Bible Readings for July 24th
In our meditation for Deuteronomy 20, we looked at three of the possible exceptions that would allow an Israelite to opt out of going to war. If a man had just gained a new house or a new vineyard or a new wife, that man was exempt from the requirement of going to battle (Deut. 20:5–7). There was a fourth reason that a man could cite for not going to war, however: if a man was fearful, he could opt out, “lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own” (Deut. 20:8). In other words, the practical consideration was to prevent the fears of one soldier from bringing down everyone else with him.
In Judges 7, Yahweh instructs Gideon to pare down the number of soldiers going out to battle with him. First, Yahweh instructs him to ask whether any of the men are fearful to go to battle, and so 22,000 soldiers leave while 10,000 remain (Judg. 7:2–3). Then, so that all Israel will know for certain that Yahweh alone is giving them the victory and not the strength of their own hand, Yahweh tells Gideon to have his soldiers take a drink from the river. Any who make themselves vulnerable to enemies by putting their heads down to lap directly from the river are sent home, while the cautious ones who stay alert by bringing water up to their mouths will stay for the battle. After this test, only 300 warriors remain (Judg. 7:4–8).
One of the ironies of this story, however, is that the very man whom Yahweh has called to lead Israel into battle is the most fearful of them all. Even though Gideon had requested three different signs in Judges 6, Yahweh graciously provides Gideon another sign in Judges 7:9–14. As Gideon spies out the Midianite camp, he overhears one Midianite tell another of a dream where a cake of barley bread destroyed the entire camp of Midian. The man’s fellow soldier interprets the dream clearly: “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp” (Judg. 7:14).
That sign is all that Gideon needs to lead his fellow Israelites into battle. There, through the crashing of the jars and the burning of the torches and the shouts of the men, Yahweh sends Midian into a panic, so that the Midianites largely kill one another, and the Israelites pursue the rest.
What fears plague you as you follow Jesus? Take comfort in the fact that when Yahweh calls fearful people to serve him, he makes ample, gracious provision for their fears. Fearful one, trust in the Lord. His power is made perfect in your weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.