16 September 2014

Judges 7:2-23

“The Lord said to Gideon, ‘The troops with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand. Israel would only take the credit away from me, saying, “My own hand has delivered me.”’” (v. 2)


There are plenty of little sayings to help you: the more the merrier, many hands make light work, or too many cooks spoil the broth. There seems to be a maxim for every situation, and another to contradict it. I wonder what Gideon would have made of these in the context of today's passage.

Gideon is about to fight the Midianites, having sounded a trumpet summoning the Israelites to assemble for battle (Judges 6:34-35). Some 32,000 answer the call, but they are no match for the 135,000 of the enemy (Judges 8:10). But God's view is that 32,000 is too many. And by one means and another Gideon is finally left with 300.

It is easy to feel sorry for Gideon - who has 99% of his troops taken away from him. Bear too in mind what sort of man Gideon is - someone who struggles with confidence and courage. In Judges 6 Gideon doubts the words of the angel and questions that God might call someone whose clan is the least in Manasseh and who is the least in the family (Judges 6:15). And he then demands a sign from God as confirmation (Judges 6:19-24). But that's still not enough as Gideon asks for a second sign (Judges 6:36-29), and then for God to repeat it! Poor Gideon. How might you feel if you were in his place?

The reasoning God gives to Gideon for leaving him with only 300 men is that if they are too many on his side "Israel would only take the credit away from me". No judgement is made against the 22,000 who leave Gideon because they are fearful or trembling - their heart is not in it; or the 9,700 who knelt down to drink. (Compare this with Jesus' words in John's Gospel where he speaks about being the true vine and his Father the vinegrower, cutting out every branch in me that bears no fruit and pruning other branches so that they bear more fuit (John 15:1-11).)

In an age when church attendance is in decline (link to Statistics for Mission), what might this passage have to say? Could it possibly be that it is because God is going to do great things with his disciples and if there were too many then the credit would be taken away from God?

To Ponder

  • How do you react to the suggestion that the Church is declining so that God can do great things with it? Or is this a cop-out?
  • How much reassurance and confirmation do you need when responding to God?
  • What is your view of a God who wants to ensure that God receives the credit?
  • After a dream (verses 13-14) and signs from God assuring Gideon of victory, Gideon worshipped God (and presumably gave God thanks). But this worship took place before the battle. How good are you at thanking God? And before something happens? 

Bible notes author

Ken Kingston

Ken Kingston preaches in the High Wycombe Circuit. He has worked for the Connexional Team since 1992 in a variety of roles and has been involved in 'Called by Name' and 'Time to Talk of God' amongst others.