September 20, 2011

God and Gideon

It’s a shame that some Christians seldom read the Old Testament. It is rich in the history of God’s interactions with people. It is also rich in representing the Christian life in types, allegories and examples.

For instance, God called a man named Gideon to deal with an evil and ungodly people called the Midianites. While some think this is not what God is like now, remember that God hates sin, always. He is holy and has every right to punish human rebellion, always. That He does not do it today is a greater wonder than the wrath He shows in those Old Testament battles.

In the case of Gideon, he felt unable and unsure of the call of God to do anything. However, God gave very specific directions. This man first had to reduce his army. He started out with 32,000 and God let him keep 300 of those to fight an army that “lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance.”

He also was given a battle plan that would not ever be written into any strategy books. His men must surround the enemy at night using jars and torches.

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 set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” (Judges 7:19–20)
These lights all around and the shouts and noises confused the enemy. They “cried out and fled” with Gideon in pursuit. He eventually defeated them.

Spurgeon sees beyond this narrative account. He uses it to show how the soldiers of Jesus Christ wage battle against our spiritual enemy and the powers of darkness. First, he recounts how Gideon’s army covered torches in earthen pitchers and at an appointed signal, broke the pitcher and let light shine. They sounded trumpets and cried, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!”

Then he says this is what Christians must do. First we let our light shine by breaking the earthen vessel of our fleshy nature lest it hides the light God has put in us. Then we must, “In the same way, let (our) light shine before others, so that they may see (our) good works and give glory to (our) Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

Our good works must include noise — the sound of the gospel. Along with good deeds, we also proclaim Christ. Spurgeon says, “Blow our trumpet right against their ears if need be.”

However, the bottom line is remembering that our cry is like the cry of Gideon. “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!” God works in the defeat of evil and the salvation of His people. I cannot save anyone by myself, but I am not to be idle. God wants to use me in the process. As Spurgeon says, if I only cry, “The sword of the Lord!” I could be guilty of idle presumption. If I shout, “The sword of Gideon!” alone, I will declare my sinful reliance on my own self.

God intends that both blend in practical harmony, much as Christ who was both fully God and fully man worked in harmony to bring light into the world and defeat sin. While my nature is not exactly like His, He does call me to be an earthen vessel in whom He has placed a great treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7). I can do nothing in myself, but “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

Lord, I’ve loved the story of Gideon because it shows me that You can do great things in those who will let You take charge. Even when it seems there are no resources left and the instructions make little sense, You win battles. Like Gideon’s army was impossibly small, I feel impossibly useless, yet Your strength is perfected in weakness. Over and over You prove to me that when I rely on You and live as You direct, You bring light into dark places and evil must flee. Thank You for encouraging me with the story of a man whose only claim to fame is that You picked him to be Your sword. 

(Clipart credit)

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