FOLLOWING THE DIVINE BLUEPRINT FOR WARFARE YIELDS AMAZING VICTORY OVER FORMIDABLE FOES – AS WE UNDERSTAND THE CHARACTER OF OUR COMMANDER IN CHIEF
Do you view yourself as a divinely appointed fighter? That is the mission to which we have been called as Christian soldiers. Yet too often we are more concerned with avoiding conflict, with our life of comfort and entertainment. We are too soft. We are too entangled with the things of this world. We fail to fulfill our role as watchmen on the alert. Look at how the Apostle Paul paints a picture of Christians as fighters:
2 Tim. 2:1-7 “Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
Ephes. 6:10-20 “Put on the full armor of God”
2 Cor. 10:3-5 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God; and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”
These results do not just happen; we must fight for this outcome; the story of Gideon’s victory over the Midianites teaches how to wage victorious warfare
FOLLOWING THE DIVINE BLUEPRINT FOR WARFARE YIELDS AMAZING VICTORY OVER FORMIDABLE FOES – AS WE UNDERSTAND THE CHARACTER OF OUR COMMANDER IN CHIEF
5 COMPONENTS OF THE DIVINE BLUEPRINT FOR VICTORIOUS WARFARE:
I. (:8) EQUIPPING THE TROOPS FOR BATTLE WITH DIVINELY PROVIDED RESOURCES –
APPRECIATING THE SUFFICIENCY OF GOD
A. The Selected Troops
“So the 300 men”
We have already seen God’s selection process – two different cuts to eliminate the fearful and then to pinpoint those with focus on the task at hand – designed so that God alone would receive the glory – God is able to save by many or by few;
B. The Sufficient Provisions
“took the people’s provisions”
Will be important in sustaining the troops as they pursue after the fleeing Midianites
C. The Surprising Weapons
“and their trumpets into their hands.”
We will be talking about their weaponry later – holding a trumpet (ram’s horn) occupies your hands so that you are unable to use your sword and shield – a noisemaker, not a musical instrument (not like Rin Tin Tin where you play the charge melody) – this just emits a single loud blast
D. The Superfluous Troops
“And Gideon sent all the other men of Israel, each to his tent, but retained the 300 men;”
Did not keep them in reserve (even though he is going to call on them for the cleanup operation); was it embarrassing for them to return to their tents? A relief to go into hiding like they had been doing for seven years
E. The Self Confident Target
“and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.”
They were camped out in the open; no surprise attack; confident in their numbers and military supremacy
II. (:9-15) EAVESDROPPING ON THE ENEMY FOR DIVINE ASSURANCE OF MISSION OBJECTIVES (SO YOU DON’T OVERESTIMATE YOUR ENEMY) –
APPRECIATING THE GREATNESS OF GOD
A. (:9a) Restatement of the Mission
“Now the same night it came about that the LORD said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp,”
the objective remains clearly stated; the Lord’s expectation is that Gideon should obey; yet He is still incredibly patient with his hesitation due to remaining fears
Deffinbaugh: Being curious by nature, I have to wonder what the weather was like on that fateful night. I doubt that there was a clear, star-filled sky with a full moon. I would imagine that it was one of those pitch black nights when there was little or no illumination from the heavens. This would have enabled Gideon and Purah to make their way into the camp of the Midianites, until they came upon two soldiers in conversation.
B. (:9b) Reassurance of Victory by the Grace of God
“for I have given it into your hands.”
Understanding the Grace of God is the key to spiritual victory; enables us to live by the Spirit instead of in the flesh
C. (:10-14) Resolving of Gideon’s Fears
“But if you are afraid to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp, and you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp. So he went with Purah his servant down to the outposts of the army that was in the camp. Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. When Gideon came, behold, a man was relating a dream to his friend. And he said, ‘Behold, I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat.’ And his friend answered and said, ‘This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand.’”
Sovereign Providence of God to orchestrate all these events – taking Gideon to just the right tent at just the right time to hear just the right conversation based on a divinely given dream and its simple interpretation
Smashing, crushing defeat is what is pictured in this dream
Inrig: Barley was a food very poor people ate. It was a fitting picture of Israel. Midian had seized their wheat and turned Israel into eaters of barley, animal food. . . For the first time, Gideon had come to realize the greatness of God. In a very real sense we are never prepared for battle until we know what it is to bow in worship before God. That is why we read in Daniel 11:32, “The people who know their God will display strength and take action.”
Barley bread is what you eat when you can’t afford wheat
Pagans always get it wrong – put things in the wrong order: “sword of Gideon” – rather than putting God first
D. (:15) Realization of the Greatness of God
“And it came about when Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, that he bowed in worship. He returned to the camp of Israel and said, ‘Arise, for the LORD has given the camp of Midian into your hands.’”
