Once there lived a man named Gideon. His story can be found in the Bible in the book of Judges, chapter six. Gideon was a Hero of Faith. He pleased God by acting on God's word; or what some people call Faithing. God sent an angel to talk to Gideon one day while he was separating wheat. Gideon was hiding in a shallow hole in the ground called a winepress. The reason Gideon was hiding was that there were many enemies near his home. They were called the Midianites, the Amalekites and some people called the children of the east. These enemies had been fighting and robbing all of Gideon's people and other tribes of Israel for seven years. That's why Gideon was separating his family's wheat out there in that winepress.

All at once, Gideon saw a man sitting under an oak tree nearby. The man hadn't been there a moment ago. Well, Gideon was startled, but the man said, "God is with thee." Gideon must have thought the man was kidding him because he said, "I don't think so. If the Lord was with us, all these enemies wouldn't be here." "And where are all the miracles of God? He brought us out of Egypt, but now He's let us fall into the hands of the Midianites."

The angel surprised Gideon by telling him that he was to save Israel almost singlehanded. Gideon must have thought that was VERY funny. He'd seen the armies of those enemies right down in the valley and there were one hundred and thirty-five thousand soldiers with all their tents and camels and weapons. It was like a giant football field full to overflowing with men of war. And it must have taken up three or four city blocks because they were all spread out in their tents and not packed into a stadium. They took up a lot of space. And the angel told Gideon that he, as though he were one man, would beat this great army. I wouldn't have believed the angel either, would you?

So Gideon figured he'd test the man. He said, "You wait here and I'll go get some flour cakes and meat. When I come back you give me a sign that will show me you're telling the truth." When Gideon got back with the basket of food, he put it on a nearby rock. The angel touched the food with his staff and it was burned up. Then, when the angel vanished, Gideon knew he'd been telling the truth and was afraid; because the angel had told him he would fight the enemies. But Gideon built an altar on that spot anyway to show God that he believed and worshipped Him. Then the Lord said, "Don't be afraid, Gideon, you won't die."

The same night, the Lord told Gideon that he was to go to the altar place of the false god Baal, that the Israelites had been worshipping instead of God; that's why Gideon's people were in trouble now. God gave Gideon a small assignment first to help him get up his courage for the big fight. You see, God never asks us to do more than we're really ready for. When Gideon got to the false god's altar he was to break down the altar and cut down the special trees around it. That doesn't sound too hard, but Gideon was still afraid. He didn't want his neighbors who worshipped that god to catch him and kill him. It was like burning down a church. So he took ten servants from his father's house and went to the altar place at night. In the morning, Gideon's neighbors were mad, but his father said, "If my son has offended Baal, let Baal take care of him." Of course, being a false god Baal didn't do a thing.

God saw that Gideon trusted Him and sent the Holy Spirit to Gideon. Gideon started gathering men to go and fight the Midianites. A lot of Gideon's people of the tribe of Mannaseh came to fight. He also called a lot of the men from three other tribes: Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali. In all, there came thirty- two thousand men ready to fight. Remember that there were over four times that many enemy soldiers: 135,000. They must have been very brave to think they could beat the enemy with only 32,000 soldiers.
Now God wanted to prove that when you trust Him you don't need to be strong in the regular way. When you act on God's word, He helps you and you are stronger that you look-or even feel.

What happened next is surprising. God told Gideon to ask his soldiers if any of them was afraid. God said, "Anyone who raises his hand can go back home." God is pretty smart. He knew that even though Gideon's army was outnumbered four to one, that they might claim that they beat the Midianites by themselves. Well, when Gideon said that the ones who were afraid could go home, 22,000 men raised their hands. That meant that there were only 10,000 soldiers left in Gideon's army.

Can you imagine? Now Gideon had to fight the enemy with thirteen to one odds. Ten thousand against 135,000!!! I wonder what those 10,000 soldiers thought about that?

I can hardly believe what God did next. Just in case there was the barest chance that Gideon's men could say that the 10,000 had beat the 135,000 without God's help, God told Gideon to take all his troops to a nearby stream and have them all get a drink. Gideon was to watch very carefully. Any of the men that laid down on their stomachs to drink were to be sent home! Poor Gideon. How many men do you think he had left? Well, nine thousand, seven hundred soldiers drank lying down! That meant Gideon only had three hundred left. Three hundred against 135,000. Can you figure out how many times 300 goes into 135,000? If you found that for every one of Gideon's men there were 450 Midianites you divided correctly. How can one soldier beat 450? Only one way. By Faithing. Acting on God's promise that He would help them beat the Midianites.

That already seems like enough for God to ask, but He wants people to trust Him all the way. So the next thing that the soldiers had to do was spread out all around the enemy camp sometime about three in the morning. Remember that there were now only 300 men and that camp, with all the tents and cattle, was spread out so far that each of Gideon's men were way out of sight and hearing from all his fellow soldiers. And they didn't even have their swords drawn! Their trust was really being tested.

I wasn't there, but I guess Gideon had them all line up so he could pass out their weapons. And what unusual weapons they were. Each man was given a trumpet, a torch and a clay pitcher. He was told to put the torch inside the pitcher so it couldn't by seen, and when the signal came, to break the pitcher, blow the trumpet and shout, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon." That must have seemed pretty silly, but you know what it takes to Faithe or trust God's word? Courage, lots of courage. Try to put yourself in the place of Gideon's soldiers. There they were in the middle of the night, far away from their nearest friends, with a horn, a torch and a pitcher. Sitting there in the dark waiting for a signal. How did any one of those 300 know for sure that his buddies hadn't got scared and run away? Or maybe been discovered by the enemy and killed. How did any of them know that there was anyone left to fight but themselves. That's pretty scary.

Before we find out what happened next, we have to back up a bit and see what Gideon did before his troops were placed around the enemy camp. He was still sort of scared and wanted to do everything that he could to be sure he'd win. So he and one of his men went down into the enemy camp and crept around by one of the tents. There they heard two of the enemy soldiers talking. One man was telling about a dream he had. In the dream he saw a big loaf of bread come rolling into camp and knock down a tent. His friend said that surely this was the army of Israel and that they were going to beat the Midianites in battle. I guess that made Gideon feel a lot better.

Now we can get back to the battle. After the 300 were set up all around the Midianite camp, Gideon gave the signal. All his brave men broke their pitchers, blew the trumpets and shouted, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon." Well, what do you think happened? Those Midianites didn't have a chance. They were so confused, being waked at three in the morning, that they mistook their own men for the Israelites and started killing one another. And do you know, 120,000 of them were killed right there. The rest fled as fast as they could.

Well, there isn't too much left of the story. Gideon and his men chased after the Midianites, and sent messages to the other tribes of Israel to come and pursue the enemy also. When they caught up to them they killed the rest and even captured the kings of the Midianites.

So even though Gideon and his men were afraid, they trusted in God's word that they would win. Then tried not to worry about the whole battle at one time, but only thought about one step at a time. At every new step in our story, God added His power and in the end the Israelites were free from the enemy.

We don't normally find ourselves as bad off as Gideon's people, but often we have to stand up for what we know is right; even when it looks like the whole world is against it. If we can remember Gideon and how he and his men Faithed on God's promise of help, and ask God to keep His promise to us too, we can stand up to those people and things that try to keep us from doing things God's way. God said, "If you believe that I can help you, and ask me for help, I'll be right there with you."

Be sure to check out the other Heroes of faithing listed in Hebrews, chapter eleven. See if you can tell what each did that showed he trusted things that God had said. I also invite you see how the whole book of Hebrews talks about faithing.

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