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GIDEON’S ARMY

A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
and preached by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, June 16, 2019

“And the Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place” (Judges 7:7).


The story of Gideon and his army thrills me each time I read it. That’s one of the benefits of not being raised in a Christian home. Kids raised in Christian families usually hear these Bible stories told the wrong way. They are generally taught as children’s stories, like “Mother Goose” or “Hans Christian Andersen.” But they were not written for children. These stories were given in the Bible as a stark reminder that there is a Devil, that there are wicked people in the world, that we are in a real conflict, in a life or death struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of God! That’s the way these stories are meant to be taught – and I think it is a sin to teach them any other way! Since I did not come from a Christian home, I read the story of Gideon as it was meant to be read – as a life or death struggle between good and evil!

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The Midianites personified all that is dark, and sinful, and horrible in the world. They moved across the land as a nomadic tribe of raiders. They would pitch their tents as they moved along. They were a hellishly savage people – like a huge army of Hell’s Angels, or half-crazed Muslim terrorists! The Midianites stole and raped and murdered their way into the land of Israel. By their huge numbers they overwhelmed God’s people. The Bible says,

“The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds” (Judges 6:1-2).

Yes, you heard it right! The people of Israel were so terrified of these Midianites, that they fled from their homes and lived in caves and dens in the mountains. The people of Israel sinned and God judged them by sending these terrorists to kill them and enslave them. And the people of Israel cried out to God for deliverance.

Now there was a Hebrew man named Gideon. He was hiding by a winepress threshing wheat there, so the Midianites would not see him. An angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “The Lord is with thee...and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites.” But Gideon did not believe that angel. He wiped the sweat off of his brow and said, “How can I save Israel? My family is poor, and I am the least of them.” God answered, “I will be with you, and will strike down the Midianites.”

So Gideon gathered together an army to fight the Midianites. But the Lord said to him, “You have too many men. If I deliver the Midianites to you, the men of Israel will think they saved themselves!” Then God said, “Tell those who are fearful and afraid to go home.” Twenty-two thousand men left. Only ten thousand men remained with Gideon. He had thirty-two thousand men, but now he only had ten thousand. Then God told Gideon that there were still far too many.

Then God told him to take his army down to a river. And God told him that the soldiers who scooped up water in their hands, as a dog uses its tongue, should be chosen, while those who fell to their knees to drink should be rejected. Only three hundred men (out of ten thousand) passed that test. The first test was the test of courage. The second test was the test of alertness. They were all very thirsty. But those who stuck their heads in the water were rejected. But those who scooped up the water could look around and still be alert. Only three hundred men were alert and watchful enough to be chosen as Gideon’s Army!

What a strange army this was! The Midianites had taken all their weapons and swords, so Gideon’s men had no weapons of warfare. All they were given was a trumpet, an empty pitcher, and a lamp. That was it! Three hundred men, armed only with trumpets, pitchers and lamps, were to overcome the huge army of Midianites, with countless thousands of men. It seemed impossible – but with God all things are possible!

Now Gideon divided his three hundred men into three groups. They were each given a pitcher, a lamp, and a trumpet. The lamps were put inside of the pitchers so the light could not be seen. They held those in one hand, and the trumpets in the other hand.

Gideon put his three hundred men, in three different groups of one hundred each, around the camp of the Midianites. It was very late that night. Most of the Midianites were asleep in the camp. There were only a few guards on duty, and they were dozing off and on.

Suddenly Gideon blew his trumpet! All the other men blew their trumpets. Then they broke their pitchers on the ground in a great clash on every side. And Gideon’s men shouted, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!!!” When Gideon’s men shouted, the Lord caused the Midianites to turn on each other with their swords. There in the darkness of midnight, the Midianites rioted against each other. Then they fled in terror!

All the men of Israel rose up and went after the Midianites. They took two of the Midianite princes and cut off their heads, and brought their heads to Gideon. And Gideon said, “God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian.” This gave Gideon and the Israelites a tremendous victory! We can learn several lessons from it.

I. First, we see the doctrine of the remnant.

The doctrine of the remnant is found throughout the Bible. The “remnant” is always a small group of people that God uses in a dark and sinful world. In the Book of the prophet Isaiah we read,

“Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:9).

The Greek Septuagint translated “remnant” in that verse as “sperma” – a sperm or seed. “If the Lord had not left unto us a little seed,” just a little group of faithful followers of God – we would have been utterly destroyed, as were Sodom and Gomorrah!

