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Gideon's Victory

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JUDGES 7:14

Examination of Gideon’s call: “Go in this thy might…” [6:14].

§         His circumstances; the discouragement; his inadequacies; his testing of God.

Gideon is now ready for the battle: “Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up…” [7:1].

§         Humanly speaking, victory in such a situation is all about self-belief; preparation is through training and building self-confidence.

§         The attitude is - ‘If we believe we can, we can’; ‘Men, we can do it. We have got what it takes!’

  1. THE PREPARATIONS [7:1-8]

It is evident from the beginning of ch.7 that Gideon finally accepted God’s call to divine service.

1.        Gideon

Gideon was a man who had power with God: “Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon…” [6:34]. He was called: “Jerubbaal…let Baal plead against him, because he has thrown down his altars” [6:32].

§         l[;B;ruy - “Jerubbaal” [7:1], from ribh ‘to strive or to contend’, plus Baal: “let Baal plead against him, because he has thrown down his altar” [6:32].

a.        Gideon’s Army

Gideon had called together a large army: “he blew the trumpet…he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh…” [6:35].

§         The people were willing: “they came up to meet them” [6:35].

§         Gideon had gathered a strong army: “twenty and two thousand…ten thousand” [7:3].  

b.        The Midianites

The Midianites were of a larger number: “the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east…” [6:33].

§         The number of the army:  “fifteen thousand…twenty thousand men” [8:10].

Application.

Gideon will be well aware that, humanly speaking, the task is impossible.

2.        God’s Preparation

The people are “too many” [7:2]. This message/passage arises out of the danger of the people’s smugness: “Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand has saved me” [7:2].

§         raeP't.y - “vaunt” [7:2], hithpael imperfect, ‘to glorify’; ‘to beautify’; ‘to adorn’;

§         yl;[ - “against me” [7:2], literally ‘above me’; “My glory I will not give to another…” [Isa.42:8].

a.        Test of Fearlessness

So Gideon is issued with a command: “Go…Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let them return and depart early…” [7:3].

§         arey - “fearful” [7:3], ‘to fear’; ‘to be afraid’;

§         drex - “afraid” [7:3], ‘to quake’; ‘to tremble’;

§         d['l.GIh - “Gilead” [7:3], ‘to be afraid’;

§         Taken together both phrases equate to: ‘who tremble with fright’.

i.              Fear is Contagious

Fear is contagious: “Let him depart to his own house, so that he might not make his brother’s heart melt like his own heart” [Deu.20:8].

§         bvoy - “return” [7:3], ‘to turn around’; ‘to withdraw’;

§         rPoc.y - “depart” [7:3], rare verb; best to associate with the rPc, “bird”; describes an enemy jumping up from a table in fear; ‘to fly away’.

ii.            Response

The response: “there returned of the people twenty and two thousand…” [7:3].

§         bv'Y - “returned” [7:3], ‘to turn back’; ‘to retire or withdraw’;

§         Wra'v.n - “remained” [7:3], niphal perfect, ‘to be left over’; ‘remnant or remainder’;

b.        Test of Fervency  

The remaining “ten thousand” [7:3] of: “the people are yet too many…” [7:4]. Gideon is to issue another command: “bring them down to the water, and I will try them for thee…” [7:4].

§         WNp,r>c.a - “try” [7:4], used of refining ore by removing the impurities; ‘to smelt’; ‘to refine’; “his mother took two hundred shekels of silver, and gave them to the founder (goldsmith), who made thereof a graven image” [17:4].

§         The quenching of thirst is a necessity of life, and especially in battle: “he shall drink of the brook in the way…” [Psa.110:7].

i.              A Simple Test

Gideon was to watch how the men drank:  

§         Action one:  “every one that laps the water with his tongue…” [7:5]; some would ‘fall flat on their faces’ and ‘forget about everything else’.

§         Action two:  “every one that bows down on his knees…” [7:5]; some would ‘scoop up water with “their hand to their mouth” [7:6].

ii.            A Secret Test

It was a secret test: “I will try them for thee there…” [7:4].

§         Gideon was unaware of what was to happen: “it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee…” [7:4].

§         The people were unaware of what was to happen: “bring them down to the water…” [7:4].

iii.          It Significant Test

It was a significant test: ‘the manner of drinking revealed an attitude to the enemy’.

§         Most of the men – “rest of the people” [7:6] – totalling some nine thousand seven hundred men, had their mind only on drinking. 

§         A small minority – “three hundred men” [7:6] – drank “putting their hand to their mouth” [7:6] because they had a different perspective: ‘they would not take their eyes of the enemy’.

iv.           Result

Lord’s judgement: “by the three hundred men that lapped will I save thee…” [7:7].

§         This handful of men represents the pure gold which Yahweh desires in his service: “I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined…” [Zec.13:9].  

Application.

God is concerned in teaching us trust and not self-reliance: “Hear, O Israel…do not be fainthearted or afraid…for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you” [Deu.20:1-4, 8].

§         God does not call us to believe in ourselves and in our own adequacy

§         Personal smugness - You cannot be ‘too small for God to use’, but ‘you can be too big’.  

§         God usually tests us when we are unaware of it.

  1. THE ENCOURAGEMENT [7:9-15].

With the number of his army reduced to “three hundred men” [7:7], it is understandable that Gideon would be having third thoughts - second thoughts: “if thou wilt save Israel…” [6:36] – and needed to be encouraged by the Lord.

