Summary: To a church which has prided itself on its accumulated resources, but which now faces austerity, God says that if we do not fear but trust Him, we are enough to get Him the victory.
Hands. You have two hands. A right hand and a left hand, two hands. They are the most versatile parts of the human body, the places where our creativity is expressed, the instruments through which we register emotions, the tools we use to earn our daily bread. Hands. What a wonderful gift are our hands.
Hands, you could argue, are the most important of what the soap people call our 2000 body parts. They are in some ways more expressive than our tongues, stronger than our legs, more able to see than our eyes. Our hands are one of the principal things which God has given to make us different from the rest of creation.
Some anthropologists say that the physical difference between humankind and the apes is the opposable thumb. The opposable thumb means that we, unlike other creatures, can touch our thumbs to any other finger and can grasp things. We can handle and maneuver tools with more precision and more skill than any animal, just because of the opposable thumb. God has chosen the human hand as the instrument through which His creativity will be expressed. I am going to argue today that it is also through the human hands that God chooses to express victory, His victory.
Now I’d like your help this morning. I’d like you give me a hand. I want us to get in touch with our hands. So the first thing I’d like you to do is to brainstorm with me about what hands can do. Just call out, won’t you, some of the actions that hands can perform. What do hands do?
Hold Grasp Point Wave Push Pull Caress Hit Play music …
Now let’s go a little beyond this list of actions. What emotions can hands express? How do we use our hands to convey feelings? Tell me and show me. Demonstrate.
Anger -- everybody -- Love Contentment Yearning Frustration Anxiety Resistance Need Sufficiency Boredom Appreciation Prayer Praise
The power of our hands! Our hands express so much of who we really are! I would go so far as to argue that what we do with our hands tells the true story about us. What we do with our hands describes what we really are.
But remember my basic premise: that God will gain a victory for Himself, using our hands.
Now that you are good and aware of your hands, I’m going to read our Scripture text, and I’m going to ask you to use your hands while we do so. Will you turn to the Book of Judges, Chapter 7? This is the story of Gideon and his defeat of the Midianite army.
As I read this story and you follow along, whenever you come to the word hand or hands, just wave one of yours, all right? This will keep you in touch with your hands and their importance; it will also help you see how hands are so prominent in God’s victory. Remember what I said a moment ago: that God is going to use human hands to get His victory.
Judges 7:1-12, 16-22
There was bad news and there was good news. The bad news was that the struggle of the people of Israel to occupy the land of Canaan had come to a critical moment. The Midianites were a fierce tribe who stood in the way. Although there had been many victories since Joshua had first led them into the land of promise, there were yet many miles to travel and many towns to conquer. Midian stood in the way.
That was the bad news. But the good news was that there were plenty of fighters to share the battle. Gideon had earned a reputation as a great warrior, and so, as people will do, wanting to be on the winning side, they poured out of the hills and valleys by the hundreds, enlisting in Israel’s army. Regiments from Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, Naphtali, all trying to get Gideon’s attention.
32,000 of them came out to fight the battle. A vast throng of men and boys, together with their women, their children, their animals, their tents. And when that fine spring morning dawned near the waters of Harod, they were a huge, noisy, smelly, unruly crowd. 32,000 souls who would likely fall all over each other if they were to engage in battle the disciplined armies of Midian, camped five miles away in the valley of Moreh.
What was Gideon to do? Too many people attempting to do too many things. What was Gideon to do? The answer is an astounding one. It doesn’t make sense. And yet it does.
The word of the Lord came to Gideon, telling him to send home those who were fearful and trembling. “The troops with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand. Israel would only take the credit away from me, saying, ‘My own hand has delivered me.’ Now therefore proclaim this in the hearing of the troops, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home.’ Thus Gideon sifted them out; 22,000 returned, and 10,000 remained.”