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Of God and odds

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

Gideon was called by the angel of the Lord (aka “Jesus”) in the book of Judges to engage, enrage and evict the invading Midianites. But there was a slight problem…There were over 135,000 of them and, quite honestly, Gideon didn’t feel up for the task. When Jesus called him up to kick them out Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep the Midianite bullies from beating him up and taking his lunch. To add insult to impending injuries Gideon was from a lesser known family in the “lessest” known tribe of Israel.


In God’s economy less is more, small is big and weak is strong. How bizzaro of our Lord. But, in the divine reality, Gideon was the ideal man for the job. A broken down Baal altar and a drenched/not-so-drenched lambskin or two later is when Gideon took his army to battle the naughty, haughty Midianites.

Gideon called Israel out and was able muster 32,000 fellow Jews for war. But with over 135,000 Midianite warriors, they were facing 4 to 1 odds.

Then God came to the “rescue” by telling Gideon in Judges 7, “‘You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’ So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.” Suddenly the odds moved from 4 to 1 (tough odds) to 13 to 1 (next to impossible odds.)

But then God suddenly pulls out the crazy manual, turns to page 300 and reads these words, “”There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them 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….Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink.'”

Can you imagine being Gideon? If I were Gideon I’d be like “o-k-a-y…I will do that Lord. I will separate the kneelers from the lappers and build my army from that ‘strategic’ screening process.” Seriously, you have to wonder what Gideon was thinking at this point. Some argue that the kneelers were the ones who were ready to fight and the lappers were the undisciplined ones, just diving face first into the water and drinking like a dog. But, to be honest, we have no idea why God chose the kneelers. Heck, maybe the kneelers were the neurotic ones. But, whether it was readiness or neurosis, this is what God used to reduce his army from a corp to a division to a single battalion and this “how you drink at the water trough” plan was a quick way to do that.

Then God reminds Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands.”

Okay, let’s pause and take a look at the odds now. They are now a whopping 450 to 1. That mean, 450 Midianite warriors for every one battle ready or extremely nervous Israelite.

You know the rest of the story. Armed with torches, clay pots and trumpets (by the way, swords are never mentioned!) Gideon puts his crazy plan into action. And, by the way, as my friend Jim Wert pointed out to me, there’s no indication that this was a plan that God dictated to Gideon like God dictated how to destroy Jericho to Joshua. It seems as though God allowed Gideon to develop a radical plan and put it into action. I’m sure that this plan was soaked in prayer, drenched in deep thought and brainstormed with Gideon’s inner circle, but it was his plan nonentheless. And, as you can see in the following passage, when divine sovereignty meets with human “strategery” some great things can happen.

Check out Judges 7:19-22, “Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, ‘A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!’ While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords.”

The best that I can surmise is that when the Midianites woke up from the smashing pots/blowing trumpets/yelling-an-intimidating-phrase alarm clock they were shocked and terrified. I’m sure they thought that standing behind each of these blazing torches was a brigade of warriors ready to fight. They had no clue that, standing behind each of those warriors, was jack squat..and jack just left town.

But, with some divine intervention, the deception worked and the Midianites freaked out and started swinging their swords at anything and everything that moved. The problem was that the only thing moving at this point were other Midianites, waking from their sleep. The Midianites started killing themselves off while the Israelites were way out of sword wielding range.

At the end of the “battle” 135,000 Midianite warriors were dead and 300 of the most unlikely warriors, led by one of the most unlikely generals ever, stood victorious.

What are the lessons from this passage? While there are many here are three of the more obvious ones….

1. God loves to use the unlikely to accomplish the impossible (so take heart!)
2. God does His “best” work when the odds seem insurmountable (so take courage!)
3. God forced Gideon to develop his own unique strategy and then execute with passion (so take action!)

What does all of this have to do with our vision for THE Cause? More than you might think. There are 67,342 high schools and middle schools in America. We only have 24 staff members at Dare 2 Share. Those odds are 2,800 to one. So, we, like Gideon, are going to have to rethink the conventional strategy. We are going to have to depend on God to give us the wisdom to develop a plan that is unique, dependent on God’s divine intervention and that leverages the infrastructure of other churches and organizations (i.e. get youth leaders to own THE Cause as much as we do), to accomplish THE Cause.

Remember that God loves bad odds. Why? because when He comes through it is He and He alone who gets the glory.

Bad odds? Bring it. With God, nothing is impossible.

Unlikely Fighter

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The story of how a fatherless street kid overcame violence, chaos, and confusion to become a radical Christ follower.

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