The Brave Three Hundred
March 20th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
THE BRAVE THREE HUNDRED
DR. W. A. CRISWELL
Judges 6- 8
3-20-60 8:15 a.m.
You who are listening to the radio are sharing with us the early morning services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing this message, and who would also especially invite you in prayer to attend the services at 7:30 this evening. At the evening hour the pastor will bring a message especially appealing to those who are lost, and we ought to bring with us friends and neighbors to whom we could introduce our Lord Jesus. And if in prayer we come, and bring lost people with us, tonight ought to be one of the great Pentecostal services of our whole lives.
Now we are following the life of Gideon. Last Sunday morning we were introduced to him, and this Sunday morning we follow the marvelous thing that he wrought for God in Israel. If I were to entitle the sermon, other than the one announced, The Brave Three Hundred, I would call it "The Weapons of Our Warfare," or "The Weakness of Our Strength," or "The Strength of Our Weakness." Any one of those subjects would be so apropos as we follow Gideon’s work with God.
Now in the sixth chapter of the Book of Judges, it begins with that usual dark line, "The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord," then follows that inevitable judgment, Judges 6:1, "and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years." And that was the sorest, most terrible judgment that fell upon Israel in all of the four hundred years of the judges. Those Midianites let the people of God raise their crops; then every year at harvest time they came like locusts and devoured the land before them. When they came it looked like the garden of Eden. When they left it was a shambles and a wreck. It was a dearth-stricken, famine-stricken land [Judges 6:2-5]. And they were greatly impoverished; Judges 6:6, "And they were greatly impoverished because of the Midianites."
Then in the midst, as the children of God cried to the Lord, there came, in Judges 6:11, "there came the Angel Jehovah." He is called that in the Bible. There came the Angel Jehovah. We have met Him many times before. We shall meet Him many times yet in the story of this glorious book, the Angel Jehovah, the second person of the Trinity, the Word of God [John 1:1]. "And He sat under an oak in Ophrah" [Judges 6:11]. That is where Joash the Abiezrite lived. And his son Gideon had furtively gathered a little wheat and was threshing it in some bin, in some cave, in some out-of-the-way place where the Midianites could not see. And the Angel Jehovah spake unto him and said, "Thou mighty man of valor" [Judges 6:12]. He was anything but that apparently, but last Sunday morning we spoke of what God can see in a man. To us he may be very weak, or very ignorant, or very uneducated, very untutored and unlearned and untaught, but it is a surprising thing what weak men are able to do, what untaught and ignorant men are able to achieve.
It is a marvelous thing what God can do with a yielded man. And the Angel Jehovah said to him, "The Lord is with thee thou mighty man of valor" [Judges 6:12]. And there he is in some little old out-of-the-way corner of a mountain, hidden away in a cave, beating out a little wheat that he may have something to eat; scared to death and frightened for his life, "Thou mighty man of valor." Some people say that was said in ridicule. No, that was said by the Angel Jehovah in deference to what this man could do, and would do.
Well, Gideon felt it, and he began to apologize to the strange Visitor who sat under the oak. "Oh my Lord," he says, "I am anything but that. My family is the poorest in Manasseh, and Manasseh is the poorest among the tribes, and I am the least in my father’s house" [Judges 6:15]. Anything but that, Lord, anything but that. "But the Lord said unto him," the Angel Jehovah, called here the Lord; Jehovah said unto him, "I will be with thee" [Judges 6:16]. And that is the difference. "I will be with thee." The feeblest man with God is mightier than the strongest man in this earth without Him. One man and God make a majority in any scene, in any incident, in any nation, in any time, in any age, now or forever. "I will be with thee."
Now we pick up where we left off last Sunday morning in the twenty-fifth verse: "And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the Asherah that is by it" [Judges 6:25]. Now, I haven’t time to read the passage and then deliver the message; I haven’t that much time. So we are going to have to deliver the message as we read the passage.
