A Pitcher, a Torch, and the Sword of the Lord
It was a sad time for Israel. They were already living in the Promised Land, but the situation had become almost unbearable as they struggled to survive under the constant onslaughts of their enemies.
Because of the sins of the Israelites who worshipped other gods and idols and did not drive out the perverse and evil heathen from the land, God Himself sent the cruel Midianites and Amalekites against them as a scourge and a punishment for their sins. (Psalm 78:62; Joshua 23:13)
At that time the Midianites swept through the land ruining the crops, “Sparing not a living thing for Israel, neither sheep, nor cattle, nor donkeys.” But finally when Israel cried out to the Lord, God sent them a Prophet who told them the reason for their trouble: “Because you have not obeyed My Voice.” (Joshua 6:10)
The Israelites got desperate and cried out to the Lord for help, God in His everlasting love and mercy sent a helper.—And guess who he was? He was the simple son of a farmer, not some influential, highly educated, esteemed man of renown.
The Angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon while he threshed wheat, saying, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour!” And Gideon answered, “Oh my Lord, if Thou art with us, why then has all this trouble come upon us? And where are all the miracles our fathers told us of?”
Doesn’t this sound like most of us when we’re having problems? “How come, Lord? How come You’re not taking better care of us? Why are You letting these horrible things happen to us?”—when usually it has happened as a result of our own stubbornness and wilfulness and disobedience. Yet we try to blame God instead of ourselves.
But God mercifully tells Gideon, “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the Midianites.”
“But Lord,” Gideon answered, still doubting that God could use him, “how can I save Israel? My family is the poorest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and worse yet, I am the least of all my family.”
But the Lord encouraged him, saying, “Surely I will be with thee and thou shalt smite the Midianites as quickly as one man.”
God wanted Gideon to know, He wanted all Israel to know that He would be with him and He would be their strength. Gideon didn’t have to worry; of course his strength was small, of course he was weak, but God would do it all! And finally Gideon consented to simply obey and do as the Lord asked.
And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet and sent out messengers to rally the men of Israel to do battle against their evil enemies. From all quarters men began to join the ranks until he had a sizeable army of 32,000. The next morning they set out toward the North where the Midianites were camped down in a valley beside the hill of Moreh.
This is when the biggest test of faith began for Gideon. He had raised a strong army and was headed for the enemy camp, but suddenly the Lord spoke to him, “The people with thee are too many for Me to let win this battle, otherwise Israel will boast, saying, ‘Mine own arm hath saved me’.” Gideon must have thought, “What do you mean? It just isn’t logical to cut our forces in the face of such powerful enemies.”
“Announce to the people,” the Lord told Gideon, “anyone who is fearful and afraid, let him return home.” And after Gideon delivered his surprising message, 22,000 men left, over two-thirds of his forces!
But that was only the first test! Next, the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the waters’ edge and I will try them there.” The Lord had another test to further purge the ranks which only He and Gideon knew about.
When the men went to drink beside the water, the Lord told Gideon that every man who knelt down and drank with his mouth in the water should be sent home. But those vigilant soldiers who lifted the water in one hand to drink would be chosen for battle. The men who faithfully kept their eyes open, watching for the enemy at all times, leaving the other hand free to use their weapon, only those were worthy to go with Gideon.
Out of the 10,000 who passed the first test, only 300 men passed the second! That’s right, 31,700 of them never made the grade. Young Gideon’s faith got tested to the maximum. Not only had he lost 99 percent of all the troops he’d gathered, but the armies of the Midianites were thousands and thousands. In fact, “They lay along the valley like grasshoppers for multitude.”
But oddly enough, it seemed that every time Gideon just simply obeyed the Lord, crazy as it appeared, his faith increased and became stronger and stronger! But just to keep him encouraged the Lord had another trick up His sleeve.
By now Gideon had ordered all the 300 men to gather the extra provisions and waterpots and all the trumpets from those men who were sent home, and then they moved to the highlands near the camp of the Midianites who lay sleeping in the valley below. And the Lord said unto Gideon, “If thou art still afraid to attack, go with thy servant Purah down to the enemy camp, and listen to what they say. Afterwards thou shalt be strengthened.”
