Wednesday, January 5, 2011
paring down for a purpose
The LORD said to Gideon, "The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.'"
God does the opposite of what we expect. This battle with the Midianites was intimidating. Yet, Israel was prepared to take them on. Thirty-two thousand men showed up at Gideon's call to arms. That was impressive. But God was not impressed with it. In fact, He wanted fewer volunteers. God wanted the outcome to clearly be divine salvation. And Israel would be tempted to claim a military and not a spiritual victory.
So God pared down the ranks. Gideon made one simple request: Anyone who was fearful could head back home. Two-thirds of his army quit right then. But God still thought that 10,000 were too many. God pared down the troops to an elite force of 300. And that group of 300 were going to take on the innumerable mob of Midianites so large that their encampment filled an entire valley.
God got the outcome He purposes. Those 300 men defeated the Midianites using nothing but torches and shouts. God clearly delivered Israel. Gideon just obediently and faithfully followed this unorthodox battle strategy because God had helped him to learn trust. And what looked like a certain suicide mission became a walloping of the enemy!
I wonder how Church Growth gurus preach this passage. It does not fit the American sensibility of the franchised box church of 3,000+ members. We always think bigger is better, that bigger gets the job done and is the measure of success. Could we be forgetting that the measure of success is really faith in God? That is the big lesson from Gideon's story. He faltered in trusting God from the beginning, and God led him the opposite way so that eventually all that Gideon could do was recklessly trust God in a plan that seemed irrational from human standards. That is where the victory is found... with God... letting him pare down our pride so that we are left with Him. He is all we need for success and joy!
- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13