We know it’s not about us . . . but maybe, just maybe, we like to think it is a bit. We know it’s not about who we are or what we’ve done . . . but I wonder if deep, deep, down, sometimes we like to think it could be, if even only a little.
Reading again in Judges this morning. And I’m chewing on the 300.
In Judges 6 the Angel of the Lord (another pre-incarnate visit by the Second Person of the Trinity?) tells Gideon that he has been called and is being sent to “go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian” (6:14). But Gideon is kind of aware of how un-mighty “this might of yours” is. His clan is the weakest in Manasseh and he is the “least” in his father’s house (6:15).
And he’s not kidding. He’s not just being humble. He really isn’t all that mighty.
When God asks him to tear down the altar of Baal his father has built, while he obeys, “because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night” (6:27). And then, he tries to avoid graduating from tearing down altars to inanimate objects to facing an army that has horribly oppressed Israel for seven years by testing God’s resolve with a fleece (6:36-40).
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing Gideon. By Judges 7 he’s ready to go into battle. I’m just saying he may not be your stereotypical mighty man material.
It gets really interesting in Judges 7 when Gideon’s call for men to follow him into battle ends up with 32,000 fighting men responding. Ok, now I might be feeling a bit better about this whole kick-some-Midian-butt thing. But God says, too many men for me to give the Midians into your hand–pare it down “lest Israel boast over Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me'” (7:3). So 22,000 men are sent home. Only 10,000 left. If it’s me, sweat is forming on my brow.
But God says, “Still too many.” And He gives Gideon the next level of filter.
So [Gideon] brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. 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.”
(Judges 7:5-7 ESV)
I have a picture of me at those waters from a trip to the Holy Land back in ’97. And guess what? I’m not kneeling, I’m putting my hand to my mouth. (What was I thinking!?! Really? I want to be one of those 300 guys going against that enemy hoard? Give your head a shake, Corak!)
Anyway, I posed for the picture that way because our tour’s Bible teacher said God picked the 300 who put their hands to their mouth because it showed they were alert and ready for battle. That they wouldn’t go to both knees because that was a compromising position and not very soldier like. That those who took time to get down on their knees for a drink were eliminated while those who quickly lapped like a dog and were ready to move on were kept. (Now that I think about it, sounds like a reason for boasting to me.)
But what if wasn’t about these guys being the elite of the elite? What if it was simply about the number 300?
What if the guys who lapped their water did so because they had bad knees? What if they didn’t get down because they weren’t sure they could get up? What if they were so nervous that they weren’t sure they could keep the water down and so just took a little sip? What if it wasn’t about them at all? What if it wasn’t about who they were or what they had done? What if it was simply about God wanting only 300? And those 300 would do?
I’m not saying that my Israel tour Bible teacher was wrong or that I have any new revelation. I’m must noodling on the fact that God wanted to make sure there was no doubt in anybody’s mind as to who defeated the Midianites. That God wanted the smallest, and therefore weakest, army possible. That it wasn’t that God needed a few good men, but that He wanted a few men of faith. Men willing to go into battle because God had called them to and they believed Him when He promised that He would go before them.
What if it was just about the 300?
Then it would show the amazing grace of God, alone.
Then it would be to the eternal praise and glory of God, alone.
And it really wouldn’t be about us.