“My own strength has saved me”

Daily Readings: Judges 7-8, Mark 10, Psalm 69

Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”

So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

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.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.

Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.

Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”

His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”

When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.

Gideon 7:1-16

I love this story in Judges.

You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’

Sometimes I wonder how many times God has done in this my life without announcing it to me. I wonder how many times God has thought to himself, “Aaron has too many men in his army right now. He might begin to think any success he has is of his own doing. I need to thin this out a bit…”

When I look back over times in my life where I have faced quite a bit of adversity and really needed to lean on God to get through it, they have almost always been preceded by periods where I have been feeling pretty darn good about myself and what “I have been accomplishing”.

When the Lord chooses to bless us in our families, careers, ministries, etc. it is natural for this success to draw attention to us. It is natural that people can’t help but ask, “How did you do it?” At these moments there is the temptation for false humility that takes the shape of, “Well, God has been really good throughout…” and then launching into ten minutes of tactics, strategies, etc. that ‘actually brought about our success’. We know we are supposed to credit God in the beginning, but our heart is not really in it even as we say those words.

God doesn’t mind you sharing helpful strategies with others that might help them in their family lives, careers, etc. However, we short change God if we are not also sharing the times where we totally dropped the ball, had very little to do with our own success, and had no idea how things were going to come together; and then God stepped in.

Success in our lives can be a blessing with which we can bless others if we are able to share our shortcomings as well.

This is also true in advance of potential success.

When people ask you, “How is everything going in your career?” or “How is your marriage going?” or “How have your kids been?” the natural tendency is to want to make things sound rosier than they are.

If the true way you are feeling about your career is, “I will be honest with you, I have been sick with worry a lot recently and I feel like God is the only thing keeping it together right now” say that. By going with, “good, really good” we rob people of the ability to come alongside us in support when we need it most.

We also rob God of future glory.

When he works the miraculous and there is an incredible, unexplainable comeback story in your business, marriage, or as a parent; no one knows about it. There is no glory given to God. People are not able to look and see 300 men with Gideon routing the Midianites. They just see “business still going well, marriage still chugging along, kids still appearing to be good kids”.

I wonder how many times God has thinned out my army so that I would turn back to him in desperation and tearfully proclaimed, “God, I don’t know what I am going to do!”

In these moments, if we genuinely turn to God and place our challenges in his hands, I think he frequently does for us what he did for Gideon.

“Go down into the camp and hear what they are saying.”

God wants to encourage us. He wants to let us know that everything will ultimately be ok.

Sometimes this might take the shape of divine inspiration on things you should do to right the ship. Sometimes it takes the shape of a kind word from a friend speaking truth to you and lifting you up. Sometimes it is a dream, a passage in the Bible you read that morning, or a line from a worship song that speaks directly to your heart and the situation you find yourself in.

God says, “I have got this, if you will just trust in me.”

I don’t want to be an unaware Gideon. I want to be honest with challenges in my life and give God the glory in advance, not just in hindsight. I want to push boldly into challenges with full confidence that God will work in this situation in one way or another.

I want to take my 300 down into the camp expecting victory.

Thought to ponder

What is my Midianite army currently? What area of my life do I need to turn over to God instead of leaning on my own strength? Are there any recent successes in my life where I have been tempted to take all of the credit and not allowed God to get the glory?

 

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