I have never been able to find out why they translate that Hebrew word "grove." It gives you a wrong idea. Wherever you come across that word translated in the King James Version "grove," if you will translate it "Asherah," that is the name of the god Asherah. And it was made out of wood, and it was a representation of that awful and infamous worship of the Canaanites. It was a god. It was an idol. Now you look at this thing that God tells them to do. He says:
Take thy father’s young bullock, and the second bullock of seven years, and throw down the altar of Baal in thy father’s house, and cut down that wooden idol that is by it:
And build there an altar unto the Lord thy God . . . and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the Asherah which thou hast cut down.
Isn’t that a strange thing, this second bullock of seven years? The best I can find out what that means is this. That first bullock was set aside for the burnt offering unto Baal, and being offered continuously, a bullock, then, the next offering of a bullock and the next one, why, that bullock was always young. But that second bullock that He refers to, a bullock of seven years, that was an unusual thing that the offering would be a bullock of seven years. It is kind of an antithetical expression in itself. A bullock to you would be a young calf. A bullock of seven years is antipodally expressed. Like young-old, a bullock of seven years.
Well, I say the best that I can find out that it refers to is this: apparently Gideon, though his father was a Baal worshipper like practically all of Israel had become, Gideon loved God and was a servant of Jehovah Lord, and he had set aside a bullock to offer unto Jehovah, but he never had an opportunity to offer him. The bullock was set aside for God. And one year passed and he never had an opportunity to offer it. And then two years passed and no opportunity came, and three years, and four, and five, and six, and finally seven years passed, and Gideon, who loved God, had no opportunity to offer the bullock unto the Lord. And God refers to that one, that other one, not the first one that is offered set aside for the offering unto Baal, but "That second one that for seven years you have kept aside to devote unto Me. Cut down the altar of Baal, cut down the Asherah of the wooden idol that is by it, and offer there this second bullock that has been set aside for Jehovah God" [Judges 6:25-26].
And this is the bravest thing that Gideon ever did. In his own father’s house, in his own family circle, he took the altar of Baal and cast it down. He cut down the wooden idol that was by it, and he built there an altar to Jehovah God, put the wood of the Asherah, that wooden idol, put it on the altar of stones, slew the second bullock that had been set aside for seven years to offer to God. He offered that bullock. And when the people of Abiezer awakened the next morning, and when his father awakened the next morning, there was the altar of Baal cast down, there was the Asherah cut down and burned with fire, and there they saw the remains of a whole burnt offering dedicated to Jehovah God [Judges 6:27-28].
Well, apparently they lived among the Canaanites. And the Canaanites had so traduced and prostituted the faith and religion of God’s people, that God’s people, like Joash, this Abiezrite, the father of Gideon, they had fallen along and become worshippers of Baal and Asherah themselves. And when the men of the city awoke and saw what had been done they immediately raised the question, "Who dare? Who?" And somebody said, "That is the work of Gideon, because we have known through the years of his young manhood that he loved Jehovah God. That is the work of Gideon" [Judges 6:29].
And the men of the city said, "Bring him out." To his father, "Bring him out that we may slay him, for he has cast down our god and cut down our idol" [Judges 6:30]. And Joash the father, God bless him, Joash the father stood up by the side of his son and said, "If Baal be a god, let Baal slay my son, for my son has cast down his altar and in contumely cut down the Asherah by it, and in contempt has burned it up with fire. If Baal is a god, let Baal destroy my son" [Judges 16:31].
And the men thought, well, now that’s reasonable, that’s reasonable. If Gideon has done this awful and blasphemous thing, why, let Baal defend his own altar and his own idol, and let Baal cut Gideon down. And that’s where Gideon got his name in Judges 6:32 of "Jerubbaal"; he is a Baal antagonist. He is a Baal contender. He is against Baal. That was a smart and a shrewd thing for the father to do because Baal is not going to hurt anybody, and Baal is not going to punish anybody, simply because there is not any Baal.
Then we have a wonderful assurance here. "The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and Gideon blew the trumpet; and Abiezer," his father’s house, "gathered to him. And then he sent the messengers" throughout all of northern Galilee, "Manasseh, Asher, Zebulon, Naphtali, and they came to meet him," thirty-two thousand men [Judges 6:34-35; 7:1-3]. Then you have the story of Gideon’s asking for a sign from God that God would be with him [Judges 6:36-40]. And there is nothing wrong in that. There is nothing wrong in that. Whenever these have asked God for those signs, God is patient with His people. And the Lord gives those signs.