Importance of worship preceding service: Joshua 5:13-15 Vision of the commander in chief – sense of God’s holiness and majesty; fall at His feet in fear and worship
New sense of confidence and resolve; no more hesitancy or doubt or fear
III. (:16-22) EXECUTING THE WARFARE STRATEGY SO THAT GOD GETS THE GLORY –
APPRECIATING THE WISDOM OF GOD
Look at the different points of this divinely communicated strategy:
A. (:16a) Strategy of 3 Divisions
“And he divided the 300 men into three companies”
This meant that Gideon had to put confidence in 2 other leaders who would take charge in concert with his own efforts
I don’t think Gideon wanted to completely encircle the camp – I think he positioned these divisions on 3 sides and left one side open to force them to flee back towards the Jordan River where they would be subjected to ambush; they would be fleeing back towards their homeland and away from the vulnerable Israel cities
B. (:16b) Strategy of Surprising Weapons of Warfare
“and he put trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers.”
Inrig: Now you get your weapons, and what are they? A horn, a torch, and a jar! No shields, no arrows, no swords. I can imagine Gideon’s 300 looking at those things and wondering how they could ever win a victory with such unmilitary objects.
2 Cor. 10:3-4 “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.”
Inrig: Years later, in Judah’s history, King Asa was confronted with an army of over a million Ethiopians, led by 300 chariots. He could fight them with 580,000 foot soldiers, but the odds were obviously overwhelming. In response to that problem, Asa prayed one of the great prayers of Scripture. “Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we support ourselves on You, and in Your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; let not man prevail against You” (2 Chron. 14:11). God answered that prayer with a resounding victory over the Ethiopians.
S. Lewis Johnson: Now, it’s possible for us to make a great deal over this kind of equipment. Trumpet is a trumpet to sound. And that would suggest to us the word of God. The torch to shine would suggest to us the light of the testimony to the word of God or to Jesus Christ. And the breaking of the vessels in order that the light may shine does suggest to us the fact that when an individual comes to the place of a measure of surrender, it is possible for God to work through that one. And I do notice that these vessels must be broken before they shine. And these words that I’ve suggested to you as the meaning of these things are suggested to us by Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 when he speaks about the testimony of believers. He says,
“For God, who said the light shall shine out of darkness, is the one who has shown in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the supposing greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves.”
“We always carry about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.”
Herbert Wolf: The “trumpets” were the same ram’s horn type used by Ehud and Gideon to summon the troops. Their value was not as musical instruments but as noise-making devices. Only the leaders would give signals on the trumpets; so three hundred trumpets normally represented a sizable army. When Joshua captured Jericho, only seven priests had trumpets (Josh. 6:6).
C. (:17-18) Strategy of Leader Setting the Example
“And he said to them, ‘Look at me, and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp, and say, For the LORD and for Gideon.’”
D. (:19a) Strategy of Timing the Attack at the Beginning of the Middle Watch
“So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just posted the watch;”
Deffinbaugh: the author’s main interest seems to be that it is the beginning of the watch. That must have been an important detail. My friend and fellow-elder, Stan Schultz, informs me that the change of watch is the time when there is the greatest confusion. If an emergency occurs, who is now in charge? Is it the one going off his watch or the one coming on? What is clear in all this is that the “attack” (if you dare call a 300-man light and sound show an attack) took place at just the perfect time, God’s time. Gideon’s descent to the Midianite camp perfectly synchronized with God’s schedule.
Brensinger: In ancient Israel, the night was divided into three watches, each four hours in duration . . . By the beginning of the middle watch, around ten o’clock, a sizeable portion of the Midianite army no doubt lies fast asleep. Furthermore, insofar as new guards are posted between watches, the recently positioned replacements need to adjust to nighttime duty. As a result, such transition periods are marked by increased vulnerability, regardless of the precision with which such changes are made.
E. (:19b-21a) Strategy of Carefully Orchestrated Attack
“and they blew the trumpets and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands. When 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 cried, ‘A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!’ And each stood in his place around the camp;”
These activities require no skill in warfare at all!
F. (:21b-22) Strategy of Causing Panic and Confusion / with resulting Bloodshed
“and all the army ran, crying out as they fled. And when they blew 300 trumpets, the LORD set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath.”
Block: The bedlam in the enemy camp is described in three verbs: “and they [all the camp] ran”; “and they cried out [wildly]”; “and they fled.” This is the natural response of those who have been awakened from the deepest of sleep (at midnight) to the sound of horns blowing, jars smashing, people shouting, and the sight of three hundred blazing torches around the camp. This is psychological warfare at its best.
