A few good men, that’s what he needed.
Gideon was the least of the least of his family. At least that’s the way he thought of himself. A descendant of the patriarch Joseph through the eldest son Manasseh, you’d think Gideon’s family would be doing well. But instead, when it came time for the family blessings to be handed out, Joseph’s younger son Ephraim had gotten it instead. By the time Gideon’s generation came along, his family was fairly well impoverished.
But then, at this particular time in Israel’s history, the whole nation was impoverished. (Read Judges chapters 6 and 7 for the story.)
Raiders, Midianite marauders from the other side of the Jordan River would wait until Israel’s crops were mature, then come in and steal everything. They would move in with their camels and their tents, take whatever they wanted and when it was used up they would move out again. There were so many of them, just their camels were “as the sand by the seaside for multitude.” (Jdg. 7:12)
The Lord picked Gideon, the least likely choice, to put a stop to the Midianite raids. And one of the fascinating facts in this story is the way he went about it.
Gideon started out with 32,000 men, a good sized army. But God said it was too many – they would take the credit themselves. He told Gideon to send those who were fearful back home, leaving 10,000.
That was still a fair number. But God said, it’s still too many. He gave Gideon a method by which to choose who should stay and fight, and who should go back home.
Men who drank water by kneeling and bending over to drink directly from the water had to go home. Men who drank by cupping their hands and bringing water to their lips, could stay. In the end, only 300 could stay.
Why make this distinction? It’s a question of wisdom. Common sense. Strategy.
If you’re drinking from a cupped hand, you can see what’s around you. You can see if someone is coming. You can hold a sword in the other hand, and you can stand, walk, run and fight.
If you’re kneeling and face down in the water, you can’t see anything around you. Your back is exposed. Both hands are on the ground supporting your body weight while you bend over to the water. You can’t hold a sword. You can’t stand, walk, run or fight, at least not until you get back up. By then an enemy could have killed you.
Wisdom, common sense, strategy. Gideon took those few, those 300 men and totally defeated the marauding enemy. Of course, they were so few, they had to use God’s tactics as well as his strategy. That’s a fascinating story all by itself.
I’m sure you know the difference between strategy and tactics. Derived from the Greek strategos, military strategy deals with the planning and conduct of campaigns, the movement and disposition of forces, and the deception of the enemy.
Tactics, on the other hand, are specific techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle.
Choosing the few, the wisest 300 was strategy. Having them break pitchers and blow trumpets at the enemy instead of fighting with swords? That was tactics. God is excellent at both.
In the times we live in today, I think God is looking again for a few good men. And women…