The Battle Belongs to the Lord
“Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” vs. 15b
General Stonewall Jackson’s famous war leader who played an important role in our nation’s Civil War. One of his most important tours was the Valley Campaign. It was a 1862 campaign through the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and an important and strategic battle. At one point, Jackson’s army found itself on one side of a river when it needed to be on the other side. He called engineers telling them to plan and build a bridge so the army could cross. He also called his wagon master in to tell him that it was urgent the wagon train cross the river as soon as possible. The wagon master started gathering all the logs, rocks and fence rails he could find and built a bridge. Long before day light General Jackson was told by his wagon master all the wagons and artillery had crossed the river. General Jackson realized that the wagon master had taken the task on and completed it in the darkness of the night. General Jackson asked where are the engineers and what are they doing? The wagon master’s only reply was that they were in their tent drawing up plans for a bridge.
I love that story. So many times we spend so much time planning, looking ahead, and thinking about what needs to be done and here is a guy who just saw what needed to be done and did it. We have been studying Gideon and Gideon has waited long enough to do what God has for him. Let’s see how Gideon moves forward. If you are able, please stand as we read Judges 7:16-25:
Read Passage – Judges 7:16-25
When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” 16 Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside. 17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’” 19 Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. 20 The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. 22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 23 Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. 24 Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Barah.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out and they seized the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah. 25 They also captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued the Midianites and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was by the Jordan.
Time to Spring Into Action
Gideon had tested god enough. It was time to be obedient and spring into action and that is exactly what he does; verse 15b:
“He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, ‘Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.’” vs. 15b
Gideon is now fulfilling what he was destined for, what he was always to be , which was a “mighty warrior” as his name indicates. He steps up and is rallying the troops as their leader to follow God, to take back the land God had given them, and more importantly, to turn back to God and follow him.
So in the passage we are told that Gideon has a plan which we also assume is from God himself. It’s actually a bit unconventional but it’s what needs to be done in this situation; verse 16-17:
“Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside. 17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead.” vs. 16-17a
I say it’s a bit unconventional because when you are in a smaller group and you are going up against a larger group of people, you probably would adhere to the adage: “There is strength in numbers.” But I want to consider today that our logic might need to be changed.
Tim Keller in his book Center Church talks about upside-down choice. Things are not always the way world teaches us. We are taught to be strong and in charge. “Jesus was the king who became servant. In Jesus kingdom the poor, sorrowful, and persecuted are above the rich, recognized and satisfied. Though Jesus was rich he became poor. Though he was a king, he served. Though he was the greatest, he made himself the servant of all. He triumphed over sin not by taking up power but by serving sacrificially/. He “won” through losing everything.” (p. 46) This is completely opposite of what the world teaches.
Living By the Sword
So in our story today, I think there is something important that we need to take note of and it comes in verse 21:
“A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” vs. 21
As they attack the Midianite army this the cry that goes up “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon.” This is an interesting cry. Some people try to say that Gideon is attaching his name to God’s and is trying to trust in himself or build himself up. I believe that this cry is specific. Remember when Gideon hears the Midianite army talking about the dream and the loaf of bread rolling into cap? The interpretation is that the attack is by the sword of Gideon and that God has given them into his hands. I think this cry wants to make sure that God is given the credit, not just Gideon. The Midianites knew about Gideon, now they know about God too. It’s not Gideon trying to take credit, it’s Gideon making sure God gets the credit, God’s name is first.
Also, I think there is some symbolism here too. Why the sword? The easy answer is that was the weapon of warfare for his day. When you went to battle you took your sword. We have the advantage of hindsight. In the NT the sword is talked about in Eph. 6 as one of our weapons as well. It says in Eph. 6:17 that we are to:
“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
The sword is the symbol of the Holy Spirit and God’s presence s with us through his word The Bible. Pretty cool, the same weapon Gideon has, is the same weapon we have. Also, it’s symbolic of the working of the Holy Spirit in the OT. Also, consider that the sword of the Spirit which is God’s Word is the only offensive weapon listed. All the other things listed are defensive or meant to protect us where the sword is our offensive weapon.
So what are we to take away from this cool story? I think there are some ways that is story teaches us to live by the Spirit. But…these are difficult things and many people choose not to live by them, not to follow God, and not to trust God’s ways.
- We Have Strength Even in Small Numbers
First, we have strength in numbers, even small numbers, verse 19:
“Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard.” vs. 19
It’s important to remember that the size of the army was not important. What was important is that God receive the glory. What’s even more interesting in this story is the timing. When would an army be at its most vulnerable? It’s when they are changing shifts. Everyone is milling around, not exactly on high alert, and more likely to be caught off guard. God’s timing is precise as we saw last week so here we see it again. God uses even the simplest of things to his advantage.
You might think that they could accomplish more if they stick together but remember, God cut this army down from 32,000 to 300 so there would be no mistake that He is given credit for the victory and so that the Israelite people would trust in Him. Many times we can feel outnumbered or even split up into too small of groups. God says his ways are not our ways so when it is his will, even if you feel divided, it’s only so he can work and receive the glory. Our tendency is to put worth in numbers. Size is no issue to God.