Head back southeast towards the Jordan River – back to their homelands
IV. (:23-25) ERADICATING THE OPPOSITION – INCLUDING THE FLEEING TROOPS IN GENERAL AND THE OPPOSITION LEADERS IN PARTICULAR –
APPRECIATING THE JUSTICE OF GOD
A. Eradicating the Fleeing Troops
“And the men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian. And Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, ‘Come down against Midian and take the waters before them, as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan.’ So all the men of Ephraim were summoned, and they took the waters as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan.”
B. Eradicating the Opposition Leaders
“And they captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and they killed Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb, while they pursued Midian; and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon from across the Jordan.”
Constable: Oreb (lit. the Raven) and Zeeb (the Wolf), east of the Jordan. The Midianites had acted like scavengers and predators, so these names were ironically appropriate.
Not always great to have something named after you
Wiersbe: The story of Gideon began with a man hiding in a winepress (6:11), but it ended with the enemy prince being slain at a winepress.
Is. 10:26 “The Lord of hosts will arouse a scourge against him like the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb”
V. (8:1-3) EMPHASIZING THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF OTHERS TO EASE POLITICAL TENSION –
APPRECIATING THE GRACE OF GOD
“Then the men of Ephraim said to him, ‘What is this thing you have done to us, not calling us when you went to fight against Midian?’ And they contended with him vigorously. But he said to them, ‘What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb into your hands; and what was I able to do in bcomparison with you?’ Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.”
Hurt feelings; bruised egos; goes back to man’s pride; even at the point of victory God’s people are ready to implode internally because of pride and selfishness
Constable: Gideon responded diplomatically and satisfied the Ephraimites (v. 2). The “gleaning” of Ephraim refers to the lives and spoils the Ephraimites took from the fleeing Midianites, and the “vintage” of Abiezer refers to the Midianites that Gideon and his 300 men had defeated and slain. The Ephraimites’ victory was greater too in that they had killed two Midianite commanders, Oreb and Zeeb.
Brensinger: Prominence of Ephraim:
– Situated primarily in the central hills, among the more successful northern tribes at gaining control of and protecting its territory (1:22-26)
– The important worship centers of Bethel and Shiloh were located there
– Dominant figures came from there: Joshua, Samuel, Jeroboam
The Ephraimites, in other words, are accustomed to having a major role in Israel’s undertakings. Now, however, seemingly less significant and less able tribes are admirably functioning together – without them. Resentment ensues. . . In this case, Gideon handles the Ephraimites’ criticism by employing proverbial wisdom. . . he emphasizes the Ephraimites’ accomplishments without drawing attention to what he and the others have done. In fact, Gideon actually downplays the significance of his own achievements. By extending a grateful “pat on the back,” Gideon wisely silences criticism with praise.
Motyer: Diplomacy of Gideon
With the nation’s enemy on the run, the tribe of Ephraim can indulge the luxury of picking a quarrel with their own victorious general. Their touchiness will surface again in the days of Jephthah, who will give them considerably shorter shrift (12:1-6). Whatever his private feelings (he may have been sorely tempted to beat them up, as Jephthah later did), Gideon reckons that for the moment he has more pressing matters on hand, and “a soft answer” which “turns away wrath” defuses the explosive situation in the Israelite ranks.
Block: To change the metaphor, the best the Abiezrites [Gideon’s tribe] can produce is less than the scraps off the Ephraimite’s table. The proverb has the ring of a clever political slogan. . . this episode exposes a fundamental problem with the Ephraimites that will resurface in 12:1-6. They are a self-centered and fractious lot, easily offended, and with an inflated estimation of their significance within the nation. Even in victory Israel remains her own worst enemy.
Deffinbaugh: this battle enabled the Israelites (particularly Gideon) to “experience God.” God left the Canaanites in the land so that the Israelites would have to go to war with them, and in so doing, they would experience His presence and power. I have to smile to myself as I think of Gideon’s protest earlier in chapter 6:
Gideon said to him, “Pardon me, but if the Lord is with us, why has such disaster overtaken us? Where are all his miraculous deeds our ancestors told us about? They said, ‘Did the Lord not bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to Midian” (Judges 6:13).
We should probably sing Onward Christian Soldiers!
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before:
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle, see His banners go.
Or how about Soldiers of Christ Arise!
Soldiers of Christ, arise
And put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies
Through His eternal Son;
Strong in the Lord of hosts,
And in His mighty pow’r,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts
Is more than conqueror.
Or maybe Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus!
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the cross,
Lift high His royal banner,
It must not suffer loss;
From victory unto victory
His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished
And Christ is Lord indeed.