The weapons of warfare have changed dramatically over the millennia. From hand-to-hand combat with crude implements to the development of firearms to nuclear weapons and military drones, humanity continually devises new ways to gain a military advantage against the enemy.
By all accounts, ancient Israel certainly did not have a military advantage. When warfare was conducted by hand-to-hand combat, having fewer people meant the odds would be nearly insurmountable.
The Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern people had an infantry as thick as locusts (v. 12). Israel’s army, whittled by God to a meager 300, was vastly outnumbered (vv. 7–8). More than that, the foreign oppressors had the advantage of a camel cavalry, and every soldier was armed with a sword. By contrast, the Israelite army was a poorly equipped militia, bearing not swords but trumpets, empty jars, and torches.
Why would God deliberately stack the deck against His people in this way? Didn’t reducing their odds only frighten the already timid Gideon? But of course it was exactly God’s intention to destroy the idea that this battle could be fought or won by human skill or savvy. His complaint that Gideon had “too many men” (v. 4) reminds us that the impossible odds in this story have one purpose: to preserve God’s glory. God will not share His glory with Gideon, nor will He share it with Gideon’s army. It must be clear to them, and indeed to all of the Israelites, that God alone had saved His people.
The final battle cry of Gideon’s regiment reminds us that the odds are never as impossible as they seem. Gideon and his men didn’t need swords, not when God planned to use Midianite ones!
Apply the Word
Where we see impossibility, God sees miracle. This is why the apostle Paul delighted in his weaknesses, claiming that God’s power was made perfect in them. Whether your weakness is a physical limitation, an economic disadvantage, or a paralyzing fear, what would it look like to begin trusting that God could use it to glorify Himself?