1.        The Mission

The message of God: “The Lord said unto him, Arise, get the down into the host…” [7:9].

a.        Gideon’s Lack of Faith

The message is given due to Gideon’s lack of faith: “if you are afraid to go down, go with Phurah thy servant…” [7:10].

§         arey - “afraid” [7:10], qal participle, ‘to fear’; ‘to be afraid of’;

§         ^r>[;n - “servant” [7:10], normally means ‘young man’, but in military contexts probably refers to a personal attendant, perhaps his armour-bearer.

b.        The Army

The sight of a great army: “all the children of the east lay along the valley like grasshoppers…” [7:12]. 

§         hB,r>a;K - “grasshoppers” [7:12], ‘a kind of locust’;

§         The forces of the enemy blanket the valley like locusts: “And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you” [Joe.2:25].

c.        The Encouragement   

Gideon was to be encouraged through the enemy’s conversation: “thou shalt hear what they say, and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened…” [7:11].

§         T'[.m;v'w - “hear” [7:11], ‘listen to’; ‘receive the report’;

§         hn"q.z:x/T - “strengthened” [7:11], ‘to be strong’; ‘to be courageous’;

§         T'd>r;y - “to go down” [7:11], ‘to descend’; ‘to march down’;

2.        The Message

a.        Parable

They came to the camp and overheard a conversation: “there was a man that told a dream…” [7:13]. The parable provides a picture of outright crushing and destroying.

§         lylic - “cake” [7:13], ‘a pastry’; ‘a griddle cake’;

§         %Peh;t.m - “tumbled” [7:13], ‘to turn or overturn’;

§         hnEx]m;B - “tent” [7:13], ‘the camp’; ‘encampment’; a collective for the entire camp.

§         WhKeY - “smote” [7:13], ‘to strike’; ‘to beat or kill’;

§         lPoYIw - “fell” [7:13], ‘to fall’; ‘to be cast down’; ‘to fail’;

b.        Interpretation

The other man understood the message: “his fellow answered and said, This is nothing…” [7:14].

§         Barley was food very poor people ate. This was a fitting picture of Israel. Midian had seized their wheat and turned Israel into eaters of “barley” [7:13].  

§         The tent was an obvious symbol of the nomadic Midianites:

§         Interpretation: “this is nothing else save the sword of Gideon…” [7:14].

i.              Sovereignty of God

It is obvious from the story that Yahweh is exercising his own sovereign control over these historical events.   

§         God directed the steps of Gideon: “when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream…” [7:13].

§         God planted that dream in the Midianite’s head: “I dreamed a dream…” [7:13].

§         God led the other Midianite to interpret it, even using Gideon’s name: “his fellows answered…” [7:14].

c.        Message

The essence of the message is that it is God who fights the Midianites: “has God delivered Midian…” [7:14].

§         Gideon and his men are just the channels: “unto his hand God has delivered…” [7:14].

§         Response of worship: “he worshipped and returned into the host of Israel…” [7:15].

Application.

Readiness for the battle: “he divided the three hundred men…” [7:16].

§         This passage arises from Gideon’s personal lack of faith.

§         Lesson: ‘victory is gained, not by self-confidence, but by God-confidence.

§         We need to learn the lesson of dependence so that we may move on to the lesson of confidence.

  1. THE BATTLE

1.        The Army  

Gideon: “divided the three hundred men into three companies…” [7:16].

a.        The Armour

Gideon armed the men: “he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers” [7:16].

§         tArp'Av - “trumpet” [7:16], ‘a ram’s horn’; used to call the people to battle: “he blew the trumpet…and the children of Israel went down” [3:27].

§         ~yDIk - “pitchers” [7:16], ‘an empty jar’;

§         ~ydIPil - “lamps” [7:16], ‘a torch’; the torches were hidden inside the jars: “lamps within the pitchers” [7:16].

b.        The Strategy

The people were to keep and eye on Gideon: “look on me and do likewise…” [7:17].

i.              The Cry

The battle cry: “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon” [7:18].

§         hw"hyl – “to the Lord” [7:18],

§         l - “of” [7:18], indicating ‘ownership’ rather than ‘dedication’; ‘belonging to’;

§         !A[d>gIl.W – “and to Gideon” [7:18],

§         This declaration recognises that the battle belonged to Yahweh, the Commander-in-Chief – David before he fights Goliath: “the battle belongs to the Lord” [1Sam.17:47] – and that Gideon was the deputy.

c.        The Battle

The three hundred people followed Gideon’s battle cry:

§         Action 1: “they blew their trumpets…” [7:19].

§         Action 2: “broke the pitchers that were in their hands” [7:19].  

§         Action 3: “they held the lamps in their left hands…” [7:20].  

§         Action 4: “and they cried out…” [7:20].  

i.              The Cry

The actual battle cry: “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” [7:20].

§         War>q.Y - “cried” [7:20], ‘to call out’;

§         br,x - “sword” [7:20], stands for the battle; the irony is that no one on the offensive carried a sword.

§         The only swords were in the hands of their enemies and: “The Lord set every man’s sword against his fellow…” [17:22].

Application

An army and its weapons – open to ridicule by its size and by its armour.

§         Humanly speaking: “whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return…” [7:3].

§         It is not our responsibility to understand how God is going to keep his word.

§         Our weapons: “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare…are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” [2Cor.10:3-4].

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