In this Teaching Letter series on the theme of Your Value, Your Worth, we have been looking at what the Bible has to say about the human personality.
As I shared in the first installment, the Bible is a unique kind of “mirror,” which shows us how each aspect of our personality is intended to function. Correctly using God’s “mirror” can save us from much inner frustration, disharmony, and failure.
How God Sees Us
The words in Isaiah 55:8-9 are a perfect example of how God sees us in all our human limitations and frailty:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
As I was pondering on the vast gap that separates God’s ways and thoughts from ours, I was suddenly reminded of the account of Gideon and his army in Judges 6, 7, and 8.
At this time, Israel had fallen into sin and idolatry. As a judgment upon them, God permitted vast hordes of Midianites to invade their land each year and rob them of their harvest.
One day, while Gideon was furtively threshing wheat in a winepress (to hide it from the Midianites) the Angel of the LORD appeared to him and said,
“The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (Judges 6:12b)
Obviously, the Lord saw Gideon quite differently from the way that he saw himself. Gideon saw himself as young, weak, and ineffective. The Lord hailed him as a “mighty man of valor.”
Seeing Ourselves Rightly
You see, one of our basic problems—and the focus of this Teaching Legacy series—is that we do not realize how valuable we are. We don’t believe we are “mighty men and women of valor.”
We each need to be less concerned with how we see ourselves and more concerned with how God sees us. In Christ, each one of us is a new man... created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24).
Why is it so important to see ourselves in true righteousness and holiness, the way God sees us? Because viewing ourselves like this will inevitably affect the way we live. This is what happened to Gideon.
After the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, the Lord then commissioned Gideon to lead Israel in battle against the Midianites. In response, Gideon assembled an army by the well of Harod, with the Midianites encamped to the north.
What were the numbers on both sides?
- Gideon’s army: 32,000¹
- Midianites: 135,000²
How would Gideon’s 32,000 men go up against 135,000 Midianites? He was outnumbered more than four to one. So imagine Gideon’s reaction when the Lord told him, “The people who are with you are too many!” (Judges 7:2).
The Lord instructed Gideon to send away all those in his army who were fearful and afraid. As a result, 22,000 men departed, and Gideon was left with 10,000. At this point he was outnumbered more than thirteen to one.
But God was not finished! To Gideon’s astonishment, He said,
“The people are still too many” (Judges 7:4a)
Then He instructed Gideon to bring his men down to the water, so that He might test them there by the way they drank from the water. All those who went down on both knees to drink were eliminated. Only those who lapped like a dog passed the test (Judges 7:4–7).
This test focused on one single character requirement: vigilance.
Picture first those who drank in the normal way. Laying aside their shield from the left arm and their spear—or sword—from the right arm, they went down on both knees and buried their faces in the water. In this posture, they were totally vulnerable to a surprise attack. They could not see any approaching enemy, nor did they have their weapons ready to use. In the time they took to get themselves ready, the enemy would have overcome them.
What about those who lapped like dogs? When a dog drinks, it does not bury its nose in the water. It stretches out its tongue and laps the water up into its mouth, usually splashing some water around.
How, then, should we picture the men who lapped? They went down on one knee only. Retaining their shield on their left arm, with the right arm they set down their spear or sword beside them. Then, with a cupped hand, they scooped up the water to their mouths.
In this posture, they remained alert, constantly watching for any surprise attack. Their shields were already in position and they could instantly pick up their spear or sword and have it ready to use. There was no possibility of the enemy taking them by surprise.
Only 300 of Gideon’s men passed this second test. But now those 300 were facing 135,000 Midianites—outnumbered 450 to one!
Against the Odds
I can picture some of those who were dismissed saying to themselves, “Well, thank God we’re out of that situation! That man, Gideon, must be crazy. What difference does it make how a man drinks water? Let’s see what will become of him and the idiots who stayed with him.”
In the outcome, of course, Gideon and his 300 broke through the lines of the Midianites and threw them into complete confusion. After that, other Israelites rallied behind them and inflicted a total defeat on the Midianites.
The proportions are illuminating. Only 300 men fulfilled the qualifications for making the initial breakthrough. But once the breakthrough was made, there were thousands of Israelites who were eager to pursue the fleeing Midianites.
This whole account vividly illustrates how different God’s ways are from ours. Left to himself, Gideon would surely have concluded, “The people with me are too few. I need to get reinforcements.”
But God’s perspective was exactly the opposite. “The people with you are too many.” In the end, Gideon was left with less than one out of a hundred of those who originally joined him. For God, the question is not “How many people?” but “What kind of people?”
A Personal Assessment
In the light of this account, we each need to make a personal assessment, asking ourselves the following questions:
- “If God should gather an army today like that of Gideon, would I be one of the few who would qualify?”
- “Or would I be like the first 22,000 who gave way to fear?”
- “Or like the second 10,000 who laid down their weapons and buried their faces in the water to drink?”
It is easy—and often normal—to bury our faces in the business of daily living. It is easy to become absorbed in all the practical needs that confront us every day. It is easy to forget that we are in a spiritual conflict with unseen forces of darkness who are continually watching for an opportunity to catch us unprepared.
To maintain unceasing vigilance in every situation demands conscious, personal discipline. It takes us beyond all our normal concepts of Christian conduct and morality. Yet the New Testament clearly warns us:
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
If we ignore this warning, we become vulnerable to subtle, unpredictable assaults of Satan.
Finding a Balance
Just as important as maintaining disciplined vigilance, Ruth and I have found that we could not effectively continue our ministry unless we paused from time to time to rest. We all need to schedule time for a holiday or a retreat, and to wait upon God. (Our holidays really became holy days.) This is an essential aspect to being vigilant.
But I have learned one thing: Satan never takes a holiday. Just when we feel our greatest need to relax, Satan releases some totally unanticipated pressure against us, and we may easily be caught without our weapons ready for immediate use.
Does that mean, then, that we no longer rest, relax, or take holidays? No! But it means that we do not bury our faces during those times; we do not lay down our weapons. Ruth and I have learned that holidays are often times when we need to exercise the greatest vigilance.
The point is not to let our guard down. We may need to focus on family relationships, business or educational activities, or a special event or time of celebration. We can participate freely in all of these. But we must not bury our faces in any.
Please remember that in Gideon’s army, less than one out of a hundred qualified! Would the proportions be different today?
What About You?
Perhaps the story of Gideon has stirred something within your heart. Perhaps unrelenting attacks, such as those the Israelites experienced at the hands of the Midianites, have left you feeling bruised, weakened, and wanting to hide.
That was exactly where Gideon found himself. Remember, when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he was hiding from the very enemy God was calling him to defeat. There was a process he had to go through to reclaim his sense of “might.” Thankfully, God brought him steadily through that process, right up to the moment when “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, then he blew the trumpet” (Judges 6:34). That was the turning point which led to ultimate victory.
Do you want to be renewed by seeing yourself as God sees you? Do you want to reach out in faith to be strengthened like Gideon, in the power and might of the Lord? Let’s ask the Lord to accomplish this in our lives right now:
Dear Lord, I’m sorry I’ve allowed the blows and assaults of the devil to affect how I see myself. I want to see myself the way You see me—as a mighty person of valor. I choose not to hide any longer; I choose not to be afraid. Instead I ask You to empower me to love You, to serve You, and to bring forth Your Kingdom on earth.
I humbly ask You to do for me what You did for Gideon. I take my face out of the water and I look full in Your face, Jesus. I release my life, my fears, my gifts— everything I am and everything I have— into Your hands. I commit myself fully to You now. Amen.
Related content: God’s Mirror