God's Solution is the Only Solution – Judges 7:1-25
One of the great principles in using the Old Testament is that often the principles that we see in the New Testament that are explained in the epistles as more mechanics, more exhortations and commandments, mandates, for the spiritual life we see displayed worked out in flesh and blood. We look at people who are not dissimilar from us and we recognize that as James says of Elijah, "they are men like us," they have the same problems, they have the same sin nature, they have the same struggles that we do and as we look at them we gain a greater perspective, I think, of how God works in our own lives and of the depths of His grace.
I want to begin this morning by looking at two passages in the New Testament. The first is in Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." The word here translated "faith," when we see this in the English we often take it as meaning trust, the active sense of believing. But there are two nuances to the concept of faith; there is the idea of faith in the sense of believing and there is the objective sense of that which is believed, or what we call doctrine. Sometimes it's a pregnant use, by that I mean a full use or a plenary use of the word where you can't emphasize one over the other, both are present. You have the active outworking of trust but it is not an empty trust, it is not a faith in faith, it's not a faith in experience, it's not a faith in mysticism, it is a faith in doctrine that has been revealed. And that is true here; you can translate it to get the nuance, "Now doctrine is the assurance of things hoped for," but it's not just the abstract doctrine, it is "the trust in doctrine is the assurance of things hoped for."
In our society we're often taught that faith is something that is subjective, faith is something that is personal, faith is just what you believe and it's an opinion, it's something less than knowledge. Unfortunately this has been contributed to by evangelicals in the Christian church. We come out of a…someday I'm going to write a pamphlet on what is a Bible church because most people don't know what a Bible church is, many of us who come to some place like Preston City Bible Church don't know what our history is, we don't know the background, we don't know the trends, the influences, we don't know the theologies that have gone before. None of us are starting from scratch when it comes to studying the Bible; we're standing on the shoulders of great men who have gone before and although at times there are those we listen to today who seem to have tremendous power in the Word and tremendous insight, maybe they're only standing two inches above the shoulders of the person who taught them and it is the person who taught them who had the tremendous insights and the person who taught them that has given the ability to go just an inch or two further in developing our own understanding of the Scriptures.
So we stand in the stream of a tradition; sometimes we call it fundamentalism and I don't like that word so much any more because it's used of extremists; that's not its historical usage in the Christian church, it referred to the five fundamentals of the faith that were set forth in the early part of the 20th century in contrast to liberalism which was teaching that the Word of God was a human invention and there were no miracles and there was no virgin birth and Jesus wouldn't come back and he was just a man. And the five fundamentals of the faith affirm that the Bible was the infallible Word of God, that Jesus Christ was undiminished deity and true humanity united together in one person, that He was born of the virgin Mary, that miracles were performed in the life of Christ, there was actual healing that took place, blind men could see, the lame walked, lepers were healed, and that Jesus Christ would indeed return bodily to the earth at what is called the Second Coming. Those were the fundamentals of the faith. Unfortunately extremists and legalists have carried certain things beyond that, but we stand in that stream.
It's also called evangelicalism but the term "evangelical" is a much broader term. In fact, there are many called evangelicals that really all they have in common is two things; they believe the Bible is the Word of God, whatever that means, and they believe that they need to communicate their faith to those who are lost; that's about it. There are many disagreements; I'm a member of the Evangelical Theological Society which is a collection of scholars and academicians and pastors that are concerned about more scholarly things and the only thing we have to agree to to be a member of the ETS is that we believe the Bible is the Word of God. And there are some polarities within that group, from charismatics and Pentecostals to dispensationalists, to hyper-Calvinists, hyper-Armenians, so it's quite interesting when that group gets together every year, but that's what the term "evangelical" means.
As you go back earlier in time, back into the 18th century and 17th century we have our roots in a movement called pietism, we have our roots in Calvinism, all of the early dispensationalists, by the way, were Presbyterians, Congregationalists and fairly strong Calvinists to one degree or another. People like Darby, people like Scofield, people like James Hall Brooks who is a Presbyterian pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in St. Louis who was Scofield's pastor, taught him dispensationalism, Lewis Sperry Chafer was an ordained Southern Presbyterian, all of these men have come from different traditions that have influenced us. But there are two traditions that have influenced us negatively; one is the pietistic emphasis that came out of the Moravians and others in the 17th century, they were missionaries and the reason they developed was in contrast to the fact that in the Anglican Church and in the Lutheran Church and Calvinism at that time, the people had grown very creedal. In other words, all that mattered was that you affirm some creed and there was no real application of doctrine, no real emphasis on the fact that there needed to be a personal faith and trust in Christ as Savior so that the churches had become very cold and very dead.
