Two Talents

Faith-based expressions of a Christian.

Less is more

leave a comment »

Bob Deffinbaugh wrote an article at Bible.org called “When Less is More“. It is excellent. He uses the example of Gideon to make his points about misplaced faith. Let’s look at the scripture Deffinbaugh uses, which is Judges 6:36-40; 7:1-23.

36Then Gideon said to God, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken,37behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.”

38And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water.

39Then Gideon said to God, “Do not let Your anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground.”

40God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground.

1Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him, rose early and camped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley.2The LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’

3“Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.'” So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained.

4Then the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. Therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”

5So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink.”

6Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water.

7The LORD said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his home.”

8So the 300 men took the people’s provisions and their trumpets into their hands. And Gideon sent all the other men of Israel, each to his tent, but retained the 300 men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.

9Now the same night it came about that the LORD said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hands.

10“But if you are afraid to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp,

11and you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp.” So he went with Purah his servant down to the outposts of the army that was in the camp.

12Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore.

13When Gideon came, behold, a man was relating a dream to his friend. And he said, “Behold, I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat.”

14His friend replied, “This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand.”

15When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship. He returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the LORD has given the camp of Midian into your hands.”

16He divided the 300 men into three companies, and he put trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers.

17He said to them, “Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do.

18“When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp and say, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.'”

19So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands.20When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!”

21Each stood in his place around the camp; and all the army ran, crying out as they fled.

22When they blew 300 trumpets, the LORD set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath.

23The men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian.

I have to confess that I’ve never found two heroes of the Bible especially heroic. The two are Gideon and Jephthah. The case of Jephthah is unrelated, and I don’t question him on his faith. Gideon, however, seems to be lacking faith. He was visited by an angel who told him that God was with him. This alone isn’t enough to cause Gideon to believe, so he asks for a sign. The sign is given, but this isn’t enough for Gideon to believe. He asks for a second sign, which is also given. Yet this isn’t enough for Gideon to place his faith in God.

As he assembled the army to fight the enemy God told Gideon that there were too many soldiers. After all, God told him, if you win people will say it was through your might. God wanted it to be clear that it was He who had won the battle, so He told Gideon to pare down the number of soldiers. This done, God told Gideon there were still too many, so their number was pared down again, to a mere 300. Gideon and the 300 set up camp, and before the morning fully comes God rouses Gideon and tells him to attack the enemy, because He has given them over to Gideon and his troops.

Here we come to an interesting turn in the story. God tells Gideon that if he’s too afraid to attack based on what God has just told him, he (Gideon) should take his servant into the Israelite camps. This Gideon does, making it plain he is still not able or willing to place his faith in God to do what He promised Gideon He would do. At this point Gideon looks as unwilling to take the fight to the enemy as General George McClellan. It is only once Gideon overhears those in the Israelite camp telling of a dream that meant victory against the enemy that he attacks. It took all of that for Gideon to finally ply the attack. Why? Why was Gideon so unwilling to trust God’s word? Let’s look at some of what Deffnibaugh wrote.

“The more, the better.” Here’s an expression I’ve heard many times in my life, and quite often it is true. If you can get more ears of corn for the same price at a particular grocery store, or double coupons on a particular day, that’s usually a good thing. But there are times when more may not be better. Making more money is not always a good thing, nor is having more people attend church, if these “gains” come at the expense of more important matters. If more people attend your church because the gospel is watered down, sin isn’t mentioned, and neither is hell, then more is less.

We are sometimes inclined to think that “more” is necessary to do the work of God: “If we had more money in the Missions budget, then we could save more souls.” “If we only had more people praying, our sister with cancer would not have died.” Such statements will need to be rethought in the light of our text, for I believe it clearly teaches that in God’s work, less may be more.

Despite being convinced that Jesus died for our sins, fully paid the debt, is truly alive and will come again we place our trust in our senses. Outside those major tenets of the gospel message we trust based on the finite world, not on faith. Jesus chastised His own apostles for lacking faith several times (and they were with Him daily). Thus, it’s a human failing at work here. We fail at faith…at least at the full complement of faith.

Who could blame our righteous God for rolling His eyes and saying, “I’ve had my fill of you. Begone to the condemnation you deserve!” Or, less tragically (from our perspective), simply remove His hands from our lives and let us flounder in our shortcomings; the blind leading the blind into a ditch. Yet God did not do that with Gideon!

God has given Gideon the command to attack the Midianites, along with the promise of victory. But God knows Gideon intimately. Now is the time when further assurance is needed. If you and I were honest, I suspect that none of us would have passed up this opportunity for divine confirmation. If Gideon is fearful, he should take his servant, Purah, and go down to the Midianite camp.

God most graciously makes the same provisions for us. His longsuffering is beyond our finite comprehension. Why does He put up with us? Because He is gracious!

Day by day we place our trust in our own hands, or in the hands of parents, other family, or friends. We place our trust in our government, or our church, or our pastor. Every one of those examples is human. Why do we do this? That’s not to say that our family, friends, pastor or brethren are not to be trusted, but there is a chasm of difference between trusting in humans to provide for me and bowing before our heavenly Father and humbly asking that He provide for our needs. In the former, there is much room for error. In the latter, there is perfection.

Advertisements

Written by Shawn

March 20, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: