Formations lesson for August 12: Gideon
July 20 2001 by F. Calvin Parker , Judges 7:1-25

Formations lesson for August 12: Gideon | Friday, July 20, 2001

Friday, July 20, 2001

Formations lesson for August 12: Gideon

By F. Calvin Parker Judges 7:1-25 The book of Judges describes a time of general lawlessness and savage warfare in the ancient history of Israel. This "dark age" may have been two centuries long. There was a succession of judges whose judicial functions, if any, were eclipsed by their military roles. These judges, including Gideon, led the Israelites in fierce battles against their pagan foes.

Gideon had many wives, and they bore him 70 sons. He also had a son by his concubine in Shechem. After Gideon's death, this son, Abimelech, hired killers to murder his 70 half-brothers, only one of whom escaped. Gideon himself was a ruthless fellow who not only slaughtered the enemy but also took reprisals on fellow Israelites who earned his displeasure. Because the elders of Succoth withheld food from his troops, he tortured them to death by tearing them with thorns and briers. Such gruesome stories have led some writers to call Judges an R-rated book.

There are also some positive things to say about Gideon. After testing God twice with a fleece of wool, he did what God told him to do, no matter how odd the command. In this way a frightened farmer became a brilliant military strategist who vanquished the enemies of Israel. A grateful people tried to make him their king, but the hero flatly refused. Unlike our generals Grant and Eisenhower, Gideon bowed out of the limelight and retired to his home.

Gideon's tiny band (Judges 7:1-8) This passage relates how Gideon mustered an army of 32,000 to attack the Midianites, who had long oppressed Israel and plundered its land. God intended to give His people victory and relief but knew that with so large an army, the Israelites would claim the credit for themselves and not for God. So He commanded Gideon to dismiss the soldiers who were afraid. This action reduced the army to 10,000. Then God ordered a further reduction based on how the soldiers drank water. The details are murky, but if this peculiar test was consistent with the first one, the soldiers chosen to fight were those who proved most alert to a surprise attack. The troops were pared down to a mere 300, less than 1 percent of the original 32,000.

Einstein once said that if 2 percent of our population would take a personal, resolute stand against war, it would mean the end of war. Perhaps he was right. If, with God's help, 1 percent of an army can win a war, with God's help 2 percent of a population should be able to prevent a war. "Blessed are the peacemakers," said Jesus, referring to a tiny band indeed.

In my youth the Baptist Student Union promoted the "Master's Minority Movement." Among the inspiring speakers I heard were Frank Leavell and Chester Swor. They encouraged students to sign an eight-point covenant between themselves and their Lord, a covenant by which, among other things, they abjured worldliness, sought out prayer mates and kept the Sabbath day holy. Only a dedicated few could sign so demanding a covenant. But the movement was significant because of a cardinal truth: a little leaven can leaven the whole lump.

Trumpets, Jars and Torches (Judges 7:9-25) The tiny band of Israelites was vastly outnumbered by the enemy forces, which are likened in verse 12 to a swarm of locusts. But Gideon directed a surprise attack by night, using incredible tactics that confused and routed a superior army. The sounding of 300 trumpets, the breaking of 300 jars and exposing of 300 torches, the shouting of a war-cry from 300 throats - these carefully timed dramatics made Gideon's band seem like a multitude. Each of the 300 soldiers played his role to the hilt.

In our day Gideon's name is celebrated in a voluntary organization, Gideons International, which distributes Scriptures throughout the world. Its emblem, appropriately, is a two-handled pitcher (jar) with a torch. According to its Web site, the organization has 140,000 members in 175 countries and distributes more than 56 million Scriptures a year. That is an average of 400 Scriptures for each member. Using a weapon so potent as the Bible, people committed to God's work can achieve results beyond measure.

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7/20/2001 12:00:00 AM by F. Calvin Parker , Judges 7:1-25 | with 0 comments
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