So the pietistic movement was a reaction to that and they tended to go too far in the other extreme, emphasizing personal experience with Jesus. So it began to bring in a very subtle form of mysticism. This subtle form of mysticism developed again in the middle to late 1800s in what came to be known as the holiness movement, and the Keswick movement, Keswick conferences were spiritual life conferences that began in England and were imported to the United States; major speakers in both those were groups were people like Dwight Moody and Scofield, in some cases Chafer as well, although Chafer rejected Keswick theology. Those were the influences and there's this subjectivism that came with that, a mysticism that somehow everything is reduced to our personal experience and how it impacts us emotionally, how it makes us feel.
We see it exemplified in a hymn which in a lot of ways is good, we don't sing it here and we never will while I'm here, He Lives; I used to love to sing that song, I mean, it's got a great truth to it and that is that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead but in the chorus it says, "He lives, He lives, you ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart." See, it bases the ultimate knowledge of the resurrection on the fact that I've had an experience and that's what runs through holiness theology and charismatic theology, and the ecumenical side of both of those that have developed in the 20th century, is that all matters is that we have this experience with Jesus in common. And then we can all relish in that and it doesn't really matter what the doctrinal distinctions might be because we've all had this experience. And then that experience begins to be muddied. One of the great songs is Jesus Loves Me; we think of that as a children's song but there's great doctrine there. "Jesus loves me, this I know," why? Because "the Bible tells me so." You see, that's why we know that Jesus rose from the dead is because the Bible tells us so. We don't know anything about Jesus, we don't know anything about His life, we don't know anything about what He taught, we don't know anything about His miracles, we don't know anything about His credentials, we don't know anything about the undiminished deity, true humanity in Jesus Christ apart from what the Bible tells us.
If we didn't have the Bible we wouldn't know anything about Jesus. We wouldn't understand Christology, we wouldn't understand pneumatology, we wouldn't understand theology proper, we wouldn't understand salvation, we wouldn't understand our depravity, we wouldn't understand anything; it's not experience. If we're going to say that we know the resurrection is true because He lives within my heart then frankly we ought to all go be Mormons. If any of you have dealt with a Mormon missionary one of the things that they will tell you is that the reason they know Mormonism is true is because they've had what they call the burning in the bosom. I know it's true, it's here, there's not an objective verifiable reality to it; there's no way you can look for empirical confirmation of its veracity. In fact, what you do find in history is that the whole concept that Jesus appeared over in the western hemisphere and led a bunch of Indians, who were the lost tribes of Israel to salvation, and gave them another revelation is totally absurd; it's not supported by any archeology, it's not supported by any history or any evidence whatsoever, so it's a faith in faith, it's not a faith that is rational and confirmable and verifiable on the basis of historical evidence. Notice I didn't say "proved," verified, confirmed on the basis… and that's what Christianity is, it's not proved by empirical data, it is confirmed, it is supported, it is validated on the basis of empirical data but it is not proved. It rests on the veracity of God and not on empirical data. And that is a kind of knowledge.
See, we're not told in our society that faith is knowledge. Faith is something subjective, it's faith in faith, it's personal opinion. But faith in the Scripture is knowledge, it's certainty, it's conviction. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that heaven exists and that my access to heaven is dependent upon the finished and completed spiritual substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross and I do not derive that from rationalism, I do not derive that from empiricism, I know that because the Bible tells me so, and that's truth, and I know it. And my knowledge of that is just as certain as my knowledge that it is cold outside, and I experienced that empirically this morning; and my knowledge that there is a clear sky outside and I verified that empirically with my eye sight this morning. But the knowledge that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins is just as certain and our faith in the Scriptures and the principles of doctrine is just as certain a knowledge as any other type of knowledge, because if words have meaning and a collection of words together in a sentence conveys propositions that can be validated or invalidated, then when we go to the Scripture and properly understand it we know that the truth that we derive from it is absolute Truth with a capital "T" and we can't get away from it and that knowledge is just as certain and just as powerful, in fact, it is more powerful because it's the source of our true freedom from the bondage of sin and so that knowledge is in fact more certain than what I see, what I feel, what I experience.
When the Word of God becomes more real to us, what God says about life becomes more real to us than our experiences, than our emotions, than our circumstances, that's when we are trusting God and too often we are so distracted by our emotions and by our experiences and when those become a basis for Christianity, which they have in so many different churches then when the storms of life come we fall apart. We don't understand the basic mechanics of the faith rest drill. The faith rest drill begins with understanding that the Scripture is the Word of God and we believe it with every ounce of our being and we trust it solely. It is exemplified in Peter's walking on the water; when he has his focus on Christ he walks on the water but when he focuses on his empirical data and realizes he's on the water and he's walking all of a sudden he begins to sink. But when God is more real to him and the reality of Jesus Christ and His power is more real to Peter than the fact that he's on top of the water on the Sea of Galilee, then he is walking on the water. So that is one evidence of what faith is.
