With Overwhelming Force – August 11, 2023

The LORD said to Gideon, “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.

But the LORD said to Gideon, “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.”
Judges 7:2-4

Military Devotion – August 11, 2023

Devotion based on Judges 7:2-4

See series: Military Devotions

“The Bible is a bloody book!” With these words, some parents have demanded Bibles be removed from school libraries.

With all the violence that shows up on the news and entertainment screens, we might be surprised to hear anyone point at the Bible as a bad influence. We know it carries the best message for everyone to hear. Yet, there is truth behind saying the Bible is a bloody book.

The crucifixion of Jesus certainly is a gory story. But we need to hear it.

The Old and New Testaments carry many vivid accounts of violence and bloodshed. We might cringe at the reports, but we need to know about them.

The sacred Scriptures tell us stark truths about humans and critical truths about the LORD. They frighten us with the reality of our depravity and inspire us with the evidence of his devotion to our welfare. They show, when it comes to protecting his people, the LORD acts with overwhelming force. The account of Gideon and the Midianites is an example.

Israel had settled into the Promised Land but was half-hearted in its efforts to clear out all the Canaanites. As the LORD had warned, these worshipers of heathen gods became a snare to trap Israel into godlessness. As he had warned, he withdrew his protecting hand from Israel when faced with enemies. The nation wilted under this judgment.

But mercy from the LORD was still available. It flowed forth at the time of Gideon.

The Midianites had become the scourge of Israel. Scripture tells us, “Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds.” More details are given, “Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys.”

They were an overwhelming force. We are further told, “They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it.”

This led Israel back to its only protector. We hear, “Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help” (Judges 6:2-6).

The LORD responded with overwhelming force—but not in numbers and not with human strength. There were some 135,000 Midianites camped against Israel. At the LORD’s command, Gideon gathered his much smaller army.

“Too many!” the LORD said. “Tell any of them who are afraid that they can go home.” Twenty-two thousand left. Still too many! When the troops came to water, Gideon was told, “Separate those who lap the water from their hands with their tongues from those who kneel down to drink.”

The three hundred who lapped the water from their hands were chosen. They would attack the horde of Midianites at night—using the sudden flash of torches and the blast of trumpets.

And no weapons!

The result? The Midianites panicked. In the dark confusion, they began attacking one another. They defeated themselves. They had been attacked by an unseen, overwhelming force—the Lord of hosts, that is, the Lord of armies. He is also called Jehovah.

We call him our LORD. We call him “Our Father who art in heaven.” He always steps in to rescue with overwhelming force. That’s what happened when he sent his Son to confront the enemies of our souls. Jesus did not need Peter’s sword. He did not need Pontius Pilate to protect him. It was his righteousness that carried the day. He used his own death as a weapon.

He won the battle for our salvation by using overwhelming force—the redeeming power of his blood.

Then, he proceeded to win our hearts and minds. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).

The Bible is, indeed, a bloody book—and we thank God for it.

Jesus, your blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress,
Mid flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head. Amen.
(Christian Worship 573:1)

Points to ponder:

  • What is so appealing about life on the dark side?
  • Why are we more impressed with size and numbers than with the power of God?
  • What should we say to those who want to ban the Bible?

Written and recorded by Rev. Paul Horn, WELS National Civilian Chaplain to the Military, San Diego, California.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.

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