We also see the doctrine of the faithful band, the bold remnant of God, in the Book of Romans,

“Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved” (Romans 9:27).

Dr. W. A. Criswell said,

However the earth may be judged and destroyed, and however the nation may be lost in despair, yet God has a faithful remnant. They are purged and renovated, and they become the foundation of a new society, a new culture, a new government, and a new kingdom. This is the doctrine of the remnant (W. A. Criswell, Ph.D., Isaiah: An Exposition, Zondervan Publishing House, 1977, pp. 33, 34).

God’s method through the ages is that His work will be carried out through a small minority, a remnant of faithful people.

In Matthew 24:22 we read, “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.” It will be the remnant of the elect that hold back the complete destruction of the human race.

We have seen the doctrine of the remnant when Gideon and his small band of only 300 men, out of thousands who were rejected, saved Israel from the Midianites.

In the days of the Great Flood, only Noah and his family were spared as God’s remnant. Abraham was the only one in God’s remnant during the time of universal idolatry. In the time of Elijah, only 7,000 men in all the world made up God’s remnant. When the Jews were carried away into Babylonian captivity, a small remnant returned to build Jerusalem. In Acts 1:15 a small remnant of only 120 disciples brought the message of salvation to the sin-darkened world.

And so it has been throughout history. Martin Luther and a few of his followers were used by God to bring the light of the Reformation to the Dark Ages of superstition and oppression. In the darkest hour of England’s spiritual history, God raised up Whitefield, Wesley and a small remnant of despised Methodists to change the course of history and save the English-speaking world. When hyper-Calvinists tried to stop world-wide missions, God raised up our Baptist forefather William Carey, and a small remnant of his followers, to spread the Gospel throughout the pagan world!

And so it has been in our own church. God preserved a remnant to proclaim the Gospel here in Southern California and send out the sermons in 42 languages to 221 countries of the world! A remnant of only 60 people saved our church!

The remnant is never a large mass of people. It is always a small minority of faithful people. We have more than enough people here tonight. Let us take heart! We have the remnant here. You are that remnant! Let us go forth to a new church and a new future!

II. Second, we see who is not qualified to be part of the remnant.

The text says,

“The Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place” (Judges 7:7).

“Let all the other people go every man unto his place.” Those who were not qualified to be part of the remnant were “let go” by Gideon at God’s command. Who were they?

They were those who were “fearful and afraid” (Judges 7:3). That was the first group of 22 thousand. Those who were fearful and afraid were sent home by the Lord. They were just too fearful and afraid to be part of the remnant. They were not just afraid. Gideon himself had some fear (Judges 7:10). But the 22 thousand were “fearful and trembling” (literal). They were overcome with fear. The Bible tells us, in Revelation 21:8, that fear is the first quality that sends people to Hell. It says, “But the fearful... shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8). The word “fearful” can be translated “cowardly” (NKJV). Cowardly people can’t even be saved, much less be part of God’s remnant.

I have seen fearful, cowardly people stumble when they are called to be a good Christian, or a Christian at all. They are afraid they might have to sacrifice something. They are afraid the church might not be the same as it was a long time ago. They are afraid of the future. And so they hold back. They cannot be part of the remnant.

The Parable of the Great Supper shows how fear keeps people from becoming real Christians. It says, “They all with one consent began to make excuse” (Luke 14:18).

The first was a man who had bought a piece of ground and said he had to go see it. Obviously he had already seen it. Nobody buys a piece of land sight unseen! What he really wanted was free time for himself. That’s the kind of person who is afraid that he will have to spend too much time in church. He wants all his time for himself.

The second man said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused” (Luke 14:19). He was afraid that if he became a real Christian it would interfere with his career as a farmer. It might cost him money. That kind of person cannot be part of the remnant.

The third man said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come” (Luke 14:20). That is the kind of person who wants to spend lots of time with his family and friends rather than be a good Christian. He is selfish. Fellowship is the most important thing in his life. He wants to be with his friends rather than serve Christ. He makes his choices based on what his friends do. That kind of person cannot be part of the remnant. In fact, that kind of person cannot be saved, for Jesus said,

“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).

It is interesting to read “The law of warfare,” given in the twentieth chapter of Deuteronomy. It’s verse 8, and it says,

“The officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart” (Deuteronomy 20:8).

