September 22, 2009

Too Many

How God Brought Victory to Gideon

This is a story of Gideon, one of the Judges of Israel before it had kings. It is an adaptation of the story in the Bible. You can read the original in Judges 7.

The LORD had saved the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt only to have them enslave themselves to sin after they had arrived in the Promised Land. Their neighbors would come and take their food, leaving them nothing to eat. The people cried out to the LORD, who heard them and called upon Gideon, a nobody, to save Israel from their oppressors. Gideon blew his horn, and several tribes gathered to follow him, making a powerful army of 32,000 warriors. We listen now as Gideon receives some unusual military advice:


“Yes, Lord!,” said Gideon.

“Too many warriors!”

“I know it, Lord,” said Gideon, “but I am confident that you will win the victory for us today. There may be hundreds of thousands of them, but I still believe! My hope is in you, I know�”


“you will… Sorry, I was just warming up for some major praise.”

“Gideon, I know you believe, but I was referring to your army. It’s too big.”

“Lord, don’t take this wrong, but we’re outnumbered ten to one at least. Out there, like the sands on the seashore are the Midianites, Amalekites and Kedemites. I don’t know how we can win, but I trust in you and …”

“Gideon, you have too many.”

“Oh, I get it. You were being sarcastic. I’ve heard you have a great sense of humor. Okay, when do we attack?”

“Gideon, you don’t get it. I’m never sarcastic. I never liked sarcasm, and I didn’t create it either. Don’t get me started. Yes, I have a great sense of humor: I made you a general. And you aren’t going to attack.”

“Sorry Lord. It’s kind of hard, you know, I mean one day I’m plowing and the next I’m supposed to lead an army.”

“That’s okay, Gideon. Let me explain it to you. Everybody knows you need a big army to free your people, right?”

“Well, yes…”

“So how come I just used Moses and some plagues to free your people from Egypt? Why didn’t I use an army?”

“Because the people didn’t have swords?”

“No, Gideon, because I wanted them to understand how much they need me. You and your people need to learn faithfulness. And you must understand that you can’t do anything good on your own. So, I do my best work alone, but sometimes I let someone like you or Moses help. Does this make sense to you?”

“No, when do we attack?”

“Look, Gideon, remember when your dad let you help in the fields for the first time?”

“Sure, I couldn’t have been more than four years old, though, but I still remember.”

“Gideon, did your dad really need your help?”

“No, I was no help at all. He just let me try because it meant I could be with him more of the time, I guess.”

“It also helped you mature into a man.”

“So, Lord, you let people help you so they will become better people?”


“So when do we attack?”

“Gideon, you have too many! If you win, the men will get big heads and go drinking and telling war stories for years. Tell some of them to go home.”

“What if they all go?”

“Just tell them to go home if they have any fear. That ought to do it.”

“Okay�” (Gideon spreads the word and about two-thirds of the army leaves. He returns to his tent, rubbing his hands and pacing)

“Alright, we still have ten thousand. God can do it. God can do it.”


“Yes, Lord. Most of the warriors are gone. When do we attack?”

“You don’t. You have too many.”

“Oh no! How can we do with less? It would take a miracle to win with the few we have!”

“You call ten thousand brave Israelites a few? It’s too many. Send some more home.”

“Lord, these guys aren’t going to be happy about this. Remember, these are the ones with no fear!”

“Gideon, I want you to understand that I will take care of everything, and I really don’t need any soldiers at all. Remember Egypt. I’m not in the mood for frogs right now, I’ve something else in mind.”

“Okay, what do I do?”

“Tell them to go get a drink at the water’s edge. Go with them and watch. I’ll let you know which ones to send home.”

So, Gideon passed the word. Imagine ten thousand soldiers getting a drink at the same time. A real mess.

“Gideon, look at that guy. See how he drinks?”

“Yeah, like a cow. He just sticks his head in the water.”

“Right, he isn’t paying attention to anything, just his thirst. I’m going to show you how to spot the best warriors. Look for the ones that get their water but never drop their guard.”

“There’s one, Lord. He’s down on one knee, scooping up the water and drinking from his hand.”

“Go and set him aside, and the others like him. They put their duty before their thirst, and those are the men I can use.”

So Gideon went through the crowd, tapping the men that stayed alert on the shoulder and sending them back to his camp for a meeting. There weren’t many, and he spread the word that the rest could relax, as they would not be needed for the attack. Gideon returned to his tent, and the three hundred men that knew the right way to drink. He was uneasy.

“Lord, I’ve done what you said, but I only have three hundred now.”

“No problem, Gideon. I’ve delivered the enemy into your power. Go for it, but don’t attack them.”

“How? With only three hundred and we can’t attack? How?”

“You’ll figure it out. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Lord? Lord?” (silence)

Gideon was in a fix. The soldiers, all three hundred, were restless, and he had to do something. He figured there was no way an attack made sense with so few anyway, so he would have to get tricky. He assigned torches, big jars and horns (the kind used for signals during battle) to everyone. He had the warriors surround the camp but the torches were kept inside the jars. Since it was night, the soldiers weren’t seen. All of a sudden, they all broke the jars and blew their horns. Of course, the noise was terrifying, with the crashing and blowing and shouting. The enemy soldiers in the camp began shouting and running into each other because they thought they were under attack. Gideon’s men stayed outside the camp where it was safe as the soldiers in the camp began fighting each other in the confusion. All this time horns were blowing and men were shouting. The Midianites, Amalekites and Kedemites began to flee in fear, with Israel pursuing them. Israel won the victory without an attack.

The Lord called to Gideon:


“Yes, Lord.”

“Good job, Gideon.”

“Well, thanks, but you kind of left me on my own, didn’t you? It’s a good thing I thought of that trick.”

“Gideon, who do you think gave you the brain you used to figure out the solution?”

“What’s a brain?”

“It’s what you think with. Don’t worry about it. The point is I gave you everything you have, including your ability to figure things out. Remember how clever your dad was with the folks in the village a while back? It’s all a gift.”

“Sorry, Lord, I got carried away.”

“It’s understandable. People are made so well they sometimes forget how much they need me. Have a good life, Gideon, the people are free and they will be more grateful to you than me. You’ll need more than jars and horns to survive their gratitude.”

The LORD was right, of course. The people wanted to make Gideon king over them, but he refused, saying: “I will not rule over you, the LORD must rule over you.”

The End

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