[The following is a complete excerpt of Day 6 from Feet to Follow, Eyes to See]
When the terrible chariot force of Sisera was destroyed, it left a power vacuum in the Jezreel valley the Israelites simply were not equipped to fill. Seeing their opportunity, the Midianites decided to move in. The Midianites were nomadic marauders from the eastern desert who had camels rather than chariots, but a fast-moving cavalry force was still more than the Israelites’ volunteer infantry could handle:
Because of Midian, the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves, and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites, Amalekites, and the Qedemites came and attacked them. They encamped against them and destroyed the produce of the land, even as far as Gaza. They left nothing for Israel to eat, as well as no sheep, ox or donkey. For the Midianites came with their cattle and their tents like a great swarm of locusts. They and their camels were without number, and they entered the land to waste it. So Israel became poverty-stricken because of Midian, and the Israelites cried out to the LORD. (Judges 6:1–6)
In response to their cry for help and their renewed dependence on Him, the LORD called Gideon to lead the Israelites into battle. Gideon was no seasoned warrior; he was just trying to cope with the situation by harvesting his family’s grain in secret. The angel of the LORD’s greeting therefore seemed slightly delusional: “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12).
It took some convincing for Gideon to accept the role God had assigned him, but he eventually assembled a force of 32,000 men at the spring of Harod. The Midianites were encamped on the other side of the Jezreel Valley, unable to see Gideon’s assembled forces. It was then the LORD told Gideon he had too many men!
The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many people for Me to hand the Midianites over to you, or else Israel might brag: ‘I did it myself.’ Now announce in the presence of the people: ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So 22,000 of the people turned back, but 10,000 remained. (Judges 7:2–3)
What was Gideon feeling in the pit of his stomach when more than two-thirds of his troops turned back? Whatever he felt, God wasn’t finished. He told Gideon to make all the men drink water from the spring, and only those who drank a certain way would be permitted to enter the battle. Only 300 men out of the remaining 10,000 passed this apparently arbitrary test, so Gideon went to war with less than one percent of his original forces.
So often we think that to serve the LORD, we need to offer more: more of our time, more of our effort, more of our energy, more of our abilities, more of ourselves. Yet He doesn’t need more of what we have to offer. On the contrary, we need more of Him.
God was able to deliver the Israelites through the brave actions of 300 men, and He alone received the glory for that victory. Gideon received glory as well: not for his brilliant deployment of a vast army, but for his willingness to do what the LORD instructed him to do. Gideon became the “mighty warrior” God had named him, because he went out in the simple belief that the LORD was “with him” (Judges 6:12).
In much the same way, John the Baptist was charged with announcing the coming of the Messiah. Before Jesus came, John created quite a stir, and people of every station and rank came to hear his preaching. When at last he identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), the people began flocking to Jesus. Asked how he felt about his waning popularity, John replied:
No one can receive a single thing unless it’s given to him from heaven. … So this joy of mine is complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:27, 29–30)
What if Gideon and John had tried to do more than God had asked of them? Would we think better of them, or worse? Are you getting burned out trying to offer God more of yourself? Or are you willing to decrease so that the glory of His name might increase?
[If you enjoyed this devotion from Feet to Follow, Eyes to See, please share it with someone you know. For more on the practical challenges of offering less, not more, see this post on my personal blog.]