastating. In the early hours, with the Midianites in the deepest sleep, Gideon’s army blasts their senses, with sudden light, shouting and the blast of 300 trumpets. The Midianites are confused, terrified, and in sudden flight. It’s a genius strategy, and its deadly (vv.21-25).
This was some victory. It was an amazing triumph by a tiny squadron of soldiers against the local super-power. God took on a mighty army with a weak army and a frightened leader, and made sure of victory. ‘But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him’ (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). He chose the Cross for His Son, the ultimate place of weakness, and transformed it into a victory for all who trust in Him. Today He chooses weak believers to be victors in His strength. Hallelujah! ‘A sword for the Lord, and (if you believe Him) for you!’