There are times when we must fight. And there are times when we must stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. In either case, we dare not presume, but instead seek what God would have us do; because, in the end, it is the Lord’s will, not ours; the Lord’s victory, not ours; the Lord’s glory, not ours.
God had selected His Three Hundred. They took the provisions and trumpets of the rest of the men and Gideon sent the remaining men home, away from the field of battle. They would not even see it. (Judges 7:8)
After nightfall, the Lord encourages Gideon:
“Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hands. But if you are afraid to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp, and you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp. So he went with Purah his servant down to the outposts of the army that was in the camp.” (Judges 7:9)An outpost is, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a “security detachment dispatched by a main body of troops to protect it from enemy surprise”. These were usually located some distance from the main camp. The irony of this definition, given what was about to happen should not be lost on us.
At one of the outposts, Gideon hears one of the men relating a dream to a friend that, according to this friend, is clear evidence that God intends to deliver the Midianite army into the hands of Gideon. It is possible that this dread was on the entire camp.
Gideon, now convinced that God is going to do what He has said, first (and this is important) WORSHIPS. He then returns to his three hundred and gives them the news. Dividing the 300 men into three companies of 100 each, he instructs them to do what he does when they reach the outskirts of the camp.
This is the plan: he and the men who are with him will blow the trumpets, and then smash the pitchers in their hands, revealing lit torches, and shout “For the Lord and for Gideon”.
They arrive on the outskirts of the camp, apparently between the outposts and the main body of the camp. The 100-man companies are placed in locations that are unspecified in the scriptures, but obviously not in the path of what would be the Midianite retreat. The time is approximately midnight (the beginning of the middle watch). It is possible that many, if not most of the camp is asleep.
Suddenly, at one end of the camp there is a disturbance. Three hundred rams horns screaming, men shouting and 300 blazing torches suddenly appearing from nowhere. A surprise attack! The outposts were supposed to prevent this!
Gideon’s men hold their positions (verse 21) and “the LORD set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled…” (verse 22).
After the Midianite army flees in confusion, killing each other as they go, Gideon summons the men from Naphtali, Asher and Manasseh (apparently the ones that he had previously sent home) to join in pursuit of the fleeing army. In the meantime, he also sends messengers to the mountain men that live in the hill country of Ephraim, instructing them to occupy all the watering locations in front of the fleeing army in order to cut them off from their water supply.
In the ensuing battle, two leaders of the Midianites are captured by the Ephraimites and killed. And then….someone’s feelings gets hurt. In Part 8 we will describe the end of the battle and its aftermath.
An entire book could be written using the illustrations about “fighting the good fight” and “standing and seeing the salvation of the Lord” in our daily lives. Applications of these principles would enhance our daily walk and fellowship with God and one another. We must be constantly aware, in every situation we are in, that we are here for the glory of God, and not for ourselves. In everything we must obey Him, whether in resisting evil in our lives or standing still (trusting Him) and seeing Him work His will in us rather than going to war, so to speak, with others on our own behalf.
But there is something far more important to see. In this account, there is an excellent illustration of our own salvation. In short, we, like the Israelites, have nothing to boast about; no strength for our own deliverance. We were lost and without hope in this world. We were rescued because of God’s mercy, and not because we were elite and needed by God. We stood still and saw the salvation of the Lord on our behalf.
6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8, NASB)