It is of one of these, one of the most striking of these, that we are to talk together awhile; the graphic story of Gideon and his band of three hundred young fellows. Things were in bad shape in the nation; about as bad in every way as they could be. This time it was the Midianites who overran the land, and held the leaderless people in most abject slavery. With them were joined two other nations, the Amalekites and the Children of the East. When the crops were almost ready to harvest, these raiders swooped in in great numbers and destroyed all the crops and drove away all the stock.
They harried the Israelites so that life was made very miserable for them. They were forced to flee from their farms and take refuge in caves and dens and the fastnesses among the hills. Then, as usual, when they got into bad shape the people remembered God, and cried for help, and, as usual with Him, He at once forgave them and planned another great deliverance.
First of all Gideon the leader is chosen out, and put through a bit of schooling. That is a fascinating story of great helpfulness. Then this trained young leader gathers his band of helpers. And we want to mark keenly how these three hundred men were sifted out of the thousands for service. They were sifted out. They sifted themselves out. In that army of thousands were just three hundred who had the needed qualifications for the bit of service God wanted done.
Look over the gathered thousands: which are the chosen three hundred? No man knew. They didn't know themselves until the tests came. They chose themselves out by the way they stood the three tests applied. Even so is God ever sifting out men for service. The more difficult the service, the higher the grade of leadership needed, the severer the test. The testing both reveals the qualities, and in part makes them.
The first quality these men had was willingness. They were all volunteers. When the call came they rallied to the leader's side. Gideon sent runners, criers, out throughout that whole section. They went first to his own family clan, then to his tribe, then to three neighboring tribes. They said that God had called upon Gideon to lead a movement against the Midianites and their allies and he wanted every man to come and help. The messengers went swiftly through the whole territory of these neighboring tribes, arousing the men to action and calling for volunteers.
A good many did not respond to the summons. Some were simply indifferent. They could not help hearing the call, but there was no response without or within. No change of expression in the eye or face. They went right on in their heavy, dull way as though they hadn't heard. They were utterly indifferent to the call. Some were reluctant. They stopped and listened, but with a heavy slant backwards to their bodies. Their heels bore most of their weight. It was a good idea to get up such a movement, the enemy ought to be driven back and out, but -- but -- and their eyes are half shut already.
Some criticised. Who was Gideon? A young upstart! trying to push himself forward as a leader. He had no skill or experience. And the people had no weapons. The enemy had stolen everything of the sort away. And they were clear outnumbered. There wasn't a ghost of a show. It would only make bad matters worse. This young upstart Gideon would soon be sorry enough when he butted his head against the experienced Midianite leaders. And -- and -- and -- there they are talking, criticising, but not responding to the call. Such critics seldom respond, and helpers criticise in a very different way. It takes less brain to criticise unwisely, captiously, far less than to help. Almost any hare-brain can tear a thing to pieces. And nothing is commoner than just such criticism.
Some ridiculed. |Ha! ha! ha! Gideon going to be national leader; ha! ha! ha! And whip the enemy. Ridiculous! Absurd!| And some were outrightly opposed. They objected. The people would be aroused, their hopes awakened only to be dashed. The whole thing was wrong, for it was impossible. And these men tried to keep others from going.