We come now to the book of Judges, which fairly early on brings forth one of my favorite characters from the Bible - Gideon. There's a lot to love about Gideon and so much richness to bring from his story, but we will start today with the army that he amasses against the enemy.
The problem with Gideon's army is...it's too big. That's not typically an issue in battle; you want to have the most guys on your side. But God says that there are too many men to go with him and that if all of these men go, the glory will end up in the wrong place. The men might think it was by their sheer size and force that they won the battle, rather than by the favor and provision and providence of God, so He declares that Gideon must pare down his forces before he fights.
There are a couple of ways to get rid of part of the army, and the first way is this: anyone who is scared can go home. Just like that. No questions asked. If you're a soldier who showed up today, and you're scared, you're dismissed.
And 22,000 men left.
We don't know how many men he started with, but that seems like a lot of men to leave all at once. And because they're scared? It's easy for us to read this and think, Cowards. How incredible that so many men were so afraid, especially when they should have known that the Lord was on their side! It just blows our minds, and all of our own false bravado comes out. Certainly I would never leave because I was scared. I mean, if I was a soldier and everything.
But there's another way to read this. Sure, we could look at 22,000 soldiers who left because they were scared to go to war, but we could also talk about 22,000 men who showed up for war even though they were afraid.
That changes everything.
It changes everything because we are a people who too easily excuse ourselves because of our fear. We think that being afraid is a warning sign, something that ought to stop us in our tracks. We think that fear and hesitation is a good reason to stop altogether, to turn back, to turn away, and to go a different route. When God asks us to do something, we first ask whether or not we're afraid to do it, and if we're afraid, we determine that God probably didn't really ask us to do it in the first place. And so most of us simply don't show up...for our own lives.
These 22,000 men...showed up. They came, bearing their swords, even though they were afraid. They believed that they were part of what God was doing in His people, and they showed up. Shaking in their boots, hands unable to even hold onto their hilts, they showed up. They stood among the ranks and declared, We will go, even when there was something in them screaming not to, a voice they couldn't wholly ignore.
What would happen if we showed up? I'm not talking 22,000 of us; I'm talking just one. Just you. Just me. What if one of us showed up for what God was doing, even though we were scared? What if we came clad in our armor, sword on our hips, hands shaking on our hilts? What if we came to the place where God called us and stood, trembling, but stood nonetheless?
What if just one of us did something that scared us?
Imagine the glory of God....