Now Hebrews 11:1 says that faith, or "faith in doctrine is the assurance of things hoped form, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the men of old gained approval," referring to Old Testament heroes. And then it goes on through an entire catalogue of references to these Old Testament heroes who demonstrated this, and each of these clauses begins with the phrase "by faith," by means of trusting doctrine we understand certain things.  "By means of trusting doctrine Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain," we can skip down and we can read through the various heroes but when we come down to verse 32 we see a summary statement related to the men of Judges, "What more shall I say?" having detailed Abraham, Moses and many others, the writer of Hebrews gives us a summary. "What more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah; of David and Samuel and the prophets,  who by faith," by means of trusting doctrine, "conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,  quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight." Now those last three clauses specifically apply to Gideon and the episode with the Midianites.
This battle that we are about to study in Judges 7 is one of the most significant battles in the ancient world. There are two battles that are recorded during this period; this is the first, the battle against the Midianites who are never again mentioned. In fact it becomes proverbial and Isaiah refers to it in terms of a promise to the Jews, when Sennacherib's army has invaded, the Assyrians have invaded the southern kingdom and they've destroyed Lachish and they're on the way to Jerusalem and God prophecies, gives a message of comfort to Hezekiah through Isaiah that just as the Midianites were totally destroyed by Gideon, so I will destroy the armies of the Assyrian. So it became a proverb of a tremendous military. The second, which is beyond our scope, is when Saul destroys the Amalekites in 1 Samuel. That ended their reign, and see what we have here in Judges 6 is a Midianite-Amalekite coalition. And the Midianites and the Amalekites together were apparently a scourge, a strong military force in the ancient world that continually threatened the peace of the region, sounds rather modern when you think about the Palestinians.
In fact, that's really a myth, there are no Palestinians, by the way. The term was coined by a Roman Caesar back in the 2nd century after the fall of Jerusalem because he didn't want to give any identity or validity to any claims for Israel, for the Jews to go back to the land so he renamed it and the term Palestine goes back to Philistine; it never was the land of the Philistines, it's the land of the Jews. In fact the term "Palestinian" was used to refer to Jews up until the middle part of this century, so if you lived 50 years ago and somebody talked about a Palestinian, talked about a Palestinian regiment in the British army it was a regiment made up of 100% Jews. So the whole concept that there is a Palestinian people or a Palestinian land or a traditional Palestinian land is a myth that most modern nations and most people have bought into but it is totally fraudulent. But that's all beside the point, what we see going on today with the Palestinians and the Arab coalitions against Israel is no different from what was taking place in the Old Testament.
Our first New Testament passage was Hebrews 11 and the second one I want to look at is in 2 Corinthians 12:7, the context of Paul's prayer to be delivered from this thorn in the flesh demon from Satan. Verse 7 identifies the problem, "And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations," because of all the knowledge that was given to Paul, there was an easy temptation to arrogance, we can understand that, "for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh," now we don't know what that was, I think it's defined in context in verse 10, his weaknesses, his distresses, persecutions, with difficulties that he faced in his ministry "was given to me a thorn in the flesh," and this is defined further as, "a messenger" and the Greek word there is aggelos, which is the same word for angel, "an angel from Satan" is typically called a demon, so this was probably demon influenced opposition to Paul's ministry. In his own ministry he had an intensified and doubly intensified angelic conflict.
2 Corinthians 12:8 says, "Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me," which is legitimate because it's not illegitimate to ask God for something to which He will say no, because we don't know that He will say no until we ask Him for it, and there are times when people have prayed in the Old Testament for God to remove certain opposition and God granted it. So three is not only precedent for Paul making this prayer, it's legitimate but once he got the message no he needed to relax and rest upon that.
But the principle is given in 2 Corinthians 12:9, God "said to me, 'My race is sufficient for you," see Paul needed to come to a better understanding of grace and grace orientation which means that God supplies everything we need to handle any and every situation. He doesn't necessarily take it away from us. See God did not remove the thorn in the flesh, He didn't diminish it. In 1 Corinthians 10 we're told that there is no temptation, that should be translated "testing that has taken you, but such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but will make a way for you to escape, that you may be able to bear it." See it's not an escape clause meaning that I'm going to get out from under the situation; it's an escape clause that allows us to live in the midst of the pressure cooker but relax. The picture of that from the Old Testament is the three Jewish boys who sat there in the fiery furnace totally relaxed with a temperature of about 1500 degrees Fahrenheit and the Lord Jesus Christ who is the fourth person who appears with them in the fiery furnace is with them and they're just relaxed and having a great conversation, talking about the Word and God's plan for their life and there's absolutely no concern whatsoever for the pressure that's going on around them.
That is what this pictures, "My grace is sufficient for you," we need to learn to relax and rest in God's power, that God's ways are not our ways, God's thoughts are not our thoughts, God's plans are not our plans, God's plans aren't our plans, God's agenda is not our agenda, and what we learn here is that when the Scripture says "My grace is sufficient for you, for power," that is God's omnipotence, "is brought to completion," "perfected" is teleiow again, a word we run into over and over again, it means to bring something to completion, to fulfill it, to bring maturity, "for my power is brought to maturity in the believer in weakness," God is in the business of dealing with us in terms of our human weakness and he wants to emphasize our inability in order to demonstrate that everything is on the basis of His ability. You see, that's part of the angelic conflict. In the angelic conflict Satan rebelled as a creature claiming he had the ability to run everything, he had the ability to govern the cosmos, he had the ability to be God. And what God is demonstrating in the angelic conflict is creaturely inability, that we can't do anything apart from radical dependence upon God and this is the exact thing that God is teaching Gideon.
