This week at Woodland it was “Game on” with VBS! Our hook for the week involved sports, and we naturally talked about some of the things teams and athletes do to get a competitive advantage—training, exercises, drills; that sort of thing.
Really, though, we weren’t talking about games, but life. And, like this week’s passage from Judges 7 teaches us, we learned that God doesn’t always work through our advantages but through our disadvantages.
Judges 6-8 starts with an apparent problem for Israel: the Midianites have overrun God’s people, and everybody is afraid. The actual problem is that Israel has not obeyed God (6.8-10).
The Angel of the LORD visits Gideon who, out of fear, is threshing grain underground, because he too is afraid. The LORD charges Gideon with delivering God’s people, to which Gideon responds by listing his disadvantages (6.12-16), but then asking for a sign. Two signs are given. One involves the lighting of a sacrifice in Elijah-like fashion, the other is the famous account of the fleece which is first wet then dry. Pretty arbitrary really, but clearly from God.
Does Gideon now believe that having the LORD on his side is a good enough advantage?
Chapter 7 opens with Gideon having raised a decent army—32,000. The Midianites, however, have a much bigger army and are encamped in the Jezreel Valley, probably about four miles to the north of the Israelites.
Gideon receives his “advantage” (:1-8). Here, we get the crucial verse in the account: The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, “My own hand has saved me” (:2).
In other words, Israel, disadvantaged as they are, is still too strong to trust in the LORD. God thins their ranks. Those who are afraid are allowed to leave, and 10,000 remain. Then, all are given an opportunity for a drink, and those who lap up water like a dog are told to stay. Only 300 now remain, and that’s finally looking like an impossible disadvantage.
Gideon recognizes his “advantage” (:9-14). At this juncture, Gideon gets his third sign. He’s told to go down to the enemy camp and listen in to a conversation. In the dark, listening outside a tent, Gideon hears a soldier give an account of a strange dream involving a piece of barley bread (eaten by the lower classes and clearly representing Israel) tumble into the Midianite camp and destroy it. Strange indeed, but the Midianites interpret the dream as an omen and recognize Gideon’s imminent victory. Gideon responds by worshipping God and beginning, finally, to act like a general.
Gideon respons to his advantage (:15-25). Now, Gideon divides his troops, gives each man a trumpet and a torch concealed in a jar, and then leads his small company to surround the enemy camp. At the signal, everybody blows, jars are broken, torches are lifted up, and the Israelites just stand there while the Midianites run around killing one another and then running for their own country. The battle scene ends with Israel pursuing their enemies right out of their land and the heads of the two Midianite generals coming back to Gideon as a couple of souvenirs.
God’s lesson for Gideon was that Gideon’s advantage wasn’t in what he thought, but that his real advantage was in his relationship to Him.
How about us? Where do we have a perceived disadvantage in life? Could it be that some of us grew up without a father or mother, and we now have kids but feel clueless? Or, maybe some of us have adult children who are now making decisions that aren’t good, but we feel like spectators? Or, maybe, some of us are students, and we’re excluded from the group and wondering how this growing up thing is going to work when we feel alone?
This week at VBS our theme verse was 2 Peter 3.1: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life an godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his glory and excellence.
Can you believe it? God is creating a new reality all based in the power of a man who died on a cross. The work of the (apparently) seriously disadvantaged Jesus Christ is God’s way of overturning every other perceived advantage in the universe. And, like Gideon, we sometimes have to endure our apparent disadvantages to learn that God through Jesus is enough! And when we do, we boast in the LORD and not in ourselves.
God wants to meet you in your perceived disadvantage and be enough for you, so that where you are weak He will be strong.
My greatest advantage in this life isn’t where I (often) think but it is in Christ’s work … And God loves a (dis)advantage.
One thought on “Pictures of Faith: Certain Advantage—Judges 7”
Hello to Mr Gideon,
Our reluctant hero, Gideon, is one of my favorites. We will find ourselves in the situation of managing a very disobedient nation of God’s professed people. Ours is a “nation” of only one — myself!
We find ourselves unable comprehend what we must do. We cannot even know what we are suppose to do. We seem to be thrust into a desperate situation and unable to process it or do anything useful about it. There is no one else to advise or guide us out.
Then we say ‘Oh there is GOD!
Oh GOD, I am feeling so alone and helpless! I know YOU want to help me be victorious, but what am I suppose to do? I am your child! Where are YOU? Then comes HIS opening answer via a guy named David in Psalms 27:
“7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious and compassionate to me and answer me.
8 When You said, “Seek My face [in prayer, require My presence as your greatest need],” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I will seek [on the authority of Your word]
12 Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, For false witnesses have come against me;
They breathe out violence.
13 I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.”
Copied from “The Amplified Bible”
Our adversary is not a people like Gideon’s Midianites, but is the specific situation and it’s details that overwhelm. It is unquestionably much, much bigger than I can manage. The next stage may be panic, paralyzing fear, something spiritually and/or physically self-destructive or despair. None of these are intended for a child of our heavenly Father, God. But that is who we are … HIS child in the center of a warfare that we personally may or may not have caused. (—- Oh, by the way, it is not a question of the WHY is this happening or WHO caused it… it is just the ominous reality for us. It was along the path called Gideon’s life in his world. That is our situation too. )
Gideon did not create or even precipitate the disobedience-induced doom facing Israel. It was the accumulated and compounded sin of those all around. We do not know why God chose him to be the leader of God’s planned victory for HIS people, but there he was; the shaking, overwhelmed and unprepared Gideon face to face with GOD on a matter with extreme complexity and unavoidable. Gideon had to choose or reject to do what only he was being called on to do. But … but what … but HOW?
In life, we (like Gideon) find ourselves facing God where there are no other choices than to collapse or step forward and begin to travel on a path we do not want to even think about. We must even ask HIM to show us the path and for the strength and the will to take the FIRST step … to begin the journey we dread. Our human flesh says HE may not do for us what we need or I will falter. Then we must even ask for the Spirit’s assurance that HE will show AND carry us in the way. Our most compelling need must be to let HIM take our hand and lead. We think we must plead for HIM to answer …. then we are made aware that we have not actually asked from our weakness but rather made a demand.
Then I know I must, as HIS child, take that 1st step in HIS power. HE lifts me to exercise the trust made possible by faith given and certified by HIS indwelling Holy Spirit. The hymn, “Leave it There” comes to my heart and reminds me of the provision and promise in HIS Word, “Take your burden to the LORD and leave it there”. Oh so simple when we know and trust the LORD.
There are many more steps along HIS path that continue to equip and strengthen just as we see with with our friend and fellow traveler Gideon. I must learn about my God being glorified in the events that follow, and that others see God’s work rather than me. Also, about driving the bad guys away when they see the LORD’S army on the hills around them. Finally it is about praising HIM in the midst of HIS people. Then comes another hymn…”Walking In Sunlight All of My Journey”.
Jesus it he LIGHT!