Judges ~ Chapter Seven
Read: Judges 7:1-25
"And the LORD said to Gideon,
"The people who are with you are too many for Me
to give the Midianites into their hands,
lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me,
saying, 'My own hand has saved me.'
Then the LORD said to Gideon,
"By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you,
and deliver the Midianites into your hand..."
(Judges 7:2, 7a)
The Lord's ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8, 9), especially when it comes to military strategy. At the edge of the Red Sea, with a watery grave before them and an Egyptian army closing in behind them, the Lord's instructions to His fearful people were: "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace" (Exodus 14:13, 14). Then, when Israel was faced with their first great obstacle before taking possession of the land of Canaan, they were instructed by the Lord to: "...march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do for six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat" (Joshua 6:3-5a). In every battle, the Lord's objective is the obedience of His people, and His goal is His glory, as He illustrates in warfare His complete mastery over all His peoples' enemies. "I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images" (Isaiah 42:8). The story of Gideon's valiant three hundred is no different, but clearly illustrates, as all Israel's other battles have, that "the battle is the Lord's" (1 Samuel 17:47; 2 Chronicles 20:15), and He Himself provides the victory. From the beginning, the Lord assured His servant of His presence in battle and of His promise of victory (6:14, 16). "The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!" (v. 12b). The victory would be by God's power, not His peoples, as He revealed in His instructions to Gideon to begin winnowing down the army. "And the LORD said to Gideon, "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me' " (Judges 7:2). In the first sifting, more than two-thirds of the men departed because they were fearful of battle (v. 3). The law exempted from battle the man who was nervous and fearful, lest they discourage the others (Deuteronomy 20:5-8). The size of the army was not as important as the faith of the soldiers. The battle was God's, and He only enlisted warriors who trusted Him for the battle. "For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6b). In the second sifting, the army was further thinned by how they drank water from a brook. The Lord's chosen army was three hundred brave men who were prepared for action. Then the Lord provided His commanding officer with another word of assurance, but this time he would need to cross enemy lines to get it. Standing in the valley in the midst of a multitude of soldiers that looked like a swarm of locusts, and camels that were as numerous "as the sand by the seashore" would be enough to cause any warrior to tuck tail and run, but the Lord was training His valiant warrior to see the invisible and walk by faith. "By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:27, NIV). Gideon heard from the mouth of his enemy that God had given him the victory, and so he worshiped and gave glory to God. The Lord published the results of the battle even before it began, and Gideon rejoiced at the reading of the headline, hearing that he was not only a part of the survivors of the battle, but the one who led his people to victory! One of the most extraordinary aspects of the Lord's strategic battle plan is His sending His people into battle in praise at the head of the army. "And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: "Praise the LORD, for His mercy endures forever." Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people..." (2 Chronicles 20:21, 22a). May we take a note from the pages of the Commander of the Lord's Army's playbook (the Bible!) and give priority time this year to sharpening our instruments and fine-tuning our heartstrings to greater praise, as we trust the Lord for His inner strategy that will bring us a much greater victory than we could have ever imagined or orchestrated in our own strength. "But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10). Let us yield to the Holy Spirit as He directs our hearts into all truth and feast upon the rich sustenance of the promises He has given us in His Word as our portion each day, so we will be strengthened to go forward worshiping and praising the Lord having already read the final headlines: "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea. Then, I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful" (Revelation 21:1-5).
"For you see your calling, brethren,
that not many wise according to the flesh,
not many mighty, not many noble, are called.
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise,
and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen,
and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,
that no flesh should glory in His presence."
