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All things are possible to them that believe – Mark 9:23
January 2015

        Oft times God requires a Christian to do something beyond our comfort zone and beyond our faith level.  God's purpose is to stretch our faith to a point we believe is impossible.  We believe that God would not allow us to be tempted above that which we are able to stand (Ref. 1st Corinthians 10:13) but when God's faith stretching request comes we oft times flinch at the request, we start making excuses and then fear sets in.  It is at this point we have a choice to make concerning obedience.  If we obey we grow in strength in the knowledge of God if we disobey we lose this chance to grow into a mighty warrior for God. 

        There are several examples in scripture regarding this growth process.  The first was the Israelite slaves leaving Egypt and becoming mighty warriors that defeated over 30 Kings and eventually taking the Promised Land under Moses and Joshua.  The second was David's new found army while he ran from Saul.  It was said of them that "everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him" (Ref. 1st Samuel 22:1-2).  These 400 men plus others that joined David and became his army subdued kingdoms and eventually brought peace and unity to a subdued and divided people.  Another example was Gideon and his army which we will use as the main example in bringing forth the main point of this teaching.

        In each of the above cases God asked His people to do something above what they believed was possible and the people were then taught in a manner that would not only successfully achieve the victory but also would set them out on the path of God's goal of creating mighty warriors who would overcome all evil and bring forth the blessings of God in your life, family, community, state, country and world.

I.   GET RID OF SECOND HAND FAITH – Israel’s faith was indeed weak, even while the Spirit of God was at work.  In the presence of the enemy, 22,000 men were content to return home when Gideon was instructed by God to extend this offer.  “Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead” (Judges 7:3).  The truth is that the faith produced by others is of quite a different quality than the faith produced by personal experience.  When ones experiences bring about personal faith, one can withstand anything.  Drawing faith from another is what I call “second-hand faith,” it produces a weak and doubt filled faith that cannot be depended on.  Let me give you a Biblical example.  In Genesis 2:16-17 we read that God told Adam what to do with the tree of knowledge.  Eve was not present at that meeting, Eve latter heard God’s instructions from Adam.  In Genesis 3 we see that the devil came to deceive Eve first.  Why?  Because she received her revelation of God's instructions regarding the "tree of life" from Adam and that produces “second hand faith.”  When “second hand faith” is produced there is always the sense that possibly man has made an error.  When you hear directly from God on the other hand, you know that there is no error and His word will always come to pass just as He spoke it.

II   WEEDING OUT THE CHAFF – Twenty-two thousand men got up and went home (verse 3).  That must have been a shock to Gideon and the ten thousand men remaining who just stood there watching any chance of survival and victory walk away.  I would say that this circumstance gives us a perfect definition of “shock and awe.”  If that was not enough imagine how far down the remaining men’s outlook fell when they saw 22,000 men turn tail and run away in fear?  But God was not through weeding out the chaff.  God now orders the second reduction in the number of troops.  Why?  What could be the possible reason for this?  The reason is that Jehovah's hand alone must be seen, and God alone glorified.  If the men that remained were men of valor, Israel might have deduced that the battle was won due to their heroic actions and battle skills and God would not get the glory in the victory.  God therefore, said to Gideon that their number was still too high.

        But could there be another reason why God allows, or even creates times of weakness, and times when we face overwhelming odds?  Could it be that when we face these times of weakness, overwhelming odds and impossible situations that it forces us to be more reliant upon Him and through that He teaches us more about Himself, His work, His power, and His care for us.  This in turn produces more faith.  For the human heart loves to claim credit for any achievement.  If God had allowed Israel to defeat Midian with 10,000 men, guess who would have taken the credit?  Israel!  And they would not have learned the lesson God wanted to teach them.

III   WEEDING OUT THE WEAK IN FAITH – Gideon was now to divide the people by putting all those who would lick the water with their tongue as a dog into one class, and all those who knelt down and licked the water into their mouth from their hand into another, and so separating the men into two groups.  The number of those who licked the water into their mouth from their hand was 300.  God sent all but that 300 home.  It is important to make note of another point here.  The 10,000 brave men who wanted to fight Midian didn’t know that Gideon telling them to go and drink was a test.  Gideon did, but the soldiers did not.  They had no idea!  In like manner God tests us, looking for hearts that are truly His, and these tests come in the ordinary events of our daily lives often without our knowing.  After the test God sent all but 300 home. 

IV   BUILDING UP THE FAITHFUL – Now, having the assurance that Jehovah would deliver Israel by his hand, he trusts entirely in God (Ref. Proverbs 3:5-8; 2nd Corinthians 12:9) and displays absolute confidence.  He, without hesitancy and doubt obeys God and prepares to go to war with only 300 men.  I suppose this is a good time to remember the verse that says: “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2nd Corinthians 5:7).  In other words walk in such a way as to develop your faith where it is stronger than the reality your natural man experiences; too know that there is a reality greater than that which appears in the natural.

