The Insignificance of Man for God’s Glory and Victory

Judges 7:1-25 Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.

2 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.’ 3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.

4 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” 5 So he 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.” 6 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. 7 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.” 8 So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.

9 That same night the LORD said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. 10 But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. 11 And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outposts of the armed men who were in the camp. 12 And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance. 13 When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” 14 And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.”

15 As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the LORD has given the host of Midian into your hand.” 16 And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars. 17 And he said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18 When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.’”

19 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. 20 Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” 21 Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. 22 When they blew the 300 trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. 23 And the men of Israel were called out from Naphtali and from Asher and from all Manasseh, and they pursued after Midian.

24 Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and capture the waters against them, as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out, and they captured the waters as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan. 25 And they captured the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb. Then they pursued Midian, and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon across the Jordan.


If someone asked you what the theme of the Bible is, how would you answer this question in a sentence or so? The Bible has a theme that permeates throughout its entirety, what is that? If I was to answer this question I would answer that the Bible is about the insignificance of man for God’s glory and that the love of God for His people is greater than we can imagine.

In Judges we see time and again God’s people sinning against Him. Is there always genuine repentance from Israel before salvation comes? I would pose to you that no, there is quite often not genuine repentance from the children of Israel. There is simply crying out to God to save them, it is like a child who has gone down a path that you have warned them about. Walking too close to a hole they fall in and they cry out to you the parents save me! Is it repentance that drives the child to cry and ask for help or is it simply despair in their situation that they simply realize that they have no hope of saving themselves from.

In Judges (3:9,15; 4:3, 6:6,7) we simply see the people cry out to God. The Hebrew verb za’aq used here, means to cry out in deep distress or because of some unbearable circumstance, occasionally it means a cry of anguish directed to no one in particular. When the verb za’aq is used elsewhere to actually mean repentance it is always explicitly expressed by some additional clause or second verb, such as in Judges 10:10,16 the people cry out to God, za’aq, but this is then followed in verse 16 that the people put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord. Why is this distinction important for us to see? What is the author’s intent for us the reader to see? God loves His people and He grows impatient over their cries of misery. He sends a deliverer not necessarily because genuine repentance has happened but because He loves His children and He takes care of them.

Just as you love your children and they cannot do anything to keep you from loving them and taking them back into your arms so too our heavenly Father loves His people like this and even greater than you and I can ever imagine is God’s love for us His people.

Do we as believers fail to rightly see this truth in Judges? Do we often view the OT and specifically Judges as a collection of stories of Christian superheroes who God has appointed to swoop in and save the day for the nation of Israel. Do not yawn and have a ho-hum wow that’s pretty cool approach to God’s word but be amazed and humbled by His glory and love for His children Israel and for you and for me. Praise Him and worship Him for who He is, our great and mighty salvation.

Background on Judges and leading into Judges 7:1-25:

The name of the book of Judges comes from the 12 Israelite leaders who God used to deliver his people from oppression throughout the book. The author of Judges is not known but there are some clues that the author lived during the early part of David’s reign. Chapter 20 verse 18 affirms God’s final choice of the tribe of Judah (David and his sons), and not the tribe of Benjamin (Saul and his sons) to rule over Israel. The author wrote with a perspective that a King would establish law and order. “In those days Israel had no king and everyone did as he pleased,” 21:25. A clue to the time the author wrote is that they mention the Jebusites controlling the city of Jerusalem to this day. David captured the city and made it his capital in 1000BC and the Jebusites did not inhabit the city after that time.

Judges fits into the story of the Bible after Joshua has led Israel into Canaan and passed away and before Samuel the last “Judge” arrives on the scene in I Samuel Chapter 1. Judges is broken into three parts, The failure of the second generation 1:1-3:6, The salvation of a merciful and gracious God 3:7-16:31, The confusion of a depraved people 17-21.

In the first part Israel fails at the task of completely possessing the land, you might ask is this because they lost their resolve when their leader Joshua died? This shouldn’t have been the case because after the death of Joshua, Judah and Simeon are given 10,000 men of the Canaanites and Perizites into their hand by almighty God. Again the need for the quote on quote Christian superhero Joshua wasn’t there. A leader isn’t even named, just the two tribes’ names and that the Lord provided the victory. When the tribes acted in unity God granted success to them. V.22 Ephraim and Manasseh. There is also stated failure starting in (Judges 1:27-36) , this failure doesn’t lead to immediate issues but eventually apostasy came which then ultimately brought judgment from the Lord.

The story of Gideon falls into the second part of Judges, God chooses to use those who man would not look at as the ultimate warrior so that there could be little doubt as to who the deliverance came from. Even when grace was least deserved God provides and cares for His stubborn and stiff necked people.