And that will be the way in your life. Did you know, young fellow, you who may be listening to me on the radio, or you who might be seated here in this house, if God calls you do something, God will confirm that call. For example, if you are the only fellow that thinks that God has called you to preach, you haven’t been called to preach, if you are the only one. But if you have been called to preach, there will be a thousand confirming circumstances that will attend it, and you cannot escape it. It will be all around you. It will be everywhere. There will always be confirming contributory affirmations to the thing that God wants you to do. It will just be that way. The stars in their courses make it that way. And all heaven and earth conspire to affirm it that it is that way. That is all right. Anything that you feel that God has called you to do, ask God for affirmation and confirmation. He will give it to you. And don’t be afraid. Come boldly to the throne of grace [Hebrews 4:16] and ask, just like Gideon did.
"Now Lord," says Gideon, "now Lord, You have called me into this awful assignment." Why, there were one hundred thirty-five thousand of those Midianites [Judges 8:10], and when he got through calling on all of Israel together he had an army of thirty-two thousand [Judges 7:1-3]. Can you imagine thirty-two thousand going against one hundred thirty-five thousand? Why, it looked impossible. It was a case of despair to begin with, but God said, "I am with you, Gideon" [Judges 6:16].
And Gideon asked the Lord a sign. First he said, "Lord make this fleece wet and all the earth dry around it" [Judges 6:37]. Well now, that could be easily done by you. If you are on a boat and hang a heavy rag or something on one side of that boat, and I have forgotten which side, but if you will do it on one side of that boat, it will be wet with dew the next morning and the other side might be dry. But this second time that Gideon asked it was really something. He asked that the whole earth be [wet], and this fleece be [dry] and it was exactly like Gideon asked [Judges 6:39].
And with that assurance, and in the patience of God, now we begin in the seventh chapter: "And Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people who were with him, arose" [Judges 7:1] to deliver God’s country from the oppression of the awful locusts of the Midianites. "And the Lord said to Gideon" [Judges 7:2]. And isn’t this an amazing thing? Just the opposite of what you and I think, and what you and I believe, and the basis upon which you and I work. You know, to us, we have got to have the great, great, great multitudes with us before we can do anything. We could not attempt a great work for God, just a little handful of us. Why, it would be impossible, impossible. In order for us to have a great revival meeting, oh, how many folks and how many multitudes must we look to for a great outpouring of the Spirit of God.
The Lord says that is not so. He says that is not so. He says is there just a little handful around here that would really get right with God, and really pour out their souls in intercession and in prayer, and is there just somebody around here that has got faith? Is there just a little group? Why, you and I say in order to have a great and effective prayer meeting, we would have to have it here in this auditorium, and three thousand people would have to be here in order for us to have a mighty prayer meeting. God doesn’t think that, and God doesn’t say anything like that. He just says,"If two or three of you," "if two or three of you" [Matthew 18:20]; we have got this thing all turned around. God is not dependent upon a vast host and an illimitable, immeasurable, uncountable multitude. If just a little group of you, just somebody among you. "Do I have anybody," says the Lord, "anybody?"
Well, let’s follow that through in this story. The Lord looked down there on Gideon and he had thirty-two thousand soldiers with him, men who were bearing arms [Judges 7:2-3]. And the Lord said to Gideon, "Gideon, those thirty-two thousand will not do." He says, "I will show you why, Gideon. You make an announcement. Make a simple announcement: All of you thirty-two thousand who are fearful, your soul is made out of water, and your heart is built on sand, and you do not have any faith, and you are scared; all of you who are fearful, you go home. You go home."
Law me, can you imagine Gideon standing there and watch that entire army dissolve away, thirty-two thousand, and twenty-two thousand got up and left? [Judges 7:3]. My, my. "All of you that are wee timorous beasties, all of you that are scared and afraid and you do not have any faith, and you do not have any confidence, and you do not believe God answers prayer, and you do not believe God has put this in our hearts, and you do not believe that God is going to give us a victory, and you are afraid, all of you go home." And I can imagine the astonishment of Gideon when twenty-two thousand of his soldiers laid down their arms and went back home.
