Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’ ” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others. Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore. – Judges 7:1-12
OK so now God just seems like he is showing off….I remember this story about picking men by how they drink water at a watering hole, but I have always mistakenly attributed it to Ghengis Khan. I guess it just shows what interesting things one stumbles upon while trekking through the bible. God seems to think the “lappers” are preferable to the “leaners” for picking an army. I am not sure if that is because he wanted to pick the best or worst army based on the earlier part of the passage. Maybe he just wanted the smaller number and that happened to be the Lappers.
I am not sure what the cultural norm was at the time, but it seems like drinking water from cupped hands that had recently been grooming a horse, or worse, would be a recipe for communicable disease delivery. Of course if the water itself was contaminated it would not have made any difference whether you were a lapper or a leaner. Either way God has successfully whittled down Gideon’s army to the point that there could be no doubt that God will win the battle against the Midianites rather than the strength of the Israelites.
God wanted to make it clear that the battle, if won, belonged to His glory and the not the skill or superior numbers of the Israelites. He reduced the army from around 30,000 to 300 men. God seems to delight in “beating the odds”. He often seems to choose what appears from an earthly perspective to be weak or broken carriers for His covenant. Gideon can join Noah, Moses, Joshua, and Deborah as imperfect carriers of His covenant. It seems like God does this not to show off but so that we notice Him showing up.
Does God still use imperfect people to share the love of Christ — imperfect carriers of His new covenant? I sure hope so because I am far from perfect and I hope I can share God’s love and new covenant with others.
My wife and I used to help with our high school youth group. The youth leader wisely suggested that we give the youth a memento during a retreat at the beach. I gave them a bookmark with these two verses: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) and “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (2 Corinthians 4:7). Following God is all about feeling confident we can do anything and nothing — without God.
Prayer: God give us the confidence to share your light and love, and the humility to know the source of that light and love.