23 Aug 2000

Gideon and Mustard Seed Faith

Submitted by theshovel
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After Moses and Joshua, but before King David, there was a topsy-turvy period of time in the history of Israel where God randomly (from our perspective, anyhow) chose a man or woman to deliver the people from their oppressors and from the false gods they were worshipping. One of these judges was Gideon (and you thought he made Bibles, huh? :) His story is found in Judges 6-8 (read it if you want), and it tells how God chose Gideon to "deliver Israel from the hand of Midian."

Now, what kind of a man did God pick to rescue His people? In the words of Gideon himself:

O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father's house Judges 6:15

This actually sounds like an attempt to get out of this mission, doesn't it? You know what? His claim was accurate. What I'm saying is that he had a very GOOD argument!!

Check it out. The original Manasseh was NOT one of the twelve sons of Jacob (also known as Israel), but was a grandson born of Joseph which means he was actually adopted by Jacob to become a tribe of Israel. It also means he had an Egyptian momma. Manasseh was the firstborn, but Jacob had given the blessing to his YOUNGER brother, Ephraim. Manasseh got gypped! People from the tribe of Ephraim had a claim to fame in Joshua, but Manasseh didn't have a whole lot of significant history. And then on top of that Gideon was the youngest in his less-than-significant family. This may not mean much to us, but to them, unless you were the first-born you didn't count for much.

So, here was this man who was the least important member of a family that was the least important family in the least important tribe whose namesake lost his birthright. Gideon wasn't making up anything and he knew it. But fortunately, God seems to have a habit of choosing unimportant people. :)

But I didn't tell you Gideon's first comments to the one who greeted him. The angel of the Lord said,

The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.
Judges 6:13

Gideon gave him a bitter response:

Oh my lord, if the LORD is with us, WHY HAS ALL THIS HAPPENED TO US? And where are ALL HIS MIRACLES which our fathers TOLD us about, saying 'Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?' But now the Lord has ABANDONED us and given us into the hand of Midian! Judges 6:13

The idea that God had any REAL interest in their situation was only a memory passed down from their ancestors. That God would actually come to THEM was not even a consideration. And then, for God to pick GIDEON out of everyone in Israel to do this thing was nothing less than absurd! No wonder Gideon needed to be convinced that God was the one who was speaking to him.

The first thing God told Gideon to do was to tear down his dad's pagan altar and cut down the wooden idol and then build a new altar to "the Lord your God" and use the wood of the idol to burn a bull as a sacrifice upon it. When the men of the city found out about it they came to kill Gideon, but his dad convinced them to let Baal take care of Gideon for himself ... after all, he was supposed to be a god.

When Israel's enemies heard about it they began gathering for battle in a nearby valley. Their number was described as "numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore." I think that means they had a really, really BIG army (approx. 135,000).

Gideon also sends out for his own army, and he gets 32,000. God tells Gideon that he had TOO MANY PEOPLE!! God's reasoning? When the battle was won they might think THEY did it.

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 has Gideon tell the people that anyone who is scared to go home. Yikes! Guess how many stayed? 10,000. Now, THAT'S suicide! But God says, You STILL have too many people!!

So God has Gideon test the remaining people by having them go down to the water and take a drink. Those who knelt for their drink were told to go home. By time it was over only 300 remained. I don't think anyone would ever claim that three hundred men WITHOUT WEAPONS were responsible for a victory against 135,000 soldiers with weapons and camels. They would have no doubt that it was a miraculous victory by the God of heaven. This is the only reason He established such ridiculous odds.

Here's how it happened. Gideon divided his army into three companies (100 men each) and had each man take a trumpet and an empty pitcher with a torch inside and then take their places around the camp. On his signal they would blow their trumpets, break the pitchers so that their torches would be visible, and then they cried out,

A sword for the Lord and for Gideon! Judges 7:18

Yeah, now that's a plan! But ...

...the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army: and the army fled ... Judges 7:22

Gideon then sent messengers to the surrounding hill country telling them where to find the remainder of the army with the two kings.

If these 300 men honestly reported what really happened that day to their friends and family they probably would have included how scared they had been ... maybe even how they had soiled their loincloths in the event. But they would have said, It was MIRACULOUS! We were there, but we merely watched it happen. It was obviously the work of the Lord of heaven and earth!

So, what does the story of Gideon have to do with Mustard Seed Faith? Nothing, really ... but you won't be able to convince ME of it!! haha! :)

And if (your brother) sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him." And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you. Luke 17:4-6

Religions have come up with some pretty ridiculous explanations of what mustard-seed faith is. These interpretations seem to have validity only because they fit within the framework of the redefinition of faith (see last week's article). And as diverse as these might be they still reach the same conclusion: Mustard-Seed Faith takes a lot of devotion which is not easy to attain or maintain. I'll bet your explanation is (or was) pretty much the same. Mine was.

Question. WHY did the apostles ask Jesus to "Increase our faith!"? Wasn't it because they realized that the forgiveness he spoke of was something they didn't understand and that maybe if they had MORE faith they might be able to do it?

Another question. Did Jesus tell them how to get MORE faith? Did his answer have ANYTHING to do with complying to their request? Didn't he actually suggest something more like: THE 'FAITH' YOU HAVE IS TOO MUCH!?

Read it again! By comparing the amount of faith needed for such a feat to that of a mustard seed Jesus totally blew their whole concept of faith apart. Why? Because the size of this seed was really SMALL, while the tree it produced was really BIG. They asked for MORE and Jesus responded with LESS.