So let's turn and see how God is using this in Gideon's life. We saw in Judges 6 that Gideon still had to have his faith rest drill mechanics expanded. He had had the angel of the Lord appear to him and give him a promise. The faith rest drill begins with mixing faith with promises. Once again I want to encourage you that you need to be reading your Bibles on a regular basis, underlining promises, making note cards, getting out a 3 x 5 card, writing it down, taping it on the dashboard of your car or inside your glasses or wherever you need to put it in order to be reminded of that. If we're going to begin exercising the faith rest drill we have to know promises. When we're out there in the trenches and all of a sudden we're out in the world and adversity hits and we're assaulted, the only thing that we can utilize at that time is what's in our soul and if we don't have the Word in our soul, it is the Word of God that is alive and powerful, it is the Word of God that is truth, it is the truth of the Word of God, doctrine, that sets us free. We need to start by mixing faith with the promises of God; if there aren't any promises there we can't go anywhere.
So Gideon has to learn that and that's the focus of Judges 6; he starts off with a promise and then God gives him a minor test to put the faith rest drill, the principles into practice, which means a little doctrinal orientation and he has to apply that by tearing down the altar to Baal in his own household. His father, Joash, had a major Baal temple located right in the backyard and the principle here is that doctrine is not something that's just academically learned, it has to be experientially applied. And that's what doctrinal orientation is, it's aligning our thinking and our life with what God says and it is an outgrowth of the faith rest drill in many ways. So what happens here is that Gideon has to learn doctrinal orientation and there's an element of fear there and we see that he's afraid to do it during the daytime, in Judges 6:27, he was too afraid of his father's household and the others, so he did it on his own, but he survived and he understood something about the grace of God.
And this is what we have studied in the past in terms of understanding the foundation for the spiritual life in terms of spiritual skills. These are spiritual techniques we practice again and again. It starts with confession and obviously there is a recognition of sin and it is very likely that the sacrifice that Gideon brings to the altar is a sin offering and there is confession of sin. Now in the Church Age we have the filling of the Holy Spirit and we are commanded to walk by means of the Holy Spirit but they did not have that dynamic in the Old Testament related to spiritual growth. Now that's important. In the New Testament we're told that fruit or production if from the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit did not produce spiritual growth in the Old Testament. The ministry of God the Holy Spirit was limited to just a very few Old Testament believers; Gideon is one of them but he doesn't receive the enduement of the Holy Spirit until verse 34, after he has already gone through some initial testing by God. And see, the purpose and the function of his being told by God to tear down the altar is because he has to function on the faith rest drill, he has to function on doctrinal orientation, which begins to build capacity for the spiritual life and God is not going to use us, He will not use us beyond our capacity. So before God can get Gideon squared away for the attack and the assault on the Midianites in Judges 7 He has to build into him some spiritual growth and some capacity before he can be used in his ministry function.
The third spiritual skill we work on in spiritual emphases is the faith rest drill which is followed by grace orientation and doctrinal orientation and this is the foundation that we work on. All the other skills, all of the other stress busters that are built on top of this are expansions of the basic concepts in the faith rest drill, grace orientation, grace orientation emphasizes humility, it's all of God, it's nothing of me, grace orientation emphasizes the teachability, because we are humble and teachable under the grace concept and because we understand the grace principle of learning doctrine through the grace learning spiral, then we advance to doctrinal orientation, we being to learn doctrine and as we learn doctrine we begin to learn about all the assets that God gives us and who we are in Christ and where we are headed in terms of our future role. As Joseph Dillow calls it, as servant kings, our future role is to rule and reign with Jesus Christ as the administrative bureaucracy over the earth and over the universe and as we come to grips with that we understand that we're basically in boot camp right now until we're absent from the body and face to face with the Lord, and we're in training for our eventual destiny in the millennial kingdom and in eternity.
And this is where we go through a major growth shift in terms of maturity because we are in spiritual adolescence. See, most adolescence don't think beyond this afternoon or tonight and what happens is their thinking and their decision making is all in terms of what's going to happen to me today, how is this going to make me feel right now. Then all of a sudden as you get older, and we've all experienced this, we begin to think in terms of how is this going to impact my life later on until we get to that day, as a friend of mine who just recently turned 50, he said that's not the shock, the shock is getting the application to AARP. So we suddenly begin to realize we have to make decisions in light of tomorrow, in light of provisions for our families, in light of retirement, in light of how are we going to live when we're in our 60s, 70s and 80s and how are we going to be taken care of in case there's some debilitating illness. So all of a sudden we start thinking not in terms of today and tomorrow but in terms of the future. That's maturity. That's comparable to our personal sense of our eternal destiny.
