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March 6, 2014

The 300

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Lent began yesterday. 40 days of fasting. 40 days of trial. 40 days of leanness for the body in exchange for fatness of soul.

What did you decide to do for Lent? Yes, you. The one sitting behind the computer screen. Because we don’t know how many more days we have on this earth to prepare for the great and coming day of the Lord; but we know we have this day. This Lent. This season of 40.

Which brings me to the 300. My small group has been studying the story of Gideon in the book of Judges. Gideon blew his trumpet to gather soldiers to fight against Israel’s enemy, the Midianites. And 32,000 men responded and said they would take up their weapons and fight.

But God told Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, lest Israel become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me'” (Judges 7:2).

So God whittled the mighty army down from 32,000…to 300. Yes, you read that correctly. 300. 300 soldiers to deliver Israel from approximately 130,000 Midianites. By every human estimate, those are terrible odds. And Gideon’s battle plan (see Judges 7:16-18) was a terrible plan. Unless you consider the fact that in God’s economy, less is more. Less is powerful. Less is lean. Because our less glorifies, beautifies, and magnifies God’s magnificent more.

Is there an area of life where you are lean right now? Perhaps it’s in your bank account. Or your health. Or your emotional energy or strength. I have a word for you, friend. Less is more. Especially when it comes to Lent.

The question I have for you is, “Are you ready?” Are you ready to be one of the 300? Growing up, it was Gideon who always impressed me. I instinctively thought God must have chosen him because of how mighty or devout or humble he was. Not so. When the Angel of God found him, he was hiding in the bottom of a winepress threshing wheat. He was way more of a wimp than a victor. A coward than a warrior. Which is precisely why God chose him. There is no way any of us could feasibly give Gideon the credit for winning such a mighty victory. The credit could only go to God.

But before this Spring, I had never before noticed or given any thought to the 300. But God chose them from among the 32,000 for two reasons:

#1. The Lord told Gideon, “Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’ So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained” (Judges 7:3).

Think about this for a moment: Out of 32,000 men, 22,000 admitted they were afraid…and turned back. If you want to do great things for God, if you want to be ready for battle and alert for war in and out of season, take two little words to heart: Fear Not. Fear paralyzes us from being used by God. Fear of the future, fear of death, fear of suffering, fear of our loved ones suffering, fear of pain, fear of the past, fear of loss of control, and the list goes on and on.

How do you get rid of fear and become ready for battle? Psalm 119:165 tells us, “Great peace have those who love Your law; nothing can make them stumble.” A deep-seated love of the Lord and a love of His Word roots and grounds us in peace, in reality, in eternity. A deep trust and faith in His Word removes all stumbling blocks and pitfalls along the way and obliterates all fears that makes us stumble. First and foremost, the 300 were men who did not fear the enemy around them because of the greatness of the One who had called them.

But the 10,000 were still too many. Israel could still take credit for the victory. So God thinned out the crowd once again:

#2: “So Gideon brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, ‘You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink.’ Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water. And the Lord said to Gideon, ‘I will deliver you with the 300…'” (Judges 7:5-7)

What was different about the 300? Catch this: they were alert. Just one valley away was an army of 130,000 Midianites ready to eat the Israelites for lunch. But 9,700 apparently weren’t aware of the nearness of their enemy. Or they didn’t care. Their desire to slake their thirst outweighed their sensitivity to the enemy.

But not the 300. They scooped water with the hands, brining it up to their mouth to drink so their eyes never had to leave the horizon. Their senses were on high alert; their physical needs were in submission to the bigger picture and the greater story going on around them.

What about you? Yes, you again. Sitting there behind your screen. If your physical senses were put up in a fight against your spiritual senses, which one would win? If your physical needs and desires were forced to submit to the bigger story going on in the heavenly realm around you, would they? Would your desire to eat physical food dominate over the desire to feed your spirit with the Word of God? Would your spiritual ears stay submissive to hearing the Voice of God even if other voices were chiming in? Voices that come from often times seemingly “good” sources? Would your spiritual eyes be able to see past the angry person in front of you and into their aching heart within?

This is what Lent is for, my friends. It is to hone us into the 300. Because I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be one of the 22,000 that walk away from the battle out of fear, nor do I want to be one of the remaining 9,700 that succumbs to slaking my physical thirst before remaining alert to the unseen story around me.

Go lean on sweets the next 40 days. Go slim on screen time, television time, entertainment, sports, or shopping. And go long on God. Go long on learning how to listen with your spirit, how to see with the eyes of your heart, how to taste and see that the Lord is good, how to smell the fragrance of the forgiveness of Christ instead of the stench of self, and how to use your hands to build up the Kingdom of God instead of destructively tearing down to the glory of self.

Go ahead and go lean. Be one of the 300. And take your place in a story where less is more, victory is certain, and all the glory goes to God.