Judges 7:1-14

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 11, 2001


God called Gideon to deliver Israel from the terrorizing Midianites who kept stealing Israel’s harvests. Gideon seems not only to be a timid man, but a skeptical one as well. He made a decision to follow the Lord and started his “ministry” by tearing down the altar of Baal that his own dad had built. Then Gideon blew a horn and gathered an army together to face the Midianites. Then, just to be sure that God was really behind all that was happening, Gideon asked God for a sign and we saw how God used the “fleece” to show Gideon that indeed God was behind everything.

We’re at the place where Gideon now has his army and he knows for sure that God is in control.

:1-8 Selecting an army

:1 Jerubbaal ……beside the well of Harod …by the hill of Moreh

Jerubbaal – “the one who fights with Baal” – this was a nickname that was given to Gideon by his father when Gideon tore down the altar of Baal (Judg. 6:32).

the well of Harod – or, the “spring of Harod”. The name “Harod” means “trembling” or to be “terrified”. Pretty appropriate place to meet.

hill of Moreh – a hill located in the valley of Jezreel.

:2 lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.

vauntpa’ar – to glorify, beautify, adorn

Gideon was able to gather an army of 32,000 men. He was facing an army of 135,000 men (8:10). Yet God says that Gideon has too many people. Why does God want Israel to have a smaller army?


God specializes in the impossible

God knows that sometimes we tend to take all the credit. We can have a sense that God is at work, but after it’s all over, we kind of pat ourselves on the back for doing such a good job.
So for Gideon and Israel, God makes it harder.
Sometimes we face impossible tasks with overwhelming odds, just for the purpose of having to trust in God because it’s obvious that we can’t do it.
Abraham was told that he would have a child. He was a hundred years old and his wife was ninety. He was told …

(Gen 18:14 NASB) "Is anything too difficult for the LORD?”

Mary, a virgin, was told she would become pregnant through the Holy Ghost –

(Luke 1:37 NASB) "For nothing will be impossible with God."

God said to Jeremiah,

(Jer 32:27 NASB) "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?"

Are you faced with an impossible task that you know God wants you to complete?
Perhaps there’s something God has been calling you to do, but you don’t have a clue how to do it.

Dr. Bob Cook used to say, “If you can explain what’s going on in your ministry, then God didn’t do it.”

Why would God want all the credit?  Because HE is the only one who can really help people.  God doesn’t want the people trusting in Gideon, He wants them trusting in Him.

:3 Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart

mount GileadSee map.

This was actually according to something God had already told Israel about how to conduct warfare. Certain people were to be exempt from fighting in the battles –

(Deu 20:8 KJV) And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart.

The reason is spelled out. Fear can be contagious.


Don’t run away

I came across a quote this week that troubled me. G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “The fearful and trembling man God cannot use.” As I’ve thought and pondered on this, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a sense in which Mr. Morgan is not correct. The truth is that God uses fearful people all the time. Gideon was a fearful man. And God will use him.
I think the real issue is not whether you are afraid, the issue is whether you will take the option of running away.
The point of asking people to go home is that God doesn’t want you running away in the battle.  If you are going to run, you’d better run away before the battle so you won’t influence anyone else.

Gasping For Breath

A senior gas company training supervisor and a young trainee were out checking meters in a suburban neighborhood. They parked their truck at the end of the alley and worked their way to the other end. At the last house, a woman in her kitchen window watched the two men as they checked her gas meter. Having finished the meter checks, the supervisor challenged his younger co-worker to a foot race down the alley back to the truck—just to prove that an older guy could outrun a younger one. As they at last came running up to the truck, they forgot to check who had won since they both realized the lady from that last house was huffing and puffing right behind them. They stopped immediately and asked her what was wrong. Gasping for breath, she replied, “When I saw two man from the gas company running away from my house as hard as you two were, I figured I’d better run too!”

Did you notice that Gideon didn’t go home?  He’s certainly afraid, yet he didn’t run home.
Just because you are afraid doesn’t mean God can’t use you.
The most important warning about fear is that we don’t let it make us run away.

:4 I will try them for thee there

I will trytsaraph – to smelt, refine, test; to test (and prove true)


You never know when God is testing you

What is about to take place would not have seemed to be anything more than everyone taking a break and getting a drink of water. Yet in reality, it was a test.


Football Players and the Test
Two football players were taking an important final exam. If they failed, they would be on academic probation and not allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl the following week. The exam was fill-in-the-blank. The last question read, “Old MacDonald had a _________.” Bubba was stumped. He had no idea of the answer. He knew he needed to get this one right to be sure he passed. Making sure the professor wasn’t watching, he tapped Tiny on the shoulder. “Pssst. Tiny. What’s the answer to the last question?” Tiny laughed. He looked around to make sure the professor hadn’t noticed then he turned to Bubba. “Bubba, you’re so dumb. Everyone knows Old MacDonald had a farm.” “Oh yeah,” said Bubba. “I remember now.” He picked up his No. 2 pencil and started to write the answer in the blank. He stopped. Reaching to tap Tiny’s shoulder again, he whispered, “Tiny, how do you spell farm?” “You are really dumb, Bubba. That’s so easy. Farm is spelled E-I-E-I-O.”


