Judgesby Gary Inrig
It is absurd to believe that 300 men could defeat 135,000 men with jars, torches, and horns. But they did, because God was with them. The noise, lights, and shouts by Gideon's men had their role, but the confusion among the Midianites was God-induced (Judges 7:22).
The tone of the passage, however, changes in Judges 8:1-3. God has given His people an astounding victory, but they allow petty tribal disputes to rob Him of His rightful glory and the people of their joy. Gideon had summoned help from the tribe of Ephraim, who seized the fords of the Jordan where the Midianites tried to cross to escape into the desert and captured two of their top commanders. But rather than rejoice that they had been allowed a part in God's great deliverance, they come to Gideon with a smouldering complaint (Judges 8:1) motivated by personal jealousy and injured pride. There is no joy or thanksgiving, only bitterness of heart and resentment.
In a time of victory, the greatest danger often comes from within the circle of God's professing people. They don't see what God is doing; all they can see is their own cause or convenience, and they view everything based on how it impacts their own interests. Gideon's response is admirable. He could have chosen to put the Ephraimites in their place or defend himself, but he shrewdly minimises his role and maximises theirs (vv. 2-3). So what if he was wronged or criticised? It is more important for God's people to be united than for Gideon to be vindicated. How much better it is to take our hurts to the Lord and let Him deal with it, than to insist on our rights at the expense of dividing God's people.
But Gideon's response is also sad. While his diplomacy is successful, he focuses entirely on the horizontal. He doesn't insist on the credit for himself, but neither does he give it to the Lord, where it truly belongs. He doesn't direct the Ephraimites to God as the source of victory, nor does he make it clear that he had been acting under a divine commission.
There is nothing Satan loves more than to see Christians fighting with one another. If we are fighting with each other, we are not pursuing the enemy. Satan can subvert our every effort by sowing disunity, leaving us so confused that we turn on our fellow believers. He loves to see us divided and draws us into having misplaced priorities, where we subtly substitute our cause for God's cause and thus pursue the wrong objectives or do the right thing for the wrong reasons. Disunity will always occur when our perspective is horizontal, not vertical.
How can we fight Satan's attacks of disunity in the church today? See 2 Corinthians 10:3-4.
What can we do to keep our focus on God and to always give Him the glory for our victories?