Little Is Much.
Judges 7-8, Acts 21
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.’” – Judges 7:2 ESV
There is an old song in which the chorus begins, “Little is much when God is in it!” Those words aptly reflect the lesson given to Gideon and the people of Israel in chapter seven of Judges. As God’s chosen deliverer, Gideon is about to lead the people of Israel into battle against the Midianites. According to chapter 8, there were more than 135,000 enemy soldiers camped in the valley by the hill of Moreh. When Gideon gathered his own troops, he could only muster 32,000 men. Then God did something rather unexpected and, from Gideon’s perspective, a bit uncomfortable. He told Gideon to send home all those who were fearful and trembling. The result was that 22,000 men walked away, leaving Gideon with only 10,000 soldiers to do battle with 135,000 Midianites. But God was not done. He then told 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” (Judges 7:4 ESV). God devised for Gideon a simple means of determining the men He wanted to take into battle. The test God devised had nothing to do with the caliber of the men chosen, but merely provided a means of trimming the number of men down to the bare minimum. Again, the result was that Gideon was left with only 300 men. From a human perspective, the odds were clearly against Gideon. His army was too small and his enemy was too great. But Gideon had God on his side.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God had told Gideon, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” (Judges 6:14 ESV). “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:16 ESV). God had clearly called Gideon and given him a mission to accomplish. He had also confirmed for Gideon that He would be with Him and fight for him. God did not need Gideon or Gideon’s troops to accomplish His mission. But God chose to use them both. God allowed Gideon and his 300 men to witness an amazing victory that day, as God destroyed a superior army right in front of their eyes, as they stood, swords and torches in hand. God caused the enemy to attack themselves and all Gideon and his men had to do was stand and watch. When the time came, God allowed them to get in on the action. But the victory was His doing.
In reading the history of the spread of the church recorded by Luke in the book of Acts, it is amazing to consider just how rapidly and aggressively it all happened through the efforts of a relatively small number of individuals. We read of Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Timothy, Silas, John Mark and a handful of others who were used by God to spread the Good News around the known world at that time. In a relatively short period of time, thousands upon thousands of people came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the efforts of these men. Paul alone had a tremendous impact on the spread of the Gospel. He was one man traveling through enemy territory, taking the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and facing constant opposition from pagans and Jews alike. But God accomplished the impossible through him. His faithfulness and God’s power were no match for the enemy. What Paul brought to the table was his determination to do God’s will at all costs. When warned by Agabus the prophet that he would face certain arrest and imprisonment if he returned to Jerusalem, Paul simply replied, “For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13 ESV). He knew he was simply a vessel in the hands of God, and was willing to be used up in His service in order to accomplish God’s will.
What does this passage reveal about man?
We are all about the numbers. If we had been in Gideon’s sandals and been asked by God to do battle against a superior foe with a handful of soldiers, we would have thought the idea was crazy. It would have made no sense. We live in a society in which “little is much” makes no sense. We firmly hold to the idea that there is strength in numbers. More is better than less. Strength trumps weakness every time. But for the believer, victory doesn’t come as a result of our effort or effectiveness. It has nothing to do with our numbers or the abundance of our resources. The battle is the Lord’s. And the sooner we realize that the odds are always in our favor because God is always on our side, the quicker we will experience the peace that Paul had. And the sooner we will be able to say, “Let the will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:14 ESV). Gideon had no idea how that day was going to turn out. Paul had no idea just how things were going to unfold when he arrived in Jerusalem. But both had the assurance that God was with them. They also knew that God was going to have the victory one way or the other – either with them or without them.
But even when God gives the victory, it is so easy for us to try and claim credit. After their amazing defeat of the Midianites, the people of Israel attempt to make Gideon king. They saw him as the source of their victory. They mistakenly thought that if they could make him king, future victories would be assured. But what they didn’t realize was that their future success was based solely on their present faithfulness to God. And we read that “As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals nad made Baal-berith their god” (Judges 8:33 ESV). Even Gideon, before he died, was guilty of apostasy, worshiping an ephod he had made from the gold won in his God-given victory over the Midianites. Unlike Paul, Gideon proved to be unfaithful and unreliable. He lost his focus. He made it all about himself, rather than all about the will of God.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
Little is much when God is in it. God is able to do far more with far less. He is able to accomplish the impossible using the improbable. Paul wrote, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20 ESV). He knew that God was far more capable than he was. He knew that God was able to what no man could have ever done. God wants to do the impossible in our lives today. He wants to give us victories over the greatest of enemies. He wants to provide us with inexplicable success over insurmountable foes. But we must trust Him. We must long for His will to be done. We must leave the outcome to Him, and give all the praise, glory and honor to Him when all is said and done.
Father, You don’t need much to do great things. You can even use me and I find that amazing and humbling. Forgive me for thinking that more is better. Forgive me for thinking that numbers are the key to success. Help me learn to trust You more. Help me have the faith and focus of Paul. I want to watch You work in and around my life in ways that are beyond imagination and way outside human explanation. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men