In 1962, The 300 Spartans was released in theaters. It told the story of the Spartan army of only 300 soldiers who marched to fight off the invading Persian army of millions. All 300 soldiers died in the epic battle, but they staved off the enemy in time for others to join them and ultimately win the battle. This film inspired comic book creator Frank Miller to create a graphic novel of the story which was made into a film in 2006. There is something about the idea of the underdog, of the few standing against the many, but as with a lot of things, God did it first. In the book of Judges, we read about a period of time when Israel’s judge, Gideon, took his army to fight against the Midianites, but God told him something unexpected.
“The Lord said to Gideon, ‘You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, “Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.”’ So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.” (Judges 7:2-3)
Gideon took 32,000 soldiers with him to fight, and God said that was too many because the Israelites would boast to God that they saved themselves by their own strength. Do you ever consider this as a motivator for the trials we face in life? If things were too easy, if we were too prepared, we would boast in our own strength. If God brought healing too quickly, we may think it was because of the medicine or some “wise” choice we made. We need to be reminded that we rely on God, that He is the one who gives the victory. Notice how many of Gideon’s army were afraid to fight. Out of 32,000 soldiers, 22,000 of them were timid and afraid. So how does 10,000 soldiers sound?
“But the Lord told Gideon, ‘There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.’ When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, ‘Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.’ Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream. The Lord told Gideon, ‘With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.’” (Judges 7:4-7)
Ten thousand was still too many. Only 300 of the 10,000 soldiers were prepared enough to drink out of their hands. In this way, they demonstrated that they were always ready for battle. To dip your head completely down into the stream takes your eyes off of the land in front of you; it makes you vulnerable for attack. God didn’t want to use those who were willing to make themselves vulnerable for attack. Wouldn’t you like to be one of the 300 God could use? Are you constantly watching for the enemy attack or do you let your guard down?
“That night the Lord said, ‘Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.’ So Gideon took Purah and went down to the edge of the enemy camp. The armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east had settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore—too many to count! Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, ‘I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!’ His companion answered, ‘Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!’ When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord.” (Judges 7:9-15a)
When did Gideon worship the Lord? After the battle? After he had seen and experienced the victory? No! Gideon bowed down and worshiped the Lord when he heard the promise of victory. That’s what we have from the Lord, the promise of victory. Victory over sin and death found only in Jesus Christ. Though we have not reached that place of perfection, we know what awaits us. We too can worship the Lord as Gideon did, based on the Lord’s promised victory (and everything else He has done for us!)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.