When Jars Break and Torches Shine

In this blog post, you’ll read about:
# God’s Encouragement
# God’s Elimination Process
# Gideon’s Surpise War Strategy

Gideon was a man who had fears. He needed encouragement. And God gave him plenty. One thing of importance to note is that God used Gideon in spite of his fears. God asked Gideon to “Go in the strength you have” (Judges 6:14). The logic and the assurance behind that is God’s question, “Am I not sending you?” When God sends us, whatever strength we have is enough because he is on our side.

God had asked Gideon to go and save Israelites out of Midian’s (their enemies) hands. But then God found that there were too many men with Gideon. This is interesting because it tells us that it is not the vastness of the army that wins battles for God, but the quality of the men who fight. One Spirit-filled man or woman is much better than a hundred thousand worldly Christians (worldly is a word Paul uses to describe those who are selfish and quarrelsome, see 1 Corinthians 3:3). In which camp would you fit in?

So when God saw that there were too many men with Gideon, God started an elimination process. This was because God did not want Israel to boast against him that they had won the battle in their own strength (Judges 7:2). Our God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, 34:14, Deuteronomy 4:24) and he wont share his glory with anyone else (Isaiah 48:11). Often great works for God are not done in our midst because we try to steal God’s glory. Let this not be. Remember God will only use people who will not trust in their own strength to do God’s work; but trust in divine power (see 2 Corinthians 10:4).

The first step in the process of elimination was a simple instruction. Those who were trembling with fear were asked to turn back and leave the scene of battle. Interestingly twenty-two thousand men left. Why such an instruction? It was because those who are fearful in heart will easily discourage the brave-hearted. God does not want any half-hearted followers as Jesus made clear (Luke 9:57-62). Those who follow him must truly count the cost before setting out.

The second step in the process of elimination was a test. God asked Gideon to take the ten thousand men who remained to the water. He also told Gideon that he is to take with him only those whom God pointed out to him. Imagine ten thousand men under your command! How are you ever going to find out who are those God was sending with you? But look at how imaginatively God did this.

God said, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink” (Judges 7:5 NIV). Only three hundred men who lapped with their hands to their mouths were selected. Why? See, God was looking for a small group of men who were always conscious of their calling and always prepared for battle. Those who knelt down to drink would have certainly laid down their weapons by their side (if they had any with them). But those who lapped the water did so with watchful eyes to see whether there are enemies around. They would have kept one hand on their weapons too. So Gideon was asked to keep these three hundred men and ask the rest to go home. God’s work demands constant watchfulness and preparedness (see also Matthew 26:41). For God does not keep any in his army who forget that their primary calling is to love God and obey him.

Interestingly, these three hundred men took over the provisions and trumpets of others (Judges 7:8). What words of Jesus comes to mind as you read this? “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (Matthew 25:29 NIV).

The army was now ready. But Gideon had to be encouraged once again. So God told him that if he was afraid, he should go to the enemy camp and listen. Gideon and his servant went and even as they arrived there they heard a man tell a dream he had and his friend giving the interpretation of the dream. The dream meant that God had given the Midianite camp into Gideon’s hands. As soon as Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation he worshipped God! For he was now greatly encouraged.

Gideon lost no time to brining out his army of three hundred to fight the Midianites. But the war strategy was very interesting. These three hundred men were handed trumpets and empty jars with torches inside (not swords or other weapons). Interesting; isn’t it? What was this battle strategy all about? The crucial element were the burning torches which were hidden inside them.Imagine three hundred men (now divided into three companies) suddenly breaking their jars together at the edge of the enemy camp and the light of all the torches suddenly burning bright!

The enemies now found themselves surrounded with light on all sides. And trumpets and war cries were sounding. The enemies in sheer fright fled. The Bible says “While each man held his position around the camp all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled” (Judges 7:21 NIV). See the three hundred men of Gideon held their positions. That was enough. When you let the God-given light within you burn brightly, the brilliance of that light will drive the enemies away. While that light guides you; it is powerful enough to blind your enemy.

But the question is, are you among God’s chosen few? Have you passed his elimination rounds? If not, think. Are you not missing the great privilege of holding out your torch high and let the enemies of God see your light?


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