In the beginning of Judges 6 we see an all too familiar start to a chapter, and the people of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years (V.1). Verse 5 describes the Midianites as coming like locusts in number, both they and their camels could not be counted. Verse 6 describes Israel as being brought very low because of Midian, and the people of Israel cried out,(za’aq) for help to the Lord. Verse 11 is the section where we meet Gideon, an angel of the Lord comes to him as he is beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. The angel tells Gideon that the Lord is with him thou mighty man of valor, Gideon responds with questioning about if the Lord is with us why has he given us into the hand of Midian? The Lord responds and tells him to go in might of yours and save Israel, do I not send you? Gideon responds that his clan is the weakest in his tribe and he is the weakest in his father’s house. How can he save Israel? The Lord responds “I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man. Gideon prepares food as a present, fire comes and consumes the food upon the rock where it was placed. The Lord tells him to go and tear down his father’s altar of Baal and then offer a burnt offering to the Lord. Gideon does it at night because he is fearful of the people and what they may do to him. The spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon and he sent out messengers for men to follow him. The end of chapter 6 is Gideon asking God for a sign that He would indeed save Israel by my hand with the sign of the fleece being wet and the ground being dry. God does this and the next night Gideon asks the Lord to make the fleece dry and the ground wet and the Lord does this.

To go back to the superhero thoughts, I think we sometimes miss the point of who these people were that God used to provide deliverance for His people. The Sunday School lesson titles of (Moses Parts the Red Sea), (Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho), (Samson Slays the Philistines with the Jawbone of a Donkey), (David Slays Goliath) and I could go on and on. Who parted the Red Sea, who defeated the walls of Jericho, who gave strength to Samson, who slew Goliath with a stone. All of these acts are an impossible occurrence in the normal course of events. An almighty, infinitely powerful God had to intervene and cause the outcome in each case. It was not the special skills these men had, it was God simply using them to make His sovereign plan happen. Do not miss this when reading the Bible, Man is Insignificant for the Glory and Work of God. Praise Him that He gives us the privilege to be used by Him.

Judges 7:1-8, How do we get to 300 men?

Let’s dig into our text now. God tells Gideon, hey Gideon you have way too many men. We see Gideon has 32,000 men and he was going to be facing an army of 135,000 men or more (Judges 8:10). Verse 2 of God to Gideon, the people you have 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 knows the arrogance of man’s hearts. I think about myself as being one of those 32,000 and I’d like to think about myself as not being too arrogant as to see that God grants the victory, not our skill as warriors. The more I think about it though I could see how my arrogance or having my ego built up by accomplishing a victory at great odds is not only more than plausible but it is most likely how I would respond. Think of this in the form of an athletic competition, hockey there’s 5 players on the ice vs. 20 for the 4 to 1 odds like in this passage. My 4 teammates and I are victorious against the 20 other skaters because our conditioning is superior,we’ve been coached better, we’re all in all just more athletic than the other team even though their numbers should’ve overwhelmed us. What’s the problem here? It’s all focused on us and our skill, just as in this illustration God knew that if He delivered Israel with the 32,000 men their response would be the same as in the illustration.

Pause, can you see yourself being like Israel? Am I like Israel? The odds of me figuring out a given problem at times looks pretty tough and there’s a point where I may pray and ask the Lord for help but when I’m given success in solving the problem I don’t rejoice and praise God out of humility that He granted me success in the trial that I am currently under but instead my ego is lifted up. That my ability to solve problems is great, that there’s nothing I can’t conquer. Are we like Israel? Does the chance of success have to appear completely insurmountable for us to fully declare that victory came from the Lord? I pray that I would be more humble, I pray that we would be a humble people.

Verse 3 gives the nuts and bolts of how the men are reduced; whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead, and 22,000 men return home leaving 10,000 men. Some commentators talk about that this sending away of those who are fearful and trembling followed the Israelite laws of warfare laid out in Deutoronomy 20:5-9 specifically in verse 8 that if there was any man who was fearful and fainthearted to send him away lest he make his fellow soldier’s hearts melt away as well. That in doing this God was ensuring those going to battle were men well ready to fight and were ready to care for another. I believe that that would be adding something to the text that isn’t necessarily there and most commentators I read are in agreement that this just happened to be the system God used to reduce the number of men. That He was trying to put together this company of quote on quote special forces would seem to fly in the face of Him keeping Israel from boasting in their own strength for what He knew was a coming victory.

