Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The First Sifting

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.' "Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, 'Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.'" So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained.  Judges 7:2-3

The last time we saw timid, but stubborn Gideon. He thought he was incapable of obeying God in rescuing Israel from the Midianites. He asked God for several signs - including two different signs with the fleece as a way of proving that God was really going to do what He said.  So now it’s almost as if God is saying: "So you want proof beyond a shadow a doubt, huh?"

Humility is not the absence of ability. Humility is the absence of pride.
Humility is the belief in God over self.
The First Sifting
God brings Gideon and a vast army up, then proceeds to strip Gideon of absolutely anything that could be considered confidence in order to show the only confidence we need is in God.  Here we see the creation of that humility in Gideon, and lessons for us as we attempt to obey God’s voice.  God is going to do a series of things here that are totally counterintuitive to military strategy or even common sense - to prove that He doesn’t need anyone to accomplish His will.

Christians are either overcome by of their unbelief or overcomers through their faith.
The familiar and exciting account of Gideon’s wonderful victory over the Midianites is really a story of faith in action.  You see, a faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted. “We’re simply going to have to step out by faith!” leads to the question, “Whose faith?”  Here are two reasons God tests our faith:

  1. To show us whether our faith is real or counterfeit, and
  2. To strengthen our faith for the tasks He’s set before us.
God tested Gideon’s faith by sifting his army of 32,000 volunteers until only 300 men were left.  I wonder if Gideon is thinking - "Hold the phone, Lord - of course the people are fearful - we’re going to war after all!"  It would be like saying, "There’s a chance that you might die so if that makes you frightened then beat feet and get out of here!"  Perhaps he was secretly hoping that great courage had been instilled in the people or something - but it was not the case and in the first sifting two thirds of his fighting force turned and left. What a blow to the flesh!

God told Gideon why He was decreasing the size of the army: He didn’t want the soldiers to boast that they had won the victory over the Midianites. Victories won because of faith bring glory to God because nobody can explain how they happened.  Pride after the battle robs God of glory, and fear during the battle robs God’s soldiers of courage and power. People who live by faith know their own weakness more and more as they depend on God’s strength. “For when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

Fear has a way of spreading, and one timid soldier can do more damage than a whole company of enemy soldiers. Fear and faith can’t live together very long in the same heart. Either fear will conquer faith and we’ll quit, or faith will conquer fear and we’ll triumph.  John Wesley may have been thinking of Gideon’s army when he said, “Give me a hundred men who fear nothing but sin and love nothing but God, and I will shake the gates of hell!” But God wasn’t done yet as we shall see.

Scripture to Claim:

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4, NKJV).

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