No one could have mistaken the ancient Babylonian soldiers for gentlemen. They were ruthless, resilient, and vicious, and they attacked other nations the way an eagle overtakes its prey. Not only were they powerful, they were prideful as well. They practically worshiped their own combat abilities. In fact, the Bible says that their “strength [was] their god” (Hab. 1:11).
God did not want this kind of self-reliance to infect Israel’s forces as they prepared to battle the Midianites. So He told Gideon, Israel’s army commander, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me’ ” (Judg. 7:2). As a result, Gideon discharged anyone who was fearful. Twenty-two thousand men hightailed it home, while 10,000 fighters stayed. God continued to downsize the army until only 300 men remained (vv. 3-7).
Having fewer troops meant that Israel was dramatically outnumbered—their enemies, who populated a nearby valley, were as “thick as locusts” (v. 12). Despite this, God gave Gideon’s forces victory.
At times, God may allow our resources to dwindle so that we rely on His strength to keep going. Our needs showcase His power, but He is the One who says, “I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10).
Dear God, I am thankful for Your strength. You carry me when I am weak. Help me to give You the credit for every victory in life.
God wants us to depend on His strength, not our own.
Gideon’s life clearly illustrates God’s strength and man’s frailty. God used Gideon to accomplish a great military victory and through him brought 40 years of peace to Israel (Judg. 6–7). But this story also teaches us about the danger of pride. The circumstances surrounding Israel’s victory over Midian clearly show that God, not Gideon, was responsible for Israel’s success. Yet Gideon’s pride led him to accept gold and to erect a monument in his own honor that would later become an object of worship and a snare to him and his family (8:22–27).