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Reject Self-Glory 

God stacks the odds against us that He might show His power

Judges 7

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • December 15, In the year of our Lord, 2013



  1. Are heroes common people? 
    1. We know that superman does not exist, but we read of people
      1. in history and in the Bible
      2. who appear superhuman.
    2. Truly, the Bible shows ordinary people doing extraordinary things by faith.
  2. Gideon was one such man. 
    1. Gideon feared.
    2. Gideon questioned the presence of God.
    3. Yet, Gideon did believe in God.
      1. He did not understand God, but
      2. he still believed in God.
  3. The story of Gideon shows that God allows the odds to be stacked against us 
    1. that He might demonstrate His power.
    2. Therefore,
      1. when frightening times come,
      2. when you just do not know what to do,
      3. when you discover that you do not have the answers,
        1. turn to God,

          9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead (2Co 1.9).


  1. Judges 7.1 – Gideon’s army prepares for battle

    1 Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the well of Harod, so that the camp of the Midianites was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley (Jdg 7.1).

    1. Gideon had taken ten men and
      1. torn down the altar and image of Baal.
      2. His hometown wanted to kill him.
        1. Gideon’s father stepped in and
        2. challenged Baal,
          1. that if he is a God,
          2. let him contend for himself.
            1. Thus, Gideon acquired a new name,
            2. Jerubbaal which means “Let Baal contend.”
    2. God was going to use a small army against the large armies of Baal.
      1. Therefore, if Baal is a God,
      2. He should be able to defeat the army of Gideon.
  2. Judges 7.2–6 – 4 to 1 Odds 
    1. God thought 32,000 was too much to fight 135,000,

      2 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’” (Jdg 7.2–6).

      1. The Midianites already outnumbered the Israelites over 4 to 1!
      2. Normally 32,000 cannot defeat 135,000 on the open fields of battle.
        1. If Israel did win, they might claim they did it themselves, and
        2. that would be glorying against God.
    2. He told the fearful to leave,

      3 Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.’” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained (Jdg 7.3).

      1. Look at these two amazing facts:
        1. Twenty-two thousand left.
        2. Ten thousand did not believe a 68.75% reduction in their ranks hurt.
      2. Now the Midianites outnumbered the Israelites 13.5 to 1!
      3. Initially the 22,000 were willing and ready to fight.
        1. However, once they saw the enemy
        2. fear dominated their hearts.
    3. The Lord wants Gideon’s army smaller,

      4 But 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. Then it will be, that of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ the same shall go with you; and of whomever I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ the same shall not go” (Jdg 7.4).

      1. He was moving their confidence from self to Him, and
      2. He wanted to reveal the right kind of fighter.
    4. How do they drink water,

      5 So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “Everyone who laps from the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set apart by himself; likewise everyone who gets down on his knees to drink.” 6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people got down on their knees to drink water (Jdg 7.5–6).

      1. Three hundred exercised caution and showed alertness.
        1. They could see the condition of the water.
        2. They could see what was going on around them.
      2. The other group made themselves vulnerable.
        1. Who knows what might be in the water?
        2. The enemy could launch a surprise attack at any time.
  3. Judges 7.7–8 – 300 Can Defeat 135,000 
    1. The wise and the faithful,

      7 Then the LORD said to Gideon, “By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people go, every man to his place” (Jdg 7.7).

      1. Now Midian outnumbered Israel 450 to 1!
        1. Israel lost over 99% of its army before fighting!
        2. Shamgar killed 600 Philistines single-handedly.
      2. Could Gideon find 300 Shamgars?
      3. How did the 9,700 take the message to go home?
        1. They had volunteered.
        2. They were not fearful.
        3. They believed in the Lord.
          1. However, they were not fully capable.
          2. Having the desire does not automatically qualify one for a job.
            1. I may desire and believe that I could play professional sports.
            2. However, millions of fans rejoice that I do not play.
    2. The 300 watched 9,700 go home,

      8 So the people took provisions and their trumpets in their hands. And he sent away all the rest of Israel, every man to his tent, and retained those three hundred men. Now the camp of Midian was below him in the valley (Jdg 7.8).

      1. The 300 did not lose heart.
        1. They knew that the odds were not really 450 to 1, but
        2. 450 to 1 plus the God of heaven and the host of heaven.
      2. Interestingly, the 9,700 did not grumble.
        1. I do not believe that they were glad to go home, because
        2. they had already been tested to be fearless and to be believers in God.
      3. They stepped aside and let someone else get the glory.
  4. Judges 7.9 – Victory is guaranteed

    9 It happened on the same night that the LORD said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have delivered it into your hand (Jdg 7.9).

    1. Hebrews 11 highlights the ingredient that made Gideon successful,

      32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens (Heb 11.32–34).

    2. First John 5 assures us that we have the same ingredient,

      4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1Jo 5.4).

  5. Judges 7.10–14 – Gideon Feared 
    1. Watch the Lord work with Gideon,

      10 “But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant, 11a and you shall hear what they say; and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp” (Jdg 7.10–11a).

      1. If Gideon was afraid?
        1. Should he not have left with the 22,000?
        2. Should he be going down into the camp of the Midianites?
      2. Gideon was ready to do what God commanded.
        1. However, God knows the hearts of all men and women.
        2. He knows when our intentions are right, and when we struggle.
      3. Purah is another great man in the Bible.
        1. Gideon was the most valiant man in Israel.
        2. Purah was number two.
    2. The Angel said in Judges 6.12, that Gideon was a mighty man of valor.
      1. Nevertheless, he was a man like us with
        1. weaknesses,
        2. struggles, and
        3. fears.
      2. The brave have fears,
        1. the strong have weaknesses,
        2. the passionate have apathy,
        3. the wise have foolishness, but
          1. in Gideon those fears did not rule him.
          2. He did what God said to do and moved on.
      3. Gideon did not have to be perfect, but willing for the Lord to use him.
    3. A frightened man did a brave thing,

      11b Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outpost of the armed men who were in the camp. 12 Now the Midianites and Amalekites, all the people of the East, were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude (Jdg 7.11b–12).

