A Very Small Army


Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.

The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.

And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley. Judges 7:1-8 ESV

Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God. Psalm 98:1-3 ESV


When the United States has been at war in the past, there have often been drafts of men into military service. If a man was drafted, he generally had to serve in the military whether he wanted to or not. However, he might get a deferment, which meant that he didn’t have to serve. There were a number of reasons a man might get a deferment. It might have been because he was working at a job that was considered too important for him to be called away from it. It might have been because he was still in high school. It might also have been because he had a medical condition that would keep him from being able to fight well. There were many other possible reasons, but being afraid, or drinking water in an unusual way, weren’t reasons.

When Gideon was ready to go to war with the Midianites, these were the two reasons some soldiers didn’t have to serve. Anyone who was afraid was sent home. More than half of the men were afraid and went home, but that still left too many. God didn’t want Gideon or his army to think they had won the battle because they were strong and brave fighters. So he told Gideon to test the men by watching the way they drank. Most of the men bent down and drank straight from the water. God sent all these men home. But a few of them scooped water up in their hands and used their tongues to lap it like a dog. There were only 300 men that did that, and these were the only men who were chosen to fight. God was the one who was fighting for Israel, and he wanted to be sure that they knew that. That’s why he limited the army to an incredibly low number.

It’s the same way with us. If we think we can take care of our problems all by ourselves without God’s help, we are foolish. We need God’s help for everything we do in life, and especially for our eternal life with him. We were lost and enemies of God because of our sins. There was nothing at all we could have done to save ourselves. God knew our need, and he sent Jesus to die for us. Jesus took care of the whole problem by himself, and there’s nothing we could ever have done to help. It’s good to know that God has taken care of everything, and that we never have to worry about if we’ve done enough to win God’s help and his love forever.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for helping us with everything, and especially for taking care of our need for a Savior. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.