Now these men are put to a second test. The next morning God surprised Gideon by telling him that he had too many men. If a victory was given them with so many men they would feel that they had done the thing themselves. They would grow so large as to shut God out of their landscape. There would be no getting along with them. Each man would feel that he was the essential factor. They would go back to the homefolks to tell of themselves. God seems to know us folk down on the earth fairly well.
Now He would lessen their numbers, but in doing it He will pick out the best. The men are encamped on the hillsides overlooking a valley. Across the valley to the north lay the encamped armies of three nations. They were a vast host. They were spread out as thick as the grasshoppers of Egypt had been years before. Everywhere you looked there they were swarming.
Gideon spoke to his men. He said, |Gentlemen, Fellow-Israelites, there is the enemy. Take a good look at them.| And his followers looked, and as they looked some of them began to get scared. They had not realized just what was involved. Their footwear seemed to grow too large. They were shaking in their boots. And their eyes grew big and their faces white under the tan.
Then Gideon said, |Now, every man of you that thinks it can't be done -- I wish you would get right out of this, and go back home.| And he watched. And I imagine even Gideon shook a bit inside as he watched. They commenced to move away in squads, in scores, in fifties. Great gaps were left in the mob of men. Here is a fellow standing, looking. He thinks, |It looks pretty bad, sure enough; but then, I suppose, if God is planning -- | hello, the fellow by his side has gone, and on this other side too -- |I guess I'd better go too.| And off he goes. Fear is very contagious. There is great power in feeling a man by your side. And two-thirds of them disappear over the hills.
The motto of these disappearing men was this: |It can't be done.| They must have organized themselves into a society to perpetuate their own idea. If so the society has shown great vitality. Many of its members abide with us until this day. No, probably they didn't organize. They didn't have enough gumption to. And such a sentiment grows like a weed without any cultivation.
I recall a certain town in Ohio where I had gone to talk about an enlargement and re-vitalizing of the Young Men's Christian Association. Thousands of young men in the place needed just such help as that organization is supposed to provide. I outlined the plan to a clergyman. He said it was a good plan, there was great need, the thing should be done, |but,| he said, with an air of settling the thing, |it can't be done in this town.|
Among others I talked with a business man. He listened attentively, approved the plans, agreed upon the great need, and then settling back in his chair with the same air of finality, used exactly the same words, with the same emphasis, |It can't be done in this town.| I got that same reply from several men that day. And I said to myself, |They are right; it can't be done with them; but it can be done without them.| And it was.