In chapter 6 the characters were introduced and the scene set. Here God’s great deliverance is described. It’s a story to savour, with a clear and simple truth.
In the previous chapter Gideon felt his weakness to be a bar to God using him, but here God illustrates the truth that his power is made perfect in weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9,10). Gideon has managed to gather a sizeable army, albeit one still dwarfed by the size of the enemy, but God insists it is too big. God is concerned that Israel should not “boast against me”. To find any cause to boast in themselves, rather than in God, and to see the victory as their own achievement, rather than God’s, would be not simply an oversight but a positive slight against God. Again we see that God’s fundamental concern is not defeating the Midianites but turning his people’s hearts towards him.
The two tests God uses to reduce the army are not about selecting the most crack troops – fearless and watchful – but simply about reducing the number. The problem was that there were too many, not that most weren’t good enough. The 300 left were less than 1% of original army.
God gives a clear promise in v.9, but knows Gideon’s heart. There was evidence of his fearfulness back in 6:27, but all the more he must have felt it now with only 300 men left at his side to face the vast numbers of the enemy. God kindly seeks to reassure Gideon. The sight of the enemy camp would surely have scared him even more (v.12), but what he hears encourages him about the truth of God’s promise. His response in v.15a is the very response God has made it clear he wants (6:10) – boasting in Him, worshipping Him.
The plan may well have been Gideon’s (inspired by the Spirit), but the victory is clearly the LORD’s. Gideon’s soldiers do little more than blow their trumpets, shout and hold their torches aloft, whilst standing in their positions around the Midianite camp. They don’t even draw their swords. The Midianites’ own swords do the LORD’s work as in the darkness of the night, whilst the watch was being changed, they confuse their own men for the enemy and fight one another, before fleeing in panic. And lest the 300 take the credit, others are called on to pursue and seize the enemy.