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JUDGES 7:1-25
Series:  Heroes of Faith - Part Four

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
July 10, 2005

Please turn with me to Judges 7.  This morning we’re returning to our look at Heroes of Faith.  People - remarkably like us - that God used - often despite themselves - that God has given to us as an example and an inspiration for our own lives.

As you’re turning to Judges 7 - let me put this passage in the context of where it fits in Judges.  Then, as we’ve been doing - we’ll go through the passage - make some observations - and then come back and share two thoughts of application.

As we’ve been looking at the Book of Judges we’ve seen that there are seven cycles of sin and deliverance.  Remember these?  Going through the cycle - first God’s people what?  Sin.  Then God does what?  Allows His people to go through something - invasion - oppression - something to get God’s people to turn back to God.  Then the people would do what?  Cry out to God.  Then God does what?  Sends a deliverer.  Last what?  Peace - life with God the way its suppose to be lived - until God’s people fall into sin again.  Judges 7 is the fourth time through that cycle.

Something else.  As we’ve been looking at these cycles and the judges  -or deliverers - that God has sent - each time through the cycle we’ve learned something important about trusting God.

With Ehud we learned the importance of sizing up our enemies.  When  we feel overwhelmed and we’re tempted to compromise - to submit - to wimp out on our faith - to return to past sins - we need to be reminded that our enemy is a - through the death and resurrection of Jesus - defeated enemy.

With Deborah - Barak - and Jael - we learned the importance of sizing up our circumstances.  Looking at our circumstances from God’s perspective. Our circumstances really don’t have the power and authority over us that we often imagine that they do.

When we began looking at Gideon two Sundays ago - with Gideon - we learned the importance of looking at ourselves from God’s perspective.  We may not see ourselves this way.  But we are God’s valiant warriors.

The bottom line of what we’re seeing through these cycles is that in the face of enemies and circumstances and our own self-doubts - with whatever comes against us - the answer is always to trust God - to return to Him.

Which brings us to Judges 7.  God’s people have again turned away from God.  God sent the Midianites and Amalekites to oppress His people.  And, God’s people - overwhelmed by their enemies and circumstances - they’ve again cried out to God.  God comes to Gideon - a man who - when we’re introduced to him - Gideon is living in fear - hiding in a wine press.  We’ve been seeing God is raise up Gideon - His valiant warrior - to deliver His people.

Judges 7 - starting at verse 1: 
Then Jerubbaal - that is, Gideon - remember that Gideon was given the nickname Jerubbaal because he tore down the altars of Baal back in chapter 6 - Then Jerubbaal - that is, Gideon - and all the people who were with him, rose early and camped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley.  The Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’

Underline that statement in verse 2: 
for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’”   That’s an important idea we need to keep in mind - to help us understand what God wants us to understand here.

God knows its easy for us to take credit for what God does and think that we’re all that.  God’s going to do a God thing.  He’s going to do it in a way so that there’s no mistake or confusion as to Who did it.  Even today - we look back at what God does here and we know,
“God did it.”

Turn to the person next to you and remind them of that,
“God did it.”

Verse 3: 
Now therefore - because I’m going to do a God thing - now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’  So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained.  Then the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there.  Therefore - because God is going to do a God thing - therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”  So he - Gideon - brought the people down to the water.  And the Lord said to Gideon, “You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink.”

Gideon starts off with 32,000 men.  Given the opportunity - 22,000 leave - their just too afraid.  The 10,000 that are left are taken to the river for a drink.  Some kneel on the bank and stick their face in the water and lap like dogs.  Some bend over - cup their hands - and bring the water up to their mouths.

Verse 6: 
Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water.  The Lord said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his home.” 

One suggestion of why God chooses those who cup their hands - bringing the water to their mouths - is that those who cupped their hands were fearful.  While, on one hand, their fear didn’t drive them to leave with the 22,000.  On the other hand, their fear makes them vigilant - watchful.  So they were better suited for the battle.  Only God knows why He made the choice He did.  Maybe the only reason God selected the smaller number - the 300 - is simply because this is God doing a God thing.

Verse 8: 
So the 300 men took the people’s provisions and their trumpets into their hands.  And Gideon sent all the other men of Israel, each to his tent, but retained the 300 men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.

The point line here is that God simply has no clue - as we do - God has no clue how to fight battles.  Say this with me,
“God has no clue how to fight battles.”  He doesn’t do things our way.

Years ago I took painting classes - oil and acrylic paints.  I would prepare the canvas and sketch in the scene to be painted - put in the basic background colors - and then begin to fill in the details.  All under the instruction and watchful eye of the teacher.