Ex. David and Goliath – David was a younger, smaller teenage boy taking on a 9 foot giant.
But here is an important factor that we should keep in mind: even when we are small in numbers, there is strength. Ecc. 4:12:
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecc. 4:12
Don’t be fooled by size.
Ex. Ronnie, Bobby and Kenny as kids. My friend John who was a football player. He knew he could attack us individually but knew that when all 3 of us were together, even though we were the epitome of the 100 lb. weaklings, we could not over taken. He tried and we prevailed.
Ex. How about churches? We can think that God is only working in churches with big numbers. Not true. Maybe the real test comes in that when you are small, it’s imperative that you trust in God.
- Obedience Is Hard
Secondly, obedience is hard. Think about this with children. We have to teach them obedience. Disobedience comes pretty natural to us. Many people don’t want to follow God because they don’t want to be obedient. Look again at vs. 20:
“…they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” vs. 20b
I can’t say I know the thoughts of these men but here must have been a little bit of fear and worry that maybe they shouldn’t have followed Gideon or that maybe they were too small in number, maybe they had underestimated the Midianite army, maybe Gideon is just a little off his rocker, and look what they were fighting with. In the case today, God’s promises victory, but there are times when we are called to walk through difficulties too. Think about how most of us pray; we usually pray for things to go well, for good outcomes, for the easy road. We pray for the difficulty to be taken away. Lack of obedience is lack of trust. Remember when Jesus prayed in the garden and asked for the cup to be taken from him? He said, “not my will but yours (God).”If Jesus was obedient then we should strive for obedience as well. Paul writes about Jesus in Hebrews 5:8-9
“Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…” Hebrews 5:8-9
Life doesn’t usually turn out the way we expect it or want it. We all go through tough times and struggles. The real issue is that God gets the glory whether it’s through victory or through difficulty.
Ex. Paul imprisoned, Jeremiah restrained and only given water and bread to eat, Noah and the flood, etc.
- God Picks Our Weapons, Not Us
And third, when you live by the sword or spit, you are always supplied with the right tools but…God picks our weapons, not us. Notice verse 19b:
“They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands.” vs. 19b
Sure they had swords but their other weapons were clay jars and torches; not exactly hand grenades and tanks! And get this, think how full their hands were. They had a trumpet in one hand, a jar with a torch in the other. Where was the sword? Most likely it was in its sheath. Here’s the fun part of the story. It’s dark out. The Midianite army has no idea how army people are out there. All they can figure out is that there is a lot of trumpets blowing and a bunch of lights all around them. The illusion is that the army is much bigger than what it really is. The noise is so loud, it’s such a surprise that it throws them into total confusion . They run around killing each other and then are trying to figure out how to get out of there as quickly as possible. They start running for the hills and the Israelite army calls in some of the other Israelite tribes to help them track down and kill the Midianites. The real story is that they had everything they needed to be victorious.
God will always provide us with the weapons or tools we need. He never leaves us without the necessary things to help us. Phil. 4:19 says:
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:19
Here’s where it really gets difficult; trusting God with this. We have our ideas of what we need to be victorious but that might not be what God has supplied us with. He gave David rocks to fight Goliath. He gave the Israelites clay jars and torches to fight an army of at least 135,000 men. Not our idea of what it would take to be victorious. God has given us a sword, his word, and it has everything we need. We have to trust it. We have to be willing to be obedient. We have to be willing to fight with what he has given us.
Life by the Spirit is not an easy life. It takes trust, obedience, and faith. It’s not easy but it is rewarding, it is fulfilling, and it bring glory to the place that it belongs; to God.
The Sounding of the Trumpet
Now there is one more thing that this story brings up that is quite intriguing. It’s what Gideon did and the Israelite army did when they broke their jars; they sounded their horns, When Christ is victorious and returns, the sounding of the trumpet. The trumpet sound was to be a sound of victory.
Let me remind you that as Gideon came to free the Israelites and lead them to God, Jesus came, lived among us, died, and rose again and leads us back to God. He did all that for you and I. You can also recall that when he left this earth and was seated at the right hand of God that it was promised he would return again. Do you know the sign that Jesus was victorious and not only conquered death but ushers in a new kingdom? A trumpet blast. It says in Rev. 11:15:
“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.’” Rev. 11:15
The kingdom of God is ushered in by a trumpet blast, the sign that the enemy is defeated. Prior to this the Israelites were having difficulty. Prior to God’s kingdom being ushered in the church will have difficulty. When Gideon sounded the trumpet it was a sign that Israel was being re-established as a kingdom and that the Midianites and other eastern people would no longer rule, God’s rule was back. At the sounding of the 7th trumpet, Christ reign is established and the enemy no longer has a foothold, Christ rules we are now in the kingdom of God.