God Shows up in Supernatural Ways

The writer Mark Twain once said something that sounds a lot like the scene we will now study in Gideon’s life, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” 

The time had come for Gideon, called and anointed by God, to lead untrained civilians against armed invading soldiers who had terrorized them for seven years. God knew that if the number of men with Gideon in the fight was too many, their pride would cause them to not see His sovereign hand giving them the victory. Instead, they would arrogantly use the victory to boast that they were the heroes and saviors, saying, “My own hand has saved me.” This same thing, sadly, happens all the time in our own day. How often have God’s people, including you and me, seen God do something and we take the glory for it? Even the way people tell their salvation testimony is often flawed – that they found God, as if God was ever the one who was lost. 

Gideon’s call to arms brought out 22,000 men. Anyone who was “fearful and trembling” was given the opportunity to not join the fight and go home. If you’ve ever been in a fight, combat, or a potentially deadly situation, you know this feeling. Your heart is beating out of your chest, your mind is racing with fear, your hands are trembling, and you feel like you are going to faint or throw up. War is no joke, and only a scholar who has never been shot with even a Nerf gun hiding in the safe confines of a library studying this ancient text would criticize these men for feeling fearful in the face of battle. This is a perfectly human response to urban combat against trained terrorists when you are a malnourished civilian outnumbered and surrounded. At this invitation, 12,000 start the long walk home, trying to figure out what they will tell their wives and kids to make it sound like they weren’t total cowards. 

With 10,000 soldiers remaining – the same number that Deborah took into battle a few pages earlier – God then had Gideon test the men by taking them to the water for a drink. The test concludes, “And the LORD said to Gideon, “Everyone who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” Only 300 men passed this test, and the rest were sent home. “And the LORD said to Gideon, ‘With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.’” 

To be clear, this means that God’s plan for Gideon was to bring 300 untrained, malnourished civilians into a war against 135,000 armed terrorists. Commentators often criticize Gideon for struggling with fear in this moment, as “the LORD said to him, ‘Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.’ Then he went down with Purah[.]” God senses Gideon’s fear, and, like a good Father, leads him through it into the biggest risk of his entire life, with the lives of 300 other men hanging in the balance. To be sure, God had promised them victory. However, when the enemy has 450 bad guys for each one of your men, it is easy to understand a bit of fear. Imagine that you showed up for a shoot-out at high noon in the middle of a street like an old-school western, and you had one gun up against 450 gunmen! 

Faith is like a muscle; it gets stronger the more we use it. To help Gideon’s faith grow sufficient for the battle, God gives some guy a dream in which Gideon, represented by “a cake of barley bread” as God met him threshing grain, knocked down a tent (see Amos 9:11), representing the camp of the Midianites. This dream was rightly interpreted as, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.” 

Throughout the Gideon story, we have seen God repeatedly show up in supernatural ways. Not only did the Holy Spirit clothe Gideon; but Jesus came down from Heaven to speak with Him, God later spoke to him again, and in this scene God gives a prophetic dream with a correct interpretation. These miraculous moments reveal the freedom and power of God as He works differently in the lives of different people and leaders. Seeing that God is truly with him, Gideon grows in his faith. “As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped.” The example here is vital: Whenever we see God show up in our lives, we need to take that sacred moment to stop everything we are doing and worship Him! Singing in the car, kneeling in our house, getting to our church – whatever would be examples of this principle. 

How have you seen God speak to you in a supernatural way, like He did to Gideon (e.g., vision, dream, angelic visit, word from God, prophecy, miracle, specific Scripture, etc.)?

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