Gideon's Army of 300: Why God Chooses the Humble

For the past several months there is one story in scripture that has constantly interrupted my thoughts.   Though, more importantly, it has interrupted the many anxieties that make me feel inferior to God's calling.  It's the story of a man named Gideon.

There are many intricacies to the story that I am going to do my best to sum up here but I strongly encourage you to do your own reading so you can take in the whole picture.  The account of Gideon is found in Judges 6-8! 

The story starts off during the seventh year of oppression against Israel put on by the Midianites.  We read about them brutally stripping the Israelites of their crops, their livestock, their shelter, and their livelihood.  In fact, the Bible describes the Midianites as a swarm of locusts.  They left all they touched naked to the bone and there was no one to stand against them until God called forth Gideon.  I imagine God calling out to a seasoned warrior with a history of many victories under his belt but that wasn't the case.  Gideon came from a weak family and on top of that he was his father's youngest son but these are the things that matter least to the Lord.  God called Gideon just how He saw him, "valiant warrior"

"The Lord turned to him and said, 'Go in the strength you have and deliver Israel from the grasp of Midian.  I am sending you.' 

Gideon said to him, 'Please, Lord, how can I deliver Israel?  Look, my family is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father's family.' 

'But I will be with you,' the Lord said to him.  'You will strike Midian down as if it were one man.'" 
-Judges 6:14-16 

So Gideon gathered up an army and took them to camp just south of where the Midianites were gathered.  But God wasn't satisfied.  Gideon's army was already vastly outnumbered by the opposing army and yet God asked him to reduce the numbers.  Calling forth the soldiers, Gideon separated the fearful from the brave.  Twenty-two thousand soldiers returned home while ten thousand remained.

But God still wasn't satisfied.

Gideon put his troops through one last test and afterwards a mere three hundred men remained.  This army of 300 was about to take on 135,000 men.  Remember that thing about a swarm of locusts?  On paper it's crazy.  Most would call it laughable but Gideon took God at His word and knew that they would not be along in battle.  Before the attack, God gives Gideon one more boost of confidence.  He tells Gideon to go down to the valley to spy on the Midianites.

"Now the Midianites, Amalekites, and all the Qedemites had settled down in the valley like a swarm of locusts, and their camels were as innumerable as the sand on the seashore.  When Gideon arrived, there was a man telling his friend about a dream.  He said, 'Listen, I had a dream:  a loaf of barley bread camp tumbling into the Midianite camp, struck a tent, and it fell.  The loaf turned the tent upside down so that it collapsed.'  His friend answered:  'This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite.  God has handed the entire Midianite camp over to him.'" 
-Judges 7:12-14

I love this picture.  A loaf of barley bread tumbles into camp and turns everything upside down.  It's a showcase of the power that God establishes in the humble when they are willing.  That humble army of three hundred saw the fruit of God's promise and they defeated the Midianites as if they were one man.  Something very interesting happens next when we see Gideon return from battle.

"Then the Israelites said to Gideon, 'Rule over us, you as well as your sons and your grandsons, for you delivered us from the power of Midian.'  But Gideon said to them, 'I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you;  the Lord will rule over you.'"

Notice Gideon's continued humility even after one of the greatest victories of all time.  Now we can see why he was chosen to lead 300 men to stand against thousands.  God deserves the glory for all that we do and far too often we are tempted to keep it as our own.  But Gideon was faithful both in his task and his view of God, which lead to great blessing.  If we go on to read the entire account we will find that during all the remaining days of Gideon, Israel lived in peace.

I replay this story over and over in my mind and I marvel at a God who does impossible things.  Our call to humility is not a call to weakness but rather it is a call to do great things only by the power of God who gives us strength.  Humility says, "apart from God, I can do nothing, but with God I am willing."

Have you ever felt like God has asked you to do something far beyond your capabilities?  Maybe you feel like you aren't fit.  But perhaps taking of position that says, "who am I?" is exactly what makes us qualified.  I think that when we are called out upon the waters its cause for great celebration because its there in the deep where we see God.  When the victory is won we can then call out to the world, "Come and see what God has done!"