Then as a result of that, one thing that's wiped out is arrogance. Arrogance is wiped out at that stage because before that you're self-absorbed, it's all thinking in terms of me, what's going to happen to me, what's God's plan for my life so that I can be happy and healthy and successful and all of a sudden when we get a personal sense of our eternal destiny we begin to lose sight of being so self-absorbed we focus on others and we begin to understand what real love is; that real love is not emotion, it's not sentimentality, it's not feeling a certain way about God or about people but it's related to living a life for His purposes and not my purposes, which is personal love for God.
See, everybody wants to run around talking about oh how I love Jesus, and oh how I love God and wasn't it good to be in church this morning, but they don't understand the first thing about love. One of the things that has impressed me so much the more and more I go through both 1 John and the upper room discourse in John 13-17 is love for God is demonstrated by obedience today. Jesus says over and over again, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." Obedience to the mandates and principles of doctrine in the New Testament are the barometer of the believer's spiritual love for God. Personal love for God is evidenced by His application of doctrine, that God is now the number one priority and obedience to doctrine flows from that. This develops an understanding of what it means to truly love other people. Jesus said we are to love one another as He loved us.
Well, we can't really understand what it means to love someone else if you don't understand the basics of soteriology, if you don't understand the dynamics of the spiritual substitutionary work of Christ on the cross; we don't have a comprehension of what He suffered when He was on the cross between 12 noon and 3:00 p.m. that afternoon and all that He went through for us. Jesus said "love one another as I have loved you." If we don't understand the comparison, the analogy of how He loved us, then how in the world can we know whether or not we love anybody else? We may have certain feelings about them and that may make us feel good but don't confuse that with what the Bible talks about love. Then we get to the point where we live a life that is focused on Jesus Christ. He is the author and finisher of our faith and we focus on Him, and I call this the love triplex because they all relate to developing our capacity for Biblical love. And the ultimate result of that is we have real joy, we have stability, we have tranquility, we have real happiness in the midst of the most devastating situations and consequences.
Well, that takes us up into those advanced levels but the basic foundational levels of the stress busters are where Gideon is. Gideon has developed some capacity for faith rest drill, he understands God has made him a promise to give him a victory and he's learned some things about grace, that it's dependent upon God and not upon himself but he hasn't really advanced in his grace understanding yet and he's going to in Judges 7.
So let's start with Judges 7:1, "Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon)" now last time we looked at the term Jerubbaal and it is usually translated as a jussive, "let Baal contend for himself" and it relates back to Gideon's episode with tearing down the Baalim and Asherah and the hostility of the neighbors and Joash came out and according to the text he renames his son, although there's a strong contention, strong argument that Jerubbaal was his original name, and Gideon is one that was attached to him, and there's a certain amount of sarcasm and irony going on here, because everywhere else in the Old Testament Gideon is referred to he's referred to by the name Jerubbaal, and where that word, about half the time it's changed to Jeru-bosheth, bosheth is the Hebrew word for shame, and whenever you have a Baal cognomen in a Hebrew name it is frequently changed to bosheth because this is a sign of shame that the person has this name. So when you look at a number of technical factors related to the name it's not really a positive thing; it sounds to us when we read it at first glance that what Joash is saying is look, if Baal really exists then he'd come down and he would handle it so since he didn't do anything you guys just go home. What's he's really saying is look, Baal is going to take care of things, it's a slam on Gideon's relationship to God and it is a foreshadowing of what eventually happens because Gideon will lead the nation back into idolatry and the moment he dies they go right back into Baal worship so Baal seems to be victorious. So you have to understand the Hebrew there to get at the very subtle nuances of the writer.
"Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon)," the only other place outside of these chapters where he's called Gideon is in Hebrews 11, "and all the people who were with him, rose early and camped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley." Now Gideon has raised an army, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him back in Judges 6:34 and he blew a trumpet and various tribes, these are the less significant tribes, by the way, this isn't Judah; these aren't some of the stronger groups. There's an emphasis there that these are the smaller, less powerful believers who respond: Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali. He's got 32,000; now there's about 135,000 Midianites down in the valley. So 32,000 against 150,000, you've got odds of 5 to 1 and those aren't really good and Gideon's faith is being stretched but he doesn't know what's going to happen. God appears to him and says Gideon, you've just got way too many people here, you've got to many weapons and you've got too many men and you don't need all these men. Of course what God is saying is the victory is Mine, it's not dependent upon your power, it's not dependent upon your strength or training. Of course these are all rookies going up against battle-hardened warriors and swordsmen. So God says the first thing we want to do is we want to cull the ranks a little bit.
So Judges 7:2, "The LORD said to Gideon, The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, 'My own power has delivered me.'" They're not ready spiritually, they don't have the capacity yet so if they go into battle they're going to claim that it's their own ability. God continues, verse 3, "Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, 'Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.'" This is a principle in Deuteronomy 20 for the warfare in Israel, so let's turn back to see how God has outlined the principles for warfare in Israel.
