Death by Friendly Fire is an Embarrassment. Yet that was God’s battle plan.
This story gets me every time. It was a brilliant military move and one that only God could orchestrate.
One of the things about this true event that I’ve always wondered about is who cleaned up all those broken pitchers (jars). Smash three hundred pitcher covers, and what happens to the debris?
God’s way of dealing with the enemies of the Israelites stymied everyone – sometimes even His own people. His battle plan is so different from ours. First, He has to get people ready. On this particular day, He sent the angel of the Lord to meet Gideon, who was threshing wheat in a winepress, of all places.
There’s a reason Gideon was hiding while he was threshing. He was trying to keep the wheat from the Midianites, Israel’s enemies.
God had delivered the Israelites into the hand of the Midianites for seven years because of their own sin and disobedience. In essence, they “deserved” this oppression.
Nevertheless, when the Israelites begged God for relief, He chose, this time, to grant it.
His battle plan begins with Gideon, an unknown non-warrior.
God tells Gideon that He is going to deliver the Israelites through Gideon. That’s the first surprise. Gideon isn’t a warrior. He’s had no experience. He’s from the lowest of the low, and he tells God so. Yet God doesn’t take “No” for an answer.
Gideon asks God for a sign and gets it. You can read the story of those fleeces here.
After the fleeces, Gideon agrees to God’s battle plan.
Soon Gideon finds himself in charge of 32,000 men. Not many compared to the 135,000 Midianite warriors. While he ponders his dilemma, God says he has too many men. Obviously, God’s math is different than ours. So, most times, is His battle plan. Gideon is instructed to ask those 32,000 men which ones of them are afraid. Whoever is afraid can go home. You know how many head home? Two-thirds of them – 22,000 men. (I think I would have been in that group.) That leaves Gideon with a mere 10,000.
In another unprecedented move, God further decreases the size of Gideon’s army.
He says 10,000 is still too many. What?!
(That’s because His ways are not man’s ways.)
He chooses which men will fight by the way they drink water from a stream. Really?! That’s how the Warrior of warriors chooses His men?!
Those who got on their knees and used their hands to lift water to their mouth were sent home. The 300 remaining men who lapped water like a dog stayed to fight.
Obviously, God is the One fighting this battle. Gideon just gets to implement God’s battle plan. [It’s the same with us. It is His battle, but He expects us to implement His plan!]
The instructions are simple. The three hundred men are separated into three groups. They are told to move strategically around the edge of the enemy camp just after the changing of the guards during the middle of the night.
Each man has a trumpet and a torch with a jar. At the given signal, each man smashes his jar (that’s where all the broken glass or pottery comes from). Holding his torch in his left hand and his trumpet in his right hand, each man shouts, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!”
While each man stays in his place, the Midianites begin shouting and running to escape. In the resulting chaos and darkness, the Midianites begin to fight each other with their swords and their losses by “friendly fire” were staggering! Their defeat that night and the following day as the Israelites pursued them is a testimony to God’s deliverance of His people in the face of overwhelming odds.
There’s more to the story, and you can read about it in the last part of Judges 7 and chapter 8.
The obvious point of this story is that God wanted His people to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their victory was the result of God’s intervention on their behalf. He didn’t want to merely bless the efforts of 32,000 men fighting the Midianites. He knew that if 32,000 prevailed against 135,000, the Israelites could easily surmise that their skill and efforts were responsible for the victory.
He wanted them to realize that He was fighting this battle for them. He didn’t need their muscle, their experience, or their brains. All He wanted was their obedience.
Why else did those Midianites turn against each other and many were killed because of friendly fire? Why else did they run when there were only 300 men against their 135,000? Why else but God.
When you think the enemy is too strong or when you think there is no way you can succeed, remember this story. Remember that God used people who lapped like dogs to show His people that the battle was His and not theirs.
Who is your greatest enemy? What is your greatest fear?
You don’t need a battle plan. All you need is His.
We need to let the battle belong to God. He doesn’t need our help. He just needs our obedience.
Oh, are you wondering about His battle plan? Where can you find this plan?
He gives His battle plan in the Word of God.
No matter what the scrimmage, no matter who the enemy, there is a Plan. We just need to find the plan – and implement it.