PSALM 74:9 NIV We are given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be.
GOD is a master at creating a seemingly impossible situation in order to show HIS own exceeding great power. In pursuit of GOD's purpose, what may look like the most unlikely course may perhaps be the one GOD has chosen. What may look like insurmountable odds may very well be the odds GOD has purposed to over-rule.
GOD has given many examples of this truth in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament). Perhaps none are more vivid than the example of Gideon. Gideon was not an Abraham. He was not a Moses nor was he an Elijah. By his own admission he said of himself, "I am the least in my father's house". Yet, "to confound the wise", GOD chose him to "save Israel from the hand of the Midianites". That was GOD's purpose but that was not Gideon's. We are not given what pursuits Gideon had chosen for his life, but as yet they were not the LORD's.
Gideon wondered why Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites. Like many today, he longed for the "miracles, which our fathers told us of". Like them he concluded "the LORD hath forsaken us" and like the many, he was not personally in pursuit of that deliverance. Not yet anyway. Let's read and learn how the LORD turned Gideon's doubt into faith.
JUDGES 6:11 And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abi-ezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
Gideon's work of threshing the wheat was more difficult than usual because he had to thresh the wheat by the winepress, instead of in the open air, for he had to hide it from the Midianites. They would plunder Israel wherever they could find anything of theirs to plunder.
Because of all his burdens and frustrations, Gideon was not a happy man. It is here and now, at possibly his lowest and most difficult time, that GOD's purpose is made known to him.
JUDGES 6:12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
How interesting! The very first thing the angel says is, "The LORD is with thee". Then why is Gideon in such a dire straight? If the LORD was with him, then why was life so miserable for him? These were surely questions ringing up in Gideon's mind.
Then the angel calls Gideon a "mighty man of valour". These two statements do so much for Gideon's faith. He knew better than any that he was not a mighty man of valor. By his own admission, he was the least in his father's house. The angel's words laid out openly his utter despair. All was truly hopeless, except for those few words; "The LORD is with thee". Now, nothing promised is impossible.
This no doubt caused Gideon to look within himself and realize that, by himself, he was nothing. That realization is the foundation for great strength. By his own abilities he was nothing, but by the LORD he was a "mighty man of valour". As Paul wrote to the Corinthians: When I am weak [in myself] then am I strong [in the LORD].
JUDGES 6:13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, If the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us, and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.
According to popular theology, GOD should here reject Gideon because of his attitude. Many think that man must pull himself up by his own bootstraps to some spiritual plateau where GOD works. It is all the other way. Man must be brought low from his lofty position before he is ready to serve the LORD. Once made to realize his own impotence, man can then rely upon GOD's omnipotence.
JUDGES 6:14-16 And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house. And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
"Surely I will be with thee!" That is the only way we can do work for the LORD. If the LORD be not with us, our work, yea our pursuits are all in vain.
And now we find the key for finding ourselves with HIM:
JUDGES 6:17 And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
Grace! All is from grace. Grace is the principal thing. Get grace; be an object of GOD's grace and see life take on new dimensions. Abraham found grace (GENESIS 18:3). Joseph found grace (GENESIS 39:21). Moses found grace (EXODUS 33:17), and now Gideon finds grace. Without GOD's grace, man is stuck in the mud spinning his wheels and going nowhere. GOD's grace makes it possible for the box to be opened and the "eyes of our understanding to be enlightened".
JUDGES 6:36-40, 7:1 And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou will save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.
And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.
Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.
After all this, Gideon was finally ready. He was persuaded that the Midianites could be defeated, and he and his army of 32,000 were gathered together for a mighty battle.
But the LORD was not ready. HE still had work to do before HIS purpose would be accomplished. HE had said that Gideon would "smite the Midianites as one man" and that is what HE meant.
JUDGES 7:2 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
Scripture teaches that "pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall" (PROVERBS 16:18). It is critical we realize that our accomplishments are the result of GOD's grace upon our lives. Whenever we shake GOD loose and try to live without our hand safe within HIS, we greatly limit ourselves and risk almost certain harm.
JUDGES 7:3-7 Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.
So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shall thou set by himself; likewise everyone that boweth down upon his knees to drink. And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his [own] place.
"Every man unto his place." When we are not ready to pursue HIS place, we are released to pursue our own. "Let them return and depart."
Three hundred men were all that Gideon had left to face an enemy of 135,000. Pretty tough odds. It is understandable that Gideon might have some concerns. The LORD once again encourages him in such a spectacular way only our GOD could arrange.
JUDGES 7:9-22 And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand. But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host: And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host.
Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host. And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.
And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barely bread tumbled into the host of Median, and came into a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Median, and all the host.
And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Median. And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers. And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do. When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands. And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD and of Gideon.
And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled. And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Beth-shittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abel-meholah, unto Tabbath.
What a remarkable record! Gideon and his three hundred men didn't even have to lift a sword against the enemy. GOD had so worked all to one end that HIS exceeding great power might be known.
In pursuit of GOD's purpose we have our every need supplied. It is only in our own pursuits that we find ourselves lacking. It is only in our own pursuits that we are not prepared and find ourselves falling short. Thank GOD for HIS wonderful mercy to always be there when perchance we miss the mark.