Deuteronomy 20:1, "When you go out to battle against your enemies and you see horses and chariots," and of course the Midianites had domesticated the camel, they had quite a fast cavalry corps there through the use of camels, "When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numeroud than you," I'd say 5 to 1 is more numerous, "do not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt is with you." Now notice God's rationale here. God is saying you have empirical confirmation that I can deliver you, there's no power greater than Me. That means believer, that there's nothing in your life God can't handle. You may think it's overpowering, you may think it's difficult, you may think it's depressing and distasteful, but God is more powerful than anything. We have the empirical data to demonstrate it.
Deuteronomy 20:2, "Now it shall come about that when you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people.  And he shall say to them, 'Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today.'" In other words believer, you're getting ready to face a problem, what kind of stress busters are you going to use? It says,  "Do not be faint-hearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them,  for the LORD your God is the One who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you." The first principle is don't be fainthearted. Well, Gideon has approximately 22,000 fearful fainthearted believers who don't know how to use the faith rest drill, don't trust doctrine and God does not use believers who don't trust Him, who don't have an ability to apply doctrine, who are not willing to rely exclusively upon Him to accomplish His purposes. So he's going to get in there and cull that.
Now there's an application here for the spiritual life and that is that as we are born again, regenerated, come into the spiritual life, our mentality is filled with all kinds of pagan concepts and the principle of the spiritual life is to cull those spiritual concepts out of our thinking and that's by analogy what Gideon is doing. Before God can use him he has to get rid of the human viewpoint methodology people. See, God is only going to operate on those who not only have divine viewpoint but have divine viewpoint methodology in place. See, there's a lot of Christians out there who want to do God's plan but they are doing it with human viewpoint methodology. So God is going to get rid of those who don't want to trust Him exclusively.
The principle in Deuteronomy 20:4, "For it is the LORD your God who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to save you.  The officers also shall speak to the people, saying, Who is the man that has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him depart and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it.  And who is the man that has planted a vineyard and has not begun to use its fruit? Let him depart and return to his house," these were legitimate reasons. God was saying if there's something that might distract you then you need to leave the battlefield and that is a principle for us as well that we need to make sure that we are not distracted from our spiritual battle, our spiritual growth.
Let's go back to Judges 7. So Gideon gives them an option, gives them an out, anybody afraid, go home. It's no problem, it's not difficult, it's legitimate based on Deuteronomy 20. "So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained." Now instead of 5 to 1 the odds improve; it's now 15 to 1. Well, Gideon, I'm sure, with 10,000 against 150,000, Gideon is probably beginning to question the wisdom and veracity of God at this point. He looks around at his untried rookies, 10,000 men who hadn't even made it through boot camp yet, and remember, the Midianites and Amalekites probably had iron age weapons and the Jews don't, they're out there with their… [tape turns]
…whatever they have to fight the enemy, bronze swords, maybe one or two of them and wooden spears. So the Lord says to Gideon go out and start training the troops? No, He says the people are still way too many here. We just have too many people here and I don't want anybody to get the idea that somehow they were able to succeed in solving their problems apart from exclusive radical dependence upon Me. See, that's the principle here. God wants to make it clear that there's not success based on something else. This is why, and I always sound radical when I say this, that I am not in favor of people going to ten step programs, whether it's to Alcoholics Anonymous or Gamblers Anonymous, I think Alcoholics Anonymous only has around a 15% or 17% success rate anyway, or any of these other programs, psychology, whatever it might be, to try to solve the problems in their life. You see, if you go out and you solve your problem apart from 100% radical exclusive dependence upon Bible doctrine, then you have something to brag about. And the point is that any success that we have in life is only due to exclusive dependence upon God, that God is the One who gives the victory, not us. "The battle is the Lord's," it's not ours. So we have to learn not only the divine viewpoint of doctrine but the divine viewpoint methodology for handling the problem. So God wants to make this clear and so he says let's have one more little test here, He says "take them down to the water and I will test them for you there."
Judges 7:4 "Then the LORD said to Gideon, 'The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. Therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, 'This one shall go with you,' he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go.  So he" that is Gideon, "brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink."
Now what's going on here is that they're thirsty, it's a dry land and they come down to the water and there are those who are thirsty and they fall down on the knees and they just bury their heads in the water and they're just slurping up and then there are those who come along with a warrior's mentality, with their focus on the job at hand, scanning the horizon for the enemy and they will stop and scoop the water up with their hand and throw it into their mouth but their focus is on the watchfulness; their priority is on God's plan, they understand why they're there, they understand what the priority is and it's demonstrated by their actions. And so God says okay, now we're going to get rid of the people who still don't understand what the plan and priority is here, and that this is My plan and My priority and not your agenda. So that leaves Gideon with only 300 men. [6, "Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water."]
