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3/15/2017 Message: Beating The Odds

by jpack, March 15, 2017

Everyone loves an underdog.  A lone warrior fighting against an overwhelming force.  It’s romantic.

God uses all types of underdogs throughout the scriptures.  Each time, there is a common thread that the masses didn’t completely understand: an underdog with God isn’t really an underdog.

Setting the Stage

In Judges, we see the story of Gideon, a farmer turned general who is commanded by God to take an army of inferior strength and stand against the occupants of the Holy Land.

Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”

“Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”

Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” (Judges 6:11-16)

God makes his power very clear from the start.  He instructs Gideon to take an army and rise up against the oppressors of Israel.  Remember that Gideon was a farmer without military training living in so much fear that he is found squirreling food away from the Midianites.  God’s message to Gideon was clear: with me, you are not an underdog.

Hammering the Point Home

As if God’s request wasn’t crazy enough, he instructed Gideon to reduce the size of his army.  After all, if there was an inferior force fighting against the Midianites, maybe the victorious Israelites would argue that their success was due to their own military might and not God.

So Jerub-baal (that is, Gideon) and his army got up early and went as far as the spring of Harod. The armies of Midian were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.’” So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.

But the Lord told Gideon, “There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.” When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.

The Lord told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.” So Gideon collected the provisions and rams’ horns of the other warriors and sent them home. But he kept the 300 men with him.

The Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon. (Judges 7:1-8)

In all, Gideon started with an army of 30,000 soldiers.  God culled his forces down to a tiny brigade of only 300.  If God was setting out to convince Gideon that victory would only come through God’s will, then he succeeded.  Before Gideon’s 300 troops stood an opposing force of 135,000 troops.  That’s a ratio of 450 Midianites to every 1 Israelite.  Clearly God was making a point and that point was that no matter how stark the odds would appear, with God we are vastly superior and divinely sufficient.

Defeating the REAL Underdog

With God at their side, the Israelites realized that it was the force of 135,000 who were the underdogs.  In Judges 7:9-14, the Jewish troops are emboldened when they see visions in their dreams of victory.  Gideon hears this and all doubt in his mind is removed.

This is an interesting point.  Gideon had doubts but heard the confidence of his troops.  This emboldened him to follow God’s commands.  There is an important lesson to be learned here about encouragement: whether we think we’re going through an underdog moment or not, we never know when someone else may be going through an even worse battle.  Sometimes even the smallest word of encouragement is enough to give that individual the strength needed to push forward and defeat terrifying foes.

The bottom line is this: with God, there are no underdogs.  His will reigns supreme over all people, all powers, and all nations.  With God there is everything and without God there is nothing.  No matter what opponent we face, God’s Will will be done.  When we choose God’s way instead of our own, we know we are backing the right horse and that the odds will never be stacked against us.

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