Do you remember the scene in the original “Back to the Future” where Doc and Marty are remotely accelerating the car directly into their path? Marty steps aside. Doc is offended. It is a trust issue. Perhaps Marty thought, “Hey Doc, I like you and all, but you are a bit eccentric. I don’t want to lose my life.”
There are many instances in the Bible where loyalty to God is equated with obeying his rules (“commandments”) and principles. Gideon’s famous war experience features a different type of trust and loyalty – one where listening to God’s direction would seem almost suicidal.
Picture if you would the battlefield. The opposition has a force of at least 120,000 strong. One article said there may have been as many as 135,000. In comparison, Gideon’s army was about a fourth of that at 32,000. Although he was greatly outnumbered, God told him “that’s too many.” The reason God provided Gideon was that his army might brag that they themselves delivered the victory. (Judges 7:2) So God told Gideon to tell his army “whoever is afraid may go home.” Here was probably the first test of Gideon’s trust and loyalty. Think about it – if you were commanding a military force and you were to tell them “whoever is afraid of being outnumbered 4 to 1 can leave,” wouldn’t you be afraid the whole army would leave? I’ve got to admit, if I had been put in that position, I think I would have been very reluctant to comply and very worried with the outcome. And just to the highlight issue again, we are not talking about obedience to sexual morals or treating others unfairly. The whole point was trusting that God would deliver Gideon and his army even if it was just Gideon himself.
Gideon obeys and 10,000 of his 32,000 leave – so nearly one-third. Gideon now has 22,000 left, who, merely by their staying are declaring they are strong of heart and share Gideon’s trust in God. Gideon may have heaved a sigh relief that he still had anyone at all. But next God says, “that is still too many.” So without telling him why, God tells Gideon to take the men to a water source and watch how they drink. Seems odd, but ok. Afterwards God told him that those who lapped water like a dog (as opposed to those who were on bended knee and used their hands to scoop water) should be dismissed. (Some have speculated that it may have been that those lapping water dropped their guard whereas those on bended knee kept their guard up. So how many lapped like a dog? The majority – 21,700! Yup, that left a mere 300 warriors. The odds were now about 400 to 1. What in the world could God possibly be thinking!? Might Gideon have reasoned (like Marty’s temporary lapse) in his heart, “I love you Jehovah, and trust you, but are you sure?” There is no mention in the Bible that Gideon was even one bit hesitant.
As it turned out, the initial engagement with the enemy was probably what we today would call “shock and awe.” Gideon’s forces did not initially even confront the army face to face, yet their enemies took to flight and even slaughtered each other. Finally, in the confusion, Gideon’s men did engage the army and conquered them.
We today face life challenges that are probably less spectacular than Gideon’s. But that doesn’t make them any less a stressful personal challenge. What encouragement does God offer us? Proverbs urges us to rely on God and not to lean on our own understanding. Our “understanding” might be that the hard physical evidence in front of us looks like we need to take matters into our own hands. This was exactly the situation with Gideon. Yet he didn’t allow the fact that he was grossly outnumbered to break his confidence in God. Additionally, Jesus told us that implicit trust in God is called for when we sense that we lack the essentials for living.
So the circumstances can take many forms but the issues of loyalty and trust are the same in every case. For us, this isn’t trusting some eccentric human scientist, it is trusting the Creator of the universe who is the only one known for his word being 100 percent trustworthy.