That really looks good, now the odds are 450 to 1. Now God is ready to go into battle. Judges 7:7, "The LORD said to Gideon, I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his home.  So the 300 men took the people's provisions and their trumpets into their hands. And Gideon sent all the other men of Israel, each to his tent, but retained the 300 men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley." Notice Gideon has the high ground; that's a key military principle; the person who has the high ground has the advantage. Here we have a topographical map of Israel, Midian is over here to the east of the Jordan River and the Midianite-Amalekite coalition has come across here up into the valley of Jezreel; this is an enormous valley that goes from the Jordan almost to the Mediterranean, the only thing that blocks it is Mount Carmel, located right here. This is an enormous expanse of valley; just to the southeast of Mount Carmel is a Tel called the Tel of Megiddo, the city of Megiddo or Har-Megiddo which comes into the New Testament by the infamous name, Armageddon, and this is the valley where the battle of Armageddon will take place. Here's another map giving a detail of the valley of Jezreel. Here is the hill of Moreh and down here is where the Midianites are encamped. So what happens is that the troops of Gideon come to the spring of Harod here, this is where he culls the troops, and then he attacks the Midianites. They're camped out on the other side of the hill of Moreh, down in the valley and they're surrounded on three sides by this hill. So he has 300 troops at his disposal and he's going to be given a very interesting strategy by the Lord, but before the Lord gives him the strategy the Lord realizes that Gideon has to have his faith strengthened a little bit.
So we're told in Judges 7:9, "Now the same night it came about that the LORD said to him, Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hands." Here we have a perfect tense which is called a prophetic perfect in the Hebrew and it means that the giving of victory has already been accomplished in the counsel of God and it is not to be doubted, and I have already done this, it's already accomplished, it's already in your bank account but you need to go down and get a little confirmation because Gideon is having third thoughts. Gideon is like we are; we trust God and then we want to take it back and then we trust Him again and then we want to take it back, and we just sort of grow in fits and starts. Gideon is not a man of tremendous unrealistic faith in God. We see that he tested God with the fleece, which was just another way of trying to avoid responsibility and he's still concerned about this whole situation. So the Lord comes down, notice how God continually meets us where we are. That's grace. This is a lesson for parents. It's important for parents to be strong disciplinarians with their kids but it's also important for you to understand who your kids are and their weaknesses and deal with them in terms of those weaknesses and not in terms of some autonomous absolute that you've generated out of thin air. See, that's how we think God deals with us. God knows our weaknesses, He knows our sinfulness and He deals with us on the basis of who we are and where we are and not on the basis of what we should be and where we should be. So He comes down and He's going to give a little extra confirmation to Gideon.
Judges 7:10, "But if you are afraid to go down," by yourself that is, "go with Purah your servant down to the camp,  and you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp. So he went with Purah his servant down to the outposts of the army that was in the camp." Now we're told a little bit about the enemy.
Judges 7:12, "Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts;" locusts is often a term used for a destructive, destroying, invading army throughout the Old Testament, "they are as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore." We have a little hyperbole here, we find out later that it's actually 135,000 with all of their camels, so it's quite a host, quite an encampment.
Judges 7:13, "When Gideon came, behold, a man" he sneaks down, it's nighttime and he's on the outside perimeter of the camp and he listens to a couple of the sentries who are out there having a little discussion, and one man "was relating a dream to his friend. And he said, Behold, I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat." Now this guy is just saying this is really weird, I don't know what kind of mushrooms we had on the pizza last night, but man, I've had some weird dreams. His friend gives it God enables…God is giving special revelation to the one man and He's given the interpretation to the other, even though they're not believers.
Judges 7:14, "His friend replied, This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand." So somehow they know about Gideon, so once again we realize Gideon had servants, Gideon has a reputation, he's known by the enemy so that tells us that when Gideon's whining to God about I'm a nobody and I don't have anything, and I can't go do the job that Gideon wasn't exactly telling the truth; he was just avoiding responsibility.
Judges 7:15, it came about, "When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship." That's an interesting response, he worships God, he is thankful, he is grateful, he focuses on God. At this point Gideon finally realizes "the battle is the Lord's," it is not up to him, and that God is going to give the victory to Israel. So "He returned to the camp of Israel and said, Arise, for the LORD has given the camp of Midian into your hands.  He divided the 300 men into three companies," so there's 100 each, three sides, we're going to put 100 out on this ridge, 100 on this ridge, and 100 off to the left, so we're going to surround the enemy on three sides with these three companies. Now listen to what he does, this seems odd to us, "and he put trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers." Notice he didn't put bows and arrows; he didn't put swords, he didn't put spears, he didn't even give them a slingshot. Each man had a trumpet in his right hand an empty pitcher in his left, and then they put a torch inside the pitcher so you couldn't see the light, it would be hidden, it would be darkened.
Judges 7:17, "He said to them, Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do.  When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp and say, 'For the LORD and for Gideon." So we're all going to line up, we're going to get around the camp and when we're all in position I'm going to blow the trumpet and simultaneously you will take your trumpet and blow it and then break the pitcher that is cloaking the light and suddenly what will happen is you will hear the blast of the trumpet, the light, and we're going to time this with the changing of the guard.
