Are these Hard Times, or what?
We’re convening a mid-week briefing called Hard Times Heroes every Wednesday morning, from 7:00-7:15a (Pacific) on the Facebook Group platform (you do not need a FB account to view). Click here to catch the last four in the archive, or to sit-in on Wednesday this week. Join us…
Over the last few weeks, I’ve led a tour to a battlefield – from 3,150 years ago – where the confident Midianite military swarms were outmaneuvered by a hayseed farmer called by God to become a valiant warrior who would lead a vastly-outnumbered militia to an historic victory.
Gideon had no standing when the story began in Judges 6, but within days his name was striking terror to the sleepless Midianites: “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon… God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.” (7:14). That nightmare – shared between Midianite fighters around the campfire – was a prophesy that became reality before sunrise…
Last week, we saw that Gideon’s recruitment of a defensive cohort to oppose the Midianite attack and preserve Israel was an exercise in military ignorance. Gideon’s four-step vetting process – coached by God – measured four critical factors. Proof that the recruits were missional, then courageous, then strategic and – ultimately – collaborative would pare the volunteers from 32,000 to 300, while the Midianite force of 135,000 seasoned troops waited to strike.
With pitchers, torches and trumpets, the 300 caused 120,000 deaths from friendly fire. The remaining 15,000 were on-the-run when Gideon and his special forces traded their deceptive hardware for conventional weapons and went on the attack.
There was work to do before the conflict would be concluded. A contingent of fleeing Midianites were heading into the Jordan Valley, toward the tribal lands of Ephraim. Gideon sent messengers to the men of Ephraim with orders to block their path in support of the victory. The forces from Ephraim provided that firewall and eliminated Oreb and Zeeb, two Midianite kings and their followers.
Their response to Gideon was telling: they were offended that they were not included in the original call-up for the initial battle, and their face-to-face encounter with Gideon was tense: “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call…” (8:1). Gideon’s masterful response was statesmanlike: ‘“What have I accomplished compared to you?… What was I able to do compared to you?” At this, their resentment against him subsided.” (8:2-3).
At the moment when most would have felt they deserved accolades for the overwhelming early-stage victory, Gideon was able to demonstrate compelling humility that secured the ongoing cooperation of another Jewish tribe – the Ephraimites – to align with Manasseh, Zebulun and Naphtali, the tribes from whom the 300 had been drawn.
There were more details surrounding the final disposition of the Midianite threat, but – as the dust settled from this epic story of overwhelming victory – the 12 tribes of Israel came together with a profound proposal toward Gideon: “Rule over us – you, your son and your grandson – because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” (8:22). They offered Gideon the opportunity to set up a dynastic monarchy… and he turned them down: “I will not rule over you, nor will my son.” (v. 23).
He did, however, become the Judge – the highest cultural leader during that 400-year period in Israel’s timeline – and, for 40 years, realized God’s reward for accepting and fulfilling his calling.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4). Gideon’s story is there for us to find encouragement and hope.
God’s still calling frightened farmers to become valiant warriors, propelling them into epic confrontations, delivering victories and promising rewards for faithfulness – to be bestowed in the Eternal Kingdom – and providing compelling stories like Gideon’s to prove that it’s possible…
Let’s blow our trumpets, on three…