Often I’d come to an area where I’d be trying to paint some fine detail - like a section of a mountain or a part of building - and I’d be trying to get the colors right - the shading - the form of the thing.  It would be so frustrating because the more I tried the worse it got.  The colors would start to blend wrong and there was too much paint on the canvas.  The more I tried it became a blobby mess.

After a while of watching my dismal efforts at this the teacher would politely come and softly say something like,
“May I show you what can be done here.”   She’d sit and within about 2 brush strokes - swish swish - the problem was solved.

We could almost hear God saying,
“Well, you could fight this battle with 32,000 men.  But, may I show what can be done here.”  Here we are with all our problems trying to find solutions - making things a blobby mess - and God says, “Well, you could try to solve it like that…”

God has no clue how to fight battles.  He takes Moses and Pharaoh's army out to the Red Sea.  God’s people - who are bunch of slaves with no weapons - are being pursued by the most powerful military force on earth.  And God does this sea parting - chariot destroying - thing.  That’s not how you fight a battle.  (Exodus 14)

God has Joshua and the tribes out wandering around the walls of Jericho.  For six days - once each day - the men of war walk around the city.  On the seventh day it’s a family event.  Seven times around with the kids and the family dog.  Seven times around listening to,
“Are we there yet?”  The seventh time around they get to shout and blow trumpets.  And God does this wall tumbling down thing.  That’s just not right.  (Joshua 6)

Joshua up against the Amorites.  Remember this one?  Joshua is pursuing the Amorites and God nails the Amorites with huge hailstones.  Then the Amorites - decimated by the hail - are thinking if they can just hang on until dark - maybe they can turn this thing around - regroup in the night and fight back.  But the sun won’t go down.  We can just see them checking their sundials.  “Why isn’t the sun setting?”  What does God know about warfare?  (Joshua 10)

The Moabites - Ammonites - and Meunites come with a huge army - come up against Jehoshaphat and Judah.  God’s people are told to trust God.  The strategy is to hold a prayer meeting - a worship service.  While the people are singing and praising God - God turns Judah’s enemies against themselves.  Not one Moabite or Ammonite or Meunite is left.  It takes God’s people three days to haul off the spoils of war. (2 Chronicles 20)

God has no clue how to fight a battle.  Praise God!  God does know how to step into the messes we make and work His perfect solutions - to deliver us.

Verse 9: 
Now the same night it came about that the Lord said to Gideon, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hands.  But if you are afraid to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp, and you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp.”  So he went with Purah his servant - because he was afraid - Gideon - went with Purah his servant down to the outposts of the army that was in the camp.  Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore.

The point here is that God understands our fear.  Say that with me,
“God understands our fear.”

The Midianites and the Amalekites were a loose knit band of marauders - pirates of the desert.  Known for their camels - by camel they could travel swiftly across the desert - descend on people like locusts - stealing - plundering - destroying - devastating whatever lay in their path - and then leave to assimilate the next victim.  For seven years they’ve terrorized God’s people.

At night Gideon stands - high up - overlooking the Jezreel valley.  Below him are the locusts - innumerable - formidable - pirates with camels.  He can see their campfires - hear the noises of their camp rising out of the valley.  Hear behind him the peaceful snoring of 300 men.

Do you think that at that moment Gideon might have wondered if maybe he had misunderstood something? 
“God has no clue.  We are so dead.”

God understands our fear.  Under the cover of darkness God sends Gideon down to the Midianite camp - sends Purah his servant along for support.

Verse 13: 
When Gideon came, behold a man - one of the Midianite sentries - a man was relating a dream to his friend.  And he said, “Behold I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat.”

Barley bread is peasant food - the cheap stuff that only poor people buy because anyone who could afford to pay more - would.  It was the derogatory way the Midianites referred to Israel.  Barley loafs.  Peasants.  Worthless people.  The barley loaf tumbles into the Midianite camp - turning things upside down - flattening the tents.

Verse 14: 
His friend - the other sentry - replied, “This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand.”  When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship.  He returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the camp of Midian into your hands.”

Gideon’s name means “hacker” - “cutter.”  On a night of fear - God shows Gideon how to hack into the Midianite Defense Department mainframe.  This is no coincidence.  God leads Gideon down to this man - one man amidst a multitude - a needle in a haystack.  God leads Gideon to overhear the man share this dream that God has given to him.  Puts Gideon there at the precise moment to overhear the interpretation that God has given to this other man.  Leads Gideon to hear that God is at work preparing the Midianites for destruction.

God leads his fearful valiant warrior down the mountain to size up the enemy - to size up the circumstances from God’s perspective.  To God - the Midianites are already defeated. 
“Gideon.  My valiant warrior.  You need to see this as I see it.  And take courage.”  On a night of fear its news that brings confidence - boldness - courage.  A night to worship and praise God - and rally the troops to witness a God thing.

