JUDGES 7: DOES GOD WANT YOU WEAK?
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?
7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.
Gideon knew that delivering Israel from the Midianites would be no easy task. From Judges 8:10 we learn that the combined forces arrayed against Israel was 135,000. So, when Gideon asked for volunteers, the 32,000 Israelites who showed up still left them at a terrible disadvantage. The odds were 4-to-1 in Midian’s favor. When God did his math, he figured that Gideon had far too many men and told Gideon to send home any men who were afraid to fight. Twenty-two thousand men left, leaving 10,000. Now the odds have shrunk to 450-to-1against Israel. Why did God do that? Verse 2 explains God’s reasoning. I paraphrase: “If I lead you into battle with 22,000 men, when you win against 135,000 you will still puff out your chests and boast that you did this in your own strength.”
So, to make sure that didn’t happen, God whittled the 22,000 all the way down to 300 (vs. 4-6). God made sure the Israelites realized how weak and inadequate they were going into this conflict, so they would rely on him and give him the glory when victory came. Verse 7 reads, “The LORD said to Gideon, ‘With … 300 men I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands.”
In shrinking the number to 300, God was not reducing them to a corps of crack troops. This was not like a highly trained elite special ops force. These 300 had no military training, that’s not the point. The point is that God wanted a group so small, so inadequate, that when the battle was won, Israel could not say, “my own hand has delivered me.” Until the numbers were reduced to the level at which it was clearly the LORD and not Israel who won the battle, they had too many men.
Later in the chapter, we read how the Israelites gained a great victory over their Midianites. Did those 300 Israelites win that battle, or did God? Verse 21 says, “While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.” The 300 didn’t fight—they just stood there screaming. They could not claim they defeated the enemy. It was the LORD [who] caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords” (v. 22).
The primary application from Judges 7 is this: God’s power is most fully displayed when his people are weak. We sing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong.” Those “little ones,” are us. We often have trouble admitting how weak we are. We think we are stronger than we are. We think we did it with our talent, our efforts, our hard work, our intelligence, our creativity, our cleverness. It’s our pride that causes us to want to take the credit for ourselves. What happens is that our egos take over, and God gets left behind.
This is why God so often chooses unlikely people to achieve his purposes—weak people through whom he can work. Sometimes God brings us to a moment when all our human confidence is stripped away, when we are forced to admit that we are weak and afraid—when we have no other option but to humble ourselves before him and recognize that he is the only one worthy of trust, and the only one who can give us victory.
Dear God, only after I became an adult did I realize the truth of the words of the song I learned as a child: "they are weak, but he is strong." I now know, Father, that it's my weakness that drives me to you. Thank you for teaching me that it's when I recognize my weakness and depend on you that I am strongest. In Jesus' name, Amen!
Dr. Dan Dozier
Dan Dozier preaches for the Rural Hill Church of Christ in Antioch, TN. Dr. Dozier holds degrees from Lipscomb University, Harding School of Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate from Abilene Christian University. He has been married to his high school sweetheart, JaneLee, since 1972. They have three married children and eight grandchildren.