(1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
"Then he divided the three hundred men into three companies,
and he put a trumpet into every man's hand, with empty pitchers,
and torches inside the pitchers. And he said to them,
"Look at me and do likewise; watch,
and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do:
When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me,
then you also blow the trumpets on every side of the whole camp,
and say, 'The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!' "
I was sixteen years old when I experienced an extraordinary Isaiah 6 encounter with the Lord and received my call to ministry, but it wouldn't be until twenty-one years later that the Lord would unlock the door to greater understanding and revelation and release the details of His strategic plan in that original vision for an awakening of the hearts of His people in which He would set our hearts on fire with First Love devotion and zeal (Revelation 2:4, 5). The watershed moment that transformed my prayer life and birthed Trumpet and Torch Ministries, came during my first 40 days with the Lord in 2006, when He invited me to His table and taught me what true spiritual fasting is (Isaiah 58). "It is written: 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God' " (Matthew 4:4). I have said it before: we honor God most by what we receive from Him. Many people are fearful of fasting because of what they may be asked to give up or deny themselves, but the fast that Jesus' invites us to is to a longing for His Presence and an experience of His fellowship as our long-awaited Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15). During that unforgettable first season of intimate fellowship with the Lord, He taught me the blessedness of becoming a vessel prepared to receive, and He deposited into my life a divine process which would become the guiding principle to living a lifestyle of prayer and fasting from that point on, and, also, provide the foundational framework for every prayer and fasting devotional journey He would lead me to write over the years to help other believer's cultivate a disciplined life of deepening and abiding intimacy with the Lord. "One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple" (Psalm 27:4). It was Gideon's story, in the seventh chapter of Judges, that the Lord used to unlock the details of His military strategy to our achieving a life of power and victory despite overwhelming opposition and adversity that we can expect to face. Just as Gideon outfitted his winnowed army with the unlikely weapons of a Trumpet and Torch within a clay jar to fight the external battle against the Midianites who had impoverished the people physically, the Lord has provided us similar spiritual weapons to help us wage war against the interior battles of the flesh we face each day which seek to rob us of our spiritual life and power. "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us" (2 Corinthians 4:7). The greatest battles we face are within. Like Israel, life becomes intolerable when we experience the devastating effects of war. From a spiritual perspective, we face impossible dangers when we are deprived of our daily bread; we weaken ourselves unnecessarily when we neglect the Word of God, choosing instead to fill our lives with other unsatisfying substitutes. Not only do we rob the Lord of our devotion by giving our affections to less worthy rivals, but we also find that we are unable to stand against the temptations that war within our flesh. When the carnal appetites of our flesh have freedom to reign because we have not subdued them with prayer and fasting, we surrender the sacred ground of our hearts to sin and do alarming damage - not only to ourselves, but to those the Lord has purposed to reach by using us as a channel through which He can flow the blessings of heaven to the earth. Just as Gideon divided the army into three companies so that he could attack the enemy at the same time from different directions, so too, the Lord revealed the necessity of making the most of the divisions of the day as vital spiritual training hours to be prepared for any attack, at any time, and from anywhere. He showed me that just as we depend on three physical meals to receive our nourishment and strengthening throughout the day, it is even more vital that we discipline our spiritual appetite to depend on regular nourishment from the Word of God, at least three times a day - morning, noon, and night - breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We cannot expect to fight the flesh appetites that war within us or the spiritual forces that war around us if we do not take the time to train the spiritual nature and appetite as the apostle Paul did (1 Corinthians 9:27). "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). The spiritual appetite, like physical muscles, needs to be awakened and trained. Just like when we begin a new diet or exercise program, with the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting (feasting on the Word of God), it will be painful at first as the body is learning a new way of doing things; we will see the flesh in a whole new light as it raises its' ugly head in protest. But over time, if we remain diligent and follow the strategy the Lord has given in feasting on His Word and in prayer three times a day, we will find the spiritual appetite becoming the controlling influence of our lives as we learn to yield to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and appropriate the spiritual food He places on our plate each day. Soon, the groanings of the flesh within will be silenced, and our spiritual muscles will become strengthened to ward off any impulses of the flesh. We will find ourselves becoming more proactive, rather than reactive, when faced with the challenges that come our way each day, and more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Like Gideon, we will find the Lord revealing to us His plans ahead of time through His Word and giving us the confidence and assurance we need to build an army and take to the battlefield, where we will catch the enemy by surprise and confound his plans and experience the victory the Lord has planned for us. "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," says the LORD of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6b). We will find that our prayer life will rise to a whole new level as we experience deepening intimacy with the Lord and learn the art of listening and waiting upon the Lord. As we look at all the chaos and corruption that is swirling around us in the world, we see a picture of the greater spiritual battle that is being waged in the hearts of men. Just like Israel experienced, we cannot expect to have peace in this world, if we do not first make peace with God. May we draw near to the One who has overcome the world, so that we may experience His all-surpassing peace in these troubling times. "Return to Me," says the LORD of hosts, "and I will return to you," says the LORD of hosts" (Zechariah 1:3). May we be so full of the Word of God this year that the life of Christ's (not our own fleshly impulses) flows through us whenever we are pricked by those around us who would seek to destroy the testimony of the Lord's faithfulness in our lives. May we not be afraid of the trials that we may face but pray that these clay jars of our flesh be broken open when we are pressed, so that the pure light of Christ will pour forth upon this dark world and the people be bathed in His love as we lift our voices like a trumpet and go forth into battle declaring His eternal praise! He is worthy!
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed;
we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down, but not destroyed -
always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,
that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake,
that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
So then death is working in us, but life in you."
(2 Corinthians 4:7-12)