When You Think God Has Lost His Mind
I hated math when I was in high school. (Actually, in all fairness to math, I hated all my classes. The only two subjects that I ever enjoyed were P.E. and lunch.) I wasn’t very good at it and didn’t really care about it at that time in my life. About 25 years have passed since those younger days of ignorance but I still have a strong “dislike” for math. But even I can figure this one out. Just look at the numbers. Midianite army? Innumerable. That’s a lot. A LOT!!! Gideon’s army? 32,000. Yes, that’s a lot too. Except when you compare it to the Midianite army. Now, I will admit that I could be wrong but the last time I checked “without number” was greater than 32,000. By a lot. Seems like very simple math to me. But in God’s mind the Israeli army had too many people.
I wonder what Gideon was thinking when God first spoke to him regarding the size of the army. Surely, reduction had to be the last thing Gideon was thinking? Cut backs? Really? If anything, Gideon had already been praying for divine help. You know, the whole “God we need more men” prayer. The battle hadn’t even begun and God was already wanting to give some of the soldiers weekend leave? Doesn’t make sense. Not in the natural. But I guess that’s part of the point. Very, very seldom do the stories in the Bible ever appeal to natural wisdom. God’s thoughts are beyond our thoughts. God’s math operates on a whole different basis. For One who is omnipotent 2 + 2 = whatever He decides it equals. And in this case, regardless of what Gideon thought, God told him that the army was too large.
I can’t be sure that Gideon was feeling confused by God’s command but I do know that there have been plenty of times in my life when I wondered if God had lost His mind. In my mind I wrestled with his Word. What He was asking just didn’t seem practical or possible. I was overwhelmed by the command. I was left dumbfounded by the promise. If you are anything like me, then I think this note is for you. For today I want to point out just a couple of valuable lessons from this brief passage that will hopefully help each of us in our own walk with the Lord.
- Context. Context. Context. Too often we take God’s word out of context. Open your Bible and read the rest of Judges 7:2. With regard to His command to minimize the army, God goes on to explain His reasoning. The issue was one of glory. God wanted there to be no doubt in anyone’s mind as to the source of the victory. The army would be so small that everyone would immediately recognize that God was the reason for their triumph. Always read God’s words within the larger context. Many of our questions would be answered if we were just a little more careful in our reading.
- His Word is the standard. Pick up your Bible again. Now read Judges 7:3. What God asks Gideon to do in verse 2 had actually already been written centuries before by Moses in Deut 20:8. Before Israel was ever a nation God had already spoken regarding their military obligations. Those who were afraid were to be excused prior to the battle. God was not asking Gideon to do something new. He was just asking him to adhere to the already existing standard. What does that mean for us? God will never ask you or I to do anything that contradicts His Word (i.e. the Bible). Again, many of our questions would be answered if we were just more familiar with the Bible. So much of our confusion and misunderstanding is rooted in ignorance.
- Faith will always be a part of the equation. Bottom line? Gideon had to trust in the character of God. He had no written word to consult. He had no real precedents for this current situation. All Gideon had was God’s word. And all Gideon could do was walk in obedience and walk in faith. At some point we will all come to the same crossroads. Hebrews 11 tells us that it is impossible to please God without faith. The same book tells us in chapter 4 that the Word brings no profit unless it is mixed with faith. Too many times we want facts. God wants faith. God wants us to trust his Word. God wants us to trust Him.
In closing, let me remind each of us that whatever Gideon thought or felt in the end he responded with obedience. It might not have made any sense to him but he was willing to bank everything on the character of God. Gideon knew that the God who called him from the wine press would not fail him. His word could be trusted because He was trustworthy. There will be those times when God’s word and command will seem to make no sense. We will question God. We will question His word. And some of us might even wonder if He has indeed lost His mind. But God can be trusted. As a result, His word can be trusted. God will not lead you astray. He will not lead you amiss. Gideon trusted and obeyed even when the math didn’t add up. And in the end? God was right. They didn’t need an army of 32,000. All they needed to do was trust and obey.