Judges 7:19, "So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands." Now what's happening here? At the middle watch you've got one group of sentries that have just come on, they're waking up, they're a little groggy still, it's 3:00 o'clock or 4:00 o'clock in the morning and the other group is headed back into camp; so you've got probably several thousand troops in movement, one group has moved out, another group is headed back into the camp and right at that moment, when you have probably a third of the Midianite army coming back into the camp Gideon gives the signal. Now a little aside here, what you have to realizes is that normally in an army you would have, whether it was a company size or a battalion size unit, whether it was 500 or 1,000 or maybe a larger group, you would only have one torch and one trumpet for every 500 or 1,000 or 1,500 men, I don't know what the exact numbers would have been at that time but whenever you heard a trumpet, that wasn't one man, that represented 1,000 or 1,500 men. So what Gideon is doing is it's a tremendous rouse, he is going to trick the enemy into thinking they are surrounded by several thousand troops, because instead of just thinking there's 300 people up there with 300 lights they're probably thinking there's about 30,000 or maybe 60,000 up there and they're completely surrounded by an enormous horde.
Judges 7:20, "When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!" Notice, and they attacked. Is that what it says in the next verse? No.  Each stood in his place around the camp; and all the army ran, crying out as they fled." That refers to the Midianites. See, you've got one group moving into camp. Well the group that's still asleep in camp wakes up, hears this assault, they're coming out of their sleep and they're seeing a number of men coming towards them. It's their own men but it's nighttime and they're asleep, and so they wake up and start fighting their own men. And so confusion just flows through the camp and as they start fighting it gets the camels and the horses all excited and they start running all over one another and the whole camp just erupts in massive panic. And of course it is the Lord who has brought the panic on the enemy.
Judges 7:22, "When they blew 300 trumpets, the LORD set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army;" notice it is the Lord who does it, it is not Gideon. Now they're crying out, once again you see the irony and foreshadowing of the author, they're crying out for the Lord and for Gideon, see at the end of this Gideon is going to fall because of arrogance so we see this starting to be set up, the writer is preparing us for this. "When they blew the trumpets, the LORD set the sword of one against another, even throughout the whole army, and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath." We're not exactly sure where all of those places are but they would be retreating down to the southeast, to the Jordan River valley. And that's where they're headed, and this line on the map is an approximation of their retreat route. They're headed that way.
Judges 7:23, "The men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh," now these are the troops that have gone home, "and they pursued Midian." So the cry goes out that the enemy is on the run, let's annihilate him. Verse 24, "Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, 'Come down against Midian and take the waters before them, as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan.' So all the men of Ephraim were summoned and they took the waters as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan," that means they secured the ford to stop the retreat of the Midianites and set up an ambush. And they did it at two places and at those two places they killed two of the generals, Oreb which means wolf, and Zeeb which means raven. So they killed the wolf and the raven here.  "They captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and they killed Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb, while they pursued Midian; and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon from across the Jordan."
Now in Isaiah 10:26, when it talks about…it uses this battle as an encouragement to the Jews at the time of Hezekiah, it says that there will be a great slaughter, as at the rock of Oreb, so apparently the major battle took place at the rock of Oreb, and then another group managed to escape with Zeeb, and they killed him at the winepress of Zeeb. "…and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon from across the Jordan."
We'll have to stop there but we've seen that Gideon, because he has learned grace orientation and the faith rest drill he is now capable of having a tremendous victory, a victory where all the credit goes to the Lord, and just as Gideon had that kind of victory, so can we over any problem or difficulty in life, but God's going to make it clear that it is exclusive dependence upon Him and not depending on Him plus some other human viewpoint methodology or human viewpoint technique. Let's take a little application. We are in the midst of quite a challenge in the congregation and that means that we have to build a new building. The finances are far beyond the capacity of a small congregation, yet nevertheless we have that task; God is going to supply the need and we need to make sure that we don't fall guilty to the pressures of trying to go out and raise the money on the basis of some sort of human viewpoint program or methodology. I'll never forget the advice a pastor gave me years ago; he said any fund-raiser with any organization, any secular organization can go out and raise 1 million, 2 million, 3 million, 10 million dollars if they know what they are doing, but that's not in the power of God the Holy Spirit and unfortunately there are too many Christians organizations that have truly blasphemed the name of God because they have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in an end justifies the means sort of mentality and because they think they did it through this technique and that technique, this fund raising program and that fund raising program that God did it. Well, God didn't have anything to do with it and as we saw, taking the Lord's name in vain really means to attach the Lord's name to a cause that He didn't support. So we're not going to fall prey to that, we are going to recognize that though we might be the 300 and the finances that we need to raise in order to keep this ministry going and have a place for it is like fighting 135,000 with the odds 450 to 1, God is going to give us the victory and it's going to be exciting to see how He does that.