In Braveheart, one of my favorite movies, a Scottish soldier is afraid to fight because “the English are too many!” Imagine if God had responded that, actually, the Scottish army was too big. In the story of Gideon, something like that happened.
In a series of posts about hearing our Master’s voice, God speaks to and works through Gideon to rescue Israel from oppression by the Midianites, Amalekites, and others. After some serious doubts, covered in the last post, Gideon gained enough trust in God to gather an army, although he didn’t know the details of God’s plan. Judges 7 shows the plan being revealed and implemented and is the subject of coming posts.
Gideon gathered 22,000 soldiers south of the Midianite camp, and it was probably an inexperienced army since Judges 3:2 says many in Israel had yet to learn war. However, the army was too big: “The LORD said to Gideon, ‘The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” God says the fearful must return home, otherwise the army, and Gideon, would take credit that only God deserves. Only 10,000 remained, presumably those who trusted God for the victory.
But the Israelites were still too many, so the LORD has Gideon watch how the soldiers drank from the water. Those who knelt to drink were sent home, leaving only 300 men! Some suggest the soldiers who knelt showed that they were not ready for battle, probably putting down their weapons to drink, but whatever the reason, God was putting a plan into action, revealing it piece by piece, where Gideon could not possibly take credit and also risked massive failure. The enemy army was “like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance.”
Gideon must have been getting nervous, but God was about to show him that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31b. The Midianites were not too many for God to handle.