God understands our fear.  He knows what we need when we’re fearful.

Verse 16:  Gideon -
divided the 300 men into three companies, and he put trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers.  He said to them, “Look at me and do likewise.  And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do.  When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp and say, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’”  Remember that phrase we’ll come back to it.  “For the Lord and for Gideon.”

There’s a Monty Python skit - you all know about Monty Python?  It’s a rather odd British Comedy troop from way back when.  In this skit there’s a group of British soldiers that are being taught defend themselves with fruit - bananas and oranges.  And somebody asks,
“What about using a pointy stick?”

Here are these 300 men.  What must have been going through their minds? 
“Trumpets and pitchers and torches, Oh my!  We’re dead anyway.  Why not?”

Verse 19: 
So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him

Notice this - Gideon divides the 300 men into three groups of 100.  What if the other two groups don’t show up?  32,000 down to 100 against the locusts.  Ever feel alone?  Like the odds are stacked against you?

So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch
- about 10:00 p.m. - bed time for the marauders - and they blew the trumpets and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands.  When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”

Remember that phrase in verse 18? 
“For the Lord and for Gideon.  Suddenly here in verse 20 they’ve got swords.  This is so much like us.  When we begin to see what God is doing - when we get a little past our fears - we think God needs our help - a little embellishment on our parts to get the job done.

Verse 21: 
Each stood in his place around the camp.  To their credit - at least Gideon’s men didn’t go charging into the Midianite camp.  And all the - Midianite - army ran, crying out as they fled.  When they blew 300 trumpets, the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath.  The locusts are killing themselves - and they’re running - fleeing in panic - towards the Jordan river and the safety of the desert beyond.

Verse 23: 
The men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian.  Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against Midian and take the waters before them - cut off their escape route across the Jordon River - as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan.”  So all the men of Ephraim were summoned and they took the waters as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan.  They captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb - probably the two top generals of the Midianites - and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and they killed Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb, while they pursued Midian; and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon from across the Jordon.

In Judges 8 we’re told that 120,000 of these Midianites and Amalekites  died killing each other.  15,000 more died as they were pursued by Israel. (Judges 8:10)  Under the leadership of Gideon - whom God called while Gideon was hiding at a wine press - Zeeb is killed at his wine press - and his head is brought to Gideon as proof of his death.

Its a God thing.  There is no way that Gideon - or Israel - could ever truthfully say,
“We delivered ourselves by our own power.”

Two thoughts of application that I’d like to share with you.

The Importance of Obedience.  Try that with me, “The importance of obedience.”

Like Gideon we need to see what comes against us - we need to see our enemies and circumstances from God’s perspective.  Our enemy is already defeated.  God has stacked the deck in our favor.  We are uniquely called by God to live in His victory.  As someone has said,
“We are doomed to success.”

What is important is not our embellishment,
“A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”  Or taking credit for what God does.  What is important is obedience. Showing up for the battle.  Following instructions.  To be the valiant warriors that God has called us to be in the way that He calls us to participate in His victory.  Don’t’ quit.  Be obedient.

Which brings us to our second though of application: 
The Importance of Trusting God.  Try that together, “The importance of trusting God.”

In Mark - chapter 9 - a father comes to Jesus - brings his son.  The father pours out his heart. 
“Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out.”

Can you see this poor father - the brokenness - the desperation - the overwhelming circumstances.

The son is brought to Jesus.  As soon as the boy sees Jesus the demon throws the boy into a convulsion - the boy falls to the ground and begins rolling around and foaming at the mouth.  Every horrific detail this father poured out is true.

Jesus asks the father,
“How long has this been happening to him?”  The sobering answer, “From childhood.  It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him.”  Can you imagine what that would have been like?  Seeing your child with the burned skin - rescuing him from the water.  Hearing the screams.  Years of watching without ability to do anything or hope for anything different.

The father pleads,
“Jesus, if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”

Jesus said to him,
“If You can???  All things are possible to him who believes.”  Immediately the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”  (Mark 9:16-29)

Have you been there?  Many of us have heard this account of Gideon since before we could read it for ourselves.  We do believe.  But there’s so much more that we don’t believe.

Every time we come up against an adversity - a wounding - a circumstance - a temptation - our belief is stretched - tested.  Maybe this needs to be our prayer this morning,
“God help my unbelief.  Help me to understand that Your promises apply to me as well.  Help me to see my life from Your perspective and to trust only You.”

May we all learn to be obedient.  To show up for the battle trusting God to lead us through in His way to His victory.


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.