So when Gideon had come near the camp, he overheard one man who had wakened from a nightmare tell another, “I had this strange dream, and in it a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into our camp hitting our tent. And it knocked it flat!”
Hearing it, the other soldier replied, “This could be nothing else but the sword of Gideon, the Israelite, for into his hand God has delivered the allied forces of Midian!”
Upon hearing this, Gideon worshipped the Lord and was filled with courage! He returned to his men and said, “Arise, for the Lord hath delivered into your hands the armies of Midian.”
And so the Lord told Gideon to give each man a trumpet, a torch, and an empty pitcher. At the right moment the torch was to be lighted and hidden inside the pitcher. Under cover of darkness Gideon placed his men in three companies surrounding the camp of the Midianites. Then in the middle of the night, at a signal from him, each man broke his pitcher, revealing the flaming torch. And every man blew his trumpet, and they shouted at the top of their voices, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!”
And did it work? Well, they made an incredible racket with all those trumpets blowing and all the pitchers breaking, and when those sleeping Midianites awoke and suddenly saw all those lights flashing, they thought the whole World had attacked!
They became so excited in the dark that they began smiting one another and they fled frantically, deserting the camp.
Imagine, only 300 men with nothing but trumpets, pitchers and torches scared the living daylights out of 135,000 men, and it says that after the battle was over 120,000 had been slaughtered! A great victory was won, as great as any in Israel’s history.
When Gideon finally reached the point where he just meekly believed God’s Word and quietly went about his business of obeying Him, then God honoured his puny little band of 300, and the Lord blessed their humble little efforts with a mighty walloping victory over a tremendous enemy in about the most ridiculous battle ever heard of in the annals of history!
Gideon dared to be different, a different approach, a new method, something crazy that God put in his heart!—A new tactic that he’d never tried before, but he believed it would work, and because God was in it, it did!
Gideon went where God wanted him to go–and God went there too! And so did his little band of 300, and they did it because God did it through them.
All through the Bible the Lord miraculously empowered and protected His children who were just weak humans like we are.—And the same miracles of power, protection and judgement that occurred back in Bible times can happen now!
It’s God that wins the battle! It’s obedience that wins the battle. It’s humble faith that wins the battle—regardless of how few you have and how weak you seem to be and how little you’ve got!
Food For Thought
(1) When God’s people become rebellious and disobedient, He often uses the natural means of wars with their enemies, famines and other calamities as a punishment for their sins. (Psalm 106:34-44)
(2) As with Gideon, the son of a humble farmer, God frequently uses weak, seemingly unqualified, uneducated people, who are usually not so proud and are therefore more obedient to Him. (1Corinthians 1:26-31)
(3) Sometimes we are tempted to blame God for our own troubles, when all along it was our own fault that they happened! (Psalm 107:11-20,43)
(4) Whenever you make up your mind to obey, then the Lord supplies you with supernatural power for the job He has given you to do. The moment you, because of faith, obey God, then He gives you the blessing and the spiritual strength to carry on! (Exodus 23:22; James 1:22-25)
(7) As this story brings out, oftentimes the Lord tests us when we don’t even know that we’re being tested. (Jeremiah 17:10)
(8) In the end, the only soldiers chosen by God were the ones who never let their guard down, not even for a moment! They were sober and vigilant, always alert for a sudden enemy attack. (1Peter 5:8)
(9) Obedience comes first, then comes the blessing of the Lord. When you by faith do all you can do, then the Lord honours your faith by doing the part that you can’t do. God blesses obedience. (Isaiah 1:19)
(10) After you have begun to obey, even if you sometimes become discouraged, the Lord will do miracles to encourage your faith! (2Timothy 2:13)
(11) God often does things contrary to our natural reasoning. Who ever heard of fighting a war with trumpets, pitchers and torches! But God’s idea of weapons may be a little different from man’s ideas!
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