Judges 7

Judges 7
Pastor David Groendyk

Pastor Lawrence wrote yesterday that sometimes we need to be reminded that we’re not as important as we think we are, but other times we need to be reminded that God can use us no matter what the circumstances are. In Judges 6, Gideon needed to learn the latter lesson. In Judges 7, Israel needed to learn the former. Verse 2 is the key to understanding this whole chapter, and the key is that it is by God’s hand, and God’s hand alone, that Israel will win this battle. Therefore, God whittles.

The first test which whittles down the number of soldiers is whether or not they’re afraid. This was actually just one of several exemptions that the Mosaic Law gave to men (see Deut. 20:5–8). Those who were fearful were told to go home lest they make the rest of the army afraid. This cuts the army from 32,000 to 10,000. The second test is the one that usually gets everyone’s attention. The army is told to drink (from a pond or river), and 300 men lap the water like a dog with their hands while 9,700 get down on their knees to drink. Lappers vs. kneelers: who would you rather have on your team? As one author writes, “It is amazing how virtuous the lappers become in the view of expositors.” The lappers are vigilant and watchful while the kneelers are careless. So, no question, right? Lappers all the way.

Not so fast. Because that interpretation cuts directly against verse 2. If we interpret the lappers as having some sort of military aptitude that the others did not (or vice-versa), that would still leave room for Israel to boast in their own might. Rather, this test is simply meant to whittle the Israelite army to as few people as possible. The Lord is deliberately making the people few in number and weak in strength so that he would get all the glory after the victory. And what a great and awesome victory it was! The Midianites ran for the hills, and their two princes were slaughtered. It was quick, it was terrifying, and it was thorough.

The same author quoted above also draws a direct connection to 2 Corinthians 12:9—“My power is made perfect in weakness.” Only when we are weak and helpless can God’s power and sufficiency shine bright like a diamond against a black backdrop. God being the all-powerful and all-sufficient one teaches us two things: first, it is always a good and holy thing to be weak and helpless, but, second, it is never a good or holy thing to be afraid (see v. 10). As doubtful as we should be of our own strength, so should we be equally confident in the Lord’s strength. So, be challenged, but also rest in those truths today.