Verse 4-8 God once again comes to Gideon and once again He instructs him that he has too many men with him for Israel to not boast in their own strength over a victory over the Midianites. He has the men drink from the water that they were near and those who lapped as dogs were to be set apart and likewise those who knelt and brought the water to their mouths with their hands were to be set apart. Again there’s some commentary that God only wanted alert men to go to battle with and that’s why he kept only those who were vigilant in drinking by kneeling and bringing the water to their mouths. Again this seems to be adding something to the text that is simply not there and would again seem to contradict His desire to have a force that could in any way rejoice and boast in their own strength, God was not trying to create the army of 300 Spartans, this was simply the system God used to get to the 300 men Gideon would go to battle with.

Judges 7:9-15, Gideon is given one final encouragement before the battle

God comes to Gideon and instructs him to get himself down into the camp of the Midianites because He was giving the Midianites into his hands. He’s instructed to take his servant Purrah down with him if he was afraid to go on his own, and the Lord told him that his hands would be strengthened after going down, to go to battle against the Midianites. This is a pretty cool moment in this story displaying God’s knowledge and shepherding of His servant Gideon. To this point Gideon had been given a multitude of signs, the consumption of the food he brought to the Angel of the Lord by fire from heaven, the protection from the townspeople after he destroyed the altar to baal and the instances of the fleece being wet and dry. God knew Gideon’s heart though and He chose to grant Gideon one last sign of encouragement before he led his men into battle. We have an incredibly loving God who knows and loves us and gives us the encouragement to do what He asks of us. Have you ever thought I can’t do that? I can’t do what God is asking of me. You are correct, you in and of yourself cannot do it but if you are fully surrendered to the Lord He will give the strength to carry out what is being asked of you. The story of Gideon and the 300 men is one of the greatest examples we have of this. There was nothing special about Gideon or his 300 men, they were ordinary men who God was going to use to bring about a great victory over a pagan people to bring glory to His name.

Judges 7:16-18, Gideon prepares his men for battle

Gideon has just been encouraged by the Lord, having gone into the camp of the Midianites and hearing the dream from one of the Midianites about the loaf of bread rolling down the hill and crushing the camp and the fear that that dream caused, he returns to the camp and prepares his men for battle. The preparation is a strange one however. The men are not armed with swords, spear and shield. No, they are armed with a trumpet, a torch and a pitcher. I’d like to pause here and just say a word about these 300 men. Now the point of this story is not necessarily the faith of these 300 men, no it is indeed that God is greater than any insurmountable number of enemy forces. His greatness and glory knows no ending or boundaries. That being said I believe we can marvel at the simple obedience of these 300 men. Put yourself in their shoes, they stayed when 22,000 men left, they stayed when another 9700 left, they hadn’t witnessed any of the signs that Gideon had seen but they simply obeyed their Lord by obeying their commander. What would have been going through your mind first off as only 300 men going to battle but worse still 300 men armed only with a trumpet, torch and pitcher. There is a principle here for us, that simple obedience gives us the opportunity to be a part of seeing God glorified in a great and mighty way.

Judges 7:19-25, Gideon and the 300 are given a complete victory

Gideon and his men blow their trumpets, break their pitchers and wave their torches and cry out for the sword of the Lord and Gideon! That statement shows who those men were trusting in and relying on for victory, their hearts were completely surrendered and obedient to their God and to the commander that God had placed over them. God brings about confusion in the camp of the Midianites; they are terrified and they begin to slay one another and God delivers a great victory for Gideon and his men and the nation of Israel. He has delivered them from being servants to a pagan people.

Application for us today

  1. God is greater than any people, situation, or problem in our lives.
    Deliverance may not come in the form that we expect or think it should but God has promised to love and care for us and God keeps His promises. His love for His people knows no bounds and His greatness has no end.

  2. Man is not necessary for God’s sovereign will to be accomplished.
    You can be the greatest farmer, gardener, or my profession groundskeeper. You can do all the right things to grow healthy plants but if God does not send the weather conducive to growing healthy plants, healthy plants won’t happen just because you’ve done everything correctly. Remember this when sharing the Gospel, just as I can’t grow healthy plants without God’s help you cannot change people’s hearts in and of yourself. It must be a work of God. Let this encourage and free you to be courageous and bold in planting seed, for our Father in Heaven has the granting of harvest handled, it’s not ours to worry about.

  3. God knows us, He knows our weaknesses and He encourages us.
    God knows you better than you know yourself, He knows what you need for encouragement and if we simply obey and desire to serve Him, He will be faithful to encourage us and give us the strength to do what He is asking of us.

We serve an amazing, all-powerful, loving, great God. Leave here today worshipping and praising Him for who He is and what He has done for each and everyone of us.