Final Exam
This was taken out of Duke University's Staff newsletter.
At Duke University, there were four sophomores taking Organic Chemistry. They did so well on all the quizzes, midterms and labs, etc., that each had an “A” so far for the semester. These four friends were so confident that the weekend before finals, they decided to go up to University of Virginia and party with some friends up there. They had a great time. However, after all the partying, they slept all day Sunday and didn’t make it back to Duke until early Monday morning. Rather than taking the final then, they decided to find their professor after the final and explain to him why they missed it. They explained that they had gone to UVA for the weekend with the plan to come to study, but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn’t have a spare, and couldn’t get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final. The Professor thought it over and then agreed they could make up the final the following day. The guys were elated and relieved. They studied that night and went in the next day at the time the professor had told them. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet, and told them to begin. They looked at the first problem, worth 5 points. It was something simple about free radical formation. “Cool,” they thought at the same time, each one in his separate room, “this is going to be easy.” Each finished the problem and then turned the page. On the second page was written: (For 95 points): Which tire?

Warren Wiersbe writes, “I heard about one leading minister who always took a drive with a prospective pastoral staff member in the other man’s car, just to see if the car was neat and if the man drove carefully. Whether or not neatness and careful driving habits are always a guarantee of ministerial success is debatable, but the lesson is worth considering. More than one prospective employee has ruined his or her chances for a job while having lunch with the boss, not realizing they were being evaluated.”

A man named Marsden wrote, “Make every occasion a great occasion, for you can never tell when somebody may be taking your measure for a larger place.”

God Himself may be giving you a test. How are you doing?

:5 So he brought down the people unto the water

down … unto the water – it would seem that this means the river that is separating the two armies.

:6 the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men

that lappedlaqaq – to lap, lick, lap up

After reading the commentaries, the consensus seems to put things together like this. The Hebrew word “lapped” (laqaq) is one of those words that sounds like what it describes. A dog doesn’t lower his head into his bowl and sip up the water, he laps it up with his tongue (making the sound, “laqaq, laqaq, laqaq”). I don’t think the idea is that the men actually lapped the water with their tongues, but that as a dog laps up the water with his tongue, these guys scooped up the water with their hands up to their mouths, lapping with their hands, not their tongues.

Three hundred men drank in this manner, while the other 9,700 stooped down and put their face in the water to take a drink.

If I were Gideon, I’d probably be thinking to myself, “Okay, God is going to tell me that the group of 9,700 is the group He’s going to use. Wrong.

:7 By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you

Is there significance to the fact that God used the men who “lapped”?

Some commentaries think that there is no significance. They consider this no different than drawing straws. Yet if this were the case, why did God consider this a “test” (7:4) to determine who would go? Why not just have Gideon pull out the first three hundred men?


God uses vigilant people

I believe the significance is that these men weren’t the ones who bowed down with their face in the water. Instead, they were the ones who were aware of their surroundings. They would be the first ones to see the enemy approaching.
These guys were aware that they were in a war. They were aware that the enemy was just around the corner.
As you’re going to see, Gideon was going to need people who had their eyes opened and were paying attention.
In regards to our enemy in the battle, Peter writes,
(1 Pet 5:8 KJV) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
We’re learning as a nation that we need to be “vigilant”.  We’ve been told by our President that we all need to keep our eyes open for suspicious activities and behavior.
In the same way, God is looking for people who will see the battle around them.  He is looking for people who will see the opportunities around them.


It doesn’t take many

Jonathan would learn this same lesson a few hundred years later –
(1 Sam 14:6 KJV) And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.
Pastor Chuck has a comment regarding this: “Never worry when God thins the ranks”.

:9-14 Spying out the enemy

:9 Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.

God is going to have Gideon go and spy on the Midianites. Keep in mind, these are days when there were no photographs, newspapers, or TVs. Most likely there aren’t very many people who would be able to recognize Gideon.

Note that God considers the victory as having already taken place.

:10 But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah

if thou fear – as you’re going to see, Gideon must still be afraid because he takes Purah with him.

Phurah – or, Purah

:11 afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go

God wants to give Gideon one more shot in the arm for courage.

:13 a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian

barley – the poor man’s grain. It was the food given to animals and the poor. This is going to be related to the Israelites because they have become so impoverished by the continual Midianite raids.

The picture is of a huge cake rolling down the hill and flattening the tents as it rolls over them. The Israelite army was up in the hills, and was being pictured as rolling down upon the Midianites in the valley.

:14 This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash

This tells us that the Midianites were pretty aware of what was going on in Israel. Perhaps they had their own spies in the Israelite camp. They had heard of Gideon.

Gideon had already seen some pretty neat things happen. The angel brought fire from the rock to consume Gideon’s sacrifice (6:21); then God made the fleece be wet with dew (6:38), then God made the fleece be dry (6:40).

Yet it seems that these were not enough for Gideon.

Frankly, I don’t blame Gideon. Even with these miraculous things happening, the fact is that God is now saying that Gideon will defeat 135,000 Midianites with just a band of 300 men. To me, the reality of those numbers is staggering.


God helps our weak faith

God used this man’s dream and its interpretation to show Gideon one more time that He was at work.
I was asked earlier this week, “Is it okay for me to ask God to increase my faith?”
Jesus had been up on a mountain for a few days and came back to find a mess. His disciples had been faced with a demon-possessed boy whom they were unable to help. Jesus rebuked His disciples for not having faith and then …
(Mark 9:21-24 KJV) And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. {22} And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. {23} Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. {24} And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

The man was honest. He knew he lacked complete faith. But he was willing to ask Jesus to help his faith.

And Jesus went on to heal his child.

It’s okay to ask God to increase your faith.
But don’t use that as an excuse for not doing anything. Instead, be prepared to have God answer that prayer.  And when He does, He’s going to expect you to step out and get moving.
The Gospel – for some of you, God has been showing you just who He is.  Perhaps you took up the challenge last week to look into the evidence for believing in Jesus.  At some point, you need to respond and follow Jesus.