A General in God’s Army

Light of Truth

Jacob Chanikuzhy

Alexander the Great, Frederick the Great of Prussia, Ulysses S. Grant, Khalid Ibn al-Walid, Arthur Wellesley, Julius Caesar … the history has seen several celebrated military commanders. Their skills, strategies, courage, ambition, perseverance, and sometimes sheer luck made them successful. The studies on war scores, however, show that none of these generals paralleled the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, was reported to have said that the personal presence of Napoleon in the warfront was equal to 40000 soldiers. His charisma boosted his soldiers. They would confidently fight with sure hope of victory even in the midst of all difficulties if Napoleon was in command. His presence in the battlefield was a nightmare for his enemy. At the Battle of Auerstadt in 1806, King Frederick William III of Prussia ordered a hasty retreat of his forces consisting of 63000 soldiers when he was wrongly informed that Napoleon was in command on the other side. Napoleon’s army had only 27000 soldiers to combat the Prussians! Nevertheless, none of these celebrated generals, not even Napoleon has faced an army of countless soldiers with just 300 soldiers. It is credited to Gideon, a not so famous judge of the Israelites (Judges 6-7).
After the period of Joshua, the Israelites did not have a national leader. Each tribe managed to counter their enemies under their tribal leaders. This period was marked by a circular movement – people’s unfaithfulness to Yahweh, Yahweh’s punishing the Israelites through the gentile nations, Israel’s crying out to the Lord, God raising a hero to save the Israelites and people enjoying peace and prosperity. People would go again astray and the history recurs.
Gideon lived in the dark period of Israel’s history when the Midianites were a pain in the neck of the Israelites. The Midianites would raid and erase the Israelite land of its crops at the harvest time. The people of Israel lived in mountain caves in fear of them. Gideon himself was so afraid of the Midianites that he threshed the wheat not in wide and open threshing floor but in a wine press that was a pit dug on the ground. No one would imagine him to be saviour of the Israelites. He himself did not think that way, anyway. However, the angel of the Lord had a very surprising epithet for Gideon: mighty warrior (Judges 6-7). While all those took him for a coward, the angel of the Lord, saw beyond, saw what he could become and do for his people when God is on his side.
Gideon was not a qualified leader or warrior. But God chose him to be a leader and qualified him for his task. When we ourselves consider the responsibilities entrusted to us, we too very often and very easily recognize how incompetent we are to perform our responsibilities as a good parent, responsible father, thoughtful mother, caring spouse, knowledgeable professional, just official, capable leader etc. But, God has somehow achieved his plan by making us his instruments. Yes, God calls not the qualified, but qualifies the called.
We all sometimes find ourselves in the place of Gideon. The problems surrounding us are enormous. We attribute all the evils to the Midianites – the present corrupt social, political, religious, and cultural systems. We are afraid to stand up and claim our rights. We try to survive by not doing anything noticeable, not saying anything against the system, not organizing anything offensive… We think that we are too small and the enemy is too big, shrewd, wicked and powerful. But God chose Gideon not because he was very smart, courageous, sharp and strong. God chose him because he was none of these. Nor did God look for his resources. Gideon could gather an army of 32000 men. But God did not want Gideon to lead such a large army. In the end Gideon had to satisfy himself with just 300. The army of 300 won the battle against 135000. If God is at our side, even a few people can make a lot of change. The question is whether we are ready to be in God’s army with very few people.

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