      1. In stealth Gideon and his servant approached armed men.
      2. Believing in God did not mean that He took away Gideon’s problems.
    4. Watch how God assured Gideon,

      13 And when Gideon had come, there was a man telling a dream to his companion. He said, “I have had a dream: To my surprise, a loaf of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian; it came to a tent and struck it so that it fell and overturned, and the tent collapsed.” 14 Then his companion answered and said, “This is nothing else but the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel! Into his hand God has delivered Midian and the whole camp” (Jdg 7.13–14).

      1. Gideon and Purah got close enough to hear two men talking.
      2. What man would have come up with a dream like this?
      3. The dream was not of men, but of God.
  6. Judges 7.15 – Gideon Worshiped God

    15 And so it was, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, that he worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel, and said, “Arise, for the LORD has delivered the camp of Midian into your hand” (Jdg 7.15).

    1. This is why God wanted to use Gideon.
    2. His first response was to worship God.
      1. Whether in prosperity or adversity,
      2. men of God worship God.
    3. Gideon told his men that “the LORD has delivered the camp of Midian into your hand.”
      1. Gideon was about to become part of the history he remembered.
      2. Gideon looked at his current situation:
        1. God whittled down an outnumbered 32,000-man army to 300.
        2. Gideon knew that God was about to do something wonderful!
    4. No wonder Gideon worshiped God.
      1. Gideon knew that God had remembered His people.
      2. Gideon knew that God had planned the whole thing from the beginning.
      3. Gideon knew that God knew of his passion for Israel.
    5. No wonder Gideon commanded his men to arise,
      1. promising that God had delivered the Midianites into the hands of Israel.
      2. Gideon knew that the Lord had not forsaken Israel.
  7. Judges 7.16–18 – The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon

    16 Then he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet into every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and torches inside the pitchers. 17 And he said to them, “Look at me and do likewise; watch, and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do: 18 When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets on every side of the whole camp, and say, ‘The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!’” (Jdg 7.16–18).

    1. When 300 go against 135,000 you need some creativity in your attack.
    2. Gideon had a plan that would insure that his men followed him.
  8. Judges 7.19–20 – The Dream Fulfilled

    19 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outpost of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just as they had posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers that were in their hands. 20 Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers—they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing—and they cried, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!” (Jdg 7.19–20).

    1. This watch was just after midnight,
      1. leaving plenty of darkness to fight the surprised Midianites.
    2. All around the camp the Midianites heard three sounds:
      1. The blowing of trumpets,
      2. the breaking of the pitchers, and
      3. the yelling of the Israelites.
    3. Did that frighten the sleeping Midianites?
    4. When they come out of their tents,
      1. they saw 300 torches all around the massive camp running toward them.
      2. Each light might represent a company of 1,000 men,
        1. giving the appearance that 300,000 were attacking.
        2. The confused and frightened Midianites did not take a count, but
          1. the effect was still there.
          2. They thought they were being overwhelmed by an army.
            1. Gideon sort of followed the practice
            2. that the attacking army should outnumber defenders 3 to 1.
    5. The Midianites did not know
      1. if the attacking troops were coming behind the men with the torches, or
      2. if the enemy Israelites were already in the camp.
    6. We used a similar tactic during Operation Desert Storm.
      1. The Iraqis expected a coastal attack and
      2. we kept up that image.
        1. When the war started our troops rigged explosives and other things
        2. to make it appear that an amphibious attack was occurring at night.
  9. Judges 7.21–23 – The Midianites Fought One Another

    21 And every man stood in his place all around the camp; and the whole army ran and cried out and fled. 22 When the three hundred blew the trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his companion throughout the whole camp; and the army fled to Beth Acacia, {Hebrew Beth Shittah} toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel Meholah, by Tabbath. 23 And the men of Israel gathered together from Naphtali, Asher, and all Manasseh, and pursued the Midianites (Jdg 7.21–23).

    1. The formerly well-organized, war-experienced Midianites were confused.
    2. They fled, but
      1. in their fright in the night they saw other soldiers.
      2. Were they Israelites or Midianites?
    3. So they just start fighting each other.
  10. Judges 7.24–25 – Other Israelites Seized the Water Places

    24 Then Gideon sent messengers throughout all the mountains of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites, and seize from them the watering places as far as Beth Barah and the Jordan.” Then all the men of Ephraim gathered together and seized the watering places as far as Beth Barah and the Jordan. 25 And they captured two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued Midian and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side of the Jordan (Jdg 7.24–25).

    1. God kept His promises.
    2. With the water places captured,
      1. Israel could grow crops again,
      2. water their livestock, and
      3. have water for personal use.
    3. Israel killed the Midianite princes in the places they formerly possessed.


  1. Are you fearful? 
    1. The cure is to have faith in God.
    2. Let that faith move you to obedience.
  2. Yes, the odds are stacked against you. Consider these passages,

    11 And Asa cried out to the LORD his God, and said, “LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!” (2Ch 14.11).

    8 “With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah (2Ch 32.8).

    4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1Jo 4.4).

  3. If you fear, let us pray for you