        Gideon’s faith during the course of the day waned due to the obvious natural circumstances, in the same manner most believers would have.  As he continued to see the overwhelming odds in which he was now facing, Gideon started to fear in the same way as Peter’s faith did after he started to walk on the water.  But God is so incredibly gracious, He shows His loving-kindness by bringing encouragement when His people are in a position of utter weakness and are called upon to believe beyond their capability.  When we need faith the most, God strengthens our faith through a dream, a verse, and a prophetic word of encouragement from a stranger or a friend.  In this instance it came through a dream with a perfectly clear interpretation, "Into Gideon’s hand God has delivered Midian’s whole camp.” 

V   DO AWAY WITH FEAR – 2nd Timothy 1:7-8 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (8) Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, (9) who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”When fear abounds and a great mountain of faith is needed for victory, a mountain perhaps so large we do not believe we have, do not be surprised if God asks you for only a small faithful action to bring about the faith needed.  God tells Gideon to go down and attack the camp, but God knowing the heart of Gideon, and all men for that matter, without hesitating immediately follows His command with a statement of fact that Gideon must acknowledge, and the antidote to his fear.  “Go down to the camp with Purah (Hebrew – branch, one that bears fruit) your servant, and you shall hear what they say; and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp" (Judges 7:10-11).  In other words; ‘Gideon, you and Purah sneak down into the camp and I will provides all the proof you will need to believe for the victory.’  Have you ever heard this old quote?  “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  That is all God is asking of us here.  Even though the journey looks long and impossible, just take the first step, God will get you to where you need to go.  Gideon obeyed God’s request for a small first step of faith and God provided all the proof Gideon needed for finding the mountain of faith he needed for victory.  Notice from whom, the proof came.  It came from the enemy’s own mouth! 

        Look at Gideon’s reaction – He worshipped God, praising the Lord with joy!  On the basis of that encouragement the victory was assured!  Gideon now walked forward in faith.  We, like Gideon must hold on to the promises and encouragement God gives us in whatever form they take, despite what we see in the natural.  Because if it is from God it is as real as it gets!

        Gideon did not only worship God when he heard the dream and its interpretation, but he returned to the camp shared the encouragements he had received from God and then immediately attacked the enemy.  This action of testifying is a natural outpouring of the Spirit of faith (Ref: 2 Corinthians 4:13; 1st Peter 5:12).  It produces faith and it enriches the lives of those who hear it (Ref. 1st Corinthians 1:5-6).  It also overcomes the evil one and the fear which he brings (Ref. Revelation 12:11).     

VI   LET GO AND LET GOD – Gideon then divides the 300 men into three companies, i.e., three attacking columns, and he then gave them all trumpets and pitchers, with torches inside. The pitchers were taken that they might hide the burning torches during their attempt to surround the enemy's camp.  Once the enemy’s camp was surrounded and at the command of Gideon, the trumpets were sounded and the pitchers were shattered revealing the light of the torches.  Then at the same time Gideon commanded them shout “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon” (verse 18).  Thus through the earsplitting noise of the trumpets and the shouts of the 300, as well as the sudden lighting up of the burning torches, the enemy was un-nerved and completely deceived as to the strength and number of Gideon’s army.

        How astonishing and overwhelming this must have been to the half-awakened eyes of the Midianites.  Then God using the same attentiveness and care that He took to impart confidence to His servants, he inflicts terror and dread to his enemies.  As we have already seen, the name of Gideon brought dread to the numerous armies of the Midianites.  Then adding the fear of the name of Jehovah to that of Gideon’s it became too much for the Midianites to bear.  Terror-stricken, they cried out and fled, destroying each other as they did so.  The confidence of the Midianites melted away before the energy of faith; for the enemy's instrument has always been fear.  It was the Midianites own weapon that God used to defeat them.  It is Jehovah who is omnipotent, fear melts before Him and before them who stand in His name, by faith.  The trumpets and the lamps alone announce His presence, and that of His servant Gideon.  God’s enemies flee before His children and the 300 of Israel pursues their enemy, utterly destroying them, and as a result of their faith, gain a miraculous victory. 

        Now let me bring this home a bit.  You may remember from the last chapter that Midian means “strife.” The Midianites represent trouble, trials and the strife that occurs while we live in this world of sin.  We all run into our Midianites from time to time, more time then not I’m afraid, so what are the clay jars, torches and trumpets that we can use to gain the victory over our enemies today? 

        This story has its New Testament counterpart and explanation in 2nd Corinthians 4.