This applies to a church as well. Cowardly, unconverted, selfish people come into the church. The Bible says, “there are certain men crept in unawares” (Jude 4). They cause others to be scared and selfish. They make other people faint at heart. This causes church splits. Those people cannot be part of the remnant.

III. Third, we see who is qualified to be part of the remnant.

Dr. Hymers’ pastor for many years at the Chinese church was Dr. Timothy Lin. He often said, “Less is better than more.” He meant that it is better to have less people, who are fully consecrated to Christ, than to have more people who are afraid to be true disciples! Dr. Lin said, “How can we expect God’s presence in a church that is full of unbelievers?” (Timothy Lin, Ph.D., The Secret of Church Growth, FCBC, 1992, p. 41).

“Less is better than more.” That was God’s way with Gideon – and that has always been God’s way. Down through history God has always worked His will through a remnant, a small group of people who are wholly dedicated to His cause.

The people of the remnant are not fearful and afraid. You are that remnant. You are not afraid to try something new to make the church live and grow. You are not afraid to have the church be different than it was in the past. You do not run away to have an easy schedule. Others do it – but you don’t! You do not run to a pastor who does not reprove sin, and turns “the grace of our God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4). Your highest goal is Christ, not human fellowship. You go on firmly held in the arms of Christ! You are the remnant. Praise God!

But there is one more quality necessary for those who want to be part of God’s remnant. Those who do not have this quality are also disqualified from being part of the remnant. Listen to the text one more time.

“The Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place” (Judges 7:7).

“By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you.”

God first had Gideon reduce his army by sending 22,000 of them, who were fearful and afraid, back home, leaving only 10,000 to face the 135,000 Midianites (cf. Judges 8:10). Then God told Gideon to send away all those who “bowed down upon their knees to drink water” (Judges 7:6). Only three hundred of them took the water up in their hands and lapped it. These men drank from their cupped hands, rather than putting their heads down to the water. The three hundred took up the water in their hands so they could be on the alert, able to look around for any approaching danger. Dr. Henry M. Morris said that the choice of the 300 “was based on alertness, just as the first was based on courage” (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, World Publishing, 1995, p. 293; note on Judges 7:7).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

God told Gideon that he still had too many men. How were they separated? They came to a stream and [most] of the men got down on all fours to drink. There were [three hundred] others who lapped up the water [from their hands] and were all ready to go. They were eager to get to the enemy and get the job done. They wanted to free and save the nation. So they were the ones who went to battle, and the others were sent home (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1981, vol. I, p. 583; note on Deuteronomy 20:8).

To be part of God’s remnant you must have those two qualities – (1) you must be courageous enough to follow Christ as His disciple; (2) you must be alert to the dangers about you, and stedfast in your desire to see Christ glorified in the church militant!

You must be alert. The Bible says,

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).

You must also be stedfast in your desire to see Christ glorified. The Bible says,

“Be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).

“And the Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place” (Judges 7:7).

Praise God, you are that way! You are alert to the importance of prayer. You pray here every Wednesday and Saturday night. You pray privately every day. You are alert to the need for fasting, and you fast every Friday for the needs of our church. You are alert to the need for a church in harmony, not division – a church where the people have “one accord” as the Bible teaches (Acts 2:1; I Corinthians 1:10). You are like Gideon’s men. You are strong and stedfast. You are the remnant! And you will inherit the future. By God’s grace, you will build a new church and a new future!

Some of you here tonight have not trusted Jesus. You are guilty of sin, especially the sin of your heart. Your sin separates you from God. Jesus can save you from the penalty of sin. He died on the Cross to pay for your sin. He shed His Blood to wash your sin away. He rose from the dead to give you life. He will save you! But you must trust Him. If you would like to speak to us about being saved by Jesus, please come and sit in the first two rows. Amen.


THE OUTLINE OF

GIDEON’S ARMY

A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
and preached by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan

“And the Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place” (Judges 7:7).

(Judges 6:1-2)

I.    First, we see the doctrine of the remnant, Isaiah 1:9; Romans 9:27;
Matthew 24:22.

II.   Second, we see who is not qualified to be part of the remnant,
Judges 7:3, 10; Revelation 21:8; Luke 14:18, 19, 20;
Matthew 10:37-39; Deuteronomy 20:8; Jude 4.

III.  Third, we see who is qualified to be part of the remnant,
Jude 4, Judges 7:6; I Peter 5:8; I Corinthians 15:58;
Acts 2:1; I Corinthians 1:10.