Everybody here today has a Midian – maybe many Midians. What is your Midian? Gideon’s Midian was a country by that name of Midian which had so oppressed Gideon’s people of Israel that many of the people of Israel couldn’t live in their own homes any more – perhaps similar to those poor thousands of people in California who have been forced to leave their homes by the horrible fires out there. In Israel’s case they had to live in dens and caves to avoid being harmed or killed by Midianites, while having to stand by helplessly as the Midianites went through their fields and took all their grain and livestock for themselves. Just think how we would feel if, after all the food was prepared for our church picnic later today, soldiers from an enemy nation would storm in and just take it all – and that they did the same thing every time we brought food from the grocery store into our own homes.
The previous chapter of the Bible tells us that this had been going on for seven years. Seven years of Midian. For seven years their lives were so bad that, even though they had left the Lord and worshiped the false gods of the surrounding nations, they finally in their desperation called out to the true God for help… And he answered them… Simply because he loved them, he answered them. And he answered them by teaching a lesson to the person who was going to be their deliverer – a man named Gideon. Today in whatever great or small difficulty you are facing at this time, I want to encourage you for this week’s summer project to Remember Gideon in Your Midian.
Right off the bat let’s think about the point God was getting at when he told Gideon to minimize the troops – when God told him that the 32,000 troops he had were too many soldiers for God to deliver the Midianites into his hands. That’s kind of a strange statement, isn’t it? You have too much health for me to make your life good again. You have too much wealth for me to make your life good again. You have too much happiness for me to make your life good again. You have too many friends for me to make your life good again. You have too many successes for me to make your life good again. God clearly is not against health and wealth and happiness. In fact, so often we pray that God would grant us those things, according to his will. So what is the point God is getting at when he told Gideon to minimize the troops?
God himself gives us the answer in the fourth line of that first paragraph at the end of verse two – the fourth line: After telling Gideon that 32,000 troops were too many, the Lord said: “In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her” – and so on. Do you see what God is saying about the importance of minimizing the troops? Minimizing the troops means minimizing self. Minimizing the troops means knowing that God’s rescue of you from any problem is not because of something that you or I can boast about, because if God’s rescue resulted from anything that we could boast about, we would end up living in proverbial dens and caves watching the Midianites of our lives makes our lives even worse for us than they do now.
Minimizing the troops in order to minimize yourself does not mean having to give up or apologize for any health and wealth and happiness that God has given you. Rather, thank God for it and use it with joy. But always remember a couple of things about whatever blessings you have. Remember that you didn’t get them because you caused them so that you can boast about how good you are. And remember that God doesn’t allow you to have them in order to put your trust in them so that by continuing to have those blessings you will be able to avoid any other Midians in your life. Midians are all around us, because sin is all around us and all within us – and that sin of our boasting or putting our confidence in our earthly things or whatever it may be is the reason we need to remember not so much Gideon in our Midian, but the one who spoke to Gideon in his Midian – the all-loving, all-powerful Savior God – because minimizing self also means maximizing God.
God maximized himself – that means God made sure we could see the glory should be given to himself – in that very dramatic way in our lesson, when he told Gideon to reduce the troops from 32,000 down to 10,000 and then down to 300, getting the troops down to 300 by telling Gideon to have the 10,000 troops go down to the water and take a drink of water. 9,700 of those troops kneeled down at the edge of the water to bring the water to their mouths. That seems like a very normal thing to do, right? Only 300 of those troops lapped their hands to their mouths without kneeling down. While the Bible doesn’t tell us exactly why God chose those 300, the normal understanding is that meant they were always on guard with their heads up, ready to keep going on the march. Whatever God’s reason for that may have been, what God does tell us is his ultimate purpose in selecting that minimal number of 300. That reason is in the last paragraph in verse 7: “The Lord said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands.’”
Because God loves us so much, he wants to make sure we know that he will save us – and that it is he alone who will save us. All glory belongs to him, because all the work is done by him. And nowhere can that be seen more clearly than in the saving work done by the ultimate Gideon – our Lord Jesus Christ. The book of Judges from which this lesson is taken is a record of how God used a number of people with names like Samuel and Samson and Gideon to rescue God’s people from earthly Midians and problems so that he could continue to prepare the way for the arrival of his only Son over one thousand years later – his only Son who one thousand years later would traverse the very same countryside as did Gideon and his troops. Only the mission of Jesus had to with the root cause of all their problems and the root cause of all ours – our sins and rebellions and complaints against our holy God. 32,000 efforts on our part could not get God to love us. 32,000 prayers on our part could not get God to love us. 32,000 gifts to God on our part could not get God to love us. The only one who could get God to love us was his only beloved Son – that only beloved Son who did not cause God to love us with some hocus-pocus magic trick, but who got God to love us by dying on a cross, leading us to say every day of our lives, “Nothing in myself I bring; simply to Christ’s cross I cling.” Minimizing the troops means minimizing self means maximizing God.
Do you know or do you remember the rest of the story? Gideon’s three hundred troops routed the huge Midianite army by blowing trumpets and breaking glass jars. Three hundred trumpets and three hundred crashing jars were enough to throw a mighty army into confusion, disarray and total defeat, never to bother the Israelites again throughout the forty year reign of Gideon as judge.
But it wasn’t really even those few trumpets and glass jars that won the victory, was it? They were simply God’s earthly instruments to carry out his purpose. The Bible tells us that we are his earthly instruments to carry out his purpose, too. One of those purposes is to use our musical instruments and voices to give him praise. That’s why on this day we also offer our blessing and prayers for Mrs. Uttech, as she is officially installed into her position of Director of Parish Music. Lisa, in your work Remember Gideon in any Midians you may have, and in your work help us remember Gideon in any of ours through the gift of music in praise of our Lord.
And another of our purposes is to keep growing in his Word and to keep growing in our abilities to serve him with the many talents he has given us. That’s why on this day we also think of our teachers and students in all of our ministries, but at this moment we think of those who this week will be beginning another school year in our elementary school. Teachers, God bless you as you yourselves remember Gideon in the Midians of your lives, and as you encourage your students to do the same. And students young and old, we pray that God will allow only a few Midians to come into your lives, but please also remember that what God did for Gideon he has also promised to do for you.
… Which is the same that he has promised to do for all of you here today. Today’s summer project is meant to be one that takes no work on your part at all. Minimize yourself and maximize God. Remember Gideon in Your Midian! Amen.