 “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.  (2) But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.  (3) But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, (4) whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.  (5) For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake.  (6) For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  (7) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.  (8) We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; (9) persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – (10) always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  (11) For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2nd Corinthians 4:1-11).

VII   DIE TO SELF – Notice verse 7; we are the fragile earthen vessel made from the clay of the earth (Cs. Ref. Genesis 2:7); Jesus is the light within the earthen vessel (verse 6); and our testimony of His greatness is the trumpet blast we are asked to sound (verse 5, 10)!  God has made His light to shine in our hearts (Matthew 5:14-16).  We are the epistle written upon our hearts for all men to see (2nd Corinthians 3:2).  His presence is the light within our lives.  He is this magnificent life giving light God has placed within our bodies of clay.  Fragile human beings – an earthenware vessel which contains the life and light of God!  But how does this light shine forth?  God’s light and power is seen in us when cracks appear in the jar.  Just as Gideon and his army broke their jars to expose the light, so there must be times of weakness which demand us to do away with our flesh and expose the Spirit (2nd Corinthians 4:11).  In other words, we must crack our earthen vessel (break our own wills) and allow Jesus’ light and power to come forth.

        We have spoken of the jar and the lamp, but there is one last ingredient we should discuss if we are ever to achieve true victory over our enemies.  The jars had been smashed, the light of the torches had been exposed, but it was when the trumpet sounded that the Lord brought victory over the Midianite army.  Blow the trumpet.  Sound the alarm, let God arise and His enemies will scatter.  Not our own trumpet however.  Blow the trumpet of God.  Look at how the Apostle Paul put it in 2nd Corinthians 4 “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord” (verse 5).  The trumpet call that we sound is all about Him, it should never be about us.  In the midst of difficulty, the only testimony that should be loudly proclaimed should be of God and His Son Jesus.  For as “Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:13-15).  God will speak through it and draw Christians and non-Christians alike unto Him.  Despite the overwhelming odds, our death to self which brings forth the light of Christ and the trumpet blast of His testimony, along with the declaration of His name brought God’s children ultimate victory in the face of the overwhelming odds of their enemy (Revelation 12:11).

       Paul says, in 2nd Corinthians 4:8 that there were times when he was…‘hard pressed’, ‘perplexed’, and ‘persecuted,’ when he was in a battered and weakened state that the power, light, and life of Jesus was manifested in his body. So like Paul, Gideon, with his limited followers, as with us also, must be armed simply with a jar, a torch, and a trumpet, and storm the Midianite camp from every side.  Like Gideon, it is daunting and scary when you are faced with overwhelming odds and facing an impossible task; but by faith in Christ we will prevail.  Trials are never pleasant.  But we can take heart that God has a purpose for them.  It is for the strengthening of your faith and the displaying of His life through you, that offenses must come (Matthew 18:7)!  Each crack in the clay vessel brings forth more of the light of Christ!  “And He said unto me (Paul), ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  (10) Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake" (2nd Corinthians 12:9-10).

VIII   Hold fast to the promises of God - “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).  When God instructs you in any action, obey it without question or hesitancy.  Faith in God will make you more than a conqueror, and “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17), remember “The fear of man brings a snare: but whosoever puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25), “You shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto Me, and I will hear it” (Deuteronomy 1:17b).  “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.  But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1st John 4:18).  For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him (2nd Chronicles 16:9).

        God brought the victory.  The only thing left to do was to destroy those that remained.  Israel was now to embark on a period of peace.  It was a time to enjoy the accomplishments and spoils brought about by the achievements.  But have you ever noticed that sometimes when your God-given task is accomplished, there is always somebody that is unhappy about it or disgruntled because you did not ask them for help?  They complain that they did not have a greater role in the accomplishment?  The devil always attacks when we are least expecting it.  In spite of this distraction Gideon never lost sight of his God-given calling.  Once this confrontation was resolved he started out again after the fleeing enemy. 

IX   Action speaks loader than words – Edmund Burke an 18th century Irish statesman, political theorist, and philosopher said; “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  Gideon’s brethren at Succoth and Penuel did exactly that, “nothing,” and by doing so aided the Midianites in their fight against Gideon.  Have you ever been in a situation like that?  God tells you to do something your family and friends do not agree with, because if you fail it will adversely affect them and as a result you get ridiculed and they do nothing to help you in your God given assignment.  If the answer is – yes, remember “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified” (1st Peter 4:14). 

        Brethren do as Gideon and his men did, they remained undaunted by the inappropriate actions of his brethren; he continued the pursuit and defeated Midian’s entire army capturing the two Kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna as proof of his victory.  You and God make an overwhelming majority.  Fight the good Fight, for your reward awaits!

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