Don't you realize that they held to the assumption that they had a quantity of this SPIRITUAL STRENGTH (faith) by which they could win the victory if they could get Jesus to merely increase it? But his statement removed quantity out of the equation since the relation of the incredibly small size of the seed just didn't add up to the incredibly big size of the tree. And wouldn't they have also assumed that how ever much faith they did have would be somewhat more than a mustard-seed's worth? It must have severely deflated their assumption.

Oh, yeah, we're talking about the same Lord of heaven and earth who whittled Gideon's army down until it was more than obvious exactly WHOSE strength produced the victory. Jesus' own select group of men were just as sure that God must have sent him to INCREASE their strength ... but he kept taking it away until nothing was left for them to take credit for ...

lest (they) become boastful, saying, 'MY OWN POWER HAS DELIVERED ME.' Judges 7:2

Related Content: 
New Testament: 
Old Testament: 


I enjoyed reading this again. I can remember really enjoying this in the early days[reading it] and having it testify to me again and again that it was God who is the responsible one. But as I was reading something stood out to me. It is this: “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior. Judges 6:13 Gideon gave him a bitter response: Oh my lord, if the LORD is with us, WHY HAS ALL THIS HAPPENED TO US? And where are ALL HIS MIRACLES which our fathers TOLD us about, saying ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has ABANDONED us and given us into the hand of Midian! Judges 6:13” Oh how this mirrors my own[all of us] fears and and doubts and sense of injustice toward the Lord! For it SEEMS totally unfair for us to suffer so long and endure so much under the hand of so much deception in the I.C. -That when deliverance begins to be seen in the forefront, we almost don’t grab on because we are so angry with God[and doubtful toward Him] for not doing anything!! And the deliverance itself seems preposterous! However this scripture above testifies to the fact that He IS working even in the unseen. The same could be said of Jesus’ coming. They went a long time with NOTHING happening. I bet by the time He came they were pretty much caught off guard. Not to mention they balked at the Deliverer! Yet from God’s mind, it was the “fullness of time”. God was in control and was being God as He is well,.. God. Nothing to prove other than show He was God and He was revealing something to the forefront for His GOOD purpose and for the benefit of all. What if God is shaking out the human “faith” we think we are able to present to God? What if HE wants to reveal that only HIS faith is acceptable? What if your faith must fail?[ahhhh I am losing my faith!] Sound familiar? Adam
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These comments were all transferred over from the original website

Posted: August 24, 2000 by JohnBoy

Thanks a lot Jim. I like the stories. I guess I'm in for more decreases. Actually, I feel a lot like Gideon once did. Small & insignificant. But I don't think I'm completely stripped of boastfulness yet [though I've never boasted much]. I've worked real hard to learn some skills and I can't say that I won't have some boastfulness IF those skills ever pay off. Until then, I have nothing to boast about because I have no great accomplishments and prolly never will so that I won't be able to boast. In the natural, I have more that speaks well of me than ever before in my life, but all my efforts [to obtain what I want, need or desire] fail. Which make me a failure. Shoots. I aint even making sense to myself so pay no mind.

Posted: August 24, 2000 by Becki

That mustard seed story has baffled me for years.
Thanks for this shoveletter. It was, like the others, encouraging.

Hugs from Becki

Posted: August 24, 2000 by Sydney

hey jim, i get it...i get it... well i'll be looking for my socks for a while..... then again maybeee NOT!

Less is More!!!! don't ya know!!!!!

Posted: August 24, 2000 by Nancy

And the scales fell from my eyes!

Now that was a good statement: "THE 'FAITH' YOU HAVE IS TOO MUCH!" Do you know, I've been puzzling for years about just what is faith and what kind of faith must a person have to tell a tree to uproot itself and throw itself into the sea. I was always taught that the mustard seed is small, but grows into a large plant, so we too start with a "small faith" and must cause it to grow and become large. Somehow. I never could figure out just how to do that. They seemed to be saying that I needed to be more committed. WELL, DUH! I never read it the way it was written! It's so simple! I already have faith, it is a gift from God and not something I need to improve on. It's faith in Him, not in myself. In my church we've had that Bible verse, "Lord, Increase our Faith" over the weekly offering amount in the bulletin. Can you believe it!!?? How gullible I've been! Gotta go forward this letter around too. I don't want anyone to miss this great news!


When I was a wee little child my great aunt bought me a necklace that had a glass heart pendant with a real mustard seed inside. It was my most treasured possession. I did not understand its meaning until today.

Posted: August 24, 2000 by Elaine

dear jim.

this was wonderful! i have been reading your news letters and checking out your site and voting.

just haven't taking the time to comment or send question to bother you with.

but i had to on this one i could finally understand this faith. do you have any idea how much this means to me. i think you do. thank you so much and please keep sending out your wonderful newsletters


Posted: Feb-11-04 by BordiBarb

The Joy of the Lord surpasses all my trying to understand all that God has for us.In the Mustard Tree Faith I began to ask what does our Lord want Me to know about this to teach others concerning faith. I found this was not so much the amount of faith but the power to trust God. I might suggest the power in casting out a demon was indeed the mountain,therefore Jesus knew without the order of God to fast & pray there would be no victory( God gets all the Glory) Thanks Barb

Posted: Aug-20-06 by cdemaris

One problem, the birds that rest in the branches of the mustard seed tree were used as idioms of demons in the previous parables.


Jim, between Georgi's posts today and coming upon this article, I am getting SERIOUSLY blessed! This is exactly what I needed to 'hear'!

What if God is shaking out the human “faith” we think we are able to present to God? What if HE wants to reveal that only HIS faith is acceptable? What if your faith must fail?[Luvin]

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