Summary: God strips away from Gideon everything he had confidence in so that Gideon will have confidence in God. Learn the basis of humility and how God works it in us.
Last time we saw timid, but stubborn Gideon. He thought he was incapable of obeying God in rescuing Israel from the Midianites. He asked God for several signs - including two different signs with the fleece as a way of proving that God was really going to do what He said.
So now it’s almost as if God is saying: "So you want proof beyond a shadow a doubt, huh?" He brings Gideon and a vast army up, then proceeds to strip Gideon of absolutely anything that could be considered confidence in order to show the only confidence we need is in God.
It’s the second part of God’s dealing with Gideon. First we saw the call to humility in chapter 6. Humility is not the absence of ability. Humility is the absence of pride. Humility is the belief in God over self. Here we see the creation of that humility in Gideon, and lessons for us as we attempt to obey God’s voice. God is going to do a series of things here that are totally counterintuitive to military strategy or even common sense - to prove that He doesn’t need anyone to accomplish His will.
Verses 1 - 3
I wonder if Gideon is thinking - "hold the phone, Lord - of course the people are fearful - we’re going to war after all!" It would be like saying "there’s a chance that you might die so if that makes you frightened then beat feet and get out of here!"
Perhaps he was secretly hoping that great courage had been instilled in the people or something - but it was not the case and two thirds of his fighting force turned and left. What a blow to the flesh!
"All right," Gideon thinks, "I’ve still got ten thousand. We’re outnumbered 135,000 to 10,000 (that’s thirteen to one) but we can do it!" Not so fast.
Verses 4 - 8
Some have suggested that how the 300 bent over, picked up water in their hands and lapped it up with their tongues meant that they were better warriors because they could scan the horizon for enemies instead of getting down low to drink like the others. I suppose too that those that didn’t bend over might be faster at reacting because they weren’t on their knees.
That’s very possible, but I’m not convinced. I think it’s also possible that God didn’t choose the best warriors; He simply knew that 9,700 of them would get down on their knees to drink and He wanted a force of only 300 so that’s how He got them!
No way now could Gideon convince himself that they could be successful. Now God has him right where He wants him.
Verses 9 - 14
One interesting thing we learn from this is that Gideon at this point was truly frightened. God says "if you are afraid, take Purah with you." So Gideon goes down with his servant. It’s okay to be afraid when responding to God’s call on your life. It isn’t a sign of weakness; you are simply acknowledging the reality of the situation. God is working humility into Gideon. He is frightened, but no longer timid, and there is a difference. Timidity says "I can’t and I won’t." Humility says "I can’t but I will if you say so."
So what a creative God we see. Gideon edges into the camp and goes up to a tent and happens to overhear one guy telling another about a dream he had! Dreams are strange things - in this one a cake of barley knocks down a tent - an interesting picture to be sure.
Some suggest that barley represented Israel. Barley was cheap and was all impoverished Israel could afford given the siege by Midian. It also represents the weak and vastly outnumbered army of Gideon. Gideon was a plain barley loaf compared to the incredible richness of strength in the Midieanite army. Interestingly, the word "tumbled" here means "to brandish a sword."
So the interpretation kind of makes sense, but talk about being obvious! As if Gideon wouldn’t get the symbolism of the dream, the other guy interprets it saying that God has given Midian into Gideon’s hands! This is now the fourth time God has said this, and this time Gideon worships God. Finally he is convinced.
Verses 15 - 18
I love how confidence in God rather than self leads us to worship. How much anguish could be avoided if we would hear God’s voice, and obey it, worshipping Him for what He is going to do?
I don’t know if you have ever seen the show "Lost" - but there is a scene from one episode that is very close to this one. In it the victims of the plane crash go into the jungle in search of "The Others." At one point one of "The Others" comes out and tells them to leave or else! Suddenly a bunch of torches light up and the crash people realize they are surrounded and leave.