We all know the exhilarating story of Gideon and his 300 men. It is a thrilling story with non-stop action not too far off from the action-packed storylines of some of the movies today. If movies were appropriate, I could see a blockbuster movie about Gideon and his 300.
But for those with imagination, the story of Gideon can come alive in our minds. We know how God asked him to destroy Midian by sending the angel of the Lord to visit him, and even do a sign – burning up the food he brought him to eat. We know how Gideon asked God for a sign and then changed his mind and asked for the reverse, how God whittled down his army twice until he had an unbelievably small number of men against thousands, how Gideon fretted the night before the attack, how they planned a night attack, encircling the camp with trumpets and pitchers of light, broke the pitchers, blew the trumpets, and caused the Midianites to turn on themselves in fright. The thrilling story is full of suspense and drama, and appeals to all ages.
God was with them as they pursued the fleeing host. At the end of that battle over 120,000 men of Midian died. The Midianites were destroyed.
But we rarely talk about the rest of the story for the chase did not end with the pitchers of light and the trumpets. The drama and action aren’t over yet.
As Israel hears of Gideon’s night victory, those that had fled at first from fear, join him in the chase after the Midianites.
In verse 24, Gideon sends a messenger to the tribe of Ephraim asking them to cut off 2 princes that are headed their way, to prevent them from crossing the river. The men of Ephraim do this and as a result, they are able to capture the 2 princes, Oreb and Zeeb, and slay them.
These men of Ephraim follow after Gideon and bring him the 2 bloody heads of Oreb and Zeeb, but instead of joining him in a team effort, they berate Gideon and chide him sharply:
Judges 8:1: And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites?
Now let’s pause and ask ourselves – where were the men of Ephraim at the original call to attack Midian? Or when they heard that Gideon’s 300 were successfully destroying the host of Midian, why did they not join themselves with the rest of Israel in the pursuit? In effect, the come to Gideon asking angrily, “Why didn’t you call us to join you in this attack?”
Gideon answers brilliantly, with diplomatic humility, Judges 8:2,3: “What have I done now in comparison of you?… [Look at what God did through you. You were able to kill Oreb and Zeeb] .. what was I able to do in comparison of you?”
This meek and gracious answer calms their anger and brings peace.
How many of us would answer in that manner when we are tired from heavy exertion, the adrenaline pumping in our veins from stress, intensely focused on some critical task – would we have the presence of mind to respond in a humble gracious way?
Surely the devil wanted to throw Gideon off by causing him to respond in an ungodly, unkind way under pressure, as he tries to do to us all. But the story isn’t finished yet.
Judges 8:4: And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over he, and the 300 men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.
Our spiritual warfare must be fought with what strength we have, though we have but little. It is many a time the true Christian’s case – faint, yet pursuing. Faint, yet pursing, much fatigued with what he’d done, yet eager to do more against the enemies of their country.
Gideon is met with yet more lack of civility while doing God’s work.
Judges 8:5,6: And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian. And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?
In other words, have you conquered yet? We don’t even know if you are going to succeed. Why should we feed you if you haven’t gained the victory yet. Your job is impossible, you’re wasting your time.
This response must have been a great discouragement to Gideon and his men. But though he met with discouragement from his own people, was jeered at for what he was doing, as going about what he could never accomplish, yet he continued on. If those who should be our helpers in the way of duty prove hindrances to us, let not this drive us off from our task.
It was still night, Gideon and his men had been pursuing the enemy all night, with no time for rest and no thought of food. Gideon had not inquired for food for himself, but for those following after him, those that had joined him after the Midianite escape, not even for his 300 faithful warriors, although they would surely have also eaten the food offered to them, but Gideon’s thought was for the people that had come out of their hiding places and out of their homes to help him.
The unkindness shown his men is too much for Gideon.
Judges 8:7: And Gideon said, Therefore when the Lord hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.
Gideon is confident the Lord will give him victory – he responds with “when…. “, not “if…” “When the Lord has delivered..” Gideon rushes on after the Midianites, and when he comes to the next town of Penuel, he tries again to get food for his men, but the men of Penuel answer him the same way that the previous city had.
Judges 8:9: And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.
Again Gideon talks faith and confidence: “When…” He does not turn on these wicked men of Israel in the heat of passion, or lose time punishing them. Gideon’s zeal for his mission does not flag. He must not be sidetracked from the pursuit of his enemy. The discouraging remarks and lack of assistance don’t decrease his faith that God will deliver the last of the Midianites into his hand. He pursues on to capture Zebah and Zalmunna and discomfit the host of Midian.
Judges 8:11 And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up.
Victory, combat, discouragement, accusation, rebuff – all in one night. Enough to put anyone at their wit’s end.
Returning from the battle, Gideon locates the 77 men of Succoth that denied his people refreshment, and fulfills his promise.
Judges 8:16,17: And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth. And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.
By refusing to assist Gideon and the men that were with him, the men of Succoth and Penuel proved that they were not on the side of God. But for strength from God for their task, Gideon’s army could have failed in completing their task because of exhaustion and hunger.The consequences applied by Gideon, although extreme, were necessary for an example to those who think they can hurt the cause of God and get away with it.
The story of Gideon is an outstanding story of exciting action, courage, faith, and justice. Besides his faith-filled victory though, it gives us a glimpse into the many challenges that face anyone trying to do God’s will in their life.