By David Faust
Numbers are an important measure of success, but they are not the only measure. It’s thrilling to worship with a big crowd and see large numbers of people turn to Christ, but God also works powerfully through small groups, small churches, and one-on-one relationships. What we count isn’t all that counts.
During the chaotic period described in the book of Judges, the Lord worked through a few key leaders to guide his people and give them victory over their enemies.
Too Many Men
Israelite soldiers gathered in preparation to fight their Midianite oppressors, but there was a problem. “The Lord said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men’” (Judges 7:2). Too many men? How could that be? Reducing the size of your army is a strange way to prepare for a fight.
But the Lord had his reasons. He wanted to shrink Gideon’s army down so small that it would be impossible for the warriors to claim victory without God’s help. He didn’t want them to boast and say, “My own strength has saved me” (v. 2).
So Gideon announced that anyone who trembled with fear was free to go, and immediately two-thirds of the army resigned, trimming the number of troops from 32,000 down to 10,000 (v. 3). “But the Lord said to Gideon, ‘There are still too many men’” (v. 4). So Gideon marched his troops to the river where 300 of them “drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs” (v. 6). This action showed battle readiness because it allowed the soldiers to keep their heads up while drinking so they would not be caught off guard if attacked. The rest of the soldiers went home, but Gideon kept the 300 (v. 8).
God reduced Gideon’s army by more than 99 percent—from 32,000 down to 300. But with those 300 men—armed with an odd assortment of trumpets, jars, and torches—God led the Israelites to win an unorthodox military victory and inspired the rest of his people to join the battle (vv. 16-25). God can do more with a small group of highly committed individuals than with thousands of half-hearted followers.
Keeping up the Pursuit
After the main battle was won there was mop-up work to do, so “Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it” (Judges 8:4).
Gideon and his downsized band of soldiers were exhausted, but they kept up the pursuit! They were tired, but they persisted. They didn’t quit until their mission was accomplished. On the eve of Calvary Jesus told the Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). Even when we’re tired we must finish the work God has given us to do.
Sadly the Israelites soon fell back into Baal worship. Gideon himself was flawed enough to make an idol that “became a snare” to him and his family (Judges 8:27), and after he died the Israelites failed to show loyalty to Gideon’s family “in spite of all the good things he had done for them” (v. 35). God honored Gideon, though, by using him as an example of someone “who through faith conquered kingdoms” (Hebrews 11:32, 33).
Even when their numbers are few, God uses whole-hearted followers who pursue his will. If you really want to get something done for God, look for a group like Gideon’s 300. A handful of faith beats a roomful of indifference.
1. What are you attempting to do that can be accomplished only by God’s strength?
2. When have you seen God do something big through a small group of devoted followers?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for April 19, 2015
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
1 Corinthians 9:13-27
Judges 4, 5
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Judges 6, 7
1 Corinthians 10:14-33
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
1 Corinthians 12:1-13