By Sara Treat Chance
A lot of us know the story about Gideon testing God from Judges 6. As a child, I applied this story literally. When I got scared in the dark at night, I remember asking God to make the curtains on my window move to make me know He was protecting me. Kind of a funny memory now. I don’t recall the curtains ever actually moving, but it was worth a try!
We could easily go into applications to this part of Gideon’s story to our lives today. The fact is, to me, it’s a weird story—Gideon asking God to make this piece of fleece wet or dry to show He was at work in a tense situation (delivering the nation of the Israelites via Gideon), and God actually assenting to his strange-seeming requests. Lucky Gideon, we might think! He was so favored, he got the thing we so often want today: immediate answers from God.
But it’s the next part of Gideon’s story that couldn’t have been so satisfying for him in the moment.
Judges 7 tells us Gideon and the army were encamped and waiting for their opportunity to defeat the Midianites. God had already told Gideon, via the fleece tests, that this was going to work out. And then He starts this line of conversation with Gideon.
“Gideon, you have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave…’”
I’m just imagining Gideon’s thoughts here, of course, but maybe something along the line of, You sure about that, God? Remember that whole fleece-wet-and-dry thing you did? Sure hope you haven’t forgotten what you promised me LAST NIGHT. Don’t we need some serious manpower to do this thing you PROMISED? Okay, I’m going to tell them this because after all you did promise me…
So 22,000 men left, while 10,000 remained. Yikes. Over two-thirds of the men: gone. I am imagining Gideon, maybe dismayed at first, then bouncing around, psyching himself up for the miracle that’s about to happen, Okay, God, you ready to do this now? We’re ready to see your power!
“Gideon, there are still too many men. Take them down to the water and I will sift them for you there.” Then there was a weird test involving how the men drank water from the stream, and Gideon was left with 300 men. Down from 32,000.
However, once again, lucky Gideon, because it tells us that God says to him, “With the 300 men [left] I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands.” Confirmation from God that, yes, Gideon, this is still going to happen! And it does, if you continue reading through chapter 7.
Two things I want to remember about this passage.
1. Doesn’t God promise us the same things He promises Gideon? In His Word, He tells us repeatedly He is safe to trust.
“Stop doubting and believe,” Jesus tells Thomas, after compassionately showing Thomas everything he said he needed to see to believe in a risen Lord. (John 20:27)
“Don’t be afraid, just believe,” He tells Jairus, right before raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead. (Mark 5:36)
To His disciples in the boat during the storm: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” And then He calms the storm. (Mark 4:40)
Those are just a very few instances—some of my favorites. We can find hundreds of places in the Bible where we are asked to believe and trust and not fear. Sometimes we have to wait to see God’s deliverance, and sometimes, like Gideon and his fleece tests, confirmation comes more quickly. But no matter how it happens, as His children, we are favored, just like Gideon was. You are favored.
2. I am fascinated by what might be a peek into the mind of God, with the whittling down of the army.
He KNOWS His people; He knows exactly what they’ll think and why.
He knows He has to make their army small and the crystal-clear underdog so that His people will know the battle could ONLY have been won by God Almighty.
When we think chances look slim for deliverance, that is when God may be thinking, NOW is the perfect time for me to act because NOW she will know it could have only been ME at work!
I can’t think of a better single verse than Zephaniah 3:17 to wrap up the Gideon story. It’s a reminder to us, and maybe Gideon needed it too. Let’s ask God to help us embrace this as our reality too, and rest in this picture of His love and power:
“The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”