Well, the Lord looked at them, and the Lord said, "Gideon, these ten thousand will not do. They will not do." And He said, "I will show you why, Gideon." He says, "You take those ten thousand and lead them down there" [Judges 7:4]. Now here is the thing in the story that you don’t realize; because it isn’t said, you don’t see it. You have to look at the topography of the land to see what God did. Down there at the base of those hills; you see, those Midianites were encamped on the plain, the flat level of Jezreel, the valley of Esdraelon, the great plain in northern Galilee. They were there like the locusts, one hundred thirty-five thousand of them [Judges 8:10]; and these ten thousand were going to be led down there to the water [Judges 7:3-4]. And the water flowed out of the base of the hill – still does – flowed out of the base of the hill into a little marshy place, filled with reeds and I don’t know what all, behind which an enemy could easily set an ambush and hide themselves. And God said to Gideon, "You take these ten thousand soldiers down there where that water is flowing, which is right on the side of that vast camp of the Midianites, right down there next to them." Well, I suppose the Midianites came there also for water on the other side of the marsh, on the other side of the reeds.
And the Lord said to Gideon, "Gideon, these will not do. You take these ten thousand and I will show you" [Judges 7:4]. And when Gideon took his ten thousand men down there, right in the maw of, right in the jaw of, right in the mouth of those illimitable, multitudinous Midianites, right in the hands of the enemy, I want you to know – and this is hard to believe – I want you to know that nine thousand seven hundred of those men forgot about the enemy, forgot about the possibility of an ambush, forgot about that they were right there, got flat down on their stomachs and stuck their heads in the water to drink [Judges 7:6]. Why, if there had been an ambush there, they could have cut all nine thousand seven hundred in two right in the middle, right in the middle.
Now, isn’t that a bunch of church folks for you? So blooming, everlastingly lazy, just fall on their stomachs, and there they are, supine, laid out. No wonder the devil can just cut us in two, beat us up, hit us over the head, run us through with a dart, cut us in the middle with a sword; lazy, supine, just sorry, just good for nothing, just no account, just no good.
And the Lord said to Gideon, "See, look, there they are, flat on their stomachs with their heads down there in the stream, and right over there within five feet of them behind every reed, and behind every bush, and behind every little marsh grass could be a Midianite with a sword in his hand, or with a bow and arrow, or with a dart or with a javelin, and there they are flat on their faces, flat on their stomachs, with their heads down there in the water. That is what I mean," God said to Gideon.
Then the Lord said to Gideon, "Now, Gideon, look." And out of the ten thousand that were led down there to drink, out of the ten thousand, there were three hundred men who drank like this, they stooped down with heads up; they stooped down with their faces up, and they looked at the camp of the Midianites, and they looked behind the marsh grass, and they looked behind the reeds, and they looked for the possibility of ambush anywhere, anyplace. And as they looked they drank. The book says they cupped the water in their hands and lapped it up like a dog. They lapped it into their mouths with their hands and licked it up with their tongues while they watched and while they looked, they lapped the water up with their hands [Judges 7:6]. And God said to Gideon, "Gideon, those are My men; those" [Judges 7:7]. And they numbered three hundred.
Can you imagine Gideon? One hundred thirty-five thousand Midianites [Judges 8:10], and this little band of three hundred men who were on their toes, literally; they were on their feet, actually; they were not lying supinely, prostrate, flat there before the enemy [Judges 7:6]. They were actually and literally on their toes and on their feet, and God says, "Those are my men, those three hundred" [Judges 7:7]. Well, no wonder Gideon was kind of wondering.
And the Lord said, "Gideon, I want to show you something to give you strength and to give you encouragement." And He sent him down there to the base of the hill, on that flat Esdraelon plain, in the nighttime, and said, "You stick your head close to this tent wall and listen." And Gideon stuck his head down there close to that tent wall, and on the inside a fellow had awakened in the middle of the night, and had awakened his fellow soldier. And he said, "Oh listen, listen. I am frightened to death. I am scared to death. I dreamed, and I dreamed that a barley loaf came down that mountain there," and Gideon had just walked down that mountain, "I dreamed that a barley leaf rolled down that mountain and rolled over our camp and destroyed us." And that fellow soldier said, "You know, that is none other than Gideon. God is going to destroy us." And the Lord whispered to Gideon’s heart, "See, you see, you have already got the victory. You have already won the battle; because when people cave in in their hearts, they are already whipped. When they have given up in their souls, they are already done for! And all Midian is afraid and they are trembling. You have already won it" [Judges 7:9-14].
