Tuesday, September 22, 2020

An Ordinary Test

 Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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 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 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. 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.  Judges 7:4-7

We never know when God is testing us in some ordinary experience of life. Testing, even unexpected, reveals our priorities both to God and ourselves. Challenges in life only make our faith stronger, and what God wants to happen in our times of testing is to see genuine faith on display. In the face of fear, as in a battle against an army of 135,000 men, this genuine faith in our very real and capable God is what we need to propel us forward. 

The Second Sifting
In our study of Gideon, yesterday we read about how God reduced the chosen army to fight the Midianites by two-thirds, God put Gideon’s surviving 10,000 men through a second test by asking them all to take a drink down at the river. Here we have a test from the Almighty wrapped in an ordinary task. As the unsuspecting soldiers went to the water to take a drink, they never knew they were being sorted out.

What significance was there in the two different ways the men drank from the river?  Since the Scriptures don’t tell us, we’d be wise not to read into the text some weighty spiritual lesson that God never put there.  Some say the men who bowed down to drink were making themselves vulnerable to the enemy, while the 300 who lapped water from their hands stayed alert. But the enemy was four miles away (v.1), waiting to see what the Jews would do; and Gideon wouldn’t have led his men into a dangerous situation like that.

One well-known preacher claims that the 300 men drank as they did so they could keep their eyes on Gideon, but the text doesn’t say that either. My assumption is that God chose this method of sifting the army because it was simple, unassuming (no soldier knew he was being tested), and easy to apply.  Since the men undoubtedly came to the water by groups, Gideon was able to watch them and identify the 300. It wasn’t until after the event that the men discovered they had been tested.

Sheer numbers oftentimes strike fear in us in the midst of our battles. A number that is too great in our mind and cause fear as well as a number that is way too small in our minds, like a bank account balance. Some churches today are mesmerized by statistics and think they’re strong because they’re big and wealthy, but numbers are no guarantee of God’s blessing.  Moses assured the Jews that if they would obey the Lord, one soldier could chase a thousand and two would “put ten thousand to flight” (Deut. 32:30). All Gideon needed was 27 soldiers to defeat the whole Midianite army of 135,000 men (Judges 8:10), but God gave him 300.

God graciously gave Gideon one more promise of victory: I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; (v. 7).  By claiming this promise and obeying the Lord’s directions, Gideon defeated the enemy and brought peace to the land for forty years. 

It may have seemed to Gideon that 300 men would never be enough to save them from 135,000 men. Not only did God drastically reduce the sheer number of men in the army, but He also gave them some very unconventional and different weapons. Despite these things, God did as He said and delivered them. Gideon trusted God and the soldiers trusted Gideon and followed the orders. In what seemed like a no-win situation, God won the battle just as He said. The amount of men and the types of weapons did not seem like enough. The greatest lesson we can take away from Gideon's story is that any time God provides something, it will always be enough. Whatever your impossible, no-win situations are, God is enough. Trust Him and have faith that He will provide what you need - just enough - and He can win all battles because His strength is perfect. 

J.G. Stipe said Faith is like a toothbrush: Everybody should have one and use it regularly, but it isn’t safe to use somebody else’s.  We can follow men and women of faith and share in their exploits, but we can’t succeed in our own personal lives by depending on somebody else’s faith.  There is no doubt God has given us enough for every battle we face…for He is enough.

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