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Judges 7: God's Glory, Gideon's Good Print E-mail
Sunday, 19 April 2015

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It is important for us to understand God’s motivation for doing what He does.  He has not left us guessing about why He acts.  Have you ever thought: ‘Why did God create the world?  What was His motivation for creation?’  He tells us in Psalm 19: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork (v. 1)  Listen how He describes His people in Isaiah 43: they are those whom I created for my glory (v. 7).  God created for His glory.  Have you ever wondered: ‘Why did you save a wretch like me, O God?  Why is their a history of redemption that begins with Abraham and Israel and ends with Jesus and His Bride?  Why did you send your precious Son who shed His precious blood to pay for my sin and shame?’  What motivated God to save a people for Himself?  He did it for His glory.  The exodus was for His glory: And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen (Exodus 14:18).  Why did He not give up on them?  Even when they cry out for a king Samuel tells them: ‘For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself (1 Samuel 12:22).  God encourages His people through the prophet Isaiah when they face exile: Behold I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another (Isaiah 48:10-11).  God does what He does for His glory.

The same is true of our redemption through faith in Christ.  When Jesus was preparing for His death He prayed: Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. ‘Father, glorify thy name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it and I will glorify it again’ (John 12:27-28).  Christ died for the glory of the Father.  God redeemed us for His glory.  He created us and redeemed us for the sake of His great Name.

Now what is amazing about all of that is that God’s glory is our good.  For His glory, we have life.  For His glory, we enjoy His creation.  And for His glory, our sins were paid for by Jesus at the cross.  Our great good for His great glory!

We see this pattern throughout the Bible.  We see it this morning in God’s deliverance of Israel from Midian through Gideon.  God gets glory and Gideon gets good through the defeat of the Midianites.  So how does this happen?

The Lord reduces the army (v. 1-8)

Judges 7 tells the story of God keeping His Word to Gideon to defeat the Midianites.  Gideon has struggled with questions and fears and doubts to get to this point.  And the Lord begins the battle in a very strange way.  There are 32,000 Israelites who have come to fight against the 135,000 member army of the Midianites.  Those odds are not good.  Perhaps the numbers help us understand Gideon’s doubts.  But the Lord tells Gideon that 32,000 is too many people.  So He reduces the army to 10,000 by sending all the fearful home.  Look at verse 3.  But even that is too many for the Lord.  So He sends another 9,700 home.  Look at verses 4-8.  After this action, Gideon is left with 300 soldiers to take on an army of 135,000.  The Israelite army was already small compared to the Midianites and now only about 1% remains.  The odds are ridiculous at this point.  So why does God do this?  Look at verse 2.  The Lord will leave no room for boasting for He will give His glory to no other.  If Israel wins this battle it can only be by His hand.  How else would it even be possible?

The Lord encourages Gideon (v. 9-18)

Before the battle begins, the Lord speaks with Gideon.  Look at verses 9-11a.  The Lord tells him again that the battle is essentially already over: I have given it into your hand.  But just in case Gideon is still fearful of taking 300 men against 135,000, the Lord does something to encourage him.  He tells him to go down into the Midianite camp and so Gideon goes.  And listen to what God does in verses 13-14.  God gives a Midianite man a dream.  Then He has that man share that dream with another man while Gideon is listening.  Then the other man provides an interpretation that points to God’s victory over the Midianites.  God is even in control in the enemies camp!  We should note here the goodness and the sovereignty of God.  God did not have to do this for Gideon.  He already told him repeatedly that the battle was his.  But the Lord is gracious to us even in our weakness.  Davis writes: “Yet God is not so strict as to be harsh when we tremble; he does not ridicule us for our fears; he never mocks us because we are fragile.” 1 Instead, He shows us great grace and long-suffering.

So how does Gideon respond?  Look at verse 15.  I love that verse.  Gideon gets it.  Gideon sees the sovereignty and the power of God over this situation.  He cannot help but respond with worship for such a God.  And he is convinced that the Lord will indeed give Midian into his hand.  So he rallies the 300 and proclaims again the outrageous: the 135,000 member Midianite army will fall to 300 Israelites.  The sovereign God will do this!

The Lord defeats the Midianites (v. 19-25)

So Gideon gets the army ready by arming them with trumpets, empty jars, and torches.  They go down to the camp, split up into three groups, blow their horns, and defeat the Midianite army.  Listen how it is described in verses 19-21.  Again, remember that 135,000 men are sleeping in this valley.  By splitting up, the 300 can at least cover more ground, but still, it would be hard for them to even get around the Midianite army on all sides.  Yet, when they blow their trumpets and smash the jars, chaos breaks out in the enemies camp.  They cry out: ‘A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!’  What is ironic about this statement is that the author has just told us that they have torches in their left hands and trumpets in their right.  So where are they holding their swords?  They are not holding them!  300 men defeat 135,000 (technically only 120,000 at this point but who is counting) soldiers without even raising a sword.  How does this happen?  Look at verse 22.  Who set the Midianites against themselves?  The Lord did.  Who caused chaos to reign in their camp?  The Lord did.  Who defeated this great army?  The Lord did.  He alone gets glory.

So the Lord defeats the Midianite army for the glory of His great name.  I would dare say that none of the 300 men who ‘fought’ for Israel that day would boast in how great they fought.  It is hard for me to imagine that they all knew for sure that they were going to win that battle.  They were smart enough to understand that they were probably going to lose.  They had to think that as soon as they started blowing those trumpets they were forfeiting their lives.  But they believed enough to listen to Gideon and to listen to Yahweh and to do what He said.  And He gave them the battle.  When Gideon questioned God and gave Him all his excuses, God told him: ‘But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man’ (6:16).  When Gideon still had his doubts and tested God with the fleece, the Lord assured him that the battle was his (6:36-40).  And after the army was reduced to only 300 men, the Lord told him: ‘Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand’ (7:9).  The Lord was going to get glory over the Midianites and He would do it for the good of Gideon and the good of Israel.

So what about us?  How does God fighting for His own glory mean good for us?  Of course, the answer is what God has done for us through Christ, our Great Deliverer.  Did Jesus die for God’s glory or for our good?  The answer is both.  He died to justly justify a people for God.  Every single sinner who is justified through faith alone brings glory to God.  That God could take a sinful people and save them without compromising His character, brings glory to His Name.  The redemption of the Bride of Christ is for the glory of God.  Yet, it is for our good as well.  We were desperate sinners without Christ.  We were without God in the world as Gentiles (see Ephesians 2:11ff).  We had no hope of salvation and forgiveness.  So the Father sent His Son to save us from the punishment we deserved.  And by doing so, God has connected His glory with our good.  For God to abandon the Church would be like Him abandoning the 300.  If God kept His Word to Gideon, then He will keep His Word to all who turn from their sins and trust in Christ.  The odds of our salvation were impossible.  How could a holy God save a sinful man like me?  That’s even more crazy than 300 men taking out an army of 135,000.  Even more than the defeat of the Midianites, God receives great glory for the salvation of sinners like us.  And so like Gideon, may we respond with worship.  May we give our lives for the service of our great King.  May we spend our days bringing glory to our great Redeemer.  Amen.  

1 Dale Ralph Davis, Judges FOTB (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2006), p. 106.

~ William Marshall ~


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