"And so it was," now Judges 7:15, "And so it was, when Gideon heard that he went back to the camp, and said, Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand all of that host of one hundred thirty-five thousand. And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers. And he said . . . When I blow with a trumpet, let every man break his pitcher and hold up his light and blow with the trumpets . . . and call," you have it translated here, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon" [Judges 7:15-18]. You notice "the sword" is in italics, and call "God and Gideon," God first and Gideon second.
Now if we had about an hour, why, we would just stop right here. And I ought to do it, but we’d just stop forever if I didn’t go on. I want you to look how God won that war. He won it first with an earthen pitcher. Now that has a great significance for us. He won it first with a pitcher, an earthen pitcher, a pitcher made out like you buy in these Indian establishments out West; you know, an earthen pitcher, very cheaply made. Now its usefulness lay in its frailty and its weakness. Had it been a strong pitcher it would not have done. Had it been made out of iron, or made out of steel, or made out of brass, its unyieldedness would have ruined it. The very usefulness of it lay in its breakableness. And when it was broken, it was used of God [Judges 7:19]. That is the way with your life. If you are iron and if you are steel, why, God cannot use you. But if you are able to be broken, if you are capable of being malleable, it is broken things that God uses. A pitcher, and its usefulness lay when it was broken.
Like Paul says, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us" [2 Corinthians 4:7]. God uses weak, frail things in order to magnify Himself. And then on the inside of the pitcher was a lamp [Judges 7:16]. That is God’s Spirit on the inside of your heart. That is the love and the burning of Jesus in your soul on the inside of the pitcher, a frail, frail, piece of clay. On the inside of the pitcher there burned a lamp. That is the Spirit of Jesus in your soul.
And then the trumpet, the basis of the Word for preaching the gospel is the trumpet of the herald, and the trumpet is the announcement of the marvelous Word of God, the blowing of the trumpet, and that watchword "Of God and of Gideon" [Judges 7:20]. God first, but also He needs that vessel. He needs Gideon and He needs you.
Isn’t that a marvelous thing how God did that, and when in the middle of the night, they blew the trumpet, and broke the pitcher, offered the light, dedicated to God, and the light shined, the Lord set those Midianites against each other and it was a vast, indescribable victory [Judges 7:20-23]. And the Lord delivered Israel by the hand of His servant Gideon [Judges 7:9] who was of all men most humble [Judges 6:15]; who was of all men most willing to listen to the leadership of God, and to the announcement of the plan of the Lord; who was himself a pitcher of clay to be broken in God’s hands, that the light and glory and the excellence of the Lord might be seen.
Isn’t that a glorious thing for us? Not of us, but of Thee, O Lord. And out of my weakness and in my littleness and in my frailty, oh, may the great mighty strength of God shine forth. That’s Gideon. And that’s his great victory.
Now, in this little moment that abides, while we sing a song of appeal, somebody you, to give your heart to Jesus; somebody you, come down this aisle, "Pastor, this morning I take Jesus as my Savior; I give my heart to Him." Would you come and stand by me? Then, if is there somebody else here this morning to put his life with us in the church, a family to come to be with us; would you, on the first note of that first stanza, come and stand by me? While all of us sing this hymn of invitation together; while we stand and we sing.
THE BRAVE THREE HUNDRED
DR. W. A. CRISWELL
Judges 6- 8
1. Called a mighty man of valor by God
2. God uses the weakest of men to accomplish His plan
1. Gideon told to offer a seven year old bull to God
2. Gideon tore down the altars of Baal and obeyed God
3. Gideon’s father challenges other Baal worshipers
1. God uses the small things to confound the strong
2. God encourages Gideon
3. Israel called out, 32,000
4. God reduces Gideon’s army to three hundred men
5. God uses Gideon’s 300 and the fear of the Midianites to defeat Midian